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PAC 70 – A Glocalised Crisis The Denunciation of the Food Situation in Yemen

By Armand Suicmez

Translation: Pierre Chabal

Passage au crible n°70

Pixabay, Yémen

On 23 May 2012, seven NGOs issued a press release informing of the current famine situation in Yemen. Against a backdrop of civil war and massive displacement of populations, nearly half of the population is affected by this crisis, among them a large majority of children. In this context, emergency assistance is deemed insufficient by the actors of development.

Historical background
Theoretical framework

Historical background

Born in 1990 from the unification of the two Republics – Arab in the north and Democratic People’s in the south, ideologically Marxist –, Yemen, which is located southwest of the Arabian peninsula, still faces major problems opposing the former halves, northern and southern. However, the discovery of oil and gas deposits at the end of the 80s portended an upturn in the economy, even if the state is neither a member of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), nor of the OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries). However, if the export of energy raw materials accounts for 70% of the GDP, the lack of infrastructure does not allow efficient extraction operations.
In 2007-2008, the outbreak of the value of agricultural products led to many crises in the poorest regions of the world, but also among the industrialized countries. This situation, which is due to the reduction of arable land, mainly in Asia, to massive urbanization and to the increasing needs of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), then led the Chicago Board of Trade and other financial arenas to speculate on commodities such as grains and dairy products.
Yemen with a PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) of 2 500 dollars per capita a year, is classified by the UN World at the 173rd rank in terms of human development. Volatility of more than 70% on the price of basic commodities now requires Yemenis to spend about 80% of their daily wage to feed, in an area already considered as one of the poorest nations of the world.
In an area where 43% of the population is under 15 years old, the main victims are children that “mothers withdraw from school to go begging in the street” 1.NGOs such as Oxfam, Save the Children and Care denounce this absurd situation in which Yemen is, because food is still available in local markets. However, due to too high a rating, half of the population does not have enough money for food.
Conflicts and/or alliances between members of an independence movement, tribes and AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) also force civilians in massive displacement, so that nearly 500,000 people are now living in exile. According to the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), the multiplication of refugee camps exacerbates poverty Yemenis and greatly increases violence. Actors in the field denounce notably the lack of resources, especially when we know that out of the 447 million of dollars requested by the United Nations to provide humanitarian aid, only 43% of the amount reached their destination in donations.

Theoretical framework

1. Speculation on foodstuffs. Often associated with monetary transactions, bubbles form around the consumers’ goods, which cause higher prices. Investment risk, operated in key financial arenas, then results in a scarcity of products and in the worsening of famine in developing states.
2. The emergence of Islamic regionalism. Faces with containment by Western countries, the construction of an Islamic community as an alternative to the domination of the North, is confirmed. However, in this heterogeneous area, the leadership of this symbolic referent is disputed among emerging countries and more classic regional powers classics.


As early as 2007, a global food crisis hit both the industrialized nations and some LDCs (Least Developed Countries) such as Yemen. Structural causes, due to societal changes, explain the increase in demand and a simultaneous decrease in supply. These effects are compounded by financial actors who see in it a renewed window of opportunity. This mutation leads to an increase in the benefits paid to shareholders.
Previously, the forward purchase (paper title) and storage of commodities have led to a surge in values, which increased the price of wheat from 145 to 230 dollars per ton. Such swelling rates are then all the more difficult to bear, in areas where low income forces people to devote their daily wage to consumption. This observation is established by NGOs that provide information monitoring in the field. According to them, such volatility seems clearly artificial because the products are not that scarce. However, their rates remain inadequate with the resources of the population.
This micro-macro mixing of actors, presents, shows a completely globalized conjuncture. Indeed, decisions taken within the frame of global finance induce a direct impact on the most remote villages in Yemen. However, this collateral damage is largely attributed by Islamist currents to the failures of the western system, the latter being widely repudiated in favor of the alternative model they seek to promote. This change in leadership mobilizes thus two capital parameters. On the one hand, it refers to the pact on Islamic traditions and is on the other inscribed within development aid. Regarding the case of Yemen, Saudi Arabia mobilizes these two levers in order to impose herself on this territory. For example, recall that recent UN discussions were held to raise funds and thus stem the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. However, of the four billion dollars released, 3.25 billion came from Saudi Arabia, against only 200 million dollars allocated by the European Union.
Finally, this situation reflects the complex interplay between religious, societal and economic data. It is clear that Yemen, home to 55% Sunni and 45% Shiite, is now an issue of dominance for regional powers. Among them Saudi Arabia – the traditional hegemon – tries to grant a role that is challenged by Turkey, already established in this part of the world.


Le.Monde.fr. Le Yémen touché par une grave crise alimentaire, http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2012/05/23/le-yemen-touche-par-une-grave-crise-alimentaire_1705873_3218.html, dernière consultation : le 11 juin 2012.
Oxfam, Yemen on Brink of Hunger Catastrophe Aid Agencies Warn, http://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2012/05/yemen-on-brink-of-hunger-catastrophe-aid-agencies-warn.
Ravignan Antoine de, « Agriculture: pourquoi ça flambe? », Alternatives Économiques, (305), Sept.2009, p.52.
Piromallo-Gambaderlla Agata, “La communauté entre nostalgie et utopie,” Societés, (87), Jan. 2005, p. 65-73.
Béatrice Hibou, “Le réformisme, grand récit politique de la Tunisie contemporaine,” Revue d’histoire moderne contemporaine, (56), May 2009, p. 14-39.
James N. Rosenau, Turbulence in World Politics: a Theory of Change and Continuity, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1990.

1. Le Monde.fr, Le Yémen touché par une grave crise alimentaire, http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2012/05/23/le-yemen-touche-par-une-grave-crise-alimentaire_1705873_3218.html, dernière consultation : le 11 juin 2012