'Fighting is easier than peace': Ending war in Yemen will require global effort, says expert

With over 60 per cent of the population living on the brink of famine and an estimated 85,000 children dead from malnutrition, the war has propelled the country into a devastating humanitarian crisis.

Civilians are 'paying the price', says former UN expert on Yemen

The civil war in Yemen has plunged the country into what the UN called 'the world's worst humanitarian crisis.' (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)
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Resolving the conflict in Yemen will require significant global co-operation and continuous pressure on the Saudi government, according to a former member of the UN panel of experts on the country.

"Fighting is easier than making peace," Gregory D. Johnsen said, explaining that both warring factions will have to make difficult compromises to achieve peace.

"The Saudi leadership and the Houthi leadership, despite this war, they are not paying the price," he told The Current's guest host Michelle Shephard.

"It's the Yemeni civilians who are paying the price." 

UN-sponsored peace talks are underway between the two factions in Sweden. It is only the second meeting since civil war broke out in 2015, when a Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened to restore a government ousted by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement. 

With over 60 per cent of the population living on the brink of famine and an estimated 85,000 children dead from malnutrition, the war has propelled the country into what the UN called the "world's worst humanitarian crisis."

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in October 2018. (Hasan Jamali/Associated Press)

Activist Radhya Almutawakel was more optimistic about the peace talks. She said that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could prove to be a turning point for the conflict, as it thrust the conflict into an international spotlight.

Before that, "it was very difficult to start the conversation just because there was not any kind of pressure," she said.

As a response to public outrage over Khashoggi's death, the U.S. Senate voted to advance a resolution to end military support for the Saudi-led coalition.

To discuss the conflict, and whether the talks represent a real chance for peace, Shephard spoke to: 

  • Stephen Anderson, the World Food Program's Yemen Country Director
  • Radhya Almutawakel, co-founder of Mwatana, a Yemeni human rights organization
  • Gregory D. Johnsen, a former member of the UN panel of experts on Yemen, and the author of The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Eunice Kim. Produced by Alison Masemann and Danielle Carr.

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