People-centred rule of law builds safety and security in Yemen

UNDP is working with local communities to place them at the heart of rule of law and justice services.

May 6, 2024
Woman in abeya sits next to woman in police uniform

Gender-responsive training for policewomen focused on their role in helping to promote inclusive gender justice and health security in their communities.

Photo: UNDP Yemen

Yemen is one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. According to the UN, 24.1 million people, 80 per cent of the population, need humanitarian aid and protection, with the collapse of public services exacerbating the situation. 

This includes the widespread deterioration in the rule of law. In some parts of the country, legal and justice institutions simply do not exist.

To address this issue, UNDP is working with local communities to place them at the heart of rule of law and justice services. By connecting institutions with the communities they serve, UNDP is helping to empower local people to engage in dialogue with governing authorities through technical committees. Consisting of locals and NGOs, women’s organizations and traditional leaders, technical committees help to ensure an inclusive approach, so that even in the midst of conflict, rule of law and justice services are available to all, especially women and the most vulnerable.

This ‘rights-based’ approach also means that communities are actively engaged in identifying the issues that affect them, setting their own priorities and overseeing activities. 

Localized gender-sensitive solutions

During the first phase of the rule of law project in Yemen, efforts to prioritize gender involved women police officers in Aden and Mukalla, under the Ministry of Interior. 

Gender-responsive training for 200 policewomen focused on their role in helping to promote inclusive gender justice and health security in their communities. Hundreds of policewomen and juvenile police officers were equipped to contribute to public order and peace. Speaking on the impact of insecurity on women to underscore the importance of these inclusive gender approaches, Brigadier-General Aliya who led the process said; “wars are disasters. They have psychological, social and economic impacts, that are difficult for every woman. Where the war has not destroyed homes and displaced people, it has deteriorated economic conditions”.

The current phase of the initiative – Promoting Inclusive Access to Justice in Yemen is building on these efforts by scaling up both formal and informal justice interventions, through supporting community security, access to justice and protection of detainees, while strengthening consultations with local institutions, linking formal sectors to the informal and customary dispute mechanisms to reduce gaps in services. 

UNDP has adapted ‘model approaches’, which are piloting interventions and showing results with the intent of rolling out those with positive impact in four districts in Aden and Sanaa, to empower communities and reinforce the institutions that serve them.

In Aden, the governor appointed about 2,300 community members (about 30 percent are women) to serve as part of technical committees across all districts, who provide an important link between the communities and authorities. This helps prevent civil disputes and minor criminal cases from escalating into greater violence or serious crimes. 

In parallel, the project promotes victim/survivor-centred services, that include community complaints reception desks and women help desks in the Model Police Stations, an integrated concept combining infrastructure, training and community policing to better serve communities. UNDP support established Legal Aid Centres that provide legal services for internally displaced persons, in coordination with other UN agencies and local organizations.

UNDP, working closely with UNICEF, has also supported children and young people through the Family Protection Unit, focusing on areas where vulnerable youth encounter the law. The new Director General of the General Department for Family Protection at the Ministry of the Interior, Dr Ibtisam said that this support provided to children and women has “filled a large void and helped many children who came to us. We should not punish them as if they are criminals, but rather we must look at their childhood and try to deal with this, with decency and humanity.”

Through these initiatives, UNDP has supported more than 205,000 Yemenis since 2021 in community safety, legal empowerment, inclusive justice and detainee protection. The lessons will inform future efforts between UNDP and legal institutions in Yemen.