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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Full Country Name:Republic of Yemen
Area: 528,000 sq km
Population: 24.7 million (CIA Factbook, 2011)
Capital City: Sana'a (population estimate: 1.3million (2011))
Currency: Yemeni Rial
People: Arab
Language: Arabic
Religion: Muslim
Life Expectancy: 63 (2009) World Bank
Literacy Rate for Adults aged 15 and above: 61% (World Bank, 2010)
Climate: Mostly desert, where it is very hot and dry. Hot and humid along the west coast; temperate in western mountains. Affected by seasonal monsoon
Major political parties: General People's Congress (GPC); Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), which formed in 2005 of five opposition parties: Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah), Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), Hizb Al-Haq, Nasserite Unionist Party, Popular Forces Union Party
Government: Democracy (power-sharing National Unity Government)
Head of State: President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi (since 25 February 2012)
Prime Minister/Premier: Mohamed Salem Basindwah (since 27 November 2011)
Foreign Minister: Dr Abu Baker al Qirby (since 4 April 2001)
Membership of international groups/organisations: United Nations and many affiliate organisations, Arab League, Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Non-Aligned Movement

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP: USD 31 billion (World Bank, 2010)
GDP per capita: USD 1,282 (2010) World Bank
Annual Growth: -10% (IMF projected GDP growth 2011)
Inflation: 23% (2011, IMF)
Major Industries: oil, agriculture
Major Trading Partners: Main export markets: I China (37.0%), India (21.4%), Thailand (7.1%), Japan (5.7%), South Africa (5.0%)
Origin of imports: UAE (13.6%), China (12.9%), India (7.8%), Saudi Arabia (6.4%), Kuwait (4.8%).
Aid & Development: Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) States, Germany, UK, Japan, Netherlands, USA, EU Institutions. Many members of the International Community take part in the Friends of Yemen process (currently suspended), which aims to support the Government of Yemen as it addresses the broad range of challenges facing Yemen.
Exchange Rate: £1.00 = 340.637 Rial, US$1 = 214.250 Rial (2011)
Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, facing difficult long-term challenges such as a declining growth rate and an expanding population.

The oil discovered in 1984 has provided most of the country’s income, with oil revenues accounting for roughly 25% of GDP and 70% of government revenue. The country has about 3 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves, very small relative to reserves in other countries in the region, and produces about 260,000 barrels of oil per day. Production has been declining steadily over the past decade since reaching a peak of 440,000 barrels of oil per day in 2001. Oil output is expected to continue falling in the next few years. Yemen exports about 105,000 barrels per day and consumes domestically the rest of the oil it produces.

Oil production and reserves are modest, and the distribution infrastructure is vulnerable to attacks, with continuous attacks on the Marib pipeline. Yemen has tried to limit its reliance on oil revenue by diversifying its economy through an economic reform programme initiated in 2006. In October 2009, Yemen exported its first liquefied natural gas as part of this diversification effort.

Corruption, smuggling and insecurity, along with the growing problem of increased piracy off the coast of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden, have also damaged investor confidence. International donors from 39 countries and development agencies (the Consultative Group) met in London in November 2006 try to tackle these economic issues through agreeing a package of development support. Around $5.3 billion was pledged at the conference, to cover a four year period 2007–2010, but we estimate that only 10% of this was ultimately disbursed.

In January 2010, the UK hosted an international meeting in London to discuss the many challenges facing the people of Yemen. The meeting was held as part of a wider “Friends of Yemen” process, which aims to support Yemen's efforts towards economic and political reform. A further meeting was held in New York in September 2010.

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HISTORY

The Yemen Arab Republic (YAR), also known as North Yemen, came into being on 26 September 1962 following a military coup which ousted the Imam of the Mutawakkilite. The People's Republic of South Yemen (later known as the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen) was formed on 30 November 1967 from the territory of the former Federation of South Arabia and the Aden Protectorate. The two countries united on 22 May 1990 to form a single nation-state for the first time, the Republic of Yemen (ROY).

