Supporting Yemeni-led solutions for a sustainable peace at the 1st Yemen International Forum
“Short wars change regimes, but long wars change societies, and that is what we fear most for Yemen”. On this note of urgency, Farea Al-Muslimi, Chairman of the Sana’a Center closed the 1st Yemen International Forum in Stockholm, Sweden on 19 June. The three-day Forum, co-hosted by the FBA, the Swedish Government Agency for Peace, Security and Development and the Yemeni think-thank Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, brought together over 250 participants, experts and leaders in six thematic areas covering approaches to the economy, security, reconciliation, pathways to political settlements, political life after the war and the Southern file.
The event took place within the broader context of the UN-led peace process which has secured a fragile truce until 2 August 2022 between the main parties to the conflict, Ansar Allah and the internationally recognised government. Since 2014, Yemen has fluctuated between periods of intense conflict and brief respite – and has developed into one of the world’s most dire humanitarian and economic crises. The Forum is thus convened as a space for Yemeni actors to hold a dialogue on their objectives and ambitions – providing them a platform for diverse perspectives to be discussed with civil society, experts and the broader international community. Inclusion and representation were key words with 70% of participants being Yemeni and 36% women, providing a complementary Yemeni-led peacebuilding track to the UN peace process.
As participants, the Institute’s Senior Yemen Advisor, Hisham Al-Omeisy and Regional Advisor for Yemen, Thanos Petouris were invited to speak and moderate a range of topics at the Forum. Mr. Al-Omeisy contributed to a session on Reconciliation, discussing approaches to transitional justice and sharing the Institute’s findings from its project, Pathways for Reconciliation, which conducted large-scale consultations between 2020 – 2021 with almost 16,000 Yemenis in nine governorates – constituting the largest such effort in recent years. The consultations engaged members of Yemeni society on their perspectives with regard to their needs and rights, in the search for lasting peace.
“Two of the main priorities identified across the nine governorates were the environment and ending the main war”, stated Mr. Al-Omeisy during his talk, a finding which reinforces the importance of efforts to expand the understanding of environmental factors as part of the conflict in Yemen. Adding, “voices of the average Yemenis need to be heard and represented in international discussions to better understand their concerns and priorities. While ending the conflict is essential, to many Yemenis, improvement in their living conditions and provision of basic services are of equal importance and critical to a sustainable peace process.” Mr. Al-Omeisy also facilitated a session on local reconciliation and justice mechanisms, leading a discussion with civil society leaders, exploring the potential opportunities and limitations for local mechanisms of mediation and reconciliation in the absence of state institutions.
Our Regional Advisor for Yemen, Thanos Petouris facilitated a session discussing mechanisms to include Southern groups in the peace process, bringing together Southern political leaders and civil society actors. The discussion brought a renewed focus to the importance of mediating dialogue amongst all Southern actors, to ensure the inclusion of Southern Yemeni concerns in the peace process and the achievement of a durable peace.
The breadth of the Institute’s participation at the Yemen International Forum confirms the importance of the work being conducted among partners in-country, working to bridge bottom-up peacebuilding processes with top-down political dialogue, in support of a sustainable peace – shaped by Yemenis together. Our priorities continue to be to engage with Southern leaders on an inclusive dialogue process, while transforming the findings from our Pathways for Reconciliation project into practical outcomes for the people of Yemen.