GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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How fragility can legitimize intervention
Paper Proposal Text :
The terminology of fragile states has increasingly been used to verbalize a threat to global security ranging from spill-over of conflict to neighboring states to global issues of terrorism, drug trafficking and environmental degradation. Hence, the inability of fragile states to uphold the monopoly of legitimate violence is a threat; not just to the people living in those states but to international order. Simultaneously, sovereignty, the recognition of independent territorial entities and nonintervention in the internal affairs of other states, remain, at least in principle, one of the fundamental tenets of the international system. Interestingly, the consequences of the use of the ‘fragile state’ terminology on the principle of sovereignty has not been extensively studied.
Yemen has been described as a country on “the brink” for decades, but as the Houthis moved in to Sana’a in September 2014, the Yemeni state moved across the invisible threshold and became failed. This imaged of the state was only exacerbated as the Yemeni President; Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi was first placed under house arrest and later fled to Riyadh. This underlined the status of Yemen as the chaotic and backward part of the Arabian Peninsula.
This paper investigates how the failed state terminology provides an internationally recognized language to frame the political chaos which Yemen’s GCC neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia, view as a defining characteristic of Yemen. The instability and poverty of Yemen has defined its relations to its much wealthier neighbors who now not only fear the potential of spill-over from Yemen, such as al-Qaeda moving from Yemen to Saudi Arabia, but also sees Yemen as providing a potential spearhead for increased Iranian influence on the Arabian Peninsula.
The paper will argue that characterizing Yemen as a failed state helped legitimize the Saudi-led military campaign internationally as it was used to circumvent the otherwise fundamental principle of state sovereignty. Once a state is categorized as ‘fragile’ or “failed”, intervention becomes not only acceptable but even the morally right thing to do to save the people. The narrative of Hadi as the legitimate president forced to flee and now asking the Saudis for help substantiated this image.
Yemen’s past and future is bound to its regional context as specifically Saudi Arabia has always been heavily involved in internal Yemeni politics. Thus, any future Yemeni state has to find a way of co-existing with Saudi Arabia. However, as the current military campaign has proven, Saudi Arabia cannot “engineer” a Yemeni state. Indeed, the military campaign itself has only further destabilized Yemen. In this paper, I specifically zoom in on the importance of aid in creating political stability – and to move Yemen away from the category of state failure.
The GCC countries, but especially Saudi Arabia, have transferred substantial funds to both state and non-state actors in Yemen. In relation to the GCC deal and the transition, Saudi Arabia was the largest donor which helped keep the Yemeni state afloat. However, Yemeni capacity was limited even before the current military campaign which led to problems of aid disbursement. Hence, the second aim of this paper will be to investigate potential avenues for the effective distribution of aid in Yemen. This will include looking at the potential for greater local involvement through local councils and decentralization as well as the experience of the Executive Bureau. The Executive Bureau was set up as a parallel structure to help the Yemeni state absorb the large pledges which were given in relation to the transition.
Events on the ground in Yemen suggest that President Hadi will find it difficult to be accepted as a future leader of Yemen. What is more, events on the ground seem to indicate an increasing deterioration and unravelling of the social fabric of Yemen in the face of humanitarian disaster. Hence, the future of Yemen as a viable state, as any kind of state, will require that both internal and external actors start to focus on what is in the best interest of the Yemeni people. If Yemen is to emerge as a viable state, the GCC countries need to stand back and led the Yemenis themselves find a politically sustainable solution.