The GCC must support Yemen

28 March 2011

Yemen’s problems are a concern for Saudi Arabia and the whole region. The GCC will need to provide economic and diplomatic support to avoid a growing crisis

Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh is counting down his final days in office.

Saleh is in discussions with opposition parties regarding his departure. While he publicly says that he will only hand over power if the conditions are right. Privately he knows that the days when he called the shots are well and truly over.

However, with no clear frontrunner to take over from Saleh, splits emerging in the military, the second most heavily armed population in the world, and the presence of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Yemen’s crisis could spill over into Saudi Arabia without action to maintain some sort of continuity and stability in the country. With the lowest per capita GDP in the Gulf region, a further economic crisis risks radicalising more young people, or plunging Yemen into civil war.

It is vital that all GCC countries fully support a peaceful transition of power and that a bloody civil war does not occur. The GCC has for a long time provided financial support to Yemen and is working on the diplomatic front to assure a peaceful transfer of power. More will need to be done.

Whoever takes over in Sanaa will inherit a mess. With only 61 per cent literacy, youth unemployment at 15 per cent and the security situation scaring off most potential investors, even spending foreign aid is difficult.

The region’s governments realise that security problems and terrorism in any Yemeni city could easily trigger problems in neighbouring countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

The GCC’s wealthier countries have already shown themselves willing to start spending in order to bolster unstable countries. Bahrain and Oman have $20bn to share between them as a result of the Gulf’s eagerness to quell protests in the region.

But cash alone is not enough to return stability to Yemen and the GCC must act in as many ways as it can to ensure that meaningful change happens peacefully and smoothly.

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