By: Desirée Custers, Intern at MENA Program, EastWest Institute
On November 25, 2019, EastWest Institute (EWI), together with the Rethinking Yemen’s Economy initiative convened a roundtable titled “Yemen’s Way Forward: Rethinking Current Approaches to Economy and Development,” in Brussels, Belgium.
The Rethinking Yemen’s Economy (RYE) initiative aims to contribute to peacebuilding and conflict prevention, (economic) stabilization and sustainable development in Yemen by building consensus in crucial policy areas through engaging and promoting informed Yemeni voices—“Development Champions,” playing a role in the public discourse, and by positively influencing local, regional and international development agendas. The project is implemented by CARPO (Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient), together with DeepRoot Consulting, and the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies. Project funding is provided by the European Union and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Yemen.
Welcoming remarks were delivered by Ambassador Wolfgang Klapper, vice president of EWI, and Dr. Marie-Christine Heinze, president of CARPO.
Guest speakers examined the current challenges Yemen faces regarding development and the economy. In the first session, which was moderated by Kawa Hassan, vice president of EWI’s Middle East and North Africa program, Dr. Saadaldeen Talib, Development Champion, and Osamah al-Rawhani, Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, reviewed the challenges to governance in Yemen. Dr. Talib pointed to the problem of governance being due to corruption and “state capture” by the ruling elites. He suggested a process of decentralization to better deal with corruption at the local level. Al-Rawhani spoke about a paper published by the RYE initiative: “Transitional government post conflict,” with its main conclusions being, amongst others: a need for a clear mandate for the transitional government; a need to empower the private sector to develop, reconstruct and contribute to socio-economic stability in Yemen; and support for local governance.
The second session, which was moderated by Dr. Heinze, focused on humanitarian and economic perspectives concerning development. The first speaker, Rafat al-Akhali, DeepRoot Consulting, focused his remarks on current economic challenges, stating that the response by humanitarian agencies to economic failures in the private and public sector have proven insufficient. He suggested creating a platform where relevant actors can express their economic grievances.
Afrah al-Zouba, Development Champion, added that humanitarian aid is often not sustainable, and mentioned that the opportunity by immediate measures such as ensuring that public sector salaries are paid and by supporting local communities and authorities. She also addressed the need to counter humanitarian support becoming subject to the war-economy.
Jeehan Abdul Ghaffar, Development Champion, further emphasized the need to increase public revenues and to invest in strengthening the economy. Specifically, she argued for the empowerment of women at both the local and governmental level through a holistic approach, including from the standpoint of education to their role in the peace-process, to capacity building and connecting women to the market.
Panelists concluded that among the main economic and development challenges Yemen faces are its corrupt governance system, lack of clarity in regards to the mandate of the transitional government, and the dwindling income of families in the face of inflation and price hikes.
More information as well as publications of the Rethinking Yemen’s Economy initiative can be found on the project website.
Photos courtesy of Development Champions.