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Hales, Gavin, Robert Muggah and Emile LeBrun. 2010 ‘Civilian Access to Arms.’ Fault Lines - Tracking Armed Violence in Yemen; YAVA Issue Brief No. 1, p. 5. Geneva: Yemen Armed Violence Assessment / YAVA and the Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. 1 May

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Civilian Access to Arms

Yemen is widely cited as among the most heavily armed societies - in per capita terms - on earth. Notwithstanding apocryphal (indeed, quite implausible) claims of 50–60 million small arms and light weapons in circulation, more realistic assessments suggest something in the order of 10 million or fewer small arms for a population of 23 million people - or roughly one weapon for every two civilians.(64) A recent national survey of small arms ownership in Yemen found that 61 per cent of respondents reported weapons in their household.(65) Rashad al-Alimi, the deputy prime minister for security and defence affairs, and former interior minister, identified arms proliferation as one of four 'security challenges' facing Yemen; the others were terrorist threats, border protection, and 'weak loyalty to the state'.(66) The availability of weapons is frequently cited as significantly related to the rapid escalation of armed violence in Yemen.(67)

Sources cited:
64. Estimates of the number of small arms in Yemen have varied greatly. The Small Arms Survey 2007 presents a list of these estimates cited in existing published sources, which range from 6–9 million up to 60–80 million, and arrives at a best estimate of 6–17 million, averaged to 11 million (Small Arms Survey, 2007, pp. 45–46).

The most sophisticated approach of the studies cited is almost certainly that of Miller (2003), who arrived at the 6–9 million small arms estimate on the basis of a series of focus groups. A dissenting voice came from a government official, who questioned 'how nine million is possible, given that 40 per cent of Yemenis struggle to buy food' (author interview, Sana'a, August 2009).

According to the Yemeni Central Statistical Organization, in 2008 the population of Yemen was 22.2 million; with an annual growth rate of around 3 per cent, it will have now exceeded 23 million (CSO, 2009a).
65. Al-Hakimi (2009, p. 6). A 'household' in Yemen is likely to include an extended family and therefore a number of adult males. Average household size in 2008 was 7.1 people (CSO, 2009a).
66. AFP (2008).
67. For example, the head of an international NGO working on conflict reduction in Yemen described the importance of access to arms in escalating conflict, allowing people to 'react quickly' to provocations (author interview, Sana'a, January 2009).

ID: Q8445

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