YEMEN: RESTORING LOCAL CAPABILITIES
THE UNITED NATIONS HAS DECLARED THE HIGHEST STATE OF EMERGENCY FOR YEMEN. LARGE PARTS OF THE COUNTRY’S INFRASTRUCTURE HAVE BEEN DESTROYED IN THE WAR, WHICH HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR YEARS. ALL FORMS OF PUBLIC SERVICES HAVE BEEN REDUCED TO A MINIMUM OR HAVE COLLAPSED ENTIRELY. IT IS BARELY POSSIBLE TO SUPPLY PEOPLE WITH WATER, FOOD AND ELECTRICITY ANY MORE. HOW CAN GIZ HELP IMPROVE THE LIVING CONDITIONS OF THE POPULATION?
Since 2017, on behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office, GIZ has been empowering municipalities in two governorates to plan and implement measures quickly so that they can respond to people’s needs and make tangible improvements to their lives. Local residents, including all parties to the conflict, help decide which project will take priority, whether the restoration of the drinking water supply and sanitation systems or the repair of roads, health centres or youth clubs.
The GIZ project cooperates closely with a sister scheme run by the Berghof Foundation. It identifies the local structures with which the small-scale measures can be implemented and reinforces the structures at the relevant political decision-making level.
‘ACHIEVING WHATEVER IS POSSIBLE ON THE GROUND’
Interview with Ahmed Saeed, Manager of the Support for the Stabilisation Process in Yemen Project, GIZ
Your German colleagues had to leave the country on account of the dangerous security situation. What effect does that have on implementing projects in Yemen?
AHMED SAEED The projects are now managed either by Yemeni staff or from Germany, and are implemented by local staff in close consultation with the commissioning parties. The main concern is to maintain the basic services provided by public institutions – such as water supply and education. We operate independently of government, in other words without a lead executing agency. Our focus is on local and regional administrative bodies and civil society organisations.
What type of work do you do?
We work in small and agile project teams, some covering multiple issues, and increasingly coordinate our operations with other programmes and actors, especially in the humanitarian sphere. And our activities are conflict-sensitive. As I am there on the ground, I can realistically assess the situation and current developments. This enables us to respond quickly and to adapt to new situations flexibly and creatively.
Is it at all feasible to achieve a lasting impact in these circumstances?
It is a challenge, of course. In recent years, though, Germany has established a good reputation in Yemen as a fair, balanced player, even among the opposing warring parties. And although we know that for the time being, as GIZ, we can only make modest contributions to improving people’s living conditions, we do always try to achieve the most that we can possibly do on the ground.