ACTION: Letter Urges Reversal of Houthi FTO Designation
Friends Committee on National Legislation, Win Without War, Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, et al.
(January 12, 2021) — We are [sending] this letter to incoming President Joe Biden urging that he take action on day 1 of his administration to reverse the Trump administration’s last-minute decision to designate [Yemen’s] Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).
Rather than being a catalyst for peace, these designations are a recipe for more conflict and famine, while unnecessarily further undermining US diplomatic credibility. It is more likely that these designations will convince the Houthis that their goals cannot be achieved at the negotiating table. Moreover, this designation comes after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued an urgent warning in late 2020 that Yemen is “in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades” and that without “immediate action, millions of lives may be lost.”
Given the likely devastating human impacts of labeling the Houthi movement an FTO and SDTG, it’s critical that the incoming Biden administration takes immediate action to reverse it. Please add your organization’s name to this urgent letter below. We are keeping it open till COB Thursday.
Dear President-Elect Biden,
We, the undersigned civil society organizations, urge you to reverse the designation of the Houthis in Yemen, otherwise known as Ansar Allah, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).
While the Houthis share much blame, alongside the Saudi/UAE-led coalition, for horrific human rights violations in Yemen, the designations do nothing to address these concerns. They will, however, prevent the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance to millions of innocent people, greatly hurt the prospects for a negotiated settlement to the conflict, and further undermine US national security interests in the region.
Our coalition joins a chorus of growing opposition to the designation, including a bipartisan group of members of Congress, multiple humanitarian organizations operating on the ground in Yemen, and former career diplomats who have served both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Rather than being a catalyst for peace, these designations are a recipe for more conflict and famine, while unnecessarily further undermining US diplomatic credibility. It is more likely that these designations will convince the Houthis that their goals cannot be achieved at the negotiating table. UN General Secretary Gutteres implied this concern when he requested that “everyone avoids taking any action that could make the already dire situation even worse.”
Moreover, no evidence supports the need for such designations, a fact pointed out in a letter last month by former US diplomats who expressed concern that “will complicate… efforts to bring the conflict to a negotiated end and begin the long process of stabilizing and reconstructing Yemen.”
Even prior to this designation, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued an urgent warning in late 2020 stating Yemen is “in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades. In the absence of immediate action, millions of lives may be lost.”
Designating the Houthis will further exacerbate and speed this suffering by disrupting the flow of much-needed food, medicine, and aid delivery to the majority of Yemen’s people. Indeed, leaders of the world’s top humanitarian aid organizations working in Yemen warned in a joint statement that an FTO designation on the Houthis “could cause even greater suffering, given the number of people under its jurisdiction, its control over state institutions, and the already frightening levels of food insecurity and humanitarian need across Yemen.”
Prior to these designations, commercial shippers have been reluctant to import to Yemen given the high risk of delays, costs, and risks of violence. These designations only increase this level of risk for commercial entities and further places the vital work of humanitarian and peacebuilders at risk.
As a result, even if humanitarian exemptions are permitted, financial institutions, shipping firms, and insurance companies, along with aid organizations, are likely to find the risk of potential violations to be too high, resulting in these entities dramatically scaling down or even ending their involvement in Yemen – a decision that would have indescribably severe human consequences.
We applaud your administration’s commitment to and look forward to working with you on taking a new approach to US policy in Yemen, as well as the broader Gulf region, — one that prioritizes human dignity and peace. As part of this larger reset, we urge you to include the full reversal of both the FTO and SDGT designations on day one. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
Secretary of State Nominee, Anthony Blinken
Secretary of Treasury Nominee, Janet Yellen
CURRENT SIGNER LIST:
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
Beyond War and Militarism
Churches for Middle East Peace
Demand Progress Education Fund
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
Environmentalists Against War
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Foreign Policy for America
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
Health Alliance International
Institute for Policy Studies
Just Foreign Policy
Justice Is Global
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Saudi American Justice Project
Students for Yemen
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
United for Peace and Justice
Yemeni Alliance Committee
Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation
Win Without War
World BEYOND War