17 March 2010

Yemen and the security question

When Yemen makes the news, the focus tends to be on Western security, particularly concerning the presence of al-Qaeda in that country. The security of Yemenis seems to be of little interest even though it is under a vastly greater threat than the West's.

Thousands of Yemenis have been displaced by the fighting in the north while refugees flood in from Somalia fleeing the war there. The country suffers from the third highest rate of malnutrition in the world with millions spending a third of their income on bread. Many are illiterate and their children are not attending school. Some 300,000 college-educated Yemenis are out of work. Of those children who do go to school, many attend Saudi Arabia-supported religious schools, learning religious rigour and little else. Thus the security of ordinary Yemenis is compromised now and for future generations.

The World Food Programme needs $105-million in the next two years to feed more than three million of the poorest Yemenis, including refugees created by the violence. Yet the agency's accounts are barely breaking even. If new donations do not arrive shortly, it will be unable to continue feeding the refugees.

Security is about something more fundamental for Yemenis than it is for the West; it is about simply getting enough to eat. Yet the best way for the West to address its security is to address the Yemenis' security. Ensure the basic needs of their most vulnerable people are met, assist them in developing a stable economy and stable institutions, and build schools for their children that offer comprehensive education rather than religious indoctrination. Do these things and the West will do much more to create a secure Yemen than it will by helping Yemenis kill each other.

Canadians could lead in all this if we weren't spending four times as much on military might as we are on foreign aid. If we reversed our priorities, we might have something more substantial to offer both the West's security and the Yemeni's.

No comments:

Post a Comment