Yemen’s Negotiated Transition between the Elite and the Street

After ten months of deliberations, Yemen’s 565-member National Dialogue Conference (NDC) closed its doors on January 25, 2014. The NDC was the flagship of Yemen’s negotiated transition process. Jamal Benomar, the UN Special Adviser for Yemen, widely

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  A Map of Yemen’s Six Federal Regions, copyright: Yemen Times Yemen’s Negotiated Transition between theElite and the Street by Tobias Thiel After ten months of deliberations, Yemen’s 565-member NationalDialogue Conference (NDC) closed its doors on January 25, 2014. TheNDC was the flagship of Yemen’s negotiated transition process. JamalBenomar, the UN Special Adviser for Yemen, widely advertised thetransition as a model for averting a Syria-style civil war in the violence-riddled Arabian republic. He pronounced the NDC an ‘unprecedentedachievement in the history of Yemen’—nothing short of a‘miracle’—and described it as ‘the most genuine, transparent andHomeAboutGuidelinesLSE Middle East ExpertsLinks & ResourcesRecent Posts  ! Receive our postsby email Subscribe   @LSEMiddleEast onTwitter Middle East Centre – Yemen’s Negotiated Transition between... of 902.04.15 16:55  inclusive national dialogue the region has ever seen.’The trajectory of Yemen’s transition, however, is far less hopeful thanthe language of diplomacy suggests. Whether or not the negotiatedtransition has averted a civil war in Yemen remains purely speculative,and—even if it has done so indeed—is no guarantee for a peacefulfuture. Also, the NDC is not historically unprecedented in a countrywith a strong tradition of conciliatory conferences—some of whichhave culminated in bloodshed. Looking forward, the litmus test is thusnot the consensus reached in the NDC, but whether the US$40,000,000conference can engender tangible political, economic, legal and socialreforms. A History of Dialogues National dialogues, in one form or another, have a long history inYemen. Besides numerous tribal-political congregations during themillennial rule by Zaydi Imams (897-1962), Yemen’s modern history isreplete with conciliatory conferences. Yemenis convened a nationalconference in Haradh as early as November 23, 1965. Three years intothe royalist-republican civil war, the 55 delegates were entrusted withdetermining the preliminary shape of North Yemen’s political system,appointing an interim government and deciding on the modalities of aplebiscite to settle the monarchy-republic dispute by ballots ratherthan bullets. The consultation started out amicably, but as acontemporary pressman observed, ‘it [was] the dialogue of the deaf.Both sides talk, but neither side listens.’ Overshadowed by violence,the conference broke down.Between 1980 and 1982, former President Ali Abdullah Salih organisedhundreds, perhaps thousands, of discussions on a nationwide scaleunder the umbrella of the National Dialogue Committee to bolsterregime legitimacy. It was—as the current NDC—architected by thenPrime Minister Abdulkarim al-Eryani. The National Pact that emergedfrom these meetings constituted the basis for the General People’sCongress (GPC), the dominant political organisation of the Yemen ArabRepublic until it transformed into a political party after unification in1990. This series of conferences was successful in building amechanism for state-society relations. Our summer events programme is out w/ talks by HE Amar Abba, Stephane Lacroix, @FitzpatrickIISS @MadawiDr & many more LSE Middle East  @LSEMiddleEast'Riyadh's war on #Yemen stokes #Saudi nationalism' @MadawiDr for@AlMonitor LSE Middle East  @LSEMiddleEastShow SummaryImportant backgrounder by Karen Young that has just become much more urgent: GCC Collision Course via @LSEMiddleEastRetweeted by LSE MiddlEast Toby Matthiesen  @TobyMatthiesenShow SummaryWe had a great day yesterday at the #gender  LSE MiddleEast  @LSEMiddleEast 31 31 Tweets Follo Recent Posts " The House of Saud’s War in Yemen:A LoomingAfghanistan? " Book Review: The Middle East Centre – Yemen’s Negotiated Transition between... of 902.04.15 16:55  Another dialogue convened from November 1993 to February 1994:the National Dialogue Committee of Political Forces. Anextraconstitutional 30-member body with a fair representation from allsignificant national factions and regions, the committee prepared theDocument of Pledge and Accord. This popular conciliation agreementequitably reflected the reform agendas of the Yemeni Socialist Party(YSP) and the GPC to resolve the political impasse between thenewlywed North and South. Although Salih and his southern rival,Vice-President Ali Salim al-Beidh, signed the agreement in February1994, Yemen plunged into a full-fledged civil war less than two monthslater.In February 2009, the GPC and the opposition coalition Joint MeetingParties (JMP) agreed to postpone parliamentary elections by two yearsand hold a National Dialogue on electoral and constitutional reforms.The National Dialogue, which only materialised in August 2010,became a public performance to garner legitimacy for the GPC, whileopposition elites appeared more interested in political concessionsthan genuine reforms. The dialogue remained stillborn. The Architecture of the Transition: A Just Solution? Yemen’s 2011 uprising prompted the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)to broker a power transfer agreement, which—after months of foot-dragging, tit-for-tat and violence—was signed in November 2011.The deal granted former President Salih immunity in exchange for hisresignation and set down an ambitious 2-phase roadmap. In the first90-day phase, Salih transferred presidential authority to Vice-PresidentAbd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who appointed a national unity cabinet andestablished a military committee to restore public security. In February2012, a popular referendum confirmed Hadi as president