A Path to Peace

Thursday, August 8, 2019
A Yemeni Solider

For Yemen's Former Combatants, New Jobs Offer New Lives

“You can’t imagine how happy and relieved my family is to see me safe among them. And now I will be able to contribute to our household when I receive my first paycheck at the end of the month.” – Yemeni ex-combatant and new hire at Rexcel Security

The Arab Spring has yet to deliver the jobs and improved livelihoods so many had hoped for. Nowhere is the situation more acute than in Yemen, where five years of violent conflict have pushed the population to the brink of famine, sparking the world’s most dire economic and humanitarian crisis. If and when a peace agreement is reached, experts project that Yemen will be home to upwards of one million former combatants who will need to be reintegrated into society. In addition to providing critical humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people, USAID is leading strategic initiatives that guide at-risk populations toward productive activities that can contribute to the country’s stability and reconstruction.

USAID’s Yemen Economic Stabilization and Success (YESS) program is working on the ground in one of the world’s most volatile settings to support the Yemeni people on their journey to self-reliance. The program partners with the private sector to generate jobs, develop a qualified workforce, and improve businesses’ ability to access the finance they need to grow. The project is partnering with over 100 small-and-medium-sized Yemeni businesses to generate over 3,000 new, matched, and improved jobs for at-risk populations by June 2019.

USAID’s experience across the Middle East and North Africa demonstrates that enterprise-led development solutions can cost-effectively increase productivity, stimulate sales, and generate sustainable jobs. Whereas it would take years to fully implement policy reform in Yemen, this market-driven approach is creating thousands of jobs within a relatively short timeframe. The process begins with a global team of business advisors who analyze the obstacles and opportunities facing small- and medium-sized businesses in high growth sectors. The expert team works closely with each potential firm first to identify the key constraints to growth and then to offer the needed technical and training support to enhance productivity. These interventions quickly create sustainable jobs that help increasingly productive businesses meet increasing demand.

Rexcel Security is one of the 100+ Yemeni businesses that have partnered with USAID this year to create jobs, deliver critical services, and grow the economy. Rexcel offers a wide range of security services to public, private, and donor organizations. Yemen’s security environment has led to a large increase in demand, as local and international organizations require significant security upgrades. To meet this demand, Rexcel must hire more staff, but the company has had difficulty finding and recruiting qualified candidates. This is a common situation in Yemen where the majority of businesses report a significant skills gap between job seekers and available jobs. With USAID assistance, Rexcel was able to effectively publicize its openings on social media and then to quickly identify, hire, and train 80 qualified new employees in just four months. Fifteen of those new employees are former combatants.

The newly hired former combatants, ranging in age from 19 to 40, come to Rexcel from areas across Yemen. They note that joining the company has enabled them to put an end to the dangerous lives they were leading in the rebel forces. For them, finding a safe, sustainable job was the key factor that enabled them to put down their weapons and rejoin society. “I applied for the company after my brother told me that he saw the Rexcel job openings on Facebook,” shares one new hire. “I was in the war fighting on the frontlines and I didn’t receive any salary for two years. I had to look for a sustainable job to support my family, especially after I got married.”

This young man’s story mirrors those of ex-combatants across the region. In fact, sustainable jobs tend to be the key determining factor for a successful reintegration process because they provide livelihood and income opportunities, develop family and community relationships, and minimize the negative psychological effects from war. Ultimately, sustainable employment enables former combatants to become productive citizens, thereby strengthening the country’s security.

Rexcel is just one example of the critical role that the private sector can play in the reintegration of former combatants. By providing recruitment assistance in the selection and interview process and offering training for new employees, USAID is supporting the private sector to take the lead in creating sustainable opportunities for at-risk populations. As for Rexcel’s new hires, they are looking forward to pursuing safe and secure lives at home with their families. Their advice for friends and neighbors? “Don’t engage in the civil war. Look for any other job—and learn more about how to advocate for peace and stability in our country.”

USAID’s Yemen Economic Stabilization and Success (YESS) program supports self-reliance and resilience by facilitating trade, increasing employment, supporting sustainable livelihoods, and stabilizing crucial macroeconomic policy issues. In the past year, YESS has leveraged private-sector commitments to generate over 3,000 jobs for at-risk populations by June 2019, built international stakeholder support for a trade facilitation agreement, provided livelihood support to over 3,000 farmers, and assisted the Central Bank of Yemen to articulate major macro-financial reform challenges and support needs. The program is part of the USAID Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices Project, which provides the Middle East Bureau, field missions, and operating units with tools to support economic growth and reform across the Middle East and North Africa.

Last updated: May 26, 2020

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