Fatima Abo Al Asrar

2005-06 International Policy Fellow
Democratic Governance, Transparency and Accountability working group


Yemen is one of the poorest countries on the Arabian Peninsula. It is beset with numerous geographic and demographic problems including serious water shortages, depleting oil reserves, rapid population growth and a dispersed rural population. The government has endorsed a western-style democracy in order to address these issues, but has at the same time deliberately marginalized a functional tribal system and further weakened traditional values that could have had a strong role to play in governance. The current state monopoly over tribal politics is not conducive to positive social change, and tribal politics needs to become carefully integrated into the system in a way that is recognized by all persons involved. Government priorities should primarily involve getting the whole of society involved in the tribal question. Tribal conflicts needs to be properly dealt with, and ways to integrate tribal laws into the judicial system must be found. There is a need to engage with local communities and people's trust in the government must also be enhanced. Projects implemented by the international donor community have so far focused on specific sectors, and lack a larger framework of action in addition to incentives for sustainable cooperation.

Donors need a clear and transparent agenda, effective communications with society, and also a greater understanding of the local political economy.