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.
2012 – 2014
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.
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:
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:
The National Dialogue Support Programme has identified two main recipient groups for its services:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).