NGO Statement on Humanitarian Impacts of Potential U.S. FTO Designation in Yemen
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 5, 2024)—As NGOs responding to the crisis in Yemen, we are deeply concerned over the potential humanitarian consequences of U.S. legislation requiring the designation of Ansar Allah, the de facto authorities for more than 70% of Yemen’s population, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The humanitarian community has consistently raised alarm over the serious risk of civilian harm of an FTO in Yemen, including an unprecedented call for the revocation of the 2021 designation on humanitarian grounds.
An FTO would threaten the humanitarian response in Yemen and hit civilians hardest at a time when the majority of the population—over 18 million people, half of them children—are in humanitarian need after nine years of brutal conflict. The country is currently experiencing some of the highest malnutrition rates ever recorded with a staggering 17.6 million people facing acute food insecurity in 2024. 4.5 million people remain displaced, many of them repeatedly, which has dismantled their capacity to cope with shocks like disruptions in access to critical aid and basic goods.
The U.S.’ recent designation of Ansar Allah as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group will likely already contribute to the complex operating environment—particularly for commercial and financial sector actors. Yemen is reliant on imports for 85% of its food, fuel supplies, and almost all medical supplies. Humanitarian agencies also depend on the private sector to support our operations. While we welcome that OFAC has issued comprehensive licenses to mitigate humanitarian impacts of the SDGT, it is as of yet unclear whether major import suppliers and financial institutions will find these sufficient for the continuation of their Yemen business.
The addition of a further FTO designation could be devastating. It would effectively criminalize certain transactions necessary to facilitate life-saving humanitarian aid and almost certainly exacerbate the chilling effect on commercial imports, remittances, and financial services. Our organizations are committed to Yemen, but we are already struggling to keep pace with humanitarian needs amid declining global resources. Further disruption to our ability to operate would only increase suffering for the most vulnerable.
We urge lawmakers to prioritize the needs of Yemeni civilians and refrain from enacting legislation that would only worsen the crisis and add further obstacles to the ability to meet their basic needs and access lifesaving assistance.
We also reiterate our longstanding call for parties in Yemen to immediately de-escalate, facilitate humanitarian action and protection, and prioritize an inclusive and lasting peace deal which is the only way to address the root cause of the crisis.
Action Against Hunger
International Rescue Committee
Islamic Relief USA
Norwegian Refugee Council USA
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