In May 1994, large-scale fighting broke out between military forces supporting the south and those supporting the north following a breakdown in political co-operation. Fighting continued until July when Aden fell. Since then the Government has attempted to promote reconciliation between the north and the south. This is an ongoing challenge, especially now as the National Unity Government and newly-elected president proceed with transition and, in particular, National Dialogue.

BBC News Country Timeline: Yemen (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/country_profiles/newsid_1706000/1706450.stm)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Yemen has no outstanding disputes with any of its neighbours. A border agreement with Saudi Arabia was signed in 2006 which brought this long-standing dispute to a close.

Yemen’s Relations with the UK

After the low ebb of the 1994 civil war, which followed a period of political isolation after the Gulf War, Yemen embarked on a programme of political and economic reform. Relations were strained by a series of kidnap incidents, including that in December 1998 in which three British tourists were killed, and by the conviction of eight British citizens for terrorist activity in Yemen.

Nevertheless, the bilateral relationship between the UK and Yemen has subsequently improved, and cooperation exists in a number of areas, including security and development. In recognition of the need to support Yemen in its work to introduce reform and address the causes of instability the UK convened the London Conference in January 2010. This meeting resulted in the formation of the Friends of Yemen, a group of countries and international organistions, committed to coordinating international efforts to support Yemen. Sitting alongside the Yemenis, the UK co-chaired the September 2010 Friends of Yemen meeting in New York.

In the light of recent events, the UK continues to actively engage all sides to encourage a peaceful and inclusive solution to the current political impasse, and which responds to the legitimate demands of all Yemenis. The UK co-chairs the Friends of Yemen meetings with Saudi Arabia as a means of aligning international support and assistance for Yemen.

UK Development Assistance

The UK has provided development assistance to Yemen since the early 1970s, with some interruptions. The Department for International Development (DFID) had scaled up its aid programme in Yemen from £5.4m in 2004 to around £50m in 2010/11. Spending has focussed on programmes addressing wealth creation, poverty, hunger and vulnerability, along with governance and security.

As a result of the instability over the last year, DFID had put on hold certain programmes while continuing with other programmes where possible. With the successful completion of the Interim Presidential elections, DFID is now looking to resume programmes previously on hold and scale up its assistance further.

Instability over the last year had pushed Yemen into humanitarian crisis. In response to the escalation in humanitarian needs DFID has doubled its humanitarian assistance to Yemen for 2011-12 to over £15 million.

This is channelled through UNICEF, the Emergency Response Fund of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and a consortium of international NGOs. UK support includes providing nutritional support to 80,000 children under the age of five, vaccinating 300,000 children against measles and improving education for over 200,000 children.

DFID Yemen website (http://www.dfid.gov.uk/where-we-work/middle-east — north-africa/yemen/)

Cultural Relations with the UK

The British Council has an office in Sana'a (http://www.britishcouncil.org/new/) . There is a significant Yemeni diaspora in the UK. Based in both Yemen and the UK, the British-Yemeni Society holds regular meetings and lectures. The British Museum held a major exhibition from June to October 2002 featuring many exhibits from Yemen.

Recent Visits

Inward:
February 2012: Dr Al-Qirbi, Foreign Minister
September 2011: Dr Al-Qirbi, Foreign Minister
July 2011: Dr Al-Qirbi, Foreign Minister
February 2011: Dr Al-Qirbi, Foreign Minister
Outward:
February 2011: William Hague, Foreign Secretary
June 2010: Alistair Burt, FCO Minister of State

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GEOGRAPHY

Yemen lies at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It has frontiers with Saudi Arabia and Oman and controls the strategic straits at the Southern entrance to the Red Sea (Bab al Mendab). The north of the country has three well-defined areas: a coastal strip along the Red Sea, the highlands inland and a desert area to the east. The south consists largely of mountains and desert. The population is poor and largely rural, but there has been large-scale urbanisation in the last decade and almost half of the population now live in towns.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT WITH THE UK

