Rebuilding Yemen requires consolidating the state

Without recreating, re-energising, revitalising and consolidating an inclusive national state, achieving a lasting political and social peace will not be possible.
Sunday 16/12/2018
Cost of war. Yemenis clear the rubble of houses in the UNESCO-listed heritage site in the old city of Sana’a. (AFP)
Cost of war. Yemenis clear the rubble of houses in the UNESCO-listed heritage site in the old city of Sana’a. (AFP)

Resorting to war and violence in settling political differences can only lead to terrorising civilians, killing many of them and destroying their environment. Nothing can result from armed confrontation besides destruction, chaos, organised crime, famine, homelessness and epidemic diseases.

More important, wars destroy social order to the benefit of warlords, who become masters of the land. Society is reorganised so that economic, cultural and social structures are put in the service of the war and the fighters. This is precisely what is happening today in my stricken homeland, the Republic of Yemen.

Since World War II, there have been approximately 144 armed conflicts in the world. More than two-thirds of the countries that resorted to peace to manage the interests of the conflicting forces slipped back into the square of violence because they did not have well-designed, agreed-upon recovery and reconstruction programmes.

The priority of the economic policies for recovery and reconstruction in Yemen must take these risks into consideration, especially because the country has been and is still considered a fragile low-income country and among the poorest in the world. Yemen is ranked near the bottom among nations in terms of human resources development indicators.

The difficulties of Yemen are compounded by the fierce war raging there that complicated the task of ensuring proper requirements for stability and development. Therefore, designing a recovery and reconstruction programme for Yemen must focus on finding the right approaches, policies and ways to reduce the risk of renewed conflict and restore confidence in the economic, social and political institutions.

There is also a need for strengthening the capacity of the state to provide security for individuals, families and communities, including economic security, through the enforcement of the rule of law and the provision of social services.

At the same time, the priorities of the economic recovery should focus on employment, promotion of productive investments, reduction of business environment risks and addressing social and regional inequities, especially gender inequality.

To avoid the failures of previous post-conflict recovery and reconstruction programmes in many countries, Yemen’s recovery and reconstruction plan should accommodate three conditions:

— The interests of all forces and influential social groups in Yemeni society that are seeking peace, recovery and reconstruction in a fair and balanced manner.

— The plan should be the outcome of a disinterested national and collective effort. There should be a strong consensus on the components and objectives of this document and the mechanisms of its implementation.

— The plan should be based on a true and equal partnership between all parties, whether local, regional or international, and its clear ultimate objective should be to serve the goal of building a lasting peace, stability, prosperity, justice and equality in Yemen.

These conditions inevitably lead to three approaches:

— The need to study, with objective and practical minds, internal engines for recovery and reconstruction, including the pivotal role of the Yemeni private sector, not only as a partner in the recovery and reconstruction process but — and this is even more important — as a beneficiary of recovery and reconstruction.

— The need to look carefully at the macroeconomic policies that mobilise post-war Yemen for recovery and reconstruction. This refers to overcoming widespread unemployment, especially among young people, reducing soaring inflation rates, stabilising the rial against a basket of major foreign currencies, controlling the deficit in the state budget, trade balance and balance of payments and domestic and external debt and boosting internal revenues.

— The third approach — the most important — consists of understanding the role of the state in the process of economic recovery and reconstruction.

After any war or conflict, the state often finds itself weak in one way or another because its institutions are exhausted, shattered and scattered. Therefore, rehabilitating the state and its institutions and agencies becomes crucial for recovery and reconstruction.

Peace-building and sustainability require a strong and efficient state because the state is the regulator and organiser of community life and the glue that binds the various groups of society and its forces and interests to the building of a single system moving and interacting harmoniously towards a known and accepted goal.

Without recreating, re-energising, revitalising and consolidating an inclusive national state, achieving a lasting political and social peace will not be possible, let alone implementing the most basic requirements of a comprehensive reconstruction and national recovery programme.