Adding to the Controversy? Civil Society’s Evaluation of the National Dialogue Conference (2013) in Yemen

By Moosa Elayah
Submitted to Session P5285 (Parties, National Dialogues and Elections In Contemporary Middle East Politics, 2018 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Yemen;
Middle East/Near East Studies;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
This paper documents the perspective of the civil society organizations (CSOs) on the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) in Yemen. NDC was organized in 2013 as a unique event without precedent in the region in both scale and reach which was intended to draw the country back from the brink of violent conflict. Despite all efforts by the internal parties and the international community, the dialogue failed to avert war which broke out shortly after. Through interviews with 50 CSOs, covering all of the country’s governorates and a systematic review of the international documents written by experts on the Yemeni NDC, this study aims to identify the reasons that have led to the failure of NDC from the perspectives of the CSOs and the international expert, as well as to identify the strengths, weakness and lessons of the NDC. Half of the selected CSOs were directly involved in the NDC, either as invited participant or performing a supportive role. The other half were considered as outside observers. This study found some aspects that CSOs agreed on, but there was some strong disagreement which was based on the status of CSOs mainly insider/outsider. In contrast to the view adopted in the international literature, the CSOs are united in their perception that, in spite of all its procedural and substantive flaws, the NDC was a revolutionary and inevitable stepping-stone towards peace and stability and laid the groundwork for future dialoguing.