In this interview, Deputy Secretary General of the National Dialogue Conference Yasser al-Raeina talks about the remaining issues left for the Dialogue in its last stage. He says that formulation of a new social contract based on the output of six months of discussion will be the most important achievement for the conference. He also described the mechanism of the fast approaching concluding session of the dialogue as well as obstacles that continue to hinder the Conference’s work
Interviewer /Abdullah Almunifi
To begin, where has the NDC gotten so far? What is the status of the reports from the nine working groups?
The working groups have almost completed all their tasks. The reports are almost ready. There remain some decisions that have not been voted on, largely because of the absence of the al-Herak representatives. But I think that most teams have finished their reports.
Aside from the reports, what points of contention have been submitted to the conciliation commission?
Very few disagreement points have been submitted to the commission. The most important disagreement point, though, is on the issue of Islamic law. And there are still issues being discussed in the dialogue papers on the shape of Yemen’s future state.
You said most of the reports are ready, but there are people saying that some teams haven’t even completed their reports yet. What should we make of that?
The Sa’ada issue has been complicated by the trial of a foreigner who was carrying arms into Sa’ada. But most teams have a small committee specifically tasked with submitting reports. We can say that the options have been decided on, and the key issues have been agreed on. The remaining decisions still being disagreed about are mostly because of the absence of al-Herak’s representatives.
After Eid al-Adha holiday, the NDC seems like it’s been disabled by the absence of al-Herak’s representatives. How will the Dialogue get past this problem?
It hasn’t been disabled. The teams are there every day to do their work, and there are some members of al-Herak still participating. Not all of al-Herak are boycotting the Dialogue. In fact, it’s not a boycott. Everyone says that al-Herak has not withdrawn from the NDC; they are simply demanding a chance to consult with the various components of al-Herak outside of the Conference.
Didn’t al-Herak name some significant conditions in their letter to the president of the Republic and president of the Conference?
Those were Mohamed Ali Ahmed’s conditions. But as we hear from their statements through various media, they have only asked for a short period of time in which to consult with the various components of al-Herak both inside and outside.
Points of disagreement within the working groups can be submitted to the Conciliation Commission. Will the Commission’s decisions on these points be final?
The Conciliation Commission is composed of participating representatives in the NDC, and the Conciliation Commission does not make decisions. It only solves disputes in cases of disagreement. The Commission sits with the disagreeing parties to assess their points of view and arrive at an agreement. Then each person returns to his or her team to convince the team members of the validity of the solution. After that, the team takes the decision by itself.
So all decisions are made by the working groups?
Definitely, and Conciliation Commission simply collects the points of view of the working groups, and once group representatives reach a particular decision, each Committee member goes back to his group to convince it and continue moving forward.
The working groups on Sa’ada and the Southern Issue are still late. The works of the Sa’ada group in particular have been hampered since the beginning of the Dialogue. What remains to be done for these two teams?
First, I think the Sa’ada group is progressing. It has already reached 25 solution points, and this is an unusual achievement. For example, agreements have been reached on the issues of handling heavy and medium-sized weapons as well as state influence on territories, political freedom, and compensation for displaced persons. With the Southern Issue group, we are discussing the essential solution on the shape of the future Yemeni state.
Who will implement the Sa’ada team’s decisions that you have just mentioned? And what is the schedule for implementation?
The state will make those decisions after the completion of the constitution. We will create a new constitution and then carry out said constitution once everything has been agreed upon in the NDC.
Regarding the handing over of heavy weapons: some groups are still using these types of weapons while the Dialogue is going on. When will those weapons be handed over?
Currently, we are in the negotiation state on the foundations of building the next state and solving the problems that occurred in the past. So, if everyone agrees on these points, the NDC finishes, and then the Drafting Committee begins preparing the constitution. At that point, we will begin the implementation of the constitution, which will be built from the products of the NDC. The country’s problems are numerous, so NDC is working just to solve the intrinsic problems of building a modern state.
What about the Southern Issue and the twenty and eleven points that have been presented as preconditions for dialogue? Will these points become part of the resolutions from the Southern Issue group?
When we talked about the twenty points in the Technical Committee, we were offering them as a starting point. But now they are an important part of the solutions. In addition, some of these points don’t need just a day or a year, but rather a very long period of time. This is what the Territories Commission and Deportees and Demobilization Commission are working on. A lot of commissions are working on these issues, and the process is ongoing. Now the government is meeting, and I think they will discuss how much time is needed to carry out the twenty points.
There are basic issues for the State-Building group that have been left unresolved. Is this because of their overlap with Southern Issue?
