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Australian Government must pledge more aid to Yemen, not weapons 

Australia will attend a high-level pledging conference on Tuesday in Geneva where it must commit more funding to the humanitarian response in Yemen.
24 February 2019

Save the Children is calling on the Australian Government to make a greater contribution to the humanitarian response in Yemen in light of the continuation of Australian defence exports to parties to the conflict.

On Tuesday, 26 February the Australian Government will be represented at the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen. 

The meeting comes just a week after the Australian Government confirmed in Senate Estimates that it was continuing to approve Australian defence exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, leading actors in the conflict. 

Indeed, at least $36 million in taxpayer funded assistance has been provided to an Australian defence manufacturer to help them market their product to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.*

This is despite a damning UN report which found that actions taken by parties to the conflict in Yemen including Saudi Arabia and the UAE – including airstrikes resulting in the death of civilians, rape, torture and using child soldiers as young as 8 - may amount to war crimes.

Yemen continues to be the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. There are approximately 24 million Yemenis including more than 11 million children in need of humanitarian assistance. It has been estimated that a quarter of a million people are living in famine-like conditions. 

Save the Children’s Stop the War on Children report recently revealed that 5 children die for every 1 fighter killed in conflict globally. One of the worst conflicts for children according to the report, is the war in Yemen where 85,000 children have already perished and another child dies every 10 minutes.

Despite the scale of the disaster, Australia has spent just $23 million in direct aid to Yemen in almost four years. In a letter to the Foreign Minister and the Shadow Foreign Minister, Save the Children has joined leading aid agencies Oxfam, World Vision, Plan International and CARE in calling on both the Australia Government and the Opposition to commit a greater contribution to the international humanitarian effort.

Director of Policy and International Programs for Save the Children Australia, Mat Tinkler said Australia could and should contribute more to the humanitarian effort in Yemen. 

“The scale of this crisis is difficult to fathom. A child is dying every ten minutes in a war waged by adults,” he said.

“The Australian Government should pledge more funding to the humanitarian response, and it should immediately ban Australian defence exports to Saudi Arabia and its allies.”

“Australians would be horrified to learn that our weapons and know-how are potentially fuelling this war, or that taxpayer subsidies are supporting companies arming the key combatants.”

“Australians would certainly expect our government to be contributing more to the humanitarian response than to the supply of weapons to the same conflict.”

Just this month, the United Kingdom’s all-party Lords Select Committee on International Relations released a unanimous report Yemen: Giving Peace a Chance which found that arms export sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies were unlawful.

Both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives have used a War Powers Resolution to express disdain for the Administration’s support to the Saudi-led coalition. In November 2018, the US ended the refuelling of coalition aircraft engaged in Yemen but continues to provide intelligence assistance. 

Germany, Denmark, Italy and Finland have all suspended or banned defence exports to Saudi Arabia and many are reviewing defence export licences which have already been granted.

Save the Children has launched a petition demanding the Australian Government join the international community in its condemnation of this war and immediately stop defence exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

For interviews, call Kimberley Gardiner on 0437 435 777

*Senate Estimates, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee Hansard Page 23-29

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