NEW YORK, New York — Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been an advocate for improving the U.S. response to the ongoing crisis in Yemen. The conflict in Yemen has caused massive destruction, disruption and displacement. Sen. Gillibrand’s efforts for improving the U.S. response to the Yemen crisis show her commitment to helping the vulnerable.
Refusal of US Military Aid to Saudi Arabia
Sen. Gillibrand’s efforts for improving the U.S. response to the Yemen crisis include her refusal of U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia. The United States has supplied the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni Government with military arms and intelligence against the Houthi rebels. However, with the increasing number of civilian casualties and destruction linked to U.S.-made bombs, there is growing pressure to end U.S. military aid.
In March of 2019, Sen. Gillibrand voted in support of a bipartisan Senate resolution to end United States military involvement in Yemen. Former president, Donald Trump, vetoed the resolution, thus leading the U.S. to continue militarily aiding Saudi forces. Yet, Sen. Gillibrand has continued to emphasize the need for the U.S. to militarily withdraw from the war.
She said, in a 2019 presidential candidate interview, that her efforts for improving the U.S. response to the Yemen crisis would be a policy that includes no longer “refueling Saudi planes that bomb Yemen’s civilians or selling munitions to Saudi Arabia.” Her support for cutting military aid also seems to be reflected in the Biden administration’s plans for addressing the conflict.
Accountability for Human Rights Violations
Sen. Gillibrand has also condemned and called for holding Saudi Arabia accountable for numerous human rights violations relating to the civil war in Yemen. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reports that approximately 8,000 civilians have died due to armed conflict in Yemen between March 2015 and June 2020. The deaths were often a direct result of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.
Sen. Gillibrand has also demanded Saudi Arabia take accountability for the murder of Washington Post reporter, Jamal Khashoggi, and others who have spoken against Saudi violations of human rights. Therefore, Sen. Gillibrand’s efforts for improving the U.S. response to the Yemen crisis include the willingness to impose sanctions on the country for its human rights abuses against the Yemeni people and political prisoners.
Support for Restoring Humanitarian Aid
Following the Trump administration’s decision to halt millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Houthi-controlled areas amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Gillibrand’s efforts for improving the U.S. response to the Yemen crisis led her to advocate for restoring this aid. On September 16, 2020, in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and USAID Acting Administrator John Barsa, she along with 18 other senators pushed for the restoration of $73 million in USAID funding to Yemen. Sen. Gillibrand also called on Pompeo and Barsa to “work with the international community to disburse critical medical supplies to combat the spread of COVID-19 and help address multiple humanitarian crises.”
The letter highlighted the already devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Yemeni people who have witnessed years of airstrikes, increasing famine and severe cholera outbreaks. In July 2020, experts for the United Nations reported to the Security Council that the situation in Yemen was at its worse point since the crisis started and is in danger of falling into “the abyss” if humanitarian agencies fall short of adequate funding.
The Role of the United States
Roughly 66% of the Yemeni population are estimated to need humanitarian assistance in 2021. About 12.1 million of those people are in acute need of humanitarian aid. Sen. Gillibrand’s efforts for improving the U.S. response to the Yemen crisis, therefore, illuminates how the U.S. can take immediate action to aid one of the most severe humanitarian crises of all time.
– Emely Recinos