Four years of war in Yemen has led to the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. More than 22 million Yemeni civilians are in need of humanitarian aid and almost 10 million people are on the brink of starvation. In January 2018, in line with the International Rescue Committee's (IRC) mission to respond to the world's worst humanitarian crises,the IRC's Communications and Advocacy teams identified ending the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as a major organizational priority.
We knew that undertaking a bold public campaign on Yemen was a significant risk for the organization - not just for our operations inside the war zones of Yemen - but we would be confronting the UK and US governments (key IRC funders)- as well as calling out the military coalition leaders, the Saudi and UAE governments- in a very high profile manner.
After careful analysis we concluded the risk was worth it - millions of lives were at stake, and with more than 400 staff on the ground working around the clock, we were in a unique position to combine our on the ground insights from the Yemen country team, with the knowledge and network from our advocacy colleagues, powered by the reach of our communications team and our CEO David Miliband - we had the ingredients to make an impact.
Research and Insights
- Yemen content resonated well on IRC digital channels - with on-ground video of IRC President David Miliband in Yemen remaining the best-performing piece of content - and we knew, by reviewing our U.S. refugee resettlement campaign from 2017, that a more oppositional position and an actionable component (calling Congress) would resonate with new IRC audiences on digital, motivated by challenging Trump administration positions (support for Saudi war coalition).
- A competitor/peer review demonstrated that we had a higher risk appetite than other operational NGOs in Yemen. We programmed on both sides of the conflict lines and so were able to speak out in a neutral way.
- Qualitative analysis showed US awareness of the Yemen crisis was low, which we would leverage this to our advantage through our opinion poll tactic during the campaign
- Political analysis showed us we were going to face a fast-moving and complex news-cycle that we needed to navigate and seize - we instituted a custom internal tiger-team that delivered full timezone coverage and pulled together key IRC decision-makers inside Yemen, and our global comms and advocacy practitioners in Nairobi, Brussels, London, New York and DC.