Yemen context and conflict started from the Arabic uprising 2011 update:
Although I lived the Yemeni experience during the Arabic Uprising in 2011 and worked National Dialogue Conference closely, I will try to be natural and rely on international reports and articles to expresses the political transition and conflict since 2011.
According to UNITED STATES INSTITUTE OF PEACE (2014) report written by Erica Gaston, the Arabic spring revolution started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Libya. In Yemen, the protest led by youth and civil society who was for years dissatisfaction with the regime president Ali Abdullah Saleh due to long-standing frustration over the lack of economic improvement, corruption and the lowest levels in the region for food security, health, and education (Gaston.E, 2014). In addition, there was fragile and unstable political situation between the south (al-Hiraak) and north and government against a minority (Houthi), thus led to central cracking in the Yemeni politics (Gaston.E, 2014). So a number of key political parties, power brokers, and tribal actors joined the protest movement in the street which causes complaint civil activists and makes the ambiguous objective of the whole revolution and protest (Gaston.E, 2014). In November 2011, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) agreement signed by the country’s main political parties to prevent escalating armed conflict (Gaston.E, 2014). This agreement was two years transition period with arrangements Saleh step down from power and give him immunity (Gaston.E, 2014). The GCC agreement ends the fight to start transitional period lead by Former vice-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and suggest a platform for all political civil to discuss the country problem and critical issues and come with the new constitution to guarantee the rights of all public (Gaston.E, 2014). However, the GCC neglect the important facts of the country situation; a poor economic situation with lacks of state control and law in different areas and a major transnational terrorist problem (Gaston.E, 2014).
National Dialogue Conference started on March 18, 2013, 565 delegates from all the political parties, youth, women, and CSOs (Gaston.E, 2014). It was a hope for all Yemeni to get over the unstable situation and start the new Yemen with solid state (Gaston.E, 2014). In the NDC there were nine discussed issue and the most critical two were the southern and Houthi issues (Gaston.E, 2014). This dialogue was planned to finish after 6 months but it finished after ten months in early August 2013 after hard negotiation in some stages and worth mentioning that all the international support was focusing on NDC and its activities with a shortage in the basic services support (Gaston.E, 2014). The NDC had 1800 outcomes for the 9 issue with consensus from all the delegates even that some outcomes were not fully agreed upon like the formulation of 6 states in Federal context as the new Yemen. The NDC was a public process and had national settlement element but the government focused on the success of the NDC while the population face worsening situation regarding the basic services and need (Gaston.E, 2014). As a result, there was a weak buy-in from the community and that increase the trust gap between the transitional government and the population (Gaston.E, 2014). Because people expected the transitional government to be responsive to their daily need and challenges (Gaston.E, 2014).
After the NDC there was a suspended issue in the state building in how many regions will be in the federal state (Al-Ali.Z & Lackner. H, 2016). President Hadi created a small committee from all the political parties and decided to create six regions and that was highly rejected by the Houthis because it “divides Yemen into poor and wealthy regions.” (Al-Ali.Z & Lackner. H, 2016). Hadi neglects the reject of the Houthis and assumed the will deal with the reality. Then he established the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) to move on with the transitional period and translate the NDC’s work into a draft constitution to be submitted to a referendum (Al-Ali.Z & Lackner. H, 2016). The draft had 446 articles and provides an excellent basis for better governance in Yemen but some of NDC’s outcomes were contradictory that leave the CDC with unclear direction how to resolve contentious issues (Al-Ali.Z & Lackner. H, 2016). Even with the excellent basis the draft offer with the adoption of an unconvincing issue to a number of actors including the Houthis and Hirak (Al-Ali.Z & Lackner. H, 2016). The unsatisfactory of political parties lead to political disagreement and end with a takeover of Sana’a alliance with Saleh’s elite forces moving to the south generating the start of a full civil war and give an excuse for the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition (Al-Ali.Z & Lackner. H, 2016). Now Yemen under Saudi-led coalition blockade and attack since 26 of March 2015 and since then the United Nation and the international communities tried to hold national and regional negotiation for peace (Al-Ali.Z & Lackner. H, 2016).
The role of the Civil Society in Yemen during 2011 till now:
According to the World Bank (WB) Group article in 2014 about “A New Role for Civil Society in Yemen”, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) number in Yemen witnessed a rapid growth up to 8,300 registered and a quarter of them raised since Yemen’s transition got underway in 2011 as initiatives and networks. Most of their work was development (capacity building to the community and provide some service) and charity (WB, 2014). The CSOs and their networks had a good grassroots connection to the Yemeni people, including marginalized and have unique access to remote and rural districts and most of the international and government outreach programs rely on them (Sharqieh,2013).
During the NDC the CSOs had 40 seats from different organization and governorate along with 40 for activists’ youth and 40 for activists’ women (Gaston.E, 2014). This was the first time to directly involve the independent’s population in political negotiation (Gaston.E, 2014). And a large number of the CSOs were following the NDC update and made a lot of effort to communicate the processes and outcomes of the NDC to the public and to incorporate broader public consultation on key issues (Gaston.E, 2014). And CSOs was given a massive task to reach the isolated population (only 30 percent of which is urban) and to communicate a number of complex issues through public dialogue tents, awareness campaign and training (Gaston.E, 2014). Also during the NDC the delegates did outreach program outside of Sanaa and hold a number of discussion forums were held both under NDC auspices and outside it to discuss key NDC issues, solicit input, and encourage broader debate (Gaston.E, 2014) in order to increase the public buy in.
Worth mentioning from my involvement that the NDC secretariat and UNOPS tried to provide the independent parties with a free platform with mediators and consultants to unified their vision and input in the NDC and after.
Interestingly during my Google search, I did not find a consolidated report or articles about the role of the civil Society, so I am presenting some of individual report or articles in specific areas. Some highlighted activities of the CSos during the war are;
• Submission of Letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2015 from 53 GSOs inside and outside Yemen as per global research website asking to push the political settlement and warn about the humanitarian crisis.
• Civil society’s efforts to revive a war-ravaged education system in Yemen through The Yemeni Coalition for Education for All (YCEA) as an example which advocates for conflicting parties to protect education facilities from all sectarian, regional and partisan conflicts ( Al Refai , 2016).
• Safer world fund resonate organization to building youth capacities for peace, work with the National Organization for the Development of Society (NODS) on piloting a number of community security project sites and works to promote women’s political participation and address issues of gender, peace, and security(2017).