CAAT condemns UK cut in aid to Yemen; UK complicit in crisis through ongoing arms sales

  • UK cuts aid to Yemen by almost half, despite warnings of the worst famine in decades
  • The humanitarian crisis is a direct result of the devastating war in Yemen, in which UK arms are playing a central role
  • The cut comes less than three weeks after new statistics revealed another £1.4 billion of new arms export licences to Saudi Arabia

The UK government today made a major reduction in its aid to Yemen, pledging only £87 million at a UN donor conference – despite being penholder for Yemen at the UN. The reduction in aid comes after warnings from the UN that Yemen faces the worst famine the world has seen in decades.

The UK is complicit in this crisis. The humanitarian disaster is a direct result of the devastating war in Yemen, and UK-made fighter jets, bombs and missiles are playing a central role in attacks by the Saudi-led coalition, which have destroyed infrastructure across Yemen.

Saudi-led forces have targeted hospitals, clinics and vaccination centres, and Yemen’s healthcare system has ‘almost collapsed’. The bombing has also targeted key infrastructure including civilian factories, agriculture, fishing, and food distribution. Blockades have starved the population and made it hard for hospitals to get essential medical supplies. Such attacks on civilian infrastructure are clear violations of International Humanitarian Law.

UK aid to Yemen is eclipsed by the value of arms sales that the government has licensed to the regimes that are responsible for the ongoing bombing campaign.

The most recent government statistics show that the UK has licensed at least £6.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the start of its ongoing bombing campaign in Yemen, including:

  • £2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £3.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

The real level of exports is much higher, with most weapons licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system. The UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, has made £15 billion in revenue from services and sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015.

The UK government has refused calls to follow the US lead and end arms exports for use in the war in Yemen. US and UK support is absolutely essential to Saudi Arabia’s ability to wage its war in Yemen. An end to US and UK support, which includes training, maintenance and logistics, could ground the Royal Saudi Airforce in days.

In October 2020, CAAT filed a new legal challenge against the government’s decision to resume issuing new arms export licences for use in the conflict.

Sarah Waldron of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

“This is a devastating cut to aid and is all the more heinous given that this is a crisis that the UK has helped to create.

The UK bears direct responsibility for this unfolding catastrophe through its weapons supplies, and unquestioning support for the Saudi-led coalition that has destroyed so much of Yemen’s infrastructure.

This is a time to work for peace, not profit. The international community must step up to prevent famine – and the UK must show leadership by stopping the arms sales that are fuelling this tragedy and focus its efforts on supporting an inclusive peace process.”

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