October 2012 town hall meeting
In partnership with the organizing General Secretariat of the National Dialogue Conference, the Institute convened civic and political party activists, leaders and members of the media for a series of nationally and internationally televised town hall meetings. Civic and political leaders and international experts discussed specific transition-related issues, taking questions from the audience and from the general public by text message and Facebook. NDI compiled the public’s comments and concerns expressed at the town hall meetings and presented them to the National Dialogue Conference Preparatory Committee as they were determining the rules and procedures of the dialogue.
NDI also provides citizens with information on different reform models through educational forums, online videos and social media to encourage the electorate to make informed contributions to the national dialogue. The forums, attended by civic and political party activists, public opinion leaders, members of the media, university students and tribal sheikhs, focus on the benefits and challenges of election systems being considered in Yemen, as well as possible amendments to current election law.
NDI has publicized information on electoral systems and political systems through online videos, which are a component of the Institute’s Demowatin (a contraction of “Democracy of Citizens”) initiative to provide civic and voter education through traditional and social media.
Women's Political Participation
A women's voter registration center
The Institute worked with women candidates ahead of 2003 parliamentary and 2006 presidential and local council elections, and has helped women candidates work with political parties and the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) to grant more equitable access for women candidates and voters. One result of those efforts was the formation of the Women’s Department within the SCER in 2005.
Before the National Dialogue Conference, NDI convened women party leaders in January to help them develop messages and build alliances to encourage women’s participation in the dialogue. At the request of women party leaders, NDI also revived a cross-party women’s network that seeks to build consensus on policy issues of importance to women and to ensure that women have active roles in the transition process.
In preparation for 2014 parliamentary and/or presidential elections, NDI will host a series of campaign academies across Yemen for women considering a run for office and their potential campaign managers. The academies will draw on women’s experiences in previous elections in Yemen to address the challenges they face, such as candidate nomination procedures that discriminate against them, insufficient financial support from political parties and public perceptions of women in politics. NDI is also working with political parties to promote women within the party structure.
The Islamists Are Coming: Who They Really Are
Les Campbell, NDI senior associate and regional director for Middle East and North Africa programs, authored a chapter about Yemen in the 2012 book, The Islamists Are Coming: Who They Really Are. The chapter, "Yemen: The Tribal Islamists," follows the history of Islah, the country's Islamist party, and surveys some of its policy positions.
Political Party Development
NDI has worked with political parties since 2003 to better communicate, participate in the electoral process, and engage in constructive and inclusive debate. After presidential and local elections in 2006, NDI worked with the central and branch leadership of the ruling and opposition parties to help them develop policy-based platforms. The Institute also held multiparty sessions for women and young people, giving them a rare opportunity to engage across party lines.
NDI works with established and emerging political parties as they define their positions on political reform. NDI also works with party leaders on being inclusive by including women and young people in the political process and developing platforms that address issues of concern to women, youth and other key groups.
Marib Youth Council Members, March 2012
Ongoing tribal conflict has prevented government institutions from functioning effectively in certain areas of Yemen, hindered citizen participation in elections and local government, and slowed development. In March 2005, tribal sheikhs approached NDI for help developing strategies for ending conflict in their districts. NDI conducted extensive research on community opinions, tribal structures and norms, and found an overall desire for greater government participation in resolving conflict. NDI then worked with government officials at the national, governorate and local levels, as well as tribal leaders and other influential figures, to develop ways to resolve conflicts collaboratively in three target areas. The early days of the program are highlighted in a 2005 Pulitzer Prize winning series in The Washington Post.
Young people are particularly affected by — and increasingly engaged in — violent tribal conflict. In 2010, NDI helped establish youth councils in Marib and Shabwah governorates, providing a role for young people in mitigating conflicts in their own communities. Made up of men and women under the age of 30, youth councils have resolved 12 tribal conflicts, established peer mediation teams in 20 local schools, contributed to sermons on conflict prevention in area mosques, and reached more than 2,500 citizens through conflict prevention awareness campaigns, all in the first two years of the program.
Strengthening Civil Society
Past NDI programs have helped nongovernmental organizations, civic groups and journalists engage in decision making and oversight at the local and national level. NDI has supported civic anti-corruption initiatives; taught Yemeni journalists to report on and analyze government and political processes; and worked with civil society to improve their organizational structures and operations.
During the political transition, NDI is working with civic groups as they advocate for electoral reform, monitor voter registration and elections, hold the national dialogue accountable to its mandate and report on the progress of political and electoral reforms resulting from the dialogue.
A Constructive, Meaningful Debate
Political party and CSO leaders developing a position paper on preferred political and electoral models
At the request of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, NDI initiated a series of discussion forums for civil society, political parties, tribal sheikhs and religious leaders to engage in constructive, meaningful debate on a draft law on transitional justice and national reconciliation. In all, 161 civic activists, 13 political parties, 143 tribal leaders representing four major Yemeni tribal factions, and 178 religious clerics representing four major religious factions (Zaydis, Shafi’is, Salafis and Sufis) took part in the forums. In response, the Ministry of Legal Affairs amended 13 of the 16 articles in the draft law and released a revised version for an additional 30-day public comment period. The legislation was subsequently referred to the office of President Hadi, and, consistent with the framework of the GCC agreement, the president will likely refer the issue to the national dialogue.
Public hearing on pesticide and water legislation in Hodeidah, May 2012
NDI has worked with MPs from all parties and committee staff since 2000 to help them with lawmaking and addressing constituent needs. As a result, MPs developed new parliamentary by-laws for holding public hearings and held the nation’s first public hearings.
Since 1993, NDI has conducted election-related activities in Yemen at the local and national levels. The Institute has worked with local partner organizations and government institutions, including the SCER, to train citizen poll watchers, enhance transparency and credibility, promote public confidence and develop systems to verify the official vote count on election day. In 2006, NDI partnered with the citizen Yemen Election Monitoring Network (YEMN) to monitor electoral reform processes and voter education as well as the vote on election day. The network has observed several electoral events and issued reports of their findings, including the November 2008 voter registration process (English; Arabic) and the February 2012 presidential election.
In 2013 and 2014, NDI will continue to support YEMN as it monitors the voter registration period, constitutional referendum process and elections.
Public Opinion Research
NDI has used opinion research to assist parties, politicians and civil society activists in identifying priorities and defining activities to address key issues. Currently, the Institute is working with local partners to conduct quarterly opinion research to assess public attitudes toward the transition process.
For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:
David Rolfes, senior advisor