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Friends of Yemen

Volume 523: debated on Wednesday 16 February 2011

3. On what date he expects the next Friends of Yemen meeting to take place; and if he will make a statement. (40973)

5. On what date he expects the next Friends of Yemen meeting to take place; and if he will make a statement. (40975)

We expect the next Friends of Yemen meeting to take place in Riyadh at the end of March. I visited Saudi Arabia last weekend and was afterwards with the Foreign Secretary in Yemen. We are continuing to work with both countries to agree a firm date for the next meeting.

Given the turmoil in the region, what is the Minister’s assessment of the situation in Yemen and of the Friends of Yemen process? How will it stop the state failing and assist in an orderly succession and economic progress following the commitment by the President not to stand at the next election?

Recent events demonstrate more than ever the importance of the Friends of Yemen process to prevent state failure in that country. I welcome President Saleh’s speech on 2 February, committing to follow the constitution of Yemen and not to seek re-election after 2013. Through the Friends of Yemen process, we will work to support political reform and the right of all Yemenis to participate legitimately and democratically in their political future.

Is it not the case that a secure and prosperous Yemen is very much in the UK national security interest? Will my right hon. Friend inform the House what new measures have been put in place to ensure that those objectives are delivered?

We have seen substantial progress on many fronts since the New York Friends of Yemen meeting, and I particularly highlight the Yemeni Government’s adherence to an International Monetary Fund financial reform programme and progress made towards completing their five-year development plan for poverty reduction. We are close to establishing a multi-donor trust fund for Yemen. The Riyadh Friends of Yemen meeting will continue the support of Yemen’s friends for political and economic reform in the pursuit of democracy, stability and prosperity.

I warmly welcome the Minister’s visit to Yemen last week. I ask him to put one item on the agenda of the Friends of Yemen meeting—namely, the redevelopment and refurbishment of the Aden hospital, which has been ongoing for a number of years. Good health facilities would be of huge benefit to local people in what is one of the poorest countries on earth.

We do not tend to get involved in large infrastructure projects, but health in Yemen is at the top of our agenda. I well appreciate the right hon. Gentleman’s close personal association with Aden, and I undertake to give the matter a special personal look.

Although I acknowledge the link between poverty and security, not least in Yemen, may I invite the Minister of State to confirm that DFID sees addressing poverty among the poorest people in the poorest countries as its supreme challenge and as being at its heart?

Yes, poverty reduction is at the core of everything that the Department does, but I urge the right hon. Gentleman to appreciate that no fragile country has ever achieved a single millennium development goal. Preventing state failure is much less costly than dealing with a failed state afterwards.