Written by Lim Jin Jie

“A national disgrace.”

The United Kingdom (UK) and Saudi Arabia signed agreements to cooperate on humanitarian issues, pledging SGD 180 million to “support livelihoods and economic prosperity in the Horn of Africa and East Africa” through the creation of vital infrastructure. This was announced as part of the renewal of the long-term partnership between UK and Saudi Arabia, coinciding with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s state visit to London.

Safe to say, this was not very welcomed by the Brits – the Crown Prince was met by hundreds of protesters upon arrival who demanded to end the violence in Yemen. The opposition leaders also denounced Theresa May’s decision to sign a humanitarian deal with Saudi Arabia as “mocking” UK’s reputation of being a “global leader in delivering humanitarian aid”.

Why is it significant?

Saudi Arabia has caused possibly the “worst” humanitarian crisis in Yemen in 50 years due to continued bombing campaigns. Save the Children, an international NGO, reported that there are 11 million children who require humanitarian aid (that’s about two times of Singapore’s population). Saudi claims it intervened in 2015 to support the legitimate government of Yemen against the Houthi rebels – this is also backed by UK and the US.

With Saudi’s acts against human rights, this humanitarian aid deal with the UK can potentially “whitewash Saudi Arabia’s reputation and role in the war”. It seems that hypocrisy underlies this deal – Saudi will continue to bomb Yemen, while the UK continues to be complicit in this through selling arms, training, and fighter jets to Saudi. In fact, British arms sales to Saudi Arabia has “sharply increased” after countries like Germany have suspended arms sales. (Perhaps the UK should learn from Germany)

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