Children in Yemen are fundraising for the United Nations. Yes, you heard right. A group of children in a war-torn country is raising money for the large peace-keeping organization. But in photos posted on Twitter, dozens of Yemeni children can be seen placing coins and cash on top of a large U.N. flag on the ground. Holding posters of the United Nations, the group of children appears to be holding a sit-in outside the U.N. office in the country's capital of Sanaa.
The campaign, allegedly spearheaded by the mayor of Sanaa, protests the U.N.'s announcement last week that it plans to remove Saudi Arabia from its list of those harming children. And it seems to be aimed at shaming the United Nations for caving under financial pressure after Saudi Arabia and other coalition members allegedly threatened to cut off funding to the United Nations.
“It's a fundraising campaign to help the U.N. do its job without financial pressure from Saudi Arabia,” Internet users in Yemen are said to have explained.
In the “blacklist,” which is actually a U.N. report on children and armed conflict, the United Nations found the Saudi Arabia-led coalition responsible for 60 percent of the casualties, of which there were 510 deaths and 667 injuries of children. There was a “sixfold increase in the number of children killed” last year when compared with 2014, the report said.
Saudi Arabia was not pleased to be put on the list and threatened to cut off funding to U.N. programs. After the backlash, the United Nations announced last week that it temporarily removed Saudi Arabia from its list of countries that commit violations against children, pending a review by the coalition and the United Nations.
In a stunning admission, the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the pressure he was put under for the report, during a news conference last week. He said that he had to consider “the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer,” if countries were to defund U.N. programs. Although he didn't specify which member countries threatened to cut off funding, Ban said that “it is unacceptable for member states to exert undue pressure.”
Why does this matter?
The United Nations states that its mission is to maintain international peace and foster cooperation to solve various social, humanitarian and economic problems. Human-rights groups who have people on the ground in Yemen have corroborated the U.N.'s findings. So, even temporarily removing Saudi Arabia from the list gives the impression that the country is off the hook and sets a bad precedent, experts say. The U.N.'s credibility is on the line.
According to Amnesty International, this is the first time that the United Nations has removed a state from a list. It has, however, bowed to pressure in the past. In 2014, the United Nations was criticized when it backed off from including Israel in its report on human-rights violations against children.
The Saudi-led coalition, which backs the president of Yemen, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, started the military campaign in Yemen last year. Their aim was to push back the Houthis, who forced Hadi to flee the capital after they seized parts of the country. The Houthis, Zaidi Shia rebels, are said to be backed by Iran. Since the war in Yemen started in 2015, more than 4,000 people are said to have been killed.