In fact, there are basic themes tied to State-Building that relate to the matter of the South, but that’s not true of all the topics still in discussion. For example, the State-Building working group has approved several issues regarding state identity and the voting system. When we come to the shape of the state, this relates to the question of the South but also administrative matters. However, State-Building will be unable to complete its work until the issue of the South is solved.
When will the NDC be finished?
It should be finished on the 18th of September, or in September in general.
Do you think the time remaining for the NDC is enough to achieve its objectives given the obstacles that still stand in its way?
Compared with what has been achieved, what is left is not a problem.
We are in the stage of solutions and safeguards. Isn’t this a crucial stage?
You’re right, it’s a crucial stage and it needs credibility of the constituents; then everything will be good. We don’t have any problem. We’ve passed the big stage and we’ve agreed on several key decisions in the last period. We still have three or four decisions about the main issues.
But the main decisions are substantial points of disagreement.
Yes. So they need credibility, and sometimes they need discussion.
Are there backstage dialogues going on to solve these disputes, as they say in the media?
We shouldn’t say “backstage dialogues,” but discussions are taking place, as has been stated more than once. Also, al-Herak has demanded a chance to discuss with dialogue members on broader terms.
What will be the shape of the final discussion, or “Closing Session?”
According to the internal system, every report will be shown and then voted on. Then, either the delegates will vote on the final report or return it with comments. After that, the Conciliation Commission will gather these reports into one report: the conference report. This report will be shown in the final session.
What will happen in the event of contradictions within the decisions of different teams?
The contradictions will be addressed before their display. That means when the work teams finish they submit their reports to the Conciliation Commission, and the same Commission revises these reports to check if there are any incongruences or conflicts between them. If so, the Commission will sit with the relevant teams and solve these problems. At the end, the Conciliation Commission will collect all reports into one report, which is the final output for NDC.
What does this output represent?
It will be a new social contract for Yemen and the basis of Yemen’s new Constitution.
How do you see the General Secretariat in your works with NDC? Are you satisfied?
We can’t evaluate the Secretariat in our works. But through the members’ evaluation and the general evaluation I think the performance of the Secretariat has been good. As we discussed in the beginning of the Conference, the role of the General Secretariat is that of an administrative technician.
How transparent is your work on the financial side?
Regarding the financial side of the Conference, we post reports regularly on our website in which we explain how much we spend money every day in detail. In the final period, we will offer a report about everything we have spent for the duration of the Dialogue.
How do see the NDC and what it represents in the national arena?
I think NDC is the most important political process happening in the country. The NDC has achieved an unusual achievement in this country, in the Arab Spring countries, and in the Arab region in general. It’s not an easy achievement to gather so many delegates in one place in order to discuss Yemen’s issues clearly. No one expected all the members meet to show their visions and to express their opinions. And all the obstacles were considered challenges. But as the challenge grows, it will continue to be a motivation for success of the political players.
How do you evaluate the work and interaction of the political personages with the NDC? Have they all worked carefully to make it a success?
From the beginning of the NDC, all the political organs worked well. There were obstacles, but we surpassed them. The decision-making stages were a confirmation of the credibility of Yemen’s political figures. The most important stages of the NDC were the mid-term and final sessions, because on both of these we made final decisions about the results of the working groups. At this time, we learned just how keen Yemen’s politicians were to see the NDC process succeed. We believe that all of the political members of the NDC have done their best to ensure its success. As I have said in many statements, people have lived through war and peace, and they have worked with the authorities and the opposition. The NDC continues listening to one another in order to reach agreement points that everyone supports. I think that the chance has come for Yemenis to build a new Yemen after the conclusion of the Dialogue
In your opinion, what are the safeguards for the implementation of the decisions of the Dialogue?
I think there are many safeguards. The first is the people of Yemen and the youth of the revolution, as well as the political members of the National Dialogue Conference. The international community is very important on this side. Furthermore, constitution will serve as a safeguard for the products of the NDC. The Constitutional Drafting Committee will formulate the Constitution through the final reports o the NDC> If someone asks what are the final results of the Conference, we will tell them that the referendum voting “yes” on the new constitution will be the real result
Do you have any final thoughts to conclude this interview?
I sent a letter to everyone telling them that if there are security problems at the moment, it is because we are at a difficult point in the process of birthing a new nation. Practitioners of corruption will always work to impede this process. For example, those bombing oil pipelines and electric grids; all of this is intended to stop the NDC. But the Conference members—even if they stop for a while to protest—then go back to their work. All the problems we are living with today are products of our proximity to the construction of a new country. When we finish building our new country, these problems will cease.