Two hours to save Yemen

The international conference on Yemen, due to be held in London on January 27, is expected to last only a couple of hours, Ivan Lewis, the Foreign Office minister responsible for the Middle East told parliament yesterday. 

This does sound rather a short amount of time to spend on saving the country from disaster. Hopefully much of the groundwork will have been done in advance, but I'm not too sure about that since the minister added that Britain is still "in the process of discussing participation and the agenda with key international partners".

Lewis also said:

Yemen continues to face economic crisis and state failure. Any worsening of the instability, terrorist activity and poverty already present in Yemen will have a detrimental effect on security-within Yemen and in the region.

The UK strategy is to tackle the core social, political and economic causes of these problems, in co-operation with the international community. The meeting in London on 27 January 2010 is part of our wider strategy towards Yemen, which aims to work with the international community to support the efforts of the Yemeni government to address the fundamental problems they are facing.

The reference to tackling "the core social, political and economic causes" of Yemen's problems is encouraging, however. It suggests that Britain is not accepting Yemen's demand for a more limited agenda focusing on counterterrorism and economic aid, or demands from sections of the American media to focus mainly on fighting al-Qaeda.

A holistic approach to the Yemen problem is absolutely vital, as I argue in an article for Comment Is Free today.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 19 January 2010.