for atwo-year term.In the second phase of the roadmap, Hadi oversaw the restructuring of the armed forces and the NDC. Eight months behind schedule, theenvisaged constitutional and electoral reforms, as well as theparliamentary and presidential elections originally scheduled forFebruary 2014, are yet to materialise. The GCC initiative left Yemeniswith a feeling of injustice. Conceived by a club of monarchies withstability rather than change in mind, it aborted Yemen’s revolution andHizbullahPhenomenon: Politicsand Communication " The Politics of Foreign Aid in theArab World: TheImpact of the ArabUprisings " No Land’s Song " The Securitisationof Stability and theDemise of the ArabUprisingsSee all of our blogposts Tags American foreignpolicyArab-Israeli WarArab SpringBahraincivil societycivil warDemocracyeconomicseconomy   Egyptelections   Europe Middle East Centre – Yemen’s Negotiated Transition between... of 902.04.15 16:55  granted impunity to Salih. To make matters worse, the JMP—who wasseen to have hijacked the revolutionary movement—signed theinitiative into force.Besides the dubious legality of the immunity deal, the agreementcontained a fatal flaw: it retired Salih from the presidency, but notpolitics. He remained the chairperson of the GPC and plays apoisonous role in sabotaging the transition. Sanctions under a recentlypassed UN Security Council resolution may provide some alleviation.The architecture of the NDC, on the other hand, did provide aconstructive forum for political dialogue, which—arguably correctly—prioritised inclusiveness over effectiveness. This priority inevitablystaked the success of the conference on back-channel agreementsamong elite powerbrokers, which would be legitimised in official NDCdeliberations.In practice, however, the NDC scored poorly in terms of transparency,inclusiveness, outreach and effectiveness. Apparently undisturbed byprocedural details, the deferral of decisions on the most crucial issuesto exclusionary committees lacked transparency. As the conferenceapproached its official September 18 closing date without agreement,a subcommittee with eight representatives from each north and south,known as the 8+8 Committee, was charged with finding a solution tothe southern issue. Important parties were excluded in this paralleltrack of negotiations, but its recommendations were simply acceptedas part of the final NDC agreement.Likewise, the decision about the number of federal regions (2, 5 or 6)was deferred to a separate 22-member GPC-dominated committee.Under protest from the YSP, Hirak and the Huthis-affiliated Ansar Allah,President Hadi announced in February that agreement had beenreached on a six-region setup. Ali al-Bukhaiti, a charismaticspokesperson of Ansar Allah, who sleeps in his office with only ateakettle and a Kalashnikov, pointed out that the deferral violated NDCprocedures. Lastly, the consensus committee, a group handpicked bythe president, finalised much of the pending resolutions.Insufficient attention to the buy-in of ! ir " k, the southern movement, jeopardised the inclusiveness of the NDC. Most of its leadershipabstained or resigned; Mohammad Ali Ahmed, a former southern film   GazaGCCHosni MubarakIran   IraqIslamism   Israel jobs   KurdistanKurds   LebanonLibya   mediamilitaryMuslim BrotherhoodnationalismNorth AfricaPalestinePeace talkspolitical IslamR2P   refugeesrevolutionSaudi Arabiastatehoodsubsidies   SyriaTunisia   TurkeyunemploymentUSA   Yemen Middle East Centre – Yemen’s Negotiated Transition between... of 902.04.15 16:55  interior minister, pulled out of the dialogue. The participating Hirakdelegates had no mandate to negotiate on behalf of southerners and,as one delegate dramatically remarked in a personal interview, ‘we willbe killed if we bring anything less than independence back home.’Despite the inclusion of marginalised groups, powerful legacy familiesdominated the dialogue and Yemenis resented the heavy footprint of the Benomar office.Most crucially, the NDC became a complete public relations failure.The conference remained as remote to the Yemeni people as is itsvenue, the Mövenpick Hotel, a 5 star bastion on a hill overlookingSana’a with daily room rates exceeding the monthly salary of amid-level ministerial employee. The stipends of delegates of US$100 to$180 per day also stirred resentment. The NDC’s meagre media budgetand lack of strategy turned public outreach into little more thanwindow dressing, particularly given that 7 in 10 live in rural areas andare dispersed over more than 110,000 settlements.Though premature to judge the NDC’s effectiveness, the denselywritten 352-page final communiqué is a confused repository of around1,500 recommendations. As one NDC delegate put it, ‘having 1000recommendations is the same as having none.’ For implementation,the Guarantees Document fails to provide a concrete plan and reliestoo heavily on newly founded committees rather than bringing existinggovernmental agencies on board. While the NDC monopolised politicsin Sana‘a for almost a year, it did nothing to alleviate the deterioratinghumanitarian and security situation in the country’s periphery. Despitethe absence of major security incidents, the NDC was unable toguarantee the security of all its delegates. Two Huthi members,Abdulkarim Jadban and Ahmed Sharaf ad-Din were assassinated,ad-Din during the drafting of the final communiqué. Realities on the Ground The National Dialogue was cursed by a thoroughly unfavourablepolitical environment. Yemen’s economy contracted in 2011 by 10.5percent and has not yet regained pre-Arab Spring levels. The povertyrate increased from 42 to 55 percent between 2009 and 2013.Corruption is endemic in the public sector, with hundreds of thousands of ghost workers existent only on payrolls. The Supreme Middle East Centre – Yemen’s Negotiated Transition between... of 902.04.15 16:55
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