Nathalie Peutz’s Islands of Heritage: Conservation and Transformation in Yemen is a sweeping account of life at the intersection of conservation projects, international development, national politics, and globalization on the largest island of Yemen’s Soqotra Archipelago. Soqotra is a UNESCO natural World Heritage Site renowned for its vast collection of unique plant and animal species, which makes it one of the most biodiverse places in the world. According to UNESCO, Soqotra is “of universal importance because of its biodiversity with rich and distinct flora and fauna.” As Peutz shows, however, Soqotra’s designation as a natural World Heritage Site and the related burst of attention to its ostensibly universal natural value has effectively marginalized both Soqotra’s historical and its contemporary cultural heritage. While Soqotra was transformed from a generally undisturbed island community to the focus of large European-funded conservation programs oriented towards environmental protection, the waves of researchers, conservationists, and organizations that flocked to the island disregarded the fact that, in addition to its natural biodiversity, Soqotra is home to the rich cultural heritage of the Soqotran people, including the endangered Soqotri language. As the island has faced the onslaught of development, rapidly changing climate conditions, and now a civil war, the people of Soqotra have turned to this heritage as a tool to advocate for their political and cultural rights. Peutz situates this challenge to the status quo, what she calls “a heritagial revolution,” within a geopolitical and historical context where cultural heritage has long been the stage of anti-imperialist struggles for sovereignty. Here, Peutz argues that environmental protection and development are neither neutral nor apolitical, but part of a tradition of using the language of protection and conservation to facilitate the imperial ambitions of western powers. It is with this attention to nuance and history that she is able to show how heritage, in both its discursive and material forms, has become a force to be reckoned with in emerging struggles for political, social, and cultural empowerment in Yemen.
CARPO, the Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient, released their latest report on Yemen, Understanding Peace Requirements in Yemen, on March 5, 2019. The report highlights political and social factors that impact the ongoing conflict, identifying requirements for peace in relevant sectors, and important actors that can play a role in meeting these requirements.
While the war in Yemen is often portrayed as having two sides---the Houthis aligned with GPC-San’a against the Saudi-led coalition and Hadi’s government forces--in reality, both sides are fragmented, with groups representing different political loyalties, often resulting in conflict among the groups within each alliance.
A July 2018 policy paper by Dr. Elisabeth Kendall for the Middle East Institute explores the gradual development of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Yemen (ISY), and the conditions each organization require to succeed. Kendall analyzes the structures of AQAP and challenges the organization has faced. She also compares AQAP to ISY and considers their recent decentralizations. She urges key conflict actors to take actions to ultimately end the war and act now to restrict jihadist militancy in Yemen.
In May 2018, the Awam Development Foundation, in partnership with Oxfam and the Youth Leadership Development Foundation, produced a report titled The Impacts of War on the Participation of Women in Civil Society Organizations and Peacebuilding. The study explores the ways in which the war in Yemen is affecting women across various industries and regions. A study team conducted interviews in the San’a, Aden, Hudaydah and Ibb governorates, examining the life of average Yemeni women and their roles, or lack thereof, as peace builders in their communities. The evidence gathered from these interviews culminated in new recommendations intended for both national and international policymakers.
At the end of April, Professor Martha Mundy, an LSE anthropologist with over 40 years’ experience in Yemeni affairs, published “The war on Yemen and its agricultural sector,” a paper on the historical development of the agricultural sector in Yemen and how it stands currently in the midst of the war. It is widely accepted that Yemen is facing the worst humanitarian and food security crisis in the world, but Mundy argues that this food security crisis “is not solely the result of the war,” but also of the crippling of the agricultural sector since 1970.
In Italy, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the Yemen-based Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, and the Italian-based Rete Italiana per Il Disarmo jointly filed a criminal complaint in a public prosecutor's office. The complaint names both an Italian arms manufacturer and the Italian government agency that approves arms exports. The organizations want to prove that Italian weapons were used in an illegal airstrike in Yemen and investigate Italy’s criminal liability for the attack.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) recently released a plan of action to enhance food security in Yemen between 2018 and 2020. Right now, 17.8 million Yemenis are food insecure and 8.4 million are severely food insecure.
As part of a series of articles on international law and the war in Yemen, Just Security recently published a piece by several legal scholars regarding the War Crimes Act and the US federal statute on aiding and abetting. The authors conclude that US government personnel face limited legal risk of prosecution for aiding and abetting violations by the Saudi-led coalition under the War Crimes Act. It would likely be difficult to establish the requisite mens rea--proof of intent--due to the fact that US military support for the Saudi-led coalition is ostensibly accompanied by training on law-of-war compliance and civilian protection. This is debatable, however, because some observers argue that the deep, systemic problems in the Saudi military render it incapable of carrying out independent air operations without violating international humanitarian law principles. The applicability of these federal laws is important because, although other international venues exist for the prosecution of war crimes, the US generally will not allow foreign or international courts to try US officials or military personnel. The article concludes that another case, the participation of US personnel in the torture and abuse of detainees held by the UAE at sites in southern Yemen, would be easier to prosecute. Those US personnel face greater potential liability for violating the War Crimes Act by aiding and abetting UAE crimes.