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The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: Defining “Recitation” Amid Famine in Yemen

According to William Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” — especially if they represent governments that are expected to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Today’s 3D Definition: Recitation

On the same day that Mark Lowcock, the UN humanitarian chief, presented a report predicting a “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis in Yemen, “the largest famine the world has seen in many decades, with millions of victims,” the United Nations Security Council boldly announced that there would be no immediate action to lift the blockade that will make famine inevitable.

Al Jazeera quotes Kristine Beckerle, a Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch, who explained that government officials in countries such as the US, Britain and France are typically “issuing broad recitations of concern,” without acting upon it. “It’s not enough for the US or the UK to say we are worried about famine in Yemen.”

Here is its 3D definition:


The action of repeating a text aloud from memory, usually practiced by actors and public performers, but equally by spokespersons of governments to dispel the impression, justified by actual facts, that their actions are not inconsistent with their professed values

Contextual note

A good actor knows how to make a dramatic entrance, “strut and fret upon the stage” and then exit on cue. The UN Security Council is possibly the biggest political stage that exists. The public will appreciate that its highly professional actors representing the most powerful nations on earth remain consistently faithful to their author’s text.

Historical note

The United States and the United Kingdom were instrumental in the passing of UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2216 in 2015, which gave legitimacy to the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in Yemen. As the now two-year-old war against Houthi rebels has turned into a veritable humanitarian catastrophe marked by probable war crimes, the indifference of the Security Council with regard to the protection of civilian populations can be legitimately considered a scandal, especially as it contradicts the fundamental mission of the United Nations.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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