In 2011, the UK’s exports of goods to Yemen amounted to £56 million (down 25% on 2010). The UK’s imports of goods from Yemen amounted to £146 million (up 240% on 2010). Virtually all of the UK’s imports from Yemen were oil/petroleum.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Yemen (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/yemen)

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POLITICS

Recent Political Developments

As part of a two-year period of political transition plan brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council, interim presidential elections took place on 21 February. Former Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi was elected as President, as the successor to President Saleh. President Hadi is now mandated to lead a two-year political transition process including a fully inclusive National Dialogue, and constitutional and electoral reform, until full Presidential and Parliamentary elections are held in 2014.

Recent political changes follow more than 12 months of violence and civil unrest across Yemen. In January 2011, spurred on by the uprising in Tunisia, pro-democracy demonstrators began to protest on the streets of Yemen. The government response has at times been violent, and clashes between government supporters, rebels, and pro-democracy activists have continued. On 18 March, over fifty demonstrators were killed by security forces in Sana’a. Some senior military figures, including General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, have declared their support for political reform. The international community has condemned the use of violence against peaceful protestors, expressed its deep concern at the worsening humanitarian situation and called for urgent action to reach a political settlement. The GCC has formulated an Initiative for political transition. The United Nations concern at the growing unrest was to appoint Jamal Benomar to the role of Special Adviser to Yemen in March 2011. The UK supports transition on the basis of the GCC Initiative, recognising it as the only credible plan for peace and stability.

The UK worked closely with GCC, EU, UN and other international partners to urge all sides in Yemen to commit to peaceful and inclusive change. An important outcome of our combined efforts was the UN Security Council Resolution 2014, unanimously adopted in October 2011. President Saleh formally agreed to transition on 23 November 2011 by signing the Initiative and its implementation plan. This committed him to leaving office after 33 years as president. In accordance with the implementation plan, executive authority was passed to the Vice President, a new Prime Minister and a power-sharing National Unity Government were appointed. Following the recent successful election, we now look forward to the new President to usher in the second phase of transition leading to the Conference of National Dialogue, an amended constitution and elections in 2014.

Elections

The interim Presidential election on 21 February was the first election since 2006. Acting President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi was the consensus candidate and will be Yemen’s new head of state through the next phase of transition.

Yemen's first direct presidential election (September 1999) was won comfortably by President Saleh. A referendum held in 2001 extended the presidential term from five years to seven years. Saleh remained in power following the 2006 presidential election, having gained 77% of the vote.

Yemen’s third parliamentary election since unification was held in April 2003. The General People's Congress (GPC), the Party of the President, won 238 seats, while the largest opposition party, Islah, gained only 46 seats. The next Parliamentary elections were due in April 2009 but following a dispute between the main parties elections were postponed until 2011.

Local elections were held for the first time in February 2001, and again in 2006.

Human Rights

The British Government has a number of concerns about human rights in Yemen. These include aspects of the judicial system; arbitrary detention, freedom of expression, civilians in areas of conflict, the rights of women and capital punishment. Following months of internal instability and reports of credible human rights violations, and in the context of a worsening humanitarian situation, a UN human rights mission visited Yemen in June/July 2011 to conduct an investigation. On 13 September 2011, the Office for the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a report on Yemen, in which it stressed the need for “international, independent and impartial investigations” into allegations of human rights abuses related to the peaceful protest movement in Yemen since the beginning of this year. The UK expressed its support at the 18th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva for the report’s recommendations. The UK also supported the Dutch-led resolution calling for action by the Government of Yemen to address concerns over its human rights record and to make progress towards political transition. The OHCHR is expected to present an update to the 19th session of the Human Rights Council in February.

UN Security Council Resolution 2014 of October 2011 “stressed that all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable.” The UK supports this position and urges Yemen to uphold its obligations under international human rights law.

The new National Unity Government is committed to upholding Yemen’s international human rights obligations and initiating transitional justice to address the grievances of Yemenis.

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Last Updated: February 2012

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