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BRIEF May 14, 2019

Yemen Country Engagement Note (CEN) FY20-21


Yemen continues to face an ongoing conflict with growing adverse humanitarian, institutional and economic impacts and uncertain prospects for peace. During the conflict, top priority is given to preserving institutional capacity, improving service delivery resilience, and providing support to conflict-affected poor and vulnerable Yemenis.

The Country Engagement Note (CEN) is aligned with the WBG’s recently updated Middle East and North Africa Strategy. Under the new CEN, the WBG remains committed to maintaining its convening power and playing a lead role in partner dialogue and coordination structures. 

The CEN for FY 20–21 aims to sustain the WBG’s current program of basic service delivery while progressively supporting economic development and human capital priorities. The CEN comprises two objectives: (a) continued support for basic service delivery and institutional preservation; and (b) extending support to livelihoods, human capital, and basic economic recovery. These objectives support the overarching goals of laying the foundations for peace, building social cohesion, and targeting structural dimensions of fragility. By driving engagement through objectives rather than through sectors, the CEN’s design allows the WBG to respond flexibly to the country’s needs, while remaining calibrated to the availability of funds and the security context. The CEN envisions support through targeted lending, technical assistance (TA), and advisory services and analytics (ASA) to prepare for and help shape the post-conflict environment. 

Recognizing the importance of youth and women to stability, prosperity, and human development, the CEN pays specific attention to their needs and aims to fortify their role in peacebuilding and reconstruction. The new CEN will explore education as a means to target youth unemployment and illiteracy, provide psychosocial services, and distribute health and gender-related resources.

Given evidence suggesting that enhanced political participation of women increases the likelihood for sustained peace, the CEN will prioritize consultations with women in current and future engagements and build an evidence base for more participatory peace processes once rebuilding begins. This deliberate focus on women and youth can inform where and how the WBG intervenes, especially in regard to designing participatory long-term development initiatives in peacetime. 

Under the new CEN, the WBG will deepen its utilization of ASA to support ongoing projects and inform future investments in recovery and reconstruction to avoid delays once peace arrives. ASA can be used strategically to deepen knowledge, anticipate needs, and explore potential priorities. While it cannot necessarily influence other development partners to follow the WBG’s lead, high-quality ASA can help make the case for others to become engaged. Decisions on future ASA will continue to be made with the aim of improving the availability, production, and use of reliable data to support operations and strategy (both for the WBG and international donor community). 

Although engagement in Yemen under the current context presents IDA with multiple risks, results are significant, and the risk of inaction is exponentially greater. Operating in active conflict challenges the WBG’s traditional business model, but the Yemen experience shows how effective the WBG’s development agenda can be in a context of fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV). IDA’s current portfolio of US$1.36B provides income support, large-scale cash assistance, health and nutrition interventions, agriculture production restoration, access to energy, and the restoration of urban services to Yemenis across the country. 

In the current engagement, conventional supervision by the WBG has been replaced with an operational partnership with the United Nations (UN), and national institutions which are implementing projects on the ground. IDA interventions since 2016 have achieved dramatic results along the humanitarian-development nexus in a short period of time, whereas inaction would have had immediate and significant impacts on Yemen’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. Moreover, it would make eventual reengagement much costlier and more time-consuming. The Yemen example provides critical lessons for investment financing during conflict that can aid teams in designing and supervising operations differently in FCV contexts.