Launching in 2019, The Empower Yemen initiative brings Yemeni activists and civil society leaders into the US policy-making process by connecting them with advocacy organizations and key congressional offices in Washington, DC.

American foreign policy decisions have long had a serious impact on the lives of Yemenis. From economic assistance to counterterrorism and military intervention, the US has a large and heavy footprint in Yemen, despite the fact that most US policymakers know nothing about the country or its people. US officials tend to view Yemen exclusively through the lens of “national security.” For nearly a decade, the Yemen Peace Project has worked to change this, advancing policy solutions based on human rights, the rule of law, and the interests of the Yemeni people. The Empower Yemen initiative is the next phase of that effort.

Through this initiative, we are asking Yemeni activists and civil society leaders for their perspectives on political, economic, and humanitarian issues that are relevant to the debate on US policies toward Yemen. Our team in Washington shares the feedback we receive with all of the US-based advocacy organizations working on Yemen, and with key congressional offices. Our goal is to ensure that policymakers are well-informed with information from the ground, and that the advocacy agenda centers the concerns and interests of the Yemeni people.

Why Empower Yemen?

In 2015, the United States decided to provide support for the Saudi-led intervention into Yemen’s civil war. Soon thereafter, the YPP helped to build a coalition of US-based advocacy organizations to oppose America’s involvement in this disastrous conflict. Today that advocacy coalition is shaping the debate on Yemen in Washington, and pushing forward legislation with strong bipartisan support in Congress. But despite increasing interest in Yemen from NGOs and lawmakers in the US, there are still very few Yemeni voices included in policy discussions. The purpose of Empower Yemen is to fill that gap with Yemeni experts who, until now, have been shut out of the policy-making process. Without these voices, policy discussions will continue to be dominated by a small circle of policy experts, as well as lobbyists paid by Yemen’s powerful neighbors and US arms manufacturers, with predictable results.

How does it work?

With the help of partner organizations inside Yemen, we are reaching out to activists and people working in civil society organizations across the country. Each month we send our participants a detailed questionnaire covering various aspects of the political, economic, and humanitarian challenges facing Yemen. We then produce short reports based on participants’ responses and share them with our advocacy partners and policymakers. Through regular briefings and in-depth presentations, we work to ensure that the advice and perspectives of our Yemeni participants are accurately represented in the policy-making process. We will also produce summaries of our findings for the public, which will be published on this website. Our staff protects the identities of all participants, and anonymizes all information before analysing it. All participants receive compensation for their contributions.

Who is represented?

Yemeni civil society is broad and diverse. This initiative aims to capture that diversity and highlight as full a range of views and opinions as possible. We are not trying to achieve consensus or raise up only those voices that support our own assumptions. While we are recruiting participants from all different parts of Yemen and all different backgrounds, we are giving extra weight to those who have historically been excluded from policy discussions, including youth, women, LGBTQI Yemenis, and other marginalized demographics. We are also prioritizing participation from Yemen’s more peripheral governorates, far from the major cities where most international attention is focused.

Empower Yemen #1 - Local Stakeholders, International Influence, and Civil Society

Key takeaways

  • The divide between north and south is probably the most salient factor in Yemeni civil society’s views on the current crisis, although civil society figures in northern governorates outside of Houthi control tend to echo their southern counterparts on many topics.

  • Civil society figures across Yemen see the role of the United States as predominantly negative and self-interested, although many favor the continuation of some form of US support for the Saudi-led intervention.

  • Civil society figures have little knowledge of, and are not fully aligned with, the advocacy agenda pursued by humanitarian and pro-peace organizations in the US.

  • The majority of civil society figures have a negative view of the United Nations’ efforts in Yemen, particularly the work of the Special Envoy.

  • Most regions of Yemen are experiencing significant suffering, and civil society figures see an end to the war as crucial to resolving the humanitarian crisis.

 Advocacy for Peaceful, Constructive US Policies

The goal of our advocacy program is to reshape America’s relationship with Yemen and the Yemeni people by advancing constructive and peaceful policy alternatives based on respect for human rights and international law.

  • The YPP was founded in 2010 with the belief that American citizens have a responsibility to speak out against the brutality of America’s actions in Yemen.

  • We were among the first to challenge America’s extralegal “targeted killings” of suspected al-Qaeda members in Yemen.

  • We were also the first US organization to support Yemen’s peaceful “Arab Spring” uprising against the dictatorial regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The YPP is the first and only advocacy organization in America dedicated entirely to Yemeni and Yemeni-American affairs. Our staff and board members have extensive contacts within Yemen and Yemeni diaspora communities. We work to highlight and amplify Yemeni voices in all our advocacy efforts, with a particular focus on the perspectives of women, youth, and other groups that have long been excluded from foreign policy considerations.