Yet while the Saudi-led coalition has bombed the region’s poorest country over the past three years, the EU and European countries approved the sale of more than $86.7bn in arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to figures compiled by Middle East Eye.
The value of the licences which the countries issued in 2015 and 2016 – the only years for which data is available – amount to more than 55 times what the EU and European countries have donated to the UN’s chronically underfunded Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan.
Meanwhile, independent researchers estimate that more than 56,000 Yemenis have been killed with the UN warning “a clear and present danger” of an imminent famine engulfing 14 million Yemenis – or half of the population.
Many governments have promised during the course of the war to stop or restrict sales of the weapons that are being used to maim Yemenis, and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month brought a new wave of public pressure to halt deals with the Saudi kingdom.
But only Germany has suspended its sales – until Khashoggi’s murder is explained – while the UK, France and Spain have all signalled that they will continue business as usual. …
- In 2015, 21 EU countries approved licences for the export of arms, ranging from bullets to bombs to jet fighters and specialised military components, worth $25.3bn to Saudi Arabia and $11.4bn to the UAE, totalling $36.7bn. Of this total, $14.4bn was for aircraft, bombs and grenades, the primary causes of civilian deaths.
- In 2016, 17 EU countries licensed the sale of even more weapons worth $18.3bn to Saudi Arabia and $31.7bn to the UAE, totalling $50bn.
- While EU-wide figures are not available for 2017, those provided by individual countries indicate that arms sales have largely continued at the same rate. In 2017, the UK and Germany licensed $2.3bn in arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to figures provided by governments and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
As the sales have continued, the UN’s Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan campaigns have remain underfunded:
- Overall since 2015, the EU and some European countries have given $1.56bn to the UN’s response plan, according to UN OCHA figures. That’s equivalent to 1.8 percent of approved European arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in 2015 and 2016.
- The European Commission, towards which all EU states contribute, has provided $507.2m to Yemen, roughly half to the UN’s response plan, for the past three years. That’s equivalent to 0.58 percent of $86.7bn in approved European arms sales in 2015 and 2016.
- During the same period, the UK has provided $733.4m in humanitarian aid for Yemen, according to government figures provided to MEE. Of that, $636.9 million went to the UN response plan, equivalent to 13.1 percent of the UK’s $4.85bn in approved licences for 2015 and 2016.
- France is the lowest overall donor compared to approved licenses, providing $12.3m in aid from 2015 to 2018, just 0.07 percent of $17.3bn in approved arms sales in 2015 and 2016. However, experts say France’s licensing figures may be inflated because the country includes ongoing negotiations in their totals.
- As the conflict continues in Yemen, the UN’s 2018 humanitarian response plan is currently 35 percent underfunded. The $1.04bn shortfall is just 1.1 percent of approved European arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in 2015 and 2016 alone.
- The fourth and fifth largest European arms suppliers, Spain and Italy, are tight-fisted when it comes to humanitarian aid, giving equivalent to 0.26 percent and 0.76 percent of their approved arms sales in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
- Germany has been relatively generous with aid of $358m from 2015-2018, equivalent to 29 percent of $1.2bn in licenses approved in 2015 and 2016. Sweden, which had $1.33bn in sales in 2015 and 2016, has given $105m in aid for 2015 to 2018, or 7.93 percent of the value of approved licences.
- Only Ireland has exceeded humanitarian aid contributions compared to approved arms sales, at 123 percent in 2015 (there were no exports in 2016).