The role of civil society in promoting peace and security.

As part of its efforts to support the ongoing work of the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to Yemen (OSESGY), the European Institute of Peace (EIP) convened a large and representative gathering of civil society leaders from across the south of Yemen in Amman on the 10-11 October 2018.  Over the course of the two-day meeting the participants examined the situation in the south and the challenges faced by CSOs in carrying out their respective mandates and their contribution to peace-making activities. The participants discussed, at length how to address the identified challenges, including through increased and improved coordination amongst civil society on how they can, ultimately, make a positive contribution to the ongoing official peace process.

The participants (25, including 10 women) voiced the following concerns and put forward a series of recommendations culminating in this consensual statement which outlines a vision for how they can contribute to peace and security in southern Yemen.

Common challenges:

  • Weakness of coordination and synergies amongst peace makers across the south;
  • Achieving peace in an economically unequal society has proven very difficult;
  • Lack of opportunity in employment for civilians is fueling conflict and empowering armed groups;
  • Schools have closed because teachers’ salaries do not allow them to make a living;
  • Lack of Civil society empowerment has weakened the role of CSOs and some have been influenced by political events;
  • No meaningful representation of the south in the peace process;
  • The depreciation of the Yemeni Riyal has led to spiraling costs for basic goods, leading to issues of survival;
  • No economic empowerment programs to develop livelihoods (benefits armed groups);
  • Limited revenues being deposited in weak Central Bank has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the provision of basic services;
  • Need to address structural issue of inefficient governance structures and associated levels of corruption – even within certain CSOs;
  • CSOs lack capacity and the finances to successfully implement programs or to engage in new pressing peace advocacy work;
  • Industries, such as oil, gas, agriculture and fishing have stagnated, leading to unemployment and a drop in living standards;
  • Media landscape is dominated by political groups with specific political agendas. Some CSOs lack media outlets to convey their messages;
  • Coordination between CSOs poses a series of challenges, including inadequate funding and resources and competition. The majority of civil society resources are concentrated in the north.

Joint recommendations:

  • Unify the vision of peace across the south;
  • Diversified political representation of the south in all future peace talks;
  • Encourage local enterprises and products, rather than imports, to stimulate local economy;
  • Teach people to support themselves, rather than accepting aid (sustainable development);
  • Encourage weapons- free zones (has shown success in Hadramaut);
  • Advocate and lobby those in power with messages from constituents for peace – bridge gap between society and govt;
  • Rehabilitation and empowerment that focusses on youth leaders, women, and marginalized groups. Collaborate with educational and religious institutions to get the message across;
  • Secure specialized programs to build capacity of local CSOs;
  • Ensure basic service provision to reduce social tension and suffering;
  • Awareness raising campaigns to advocate for peace-making efforts by CSOs;
  • Establish mechanisms for CSO coordination to help tackle our concerns together:
    • Establish an independent body to coordinate various efforts to promote peace;
    • Structure with Board of Directors and Supervisory Board;
    • Obtain the support of broad coalition of civil society;
    • Coordination branches for civil society in each governorate in the south;
    • Establish a strategic plan to identify role and objectives of coordination body;
    • Build and strengthen ties with UN OSESGY, international organizations and local authorities to promote the peace-making work of CSOs.