“The Challenge of Federalism in Yemen,” the latest issue brief from the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, maps key considerations as Yemen embarks on the next stage in its political evolution—the transition from a unitary to federal state system, as outlined by the final agreement from the multistakeholder National Dialogue Conference.
Author Rafat Al-Akhali, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East based in Sana’a, Yemen, explains that a decentralized system of authority could address the core challenges of corruption, poor social services, and lack of accountability. Yet, the author notes that the most critical issues were not decided during the National Dialogue, such as how natural resources and revenues will be managed, which now falls to the newly established constitution drafting body to determine. While the broad outlines of a six-region federal system was agreed upon by the primary political powers, the real challenge lies in the practical implementation of a new multistate and multitier system of government and how to divide authorities among local, state, regional, and federal government levels.
Al-Akhali notes that a successful transition to a federal system should include a more consultative constitution-drafting process to get public support and capacity building for regional and state level government institutions. At the same time, in light of Yemen’s varying customs, traditions, and social realities, he stresses that the government must balance its efforts to strengthen national identity by also providing enough space for regional identities.