Support to the National Dialogue Process in Yemen

The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) and the implementation of its outcomes are the centrepieces of Yemen’s current political transition towards a hopefully stable, peaceful and democratic country. With this project, we aim to strengthen an inclusive and Yemeni-led National Dialogue with technical and process-related support and advice.

Our engagement in Yemen started with a partnership with the Political Development Forum Yemen (PDF) when we jointly facilitated a meeting with major Yemeni decision-makers (Potsdam Meeting in March, 2012). Here, the framework, agenda, basic principles and mechanisms of the National Dialogue Conference were discussed.

In June 2012, the Berghof Foundation in partnership with the Political Development Forum established the National Dialogue Support Programme with a mixed team of German and Yemeni advisors. We offered thematic and process-related expertise and support to the main Yemeni actors and accompanied inclusive local dialogue processes in selected governorates and the six newly established regions.

Timeframe

2012 – 2014

Project Website

www.hiwar-watani.org (Arabic)

Conflict Setting

The political crisis in Yemen reached a climax in 2011. Similar to other Arab countries, people demanded the end of the long-term rule of President Saleh in large-scale protests. To prevent further escalation, the main political parties in the North agreed upon a National Dialogue process in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Agreement of November 2011.

As the Yemeni crisis is highly complex and no single actor is strong enough to push through their own agenda, an inclusive process was the only viable option. After 33 years of former president Saleh’s rule, a new social contract was needed. Especially women and youth, who had been very active during the peaceful revolution of 2011, demanded the creation of a “new Yemen”.

But Yemen’s political transition process is highly vulnerable and faces multiple political, developmental, governance- and security-related challenges. This includes the emergence of a strong separatist movement in the South after integration processes following unification in 1990 failed, and an identity-based conflict with the Houthis in the North.

The National Dialogue Conference concluded in January 2014 and was successful in creating a broad consensus on the main features and principles of the “new Yemen”. However, the implementation of these outcomes is crucial and needs to be based on inclusivity, trust and partnership. Otherwise, the ongoing security challenges (including a strong al-Qaida presence) might still derail the whole transition process.

Approach

In developing this project, we can build on our experience with dialogue processes in other countries (such as Lebanon, where we have been providing support to the National Dialogue since 2008). The strength of our approach is based on five pillars:

  • First, our mixed team of Yemeni and international experts combine inside and outside perspectives, thus linking a deep understanding of the complexity of Yemen’s multiple crises with the Berghof Foundation’s thematic experience and process knowledge. 
  • Second, with the combined networks of the Berghof Foundation and our Yemeni partners, we have access to Yemeni and international experts offering first-hand experience and tailor-made advice. 
  • Third, we do not proscribe specific solutions to Yemen’s internal problems but offer a range of options, without prejudgments.
  • Fourth, we can react to urgent needs and requests for support in a quick and flexible manner.
  • Fifth, we work both at the national level and regional levels, where we support structured dialogue processes and capacity-building.

Aims & Outcomes

Throughout the course of the National Dialogue Conference, we provided technical and process-related support and advice to the Yemeni National Dialogue structures and mechanisms, including support for deadlock-breaking and problem-solving mechanisms.

Since 2014, we have been focusing on three main objectives: First, to support the implementation of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) outcomes and its follow-up dialogue activities, second, to set up and support a Yemeni multi-stakeholder mechanism to ensure ongoing broad political support for the NDC follow-up activities and third, to provide process support to key Yemeni stakeholders to uphold discussions on major issues not completely resolved by the NDC.

Our services are delivered through a number of visible outputs and products, such as:

  • Facilitation of an inclusive dialogue on state reform,
  • Expert inputs on selected topics and process advice,
  • Background analysis, briefing notes and option papers, 
  • Mappings and other visualisation tools for consensus-building,
  • Trainings, seminars, study tours and workshops (as capacity-building tools),
  • Consultation meetings (as problem-solving tools),
  • Public fora for discussions on national dialogues,
  • Public participation mechanisms at the regional level in order to strengthen the National Dialogue Conference and the implementation of its outcomes, 
  • Outreach with thematic video clips on state reform, 
  • Outreach with thematic discussions broadcast weekly on national TV.

