1. Executive Summary
During times of conflict, meeting humanitarian needs is crucial for saving lives; but the development community is increasingly realizing that protecting human and social capital is just as important, and is vital for post-conflict reconstruction and sustained recovery.
In Yemen, the ongoing conflict and political instability has made it nearly impossible for the World Bank to operate. And yet it is clear that despite the high risks associated with taking action, inaction—or a much-delayed response—by the World Bank would be far costlier from the strategic, institutional, and development points of view. After developing an exceptional approach to reengagement in Yemen while the country is still in conflict, the Emergency Crisis Response Project (ECRP) was the first project to test the approach before developing a full emergency response package1 . ECRP was approved by the World Bank Board in July 2016.
To date the ECRP, working successfully with multiple partners, including UN agencies, public service delivery institutions, local communities, and the private sector, has disbursed a total of US$436 million (87 percent of the total project funds). The project demonstrated rapid results and nationwide coverage within the first year of implementation and is providing a model of how to deliver services and operate effectively at the nexus of humanitarian aid and development.
This paper aims to capture the experiences and the emerging lessons learned from the ECRP to better understand the complexities of operating in such a context. These are some of the key lessons learned:
• Inclusive community-based approaches can support social cohesion even in settings of conflict.
• Building and investing in national systems and institutions during peace enables rapid and scalable crisis response during conflict.
• The political neutrality of implementing agencies is of crucial importance, and development partners must ensure that it is not compromised in conflict situations.
• Institutional autonomy of public implementing agencies allows for the greater flexibility that is critical for delivering services during conflict.
• Transparent targeting strategies increase buy-in from diverse, and often opposing, political actors, and conflicting parties.
• Third-party monitoring and the use of technology and social media for remote monitoring allow for better oversight.
• Frequent and comprehensive review and assessment of implementation risks allow for timely identification of potential risks and real-time mitigation actions; and therefore, for continuation of the project despite the high risks involved.
• A robust Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) must be functional at every level of the program in order to be effective.
• The World Bank and the UN agencies needed to adapt to a different model of partnership and doing business to achieve an effective way of leveraging complementarities between humanitarian and development aid and serve populations affected by conflict.
• Flexibility in the interpretation and application of World Bank policies—especially OP7.30 (Dealing with De Facto Governments) and OP2.30 (Development Cooperation and Conflict)—has allowed the World Bank to deliver high-quality operations in a fragile setting.
• World Bank engagement in Yemen has created an effective and credible platform for donor coordination and resource mobilization in an otherwise fractured country.
• The intertwined goals of equity, resilience, and opportunity set forth in the World Bank Social Protection and Jobs (SPJ) sector strategy are relevant even in the direst of crises, and they provide a platform for cooperation across multiple sectors.
• Maintaining a collaborative and ongoing dialogue with the legitimate government of Yemen, including during program suspension, allowed for rapid reengagement when the opportunity arose.
• Complementarity with other human development operations to maximize human capital impact is only effective when operationalized at the local and site level.
Peace is the most sustainable way to bring an end to the suffering of the population. The prolonged conflict is threatening the country’s hard-won development gains of past decades.
The humanitarian response in Yemen aims to save lives and provide short-term relief; the World Bank’s involvement complements these efforts by investing in people and institutions for the medium term. The ECRP is providing valuable lessons on how this can be done effectively.