By: U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein for National Yemen
As the leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) countries gathered in Northern Ireland this week to consult on the major international issues of the day, support for the people of the Middle East and North Africa was a central theme of their conversations. More than two years into a period of historic change in the region, the euphoria that marked the early days of the Arab Awakening has given way to the difficult challenges of governance reform and economic growth. Yemen has embarked on an historic process of national dialogue and political transition. However, one key theme from the Arab Awakening remains as relevant today as it was two years ago: the desire by citizens in the region to have a greater voice in the decisions that affect their lives.
This principle, long supported by the United States, is at the core of the G8-Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Initiative, which brings together G8 and BMENA governments, the private sector, and civil society leaders to promote political, social, and economic progress. The United States was privileged to co-chair the 2012 BMENA process and its annual Forum for the Future ministerial event with the Republic of Tunisia and its NGO and private sector partners. The Forum welcomed the participation of the Foreign Minister of Yemen, Abu Bakr al-Qirby, who presented Yemen’s specific needs and goals. Yemen has been an active participant in the BMENA process.
During the Forum, civil society leaders, private sector representatives, and government officials agreed to promote reforms on important issues such as job creation; social and economic opportunities for all, including women and youth; greater participation by citizens in the political process; rule of law and the integrity of public institutions; advancement of fundamental freedoms; and increased responsiveness and transparency by government officials, including through establishing regular and routine modes of collaboration with civil society and the private sector. These commitments were enshrined in a Declaration which was approved by consensus by all participating governments, affirming the desire of governments and civil society alike to work together to promote progress.
The National Dialogue Conference that is taking place in Yemen today is exactly the kind of gathering envisioned by the G-8 BMENA Initiative. Yemeni politicians, youth, women, and civil society, representing a broad spectrum of views, are exchanging ideas and working together to achieve a consensus on reforms that will lead to a more peaceful and prosperous nation in the future. The success of the conference in Yemen could well serve as a model for other countries in the region.
Just as the G8 leaders gathered this week to discuss solutions to major international issues, the U.S. and its partners in the G8-BMENA process urge all civil society and private sector representatives to work with their governments to find solutions for the challenges facing the countries of the region. Through interaction with the National Dialogue Conference working groups and other regional events, Yemen has already developed mechanisms for the government to hear the full range of Yemeni voices. The Declaration presents an opportunity, a common path forward, and a set of shared values and commitments that can serve as a foundation upon which governments and citizens can build. Through our joint efforts we can advance the goal of ensuring that all men and women are able to live in societies where all are treated justly and with dignity, with equitable access to economic and political opportunities and a chance to shape their future.