Enhancing Citizen Participation in Conflict Resolution and CVE in Yemen
Recent headlines have thrown the underdeveloped and often forgotten country of Yemen into the spotlight. The government fell under armed assault from a disgruntled Houthi rebel group, dissatisfied with a recent National Dialogue process (NDC) meant to heal social divisions. A foreign coalition, led by the Saudis, has responded with a bombing campaign, resulting in a highly tenuous humanitarian situation for countless civilians. Meanwhile, long-standing tribal and political clashes continue to destabilize the country, offering al-Qaeda-affiliated (and other) terror groups prime operating space.
The absence of effective mechanisms for dispensing justice (both at the grassroots and at the national level) has been cited as a principal reason that terrorist organizations have found local operational space. Despite that fact, most Yemenis reject the core ideologies and behaviors of extremist groups. As one interviewee said, “they provide the law-and-order that we are lacking.” However, local efforts to resist violence and prevent these groups from taking power make it clear that communities are seeking terror-free alternatives.
In 2014, ICRD received a grant from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) to conduct a program for strengthening the indigenous capability to resolve tribal differences and reduce conflict and extremism. Toward this end, ICRD will build on the reach and successes of the Sana’a-based Dar Al-Salaam Organisation (DASO), a Yemeni NGO with a demonstrable track record of mitigating community conflicts, preventing revenge killings, and engaging religious leaders in countering violent extremism (CVE).
These partners have developed local networks of indigenous peacemakers and civil society organizations, and are connected with a network of 250 grassroots Peace Committees around the country, comprised of over 4000 tribal, religious, youth, and other community leaders. ICRD will provide such Yemeni peacemakers with additional conflict resolution skills, including tools for improving CVE efforts and integrating Western models with customary Yemeni practices. These trainings will be leveraged to strengthen the skills of the Peace Committees, thereby increasing their authority, effectiveness and community resiliency in the face of armed threats. Building off of that training, ICRD will provide the seed funding and mentorship for initiating small-scale community pilot projects to resolve local conflicts.
Additionally, in June 2015, the Berghof Foundation commissioned ICRD to research how marginalized or dissenting populations could be constructively engaged in implementing the outcomes of the NDC. As the implementation of NDC outcomes has been suspended indefinitely, following the government’s collapse, ICRD, its partners and the donor have agreed to adjust the scope of research, which will now seek to:
1. Understand the challenges of North-South engagement in Yemen more broadly;
2. Create data-driven recommendations for reconciliation and transition in southern Yemen, and;
3. Collaborate with southern tribal leaders and members of the Hirak separatist movement to develop a framework for constructively engaging marginalized communities in the transition.
The two projects will produce the following deliverables, respectively:
1. A widely available manual with training methods and lessons-learned for community conflict resolution and CVE, meant to reach key stakeholders in each of Yemen’s governorates, and;
2. A white paper with strategic recommendations for a more fully-integrated National Dialogue (or its equivalent) aimed at policy-makers, scholars, and other key stakeholders in Yemen and beyond.