The collective ears of the Yemeni nation must have been burning on Wednesday, and one assumes they were attuned to events taking place in two major American Cities. Whilst the outcome may not seem hugely significant, if there is a will for others to get behind these two initiatives things could be very different for Yemen in the future. In the House of Congress in Washington, two well known senators, Rand Paul and Chris Murphy (far left and far right in the photo) sponsored a debate to argue for a ban on the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. This should be applauded around the world, and has surely sent a message of hope to the thousands of Yemeni residents who are experiencing regular attacks from Saudi aircraft using bombs and missiles manufactured in USA and UK. Unfortunately only a quarter of Congress supported the idea of a ban so the hope may be a faint one, but this was still a significant result. We need to emulate the debate in Congress here in our own Parliament and add to the many voices that are being expressed by residents in our nation. This link provides access to various Parliamentary debates and questions that have been raised in past on Yemen over several years, however what we need is a debate on the sale of weapons that ends in a vote to change what we do, moving forward. Whilst Rand and Chris were trying to persuade Congress to ban the sale of weapons, our International Development Minister Priti Patel was in New York at the United Nations raising the issue of the amount of aid going to Yemen. She said
“The humanitarian situation in Yemen is the forgotten crisis that demands action. 7 million people are in desperate need of food and the threat of famine remains. The international community must step up its response to match the seriousness of the challenges faced by people in Yemen. The UK has provided food, water, shelter and medical supplies for more than a million desperate people in Yemen and our new support will help even more. But the international response remains critically underfunded. I urge other countries to follow Britain’s lead and make good on their commitments – only by working together we can help stem this disaster. We cannot and will not stand back in silence whilst innocent people are suffering from such a lack of basic provisions such as food and clean water.”
Of course it is ridiculous to start by suggesting that anyone has forgotton about Yemen, whether you refer to the numerous references in our own Parliament (perhaps Ms Patel has been asleep), or the debate taking place the same day in Congress or just check on twitter. However Patel is right to argue that action is needed and along with the humanitarian aid, we need to stop the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. My own understanding is that our current Government is happy for us to sell Billions of pounds worth of weapons to the Saudi Government, providing we follow that up with Millions of Pounds of support to the suffering people in Yemen. I somehow doubt Priti Patel would be willing to support such a move to block the sales, but surely there is enough support amongst the rest of Parliament? Is it too much to look for a some Parliamentarians here who could champion this cause?