September 12, 2013
Yemen's Political Economy: Avoiding a Governance Crisis
Salisbury elaborated on Yemen’s political and economic background, and presented key findings from the new Chatham House report, “Yemen: Corruption, Capital Flight and Global Drivers of Conflict.” The report concludes that despite the dialogue’s significant efforts to include marginalized groups (women, Houthis, etc.) there is severe doubt on the ground that the future government will implement the decisions reached during the dialogue because either the General People’s Congress (GPC) or al-Islah, the two largest political parties in Yemen, are likely to gain a majority in the upcoming elections. The reasoning is that neither group has any interest in reducing any of their privileges or implementing reforms that undercut their interests, which means that the future government will face even more daunting economic and humanitarian challenges.
Jennings gave a more optimistic assessment of the situation based on his understanding of the role of the United States and other international donors in supporting the transitional process. He focused on many of the positive steps that Yemen has taken in recent years, including putting together the transitional government and national dialogue, as well as highlighting the encouraging aspects of the dialogue itself, most notably its transparent, inclusive, and professional nature. Looking forward, he stressed the need for the United States to continue assistance to Yemen and build on the current momentum in the country, especially with the purpose of implementing the promises made in the transitional phase.
Al Asrar critiqued international aid to support Yemen’s political process as being short-sighted and often oriented toward serving national interests of the donor countries rather than Yemen’s most critical needs. In addition to highlighting traditional donor issues such as countries delivering less financial support than pledged, she detailed Yemen’s internal issues with international aid dispersal, such as the Executive Bureau’s unclear role in the process. She argued that the international community needs to look for a way to strengthen its relationship with Yemen by providing cohesive, predictable, and reliable aid. Overall, there was consensus among the speakers that the international community needs to adopt a long-term approach to support Yemen, looking beyond the upcoming elections.