Development is Coming: Be Careful What You Wish For

Since 2021, Yemenis have become more strident in their calls for new and better ways of providing aid. Yemeni experts have warned that prolonged cycles of shortterm humanitarian aid can entrench dependence and have called for a transition toward development approaches that could set the foundation for a sustainable post-conflict economy. Despite vastly different interpretations and positions over what development means in practice, this shift is now happening, albeit slowly. New frameworks and coordination mechanisms are emerging from the UN compound in Sana’a, the World Bank offices in Amman’s Abdali Boulevard, and the conference rooms of Riyadh and Brussels, which are set to fundamentally change the way aid is delivered in Yemen over the coming decade. The effect of these new approaches will take time to be felt on the ground, but the changes are fundamental and irreversible. The operationalization of this transition has largely been through the establishment and work of the Yemen Partners Group (YPG), which includes donors, the UN leadership, and the World Bank. The YPG has been mandated with providing better coordination and accountability across a range of programming modalities under the humanitarian-development nexus. It has put the humanitarian to development transition firmly on the donor and UN agenda in Yemen, but critics point out that the lack of a clear common definition of what the nexus means in practice provides room for many agencies to rebrand their projects without making fundamental change. The YPG is also heavily skewed towards international actors. It will need to find ways to broaden decision making without collapsing under its own weight.