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:
- 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.
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).
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.