In a reaction to the designation of Ansar Allah (AA) in Yemen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the U.S. State Department, the Danish Refugee Council’s Secretary General, Charlotte Slente, commented:
“The designation comes at a time when Yemen is going through the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, facing imminent famine, accelerating economic collapse and a global pandemic. DRC maintains its position as a neutral humanitarian partner; however we are deeply concerned that the decision will worsen an already catastrophic situation, severely hampering humanitarian efforts and pushing Yemen further towards total collapse and loss of lives.
While the licenses published January 19 at a first glance provide some mitigation, many questions remain and the time it would take to answer those questions would mean that vulnerable people will edge closer to the brink. DRC is particularly concerned regarding the absence of exemptions for the commercial sector. In particular, importing food and fuel into Yemen which are vital to the economy and to humanitarian operations. The impact of the designation on the financial sector will be significant, decreasing purchasing power of the Yemeni Riyal, as well as remittances- a lifeline for many in war time. Already some international banks are freezing accounts, thus impacting vital flows of funds to allow humanitarian agencies to continue delivering humanitarian assistance.
The humanitarian impact of the designation cannot be understated. 70 per cent of the population lives in AA-governed areas. 80 per cent of Yemenis are already in need of humanitarian aid. The vast majority (90 per cent) of essential commodities such as food, medicine and fuel are imported. Rapid economic deterioration, high levels of unemployment and currency deprecation have forced many families to resort to negative coping mechanisms. According to WFP, the price of a food basket has already crossed the 2018 crisis level benchmark by 15 per cent. As it stands, in a population of 30 million, food insecurity is a reality for over 20 million Yemenis, despite ongoing humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile, the pandemic is sweeping through the country largely unchecked in a country where the health care system is already at the brink of collapse.
The reversal of the designation should be an immediate priority for the Biden administration. Otherwise, the consequences will be catastrophic, irreversible and have wider humanitarian, political and economic implications for the country, the region and all humanitarian and commercial actors globally working in Yemen. Despite licenses or exemptions, which have proved complex to navigate in other contexts under traditional sanctions regime, the designation risks further weakening what remains of Yemen's economy and exacerbating pre-existing vulnerabilities and needs. Finally, this designation threatens the already difficult peace negotiations in the country.
We should not turn our backs on the millions of Yemenis who are in desperate need. We welcome the Biden administration on their first day in office and urge them to revoke the designation immediately, sustain engagement with all parties to the conflict and broker a broad-based political solution in Yemen once and for all.”
DRC Danish Refugee Council is one of the largest international organizations working in Yemen, where DRC has been present since 2008. The organization's more than 400 employees work in both the northern and southern parts of the country and provide emergency relief, including food, and ensure access to water, sanitation and hygiene, provide support for economic recovery of families and carry out demining.