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MBI Al Jaber Foundation Attends Overseas Development Institute’s Panel Discussion

The MBI Al Jaber Foundation team attended the Overseas Development Institute’s panel discussion, “Yemen's Economic Future: From Survival to Reconstruction”, on 8th February, 2018. Nawal Al-Maghafi, BBC journalist, chaired the event and stressed how desperate the situation is, as humanitarian agencies struggle to deliver aid to the people of Yemen. The panelists underlined how these agencies are unable to act because they cannot make bank transactions, as the banks are afraid that money might end up in the hands of terrorist groups. Even those agencies that now gain access to funds achieve this with great difficulty.

De-risking the banking system was intended to help fight financial terrorism (i.e. money being delivered to terrorist groups). This is not, however, working as well as it was expected to; it is driving people to illegitimate practices and making the Yemeni banking system much more complicated, since the country has no central institution that represents Yemen financially on a global scale. NGOs are, therefore, powerless and many families in the war-torn country depend on their relatives working abroad (usually in the GCC, the UK or the US) and donations. If, as in this situation, bank transfers are not available, the only viable option is for friends and relatives to send cash.

The panelists also referred to Saudi Arabia’s long-term plan to reconstruct Yemen and implement aid delivery but they also made clear that the International community should not regard Saudi Arabia as the only source of income or the only possible partner to engage with. They encouraged the UK government to perform its role within the UN to help facilitate the reconstruction of the country’s infrastructures and suggested that the best solution for foreign governments, right now, is to start thinking locally in order to meet the needs of those living in Yemen.

There has been no approach, up until now, that has generated new sources of income for Yemenis. The panelists concluded that creating new jobs in Yemen is a viable opportunity but that this falls largely to the private sector. The private sector’s first aim should be that of satisfying the demands of Yemenis themselves in order to allow them to regenerate their own markets (i.e. re-start the country’s economy). Furthermore, national NGOs should be given more support and they should be allowed to discuss both the humanitarian and financial issues that Yemen is experiencing directly with the UN.

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