Key actors

The National Dialogue Support Programme has identified two main recipient groups for its services:

  • First, the officially mandated or established National Dialogue Conference structures and mechanisms (e.g. the technical/preparatory committee, steering committee, secretariat, working groups, consensus committee) and follow-up and implementation structures.
  • Second, the “concerned parties”, i.e. the groups/parties/movements identified in the GCC agreement to take part in the National Dialogue Process (such as youth, women, the former ruling party and its allies, the main opposition parties, Houthis, the Southern movement and civil society).

Regions

The programme is based in Sana’a and works primarily with the concerned parties and the structures of the National Dialogue process. However, we focus our thematic work very much on the Southern issue, on Saada and on state reform.

The local and regional dialogues and other public fora took place in five selected governorates: Taiz, Hodaidah, Dhamar, Aden and Hadhramaut. In 2014, we shifted these activities to the six newly established regions.

Partners

Our main partner in the National Dialogue Support Programme is the Political Development Forum Yemen. We also collaborate with another Yemeni partner, the Human Rights Information and Training Center (HRITC). We maintain close relations to the German and EU embassies and to the UN and other German and international organisations active in Yemen.

Funders

Our activities are mainly funded by the German Foreign Ministry. We received additional funding for the thematic area of state reform from the Swiss Foreign Ministry. Through the Political Development Forum, the programme also receives funding from the EU delegation in Yemen for the local dialogues.

For most recent updates, please check our project website.

January 2014 - Focus Group on State Reform

Since January 2014, we have been supporting an informal group of experts and representatives of the various stakeholder groups who participated in the National Dialogue Conference. This group complements the official structures mandated with the implementation of the National Dialogue Conference outcomes. The group meets regularly and so far has worked on resource-sharing and federalism. In May 2014, the group’s results on federal structures in Yemen were presented to the Constitution Drafting Committee.

September 2013 - Support to the Consensus Committee of the National Dialogue Conference

A team of senior advisors offered the Consensus Committee support and provided hands-on advice for improved consensus-building. The team conducted interviews and consultations with committee members to reflect on challenges in the final phase of the National Dialogue Conference, develop options to improve the committee’s performance and to provide problem-solving advice. In December 2013 and January 2014, a Yemeni senior advisor supported the Consensus Committee in discussing options for follow-up mechanisms, implementation design and its particular role.

August 2013 - Expert Input on Land Commission

Following a request by the President of Yemen, we provided technical assistance to the Land Commission. Its mandate is to settle land disputes in the South, which have been a continuous source of conflict and obstacle to peace. In order to reflect with the Yemeni Land Commission on the challenges and opportunities lying ahead, a senior lawyer of the former Trust Agency of Germany ("Treuhand") and a facilitator travelled to Yemen in August 2013. The meetings drew upon German experience in settling land and restitution issues as part of the reunification process between East and West Germany. The outcomes were presented to President Hadi. A follow-up visit to Berlin by the Land Commission is planned for September 2014.

April 2013 - Training in Negotiation and Dialogue for NDC participants

Between April and June 2013, we organised a number of one-day training workshops on negotiation and dialogue. The overall aim of these meetings was to improve the understanding and skills of selected National Dialogue Conference delegations in dialogue, consensus-building and negotiation approaches, processes and tools. The trainings also helped the delegations identify their main tasks and challenges and develop some basic elements of a dialogue and negotiation roadmap.

March 2013 - Training of NDC facilitators

In March 2013, we trained two groups of national facilitators (over 30 in total) for the National Dialogue Conference. The workshops aimed to provide facilitators an opportunity to review and refresh their facilitation skills, discuss specific challenges of the National Dialogue process and how they could be addressed and establish some form of peer-advice mechanisms.

  • Publications and resource material can be found at our project website: www.hiwar-watani.org (in Arabic).
  • In addition, we have produced several video clips for public education on resource sharing, decentralisation, federalism and parliamentary/presidential systems. The clips are available on Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/NDSPYemen (in Arabic).