Yemen is in the grip of its most severe crisis in years, with a Saudi-led military campaign against the rebel Houthis now in its sixth month. Civilian casualties continue to mount, the internally displaced population grows, and Yemen’s already weak infrastructure teeters on the verge of collapse.
Amidst the chaos and suffering of the ongoing war, what are the prospects for a political solution, and how does Yemen tackle the urgent need for reconciliation and reconstruction in a post-conflict scenario? What will be the immediate priorities, and how quickly can the international community mobilize resources to help stabilize and rebuild Yemen?
Amatalalim Alsoswa Former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General, and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Leslie Campbell Director of Middle East and North Africa programs, National Democratic Institute
Fatima Abo Alasrar Independent policy analyst from Yemen
Amb. Stephen Seche (Moderator) Executive Vice President of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington
The discussion began with Fatima Abo Alasrar outlining her views on the variety of conflicts occurring on the material, identity, and imported levels. Each of these feeds off the other in a compounding effect that only makes the transition to a stable government more complicated as the fighting continues. Abo Alasrar continued that there needs to be a stable economic environment and rule of law before any progress can be made toward an inclusive government that represents the people of Yemen rather than the regime especially in light of Yemen’s cultural roots in democracy and consensus building. Leslie Campbell highlighted his work at the National Democratic Institute with his analysis of study groups built around Yemeni refugees. “Despite the conflict,” stated Campbell, “there’s something very special about Yemen.” He determined that the interviews had led to a series of conclusions that were encouraging for lasting peace after the conflict. One woman claimed that prior to the conflict, she was completely unaware of sectarian division within Yemen. By far the most popular plan, though, was a united North and South Yemen that worked for the people rather than against them, but many seemed pessimistic about a change in leaders and expected the old guard of Yemeni politics to return. Amatalalim Alsoswa offered a darker perspective on the conflict emphasizing the need for Emirati soldiers to guard the president and the possibility of a lost generation with no less than 3 million students unable to complete their final exams. The gross domestic product is also expected to plunge 43 percent below its value last year with oil exports near zero.
After opening statements, panelists continued the discussion pointing to Lebanon as a possible, though concerning, post-conflict model underlining similar sectarian divisions and violence over an extended period of time. Campbell described a scenario drawing from the Balkan conflict in which an international observational force oversees the peace process and Saudi Arabia and its allies are influential but take a constructive rather than destructive role. The other panelists agreed but still drew attention to the fact that aid was needed immediately while peace building processes would be required in the future.
Through its careful examination of the forces shaping the evolution of Gulf societies and the new generation of emerging leaders, AGSIW facilitates a richer understanding of the role the countries in this key geostrategic region can be expected to play in the 21st century.