Social capital in Yemen

Question

What are the different forms of social capital existing in Yemen and the extent to which such social capital helps or hinders the ability of individuals, households and communities to cope with the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen?

Summary

Social capital in Yemen is informed primarily by tribal affiliation, particularly in rural areas and in the north. Other important sources including faith based institutions, local community solidarity initiatives, civil society organisations and support from the diaspora. While social capital has been eroded due to political, social and economic changes in recent years, the strong traditions of community self-help and dispute mediation continue to be important for some communities during the current crisis. However, given the local diversity of impact, resilience and coping strategies, local level analyses are key to understanding social capital in individual communities.

This rapid review has not found much literature that specifically applies the concept ‘social capital’ in research or analysis on Yemen. Therefore the review has taken a wide approach to search for relevant literature on Yemen’s societal institutions and relations.

Key Findings

  • A wide variety of local dynamics affects social capital in Yemen: generalisations should be avoided. Given the local diversity, local level analyses are key to understanding social capital in individual communities.
  • Social capital in Yemen is informed primarily by tribal affiliation, but it is also important to appreciate that tribes are neither homogenous nor ubiquitous. Faith based institutions, local community solidarity initiatives, other civil society organisations and support from the diaspora are other important sources of social capital. There is considerable interplay between the institutions informing social capital, in particular given the centrality of tribes to Yemeni society.
  • Social capital is affected by geography, gender and other vulnerabilities
  • Benefits of Yemen’s community institutions include “strong traditions of deliberative decision making, dispute resolution mechanisms, principles for balancing private and collective interests for beneficial resource use, and protecting the interests of the socially vulnerable” (World Bank, 2015, p.82).
  • Challenges include recent political, social and economic change that has eroded social capital, changing patterns of exclusion and driving conflict and political instability (Adra, 2006, p. 4, World Bank, 2016, p.2).
  • Impact of the conflict since 2015 on social capital: communities face varied conflict experiences and multi-dimensional impacts. This review has found limited recent data

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Suggested citation

Carter. B. (2017). Social capital in yemen. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.