The 15th of February marked the second and final day of the virtual conference “The Conflict in Yemen: Current Situation and Future Prospects” organized by the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS), in cooperation with the Arab Center in Washington DC (ACW) and DeepRoot Consulting. All conference proceedings were livestreamed through the three organizations’ social media platforms. Dr Khalil Jahshan, the Executive Director of ACW, emphasized in his welcoming remarks the need to alleviate human suffering and expressed gratitude for the research efforts towards a peaceful end to the Yemeni conflict. He praised the discussions of the previous day and shared his eager anticipation for further progress on a joint effort towards the de-escalation of hostilities in Yemen.
Muein Shreim Keynote Remarks on Peace Efforts in Yemen
The opening session began with a speech by Muein Shreim, Deputy Head of Mission at the Office of the Special Envoy for Yemen, who spoke on behalf of HE Hans Grundberg, UN Special Envoy for Yemen. He highlighted the importance of holding this academic conference in a time of great international concern over the outcome of the Yemeni peace process. The UN approach is working on reaching an agreement for a national ceasefire based on inclusive and comprehensive consultations with different segments of Yemeni society. Shreim promotes a multi-track process so all segments of Yemeni society can find joint solutions in a timely political process that does not hinder the progress of other tracks. The UN Special Envoy particularly believes that opening ports and airports must be included in the bundle of measures made to reach a joint-settlement.
The Ansar Allah Perspective on the Yemeni Peace Process
Following Muein Shreim’s remarks, Abdul Malik Al-Ejri, a member of the Political Bureau for Ansar Allah, addressed the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group’s viewpoint on the future situation in Yemen, in addition to the outcome of the peace process and its challenges. He reiterated the need for a political settlement in Yemen and not just a military solution due to the dire humanitarian crisis resulting from the siege, lack of resources, closing of the ports, and blockade. Al-Ejri declared that any peace that does not start with prioritizing Yemeni victims will be unsuccessful, and he cited the GCC collective as a prime example. He also clarified that the negotiation process should not be coerced by evoking pressure on the Yemeni people and using civilians as bargaining chips. The Ansar Allah perspective stresses a humanitarian angle on three fronts, issuing a ceasefire, evoking necessary economic arrangements, and addressing the humanitarian issues that place Yemeni civilians at the core of the political process.
Reactivating the Peace Process: Lessons Learned and Routes Forward
The third panel of the conference “Reactivating the Peace Process: Lessons Learned and Pathways Forward” was moderated by Imad Harb, Director of Research and Analysis at ACW. The session commenced with Asmahan Alalas’ critical investigation into the Yemen conflict’s trajectory and steps towards peace. Ahmed Al-Shami, the Executive Director of the Arabian Rights Watch Association (ARWA), followed with a presentation on Saudi-Yemeni relations that argued how Yemen offers strategic depth for Saudi Arabia due to its distinctive geopolitical significance and proximity to Saudi Arabia. Alex Shoebridge, Peace Process Support Coordinator at Inclusive Peace in Geneva, presented on behalf of Thania Paffelholz, Director of Inclusive Peace, with a critical appraisal of peacebuilding efforts in Yemen by identifying flaws in recent and ongoing approaches since the 2014 National Dialogue Conference. To conclude the panel, Rafat Al-Akhali, Founding CEO of DeepRoot Consulting, was offered on the Hikma Fellowship, presented on behalf of his and Professor Barakat’s research on a local Yemeni youth capacity-building program, Hikma Fellowship. Al-Akhali assessed the program’s successes and outlined challenges in ensuring inclusivity in the Yemeni peace process.
The Future of Yemen: Recovery, Reconstruction, and Development
The fourth and final panel of the conference focused on the future of Yemeni recovery, reconstruction, and development, which was deeply explored by three panellists under the moderation of Professor Sultan Barakat, Founding Director of CHS. The panel began with Sabria Al-Thawr, university lecturer at Sana’a University, who offered possible approaches to engaging local level actors, including internally displaced peoples, in the current peace process and in post-conflict reconstruction in Yemen. Following this, Abdulghani Jaghman, a researcher and consultant in natural resource and sustainable development, proposed a post-conflict framework directed at the government of Yemen, which begins with a resolution to the conflict and advancing a peace dialogue, then supporting justice and reconciliation organizations to ultimately stabilize and grow the economy. Helen Lackner, a renowned expert on Yemen, ended the panel by examining long-term and war-related constraints to Yemen’s socio-economic development, shedding light on the complex issues that will arise after a semblance of governance is achieved in the country.
At the conclusion of the conference, Dr Sultan Barakat, thanked the esteemed participating researchers, attendees and organizers of the conference. Barakat expressed the importance of these discussions and research that are essential for shaping a peaceful joint-solution in Yemen. He also highlighted the uniqueness of this conference in enabling the diversity of opinions and speakers to analyse future prospects for Yemen.
This conference came at a very critical time during the conflict in Yemen, but also during a period filled with many opportunities to accelerate and progress the peace process. In view of this, we must not hesitate as researchers, experts, and political practitioners to push for sustainable peace and invest everything possible towards a joint-solution. The humanitarian situation in Yemen cannot wait, as the further protraction of the conflict will only exacerbate catastrophe at all levels, not only in Yemen, but in the region as a whole.
To benefit from the conference’s outcomes, the papers presented will be revised to incorporate insights from the panel discussions before they are consolidated into a book volume, to be published in both English and Arabic. Additionally, the entire conference was broadcasted live on the CHS’ social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, along with event partners’ platforms for public viewing.