Report Release: The Political Economy of Water Conflicts in Yemen

Yemenis are amongst those populations with the lowest water availability per capita in the world, an acute water crisis looms over the country. The scarcity of this resource is an immediate threat to stability and human security. To tackle the root of this problem, The Hague Institute published the report “The political economy of water conflicts in Yemen” at a high-level roundtable in the capital Sana’a, in November 2014. This report is now available for download.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab region and is faced with political instability, aggravated by the scarcity of water. According to unofficial estimates, 2,500 Yemenis die as a result of water-related conflicts.

The Hague Institute has been working on this problem for many months now. The final result, a report finalised at the end of 2014, was immediately presented to a group of high-level officials from several Ministries, international donors and other stakeholders at the Yemeni capital. This is now available for downloading from The Hague Institute’s website.

Despite research and aid work in Yemen in recent years, significant knowledge gaps remain, especially concerning the use of national and local rules and procedures for solving resource-related conflicts. To fill these gaps, the team analyzed how water conflicts arise in specific cases. They also studied which formal and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms stakeholders resort to, including the effectiveness of current practices, formal, and traditional rules.

The Dutch representation in Yemen is following up on the policy relevant recommendations for prevention and resolution of water-related conflicts offered in the report. As knowledge, or the lack thereof, has an obvious role in the emergence and resolution of conflict, one key recommendation is to increase the knowledge exchange with the general public.

By using mobile phones to document traditional water usage rules and conflict settlements, and by monitoring the implementation of court decisions, transparency should create the credibility needed for sustainable results. The Hague Institute report also raises awareness of the relationship between water scarcity and conflict and the possibilities for conflict settlement.

Another key recommendation covers developing mobile water courts to bridge the gap between formal and traditional conflict resolution mechanisms. These courts will bring legal solutions to isolated areas, thus providing education about appropriate law in specific conflict settings. Finally, the report provides expert advice on how to resolve conflicts outside of court, for instance through mediation, which might de-escalate potential violent conflicts.

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