As the national dialogue nears its end, Yemen faces a critical juncture in its political transition, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, adding that despite remarkable progress, the country still faces numerous challenges.
“It is paramount to underscore to this Council that the transition process in Yemen has reached a critical juncture,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar.
“While the historic National Dialogue Conference is on its way to conclude its work with far-reaching recommendations to guide Yemen’s future course, the country is facing serious political, economic, humanitarian and security challenges, and key issues are yet to be resolved.”
The country has been undergoing a democratic transition, with a Government of National Unity, which came to power in an election in February 2012 following protests that led to the resignation of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Launched on 18 March, the National Dialogue Conference brought new actors to the political process such as youth, women, civil society representatives and the Hiraak Southern Movement. The Conference will feed into a constitution-making process and pave the way for general elections in 2014.
“The Conference has not only provided the opportunity for delegates from previously marginalized groups to participate in serious and deliberative discussions about the future of Yemen, but also has convened former parties to conflicts to negotiate solutions and address historical grievances in order to move towards a brighter and democratic future for all Yemenis,” Mr. Benomar said.
He praised progress achieved by the Conference so far, such as recommendations for the integration of women’s rights in the new constitution to ensure equality and for a guarantee of 30 per cent women’s representation in the three branches of Government.
“This is quite extraordinary, particularly in a part of the world that suffers from an evident deficit on women’s rights and gender equality,” he said, adding that the Dialogue is a blueprint for building a more peaceful and prosperous Yemen.
However, he noted that the decision of the Hiraak Southern Movement to suspend their participation in the Conference, and the subsequent persuasion to rejoin it after additional commitments by President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi Mansour and the Government, stress the need to address this issue in the long term.
“Consensus has been sought on a number of delicate issues, including with regard to natural resources, power-sharing, and allocation of authority to federal, regional and local levels,” he said.
The Special Adviser added that recent difficulties encountered must not be allowed to jeopardize the gains achieved thus far, while also pointing out that the Conference is just one step in the country’s transition and is not meant to resolve all of Yemen’s challenges.
Currently some 13 million people – more than half the entire population – require some form of humanitarian aid. In addition, child malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world with close to half of Yemen’s children under five years – two million children – stunted and one million acutely malnourished.
Meanwhile, the security situation remains volatile in parts of the country, and Al-Qaida in the
Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) remains a major threat, Mr. Benomar said. Just in the last week, AQAP carried out major attacks in Shabwa governorate, resulting in dozens of deaths.
“The world is watching Yemen to see whether it will follow through on the promising path on which it has set out. Once the National Dialogue Conference concludes, implementation of the agreements reached will present other challenges,” Mr. Benomar said.
“Yemenis are counting on the international community to continue its unified support for their country. As the United Nations, we will continue to provide expertise, facilitation and advice, as necessary and in close cooperation with our partners, to support a successful transition in Yemen.”