Paper: Localisation Under Authoritarian State Formation: Houthi-Backed NGOs in Yemen

Paper details

Paper authors Sansom Milton, Ghassan Elkahlout
In panel on In the "Too-Hard" basket: Locally-led response in complex and protracted settings
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


In Yemen, a country plagued by a multifaceted humanitarian crisis, the phenomenon of Houthi-backed non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has arisen as a significant player in the local relief and development sector. This paper delves into the dynamics of these NGOs within the framework of localisation, juxtaposed against the backdrop of authoritarian state formation and the intricacies of a fragmented conflict context. Drawing upon a rich tapestry of primary and secondary data, this study reveals that Houthi-backed NGOs exemplify a form of localisation that diverges from internationally recognized paradigms, heavily influenced by the ambitions of statecraft and power consolidation. The operations, affiliations, and impacts of these NGOs are intricately linked with the Houthi political and military agenda, challenging the conventional understanding of impartiality in humanitarian aid. Furthermore, in a context riddled with divisions, these NGOs occupy a complex space: often filling critical service gaps left by international actors, while simultaneously furthering the strategic objectives of the Houthi regime. This paper posits that a nuanced understanding of Houthi-backed NGOs, and the broader reconfiguration of local humanitarian action in Yemen, is pivotal to informing more effective and context-sensitive international humanitarian interventions.