National dialogue points to brighter future for Yemen
The people of Yemen have listened to each other's viewpoints and achieved a basis for a better future
Whilst I was still an Ambassador in Yemen, I wrote a blog offering some tips to the newly appointed members of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference.
I suggested that if they were to rise to the huge historical responsibility placed on their shoulders, and heal the country’s divisions allowing it to become more secure and prosperous, they needed to do a number of things.
Most importantly they needed to listen to their fellow delegates, especially when advocating an opposite point of view and be prepared to compromise for the greater good. Far too often in Yemen the Kalashnikov has been the ultimate arbiter in disputes. What was now needed was for mature discussion and debate to drown out the sound of gunfire and explosions.
Nobody ever said it would be easy – and it wasn’t. It overran by four months. Yet the ceremony concluding the conference was remarkable for the upbeat atmosphere and sense of achievement and progress.Nicholas Hopton
Last weekend, I returned to Sana’a seven months after leaving. I was invited back to attend the closing ceremony of the National Dialogue Conference. Despite slight misgivings about revisiting a city where I had lived such an intense diplomatic experience, I went – and I’m glad I did.
As I landed in Sana’a, the sky was blue, the dun mountains awe-inspiring and the city as beautiful and raw as ever – the birthplace of Arabia with an extraordinary and rich culture and history.
Despite setbacks, progress persisted
The National Dialogue Conference has been a complex, turbulent and difficult process. Four of the delegates have died, the most recent in an assassination this month. But after three plenary sessions and hard work from the nine working groups, the Conference has concluded and published a Final Document of its deliberations and recommendations.
Nobody ever said it would be easy – and it wasn’t. It overran by four months. Yet the ceremony concluding the conference was remarkable for the upbeat atmosphere and sense of achievement and progress. I felt privileged to be present.
This remains perhaps the only Arab Spring change process moving consistently a in a broadly positive direction – although nobody expects it to be linear.
Challenges to come
The greater challenges, however, are probably still to come: a constitutional revision, elections and addressing the terrorist, economic, human rights and many other problems that beset Yemen.
So, the international community must remain strongly politically and financially committed to supporting the transition process every step of the way. If that happens, the future of Yemen could indeed be much brighter.
Meanwhile, the world should pause for a moment to congratulate the Yemeni people on defying the critics and doubters and achieving progress towards greater national unity through a remarkable national dialogue.
Nicholas Hopton is British Ambassador to Qatar. He served as British Ambassador to Yemen from 2012-2013. He has worked on national security issues in the Cabinet Office, led the International Organizations Department in the FCO and has European policy experience from postings in Paris and Rome and time as Private Secretary to the Minister for Europe. He joined the FCO in 1989 having studied at St Peter’s School, York, and Cambridge University (Magdalene College). He has also studied at La Sapienza University in Rome and ENA in Paris. He can be found on Twitter: @NicholasHopton
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