We are aware of more and more reports and testimonials that the Trump Administration and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are considering designating the Houthis in Yemen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Such a designation would create an immediate chain of events that would greatly exacerbate the humanitarian crisis that faces more than 20 million human beings living there. The Charity & Security Network, a coalition of more than 500 civil society representatives dedicated to protecting the rights of nonprofit organizations that help communities and address pressing human rights issues, urges the administration to thoroughly consider the real-world consequences of taking such a decision.
The civilian population in Yemen, some 29 million people, have endured nearly six years of civil war, natural disasters and dire economic and resource conditions to say the least. The UN World Food Program has called their situation a “countdown to catastrophe” with roughly 80 percent of the population dependent on aid for survival. Should the Houthis be designated an FTO, it would trigger a range of laws, regulations and restrictions that would essentially shut down the humanitarian aid programs underway there. It is these programs, run by a variety of international nongovernmental organizations, that are preventing – barely – such catastrophe. In short, the current raft of food, medicine and financial access that Yemenis cling to would be sunk. Moreover, these same limitations would greatly inhibit, if not completely cut off, the ability of U.S. individuals to participate in any peacebuilding discussions or procedures. This would condemn Yemen and its neighbors to an elongated conflict and the daunting conditions such wars perpetuate.
C&SN implores Secretary of State Pompeo and his advisors to consider the full range of impacts that such a designation would surely create. There are important issues and questions to be considered about furtherance of US foreign policy goals, assisting in brokering a peace in Yemen, and providing urgently needed humanitarian aid. C&SN defers to the appropriate expertise among government officials and nongovernmental experts on the first two. However, we can unequivocally state that the catastrophe that the UN refers to will be a near certainty should the FTO designation occur.