In an effort to support an inclusive political process in Yemen, the European Institute of Peace (EIP) convened representatives of the business community from southern Yemen to review key thematic issues of concern. During the two-day strategic dialogue, the political, social and economic grievances of the south, the involvement and input of the south into the official political and reconciliation processes and finally the role to be played by the business community were discussed.
The dialogue with the business community formed part of EIP’s Strategic Dialogue series. These meetings work towards reducing tensions and establishing views and messages to feed into the Yemen peace process.
The dialogue took a close look at southern relations with the international community as well as local and regional relationships which may affect their participation in the longer-term reconciliation process within Yemen, in the south and north. The dialogue produced a consensual memorandum which outlines a vision for a peaceful future of Yemen as seen from the south, including the key priorities outlined by the southern Yemeni business community, steps that can be taken to achieve peace and stability and the role of the business community can play. Their vision, priorities and concerns and joint-recommendations are listed below. A representative of the OSE was in attendance to both present on the UN-led peace process and to receive input to be fed into the official peace process.
Our goal is to achieve a politically and economically secure, peaceful southern Yemen that serves the interests of all. We want to rebuild a nation that is resilient, that has effective institutions, and that is based on power sharing and the equitable distribution of resources. We believe in the revitalisation of local businesses and investment, the creation of an effective and functional banking system, the reconstruction of critical infrastructure that has been destroyed during the war, and the restitution of essential services, including healthcare, education, salaries, and pensions. This will be an inclusive project that entails the direct involvement of women in rebuilding the war-torn economy. We also seek to reduce the appeal of armed groups and violent conflict for our youth by creating equal opportunities for employment and education. As a group we are diverse, geographically representing the southern governorates. We seek to speak with one voice and project a strong message from the Yemeni business community that resounds locally, regionally, and internationally.
Priorities and Concerns
· Southern voices are not being heard by the UN OSE and the international community. As a result, there is a need for a body capable of representing the South in all future talks;
· Economic, political, and social stability and development;
· There is a need for a functioning banking system in the South;
· Entities are inappropriately and ineffectively taking control of national resources;
· As a result of poverty and insecurity, the south has experienced an increase in new phenomena, such as instability and extremism;
· The perception of insecurity isolates much of the south from the international community and from a permanent presence of the OSE;
· The south is resource rich but has not benefitted from this wealth;
· Need for job opportunities, especially for youth, to reduce appeal of militia and extremist groups.
· Need for technical support in building economic security – jobs and investment opportunities, FDI, etc.
· Level of security in ‘liberated’ (improved) vs non-liberated areas (insecure and poverty-stricken);
· Lack of guarantees for businesspeople who provide liquidity and investments.
· Need to focus on the humanitarian situation to address basic needs;
· Lacking technical skills and staff to run ports and refineries.
· Re-instate a properly staffed banking infrastructure in order to pay salaries, collect taxes, pay for social services, invest in infrastructure, money exchange, lending, and foreign transfers.
· Banks to provide insurance on property to allow businesses to function securely;
· Empower youth. New faces to represent South and be part of future discussion;
· Engagement by government and businessmen to provide jobs for youth in the public and private sectors (help to combat AQAP and other extremist groups and outlawed militia);
· Conduct an inclusive National Dialogue to heal social divides;
· A Southern delegation to be present at UN talks that contains members of the southern business community;
· Build integrated security system/infrastructure in south with help of international community, active both in current phase and in reconstruction phase;
· Conference of business leaders to identify most pressing needs and how to address them;
· Create a Higher Economic Council of the South to help local business community to identify priorities, establish micro enterprise infrastructure; recovery plans;
· Promote investment in SMEs;
· Lobby the government to encourage and protect investment and trade;
· Crack down on smuggling to increase tax base;
· Create new media outlet that is not linked to a political party to provide impartial information to the people;
· Reopen and develop the Chambers of Commerce in the south;
· Promote and develop training and vocational institutions;
· Autonomous and reformed judicial system to resolve trade disputes;
· Reactivate universities to educate youth and provide means out of unemployment;
· Exploit natural resources, especially the vast oil and natural gas reserves and fisheries for the benefit of the population of the south;
· All ports to be run by professional port authorities;
· Eliminate corruption.