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LIBG forum on the war in Yemen

March 19, 2018 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2HE


Helen Lackner (TBC) is an author and international adviser on social aspects of rural development in poorer countries and a research associate at SOAS, University of London. She has been involved in Yemen since the 1970s,

Dr Alan George is a visiting senior research Fellow at King's College London. He is a former assistant director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding,

Osamah Al-Rawhani is the programme director of the Sana'a Centre for Strategic Studies, an independent policy and research think-tank that provides new approaches to understanding Yemen and the surrounding region.


The war in Yemen started in 2015, in the Middle East's poorest country. Since then there have been more than 10,000 fatalities. As at Jan 2018 there have been more than 1m cases of cholera and more than 2500 related deaths. The already-weakened economy has all but collapsed and the UN reports than 2m children are suffering from acute malnutrition, with thousands reportedly dying of starvation.

It has variously been described as:

* A civil war between rebels aligned to the Houthis and to the late former President Saleh on the one side and the recognised Hadi government on the other

* Part of a 'preventative' proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran

* Part of a religious war between Sunnis and Shias

* A fallout from Russian 'successes' in Syria

* A fallout from the Arab Spring

* A by-product of America's global War on Terror against Al Qaeda (or IS) and affiliates

Are there pathways to peace to be found in some of these macro-analyses, or on the ground is reconciliation and peace fatally inhibited by shifting tribal rivalries born of the chaos of war, desperate poverty and easy access to arms ?

Both sides in the conflict have been accused of committing war crimes, most notably related to Saudi air strikes and blockade. Should peace come before accountability?

In European countries little is known about the war and only a minority of their peoples are aware of it's existence. It receives little attention in the mainstream media, and it is way down the agendas of the respective foreign ministries. However the mass horrors of such a war have a habit of biting back.

Desperate people do desperate things. From destabilisation arising from mass refugee flows to GCC countries and the Horn of Africa, to gun running across the region, and strains in the UK's close ally Oman, which borders Yemen, such wars always have consequences. Yemen borders the Al Mandeb Straights, which is the Red Sea gateway to the Suez canal through which a third of Europe's maritime oil passes. Disruption of this flow would have a major negative impact on the European economy.

European countries therefore have very good reasons to understand better the conflict, its origins and sustaining factors, and the potential steps for peace. There is a premium on looking beyond the simple narratives which obscure the complex set of pro-peace steps needed.

This open discussion will feature known experts on the war and will explore the reality of the factors sustaining it. Participants will be invited to set aside the partisan narratives of the belligerents and their backers and attempt an objective assessment of the factors and recent history that led to the conflict. There will be a pursuit of a deeper understanding as to what it will take to end the war, and establish a peace that leads to stability and prosperity.

All welcome