A meeting during the National Dialogue Conference discusses the issue of South Yemen, December 13, 2013. (credit: NDC)
After two years of intense dialogue about its present and future, Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) reached a broad agreement in January on the basic principles and norms that would be enshrined in a new constitution, including changing the current centralized form of governance by having a federal state based on principles of democracy, equal citizenship, and the rule of law.
Munir Al Mawari, an independent member of the NDC, said it was very hard to end the conference—it went four months longer than intended—but he called it “a big success.”
“My assessment is that if we can implement these articles [from the conference], Yemen will be in good shape,” he said.
However, he had strong words of caution about the former regime. "From my experience in the NDC, they did many things to make it hard for us to conclude the conference." He said the former regime still has the “power to destroy Yemen if they decide to,” but “they are afraid of the international accountability.”
“Without the involvement of the Security Council and the international community, even if we have a social contract, we're not going to be able to have elections or implement the constitution itself,” he said.
Mr. Al Mawari said the former regime, which lost power after the 2011 revolution, stole money and property from the people of Yemen, and this money could be used to destroy the country. “The money in Yemen is more dangerous than weapons,” he said. He recommended that the international community intervene to freeze this money, “not only because we need it in Yemen, but also because this money is being used against the country, against the outcome of the NDC, against stability.”
Farea Al-muslimi, a 23-year-old Yemeni activist and writer who also participated in this interview, agreed that this is not the time for the international community to disengage, and that the resurgent regimes in Syria and Egypt could inspire Yemen’s former regime, adding that, "if there isn't concrete action by the international community to stop the former regime from trying to go back in a time machine, I think there is a huge danger that Yemen will collapse at any second.”
“Yemenis will be highly influenced by the commitment of the international community to this transition—political-wise, economical-wise, and most importantly, sanctions-wise on those who might hinder this transition,” he said.
Mr. Al-muslimi said that one very good outcome of the national dialogue process was the inclusivity of women and youth from outside and within traditional political parties. “I am not usually a big fan of quotas in Yemen,” he said, “but I think the good thing with the national dialogue is, for the first time, there was a political entity in Yemen that was the first to include new actors at the table.
“And this is connected to, somehow, the international role in this. I don't think it would have been possible to include youth, women in the national dialogue if it was not for the international pressure and pressuring political parties. Despite what we think (whether successful or not) about the national dialogue, that is definitely an aspect: that it was successful in including youth and women to a huge degree that has not happened before in Yemen.”
The interview was conducted by Waleed Alhariri, a research assistant at the International Peace Institute.
Waleed Alhariri: Today, I welcome Farea Al-muslimi and Munir Al Mawari to the Global Observatory. Farea Al-muslimi is a 23-year-old Yemeni activist and writer. He cofounded and chaired several youth initiatives in Yemen since 2007. In 2013, he was listed by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the 100 top global thinkers.
And Munir Al Mawari is an independent member of the National Dialogue Conference in Yemen, and a powerful voice in the team of transitional justice during the conference. Thank you for speaking with us today.
My first question will go to Munir. What is your assessment of the results of the recently concluded National Dialogue Conference in Yemen?
Munir Al Mawari: I believe it was a big success. We were afraid that it would never end. It was hard to conclude the conference and to agree on anything, but at the end, we concluded the conference. It was supposed to be concluded in six month, but it took ten months.
And we were lucky that some political powers did not mind passing on some suggestions and some articles, hoping from their end that the conference would never conclude. So, it was almost like that GCC initiative—they signed the initiative thinking that it will never be implemented, but, in the end, it was implemented.
And the conference was very hard to conclude. But I think it is a big success, and we have now a roadmap. My assessment is that if we can implement these articles, Yemen will be in good shape.