The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) finally came to a halt, after dragging four months longer than the scheduled six months. While many congratulated Yemen on this breakthrough, Yemenis are apprehensive there would be a real political change and an end to violence on the ground.
The NDC, which ended its meetings on January 21, commenced on March 18, 2013, and was designed to be an inclusive process addressing a multitude of challenges facing Yemen. The 565-member body, representing various political groups, completed 10 months of arguments, deliberations and negotiations, presenting a set of recommendations on various challenges, political conflicts and socio-economic grievances.
The dialogue is a component of the Gulf Cooperation Council Agreement which granted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh an immunity in exchange for the transfer of power to his deputy Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.
International observers were thrilled for Yemen.
Turkey's Ambassador in Yemen, Fazli Corman who was present at the closing ceremony tweeted:
The athmosphere is a joyous one in hall for the closing ceremony of the Yemen National Dialogue Conference: pic.twitter.com/mhtt6ZVac9
— Fazli Corman (@FazliCorman) January 25, 2014
Nervana Mahmoud, an Egyptian Blogger and commentator, tweeted:
Congrats! Yemen had done better than others RT @AlArabiya_Eng: #Yemen marks end of thorny national dialogue http://t.co/Wt8EEX2FEZ
— Nervana Mahmoud (@Nervana_1) January 25, 2014
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted:
In region of dashed hopes, #Yemen remains a fairly positive story as National Dialogue ends. Next step constitution. http://t.co/nDMqhtf9lA
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) January 29, 2014
British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, congratulated Yemen in his tweet:
Congratulate #Yemen on the closing ceremony of the National Dialogue Conference. Implementation now crucial. Lots more work ahead
— William Hague (@WilliamJHague) January 25, 2014
Yet Yemenis weren't as excited with end of the National Dialogue Conference.
Safa Mubgar, co-founder of London-based Independent Yemen Group, tweeted:
#Yemen (National Dialogue etc) – the audacity of hope!
— Safa Mubgar (@Saphsaf) February 3, 2014
Blogger Alaa Isam, who is apprehensive of the ongoing violence, noted:
Sad about the money spent on the national dialogue in #Yemen, End of #NDCY launched the smell of gunpowder across the country! #SouthYemen
— AlaaIsam (@AlaaIsam) February 6, 2014
Adam Baron, a Yemen-based reporter, added:
"#Yemen's Nat'l Dialogue ends w violence, no election scheduled:" my piece putting today in context for @McClatchyDC. http://t.co/evGOudcCoH
— Adam Baron (@adammbaron) January 21, 2014
Baron rightfully points in his article:
…the conference was intended to provide an inclusive forum to address the grievances of groups ranging from the Houthi rebels, who’d been the target of a series of brutal government wars, to southern separatists to disaffected youths, while undertaking wide-ranging constitutional and administrative reforms…Instead, it became an example of Yemen’s many conflicts. Initially slated to last six months, its work was the subject of repeated disagreements that led to the conference’s extension. Meanwhile, violence continued in much of the country, underlining the persistence of the political divisions.
Danya Greenfield, director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, also worries that all did not end well. She writes in the Atlantic Council:
Unfortunately, the completion of the Dialogue on its own won’t resolve these conflicts, nor will it improve economic conditions or mitigate malnutrition. These are the daily realities that plague most Yemenis, who worry about the lack of security and meeting their families’ basic needs. They have yet to see the benefits of the political transition or an improvement in the quality of their lives…Now the pressure is on for Yemen’s leaders to put the interests of the country ahead of narrow, parochial interests and make good on the demands of those who bravely put their lives on the line for change three years ago.
After 10 stormy months in Yemen, Yemenis are generally relived that the NDC has finally come to an end. How and when will its resolutions be implemented is the issue, as many Yemenis look to it hopefully not just to manage the political transition, but to fundamentally improve their lives.