Cablegate: Yemen's Democratic Reform Strategy to Support

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Per reftel, included below is requested report on Yemen's
democratic reform strategy to support the Freedom Agenda.

Begin text.

A. Overview

The Government of Yemen has demonstrated rhetorical and real
commitment to the goals of democracy and human rights. The
ROYG is working with the USG and the international community
to reform political processes, build civil society, fight
corruption, increase the role of women in society, and
attract foreign investment. Post,s overall goal is to
support Yemen in building the solid institutions necessary
for a stable and representative democracy that adheres to
rule of law and respects human rights. Real progress in
institution building in the next two years is critical if
Yemen is to make the transition from saying the right thing
to doing the right thing. To measure Yemen,s progress in
democratization we will look to the following desired

1. Open and competitive elections
2. A free and independent press
3. Reduced corruption
4. Strengthened rule of law
5. Increased government accountability

Post has a number of resources to draw on in achieving these
outcomes. This year, Yemen,s MCA Concept Paper was approved
and qualified the ROYG to prepare a Business Plan to be
submitted in August 2005. An MCA Threshold Program, if
approved, may provide funds in the range of $10 million over
two years for programs in rule of law and anti-corruption.
USAID and USDA food aid funds support important programs to
support women,s participation in society and political
decentralization. A variety of MEPI programs advance our
strategies in good governance and civil society. Our current
request for $30 million in ESF funds would allow for an
expanded Democracy and Governance program of approximately $3
million through USAID. State and USAID operate a
well-coordinated development program that can handle current
projects and the addition of the MCC. Beyond this, however,
an increase in DG activities would require additional human
resources. Post intends to capitalize on a President
Saleh,s proposed trip to Washington in Fall 2005 to advance
democratic reform, and encourages CODELs and other high level
visits to Yemen to reinforce this message.

B. Desired Outcomes

1. Open and Competitive Elections

The elections of 2003 were considered successful from an
administrative perspective. They were significantly less
violent than previous elections, no parties boycotted and
voter participation rose to more than 75% of eligible voters
(including a more than 40% increase in voting women). For a
truly democratic system to take root in Yemen, however, there
must be healthy competition for elected positions, women,s
participation in the process must increase, and the elections
system itself must be self-sustaining and non-partisan. The
2006 elections will prove a solid benchmark for these

Milestones & Diplomatic Strategies
(Each milestone followed directly by diplomatic strategy)

Milestone: International and local observers declare the 2006
Presidential and local council elections free and fair with
increased voter participation. Election legislation
governing local councils is revised.

-- MEPI provides $1.2 million over two years, managed by
USAID, to the IFES Election Systems Assistance program. IFES
will work with the Supreme Council for Elections and
Referenda to craft necessary legislation, train elections
workers, and assist in the voter registration process.

Milestone: Number of women candidates in local council
elections reaches at least 150 candidates, and women win at
least 50 seats on councils.

-- MEPI is funding a program for women in political parties,
with a focus on expanding female participation in elections,
possibly through a quota system currently in favor among
Yemeni women politicians and activists. Funding expires Fall
2005. Post recommends new funding.

Milestone: Responsible, vigorous and non-violent campaign
waged by political parties.

-- An NDI grant of nearly $700,000 supporting political
parties will terminate Fall 2005. This has been an important
element, along with ongoing cooperation with the UNDP
elections office, in fostering healthy competition. Post
will continue to meet with many parties and encourage broad
participation in the democratic process.

2. Free and Independent Press

Building a strong civil society includes nurturing a free and
independent press. Yemen,s media is one of the most open in
the Arab world, but recent closings of independent and
opposition party newspapers and the imprisonment of editors
and writers have cast a shadow over freedom of expression in
the country. We will work with the ROYG and the NGO
community to help restore and expand these basic rights, as
well as with the local media to encourage professionalism and
accountability in journalism.

Milestones & Diplomatic Strategies

Milestone: Freedom House Accountability and Public Voice
score increases from 2005 score. International observers and
the Yemeni Journalist Syndicate recognize that government
interference with the media decreases.

-- Post will explore options to advance these goals under the
current MEPI media RFP. This would help augment ongoing
professional training provided by PD to the professional
media, including a TV journalism workshop and programs in
human rights reporting.

Milestone: New press law is open to public deliberation and
increases press freedoms.

-- Post actively engages NGO and ROYG stakeholders to
encourage an open dialogue to enact a press law consistent
with the standards of democratic countries. PD will bring
press experts to educate stakeholders on this issue. Post
will participate in a multilateral press freedom initiative
with the donor community to advance this goal.

3. Reduced Corruption

We will continue to urge greater transparency and
accountability in government, as corruption erodes trust in
the democratic system and weakens all efforts at reform.
Joining with other international donors, such as the World
Bank and the UN, and using the TIFA/WTO process as an
incentive, we will seek Yemeni partners in and out of
government to reduce and control corruption. The MCA
threshold process serves as an excellent set of guidelines
and measurements for the ROYG,s efforts in this area.

Milestones & Diplomatic Strategies

Milestone: Yemen's Transparency International Score on
Corruption rises above the median.

-- The ROYG has identified combating corruption as a main
component of its MCC Threshold plan. It proposes increasing
parliamentary oversight and reform of the public land
registry as the cornerstone of these efforts.

Milestone: ROYG Customs standards comply with WTO.

-- Post is working on a customs valuation reform project
using MEPI and USAID matching funds, totaling up to $500,000.
A consultant from Booz Allen Hamilton will initiate this
program and develop an MOU in June 2005, with implementation
to follow.

Milestone: ROYG reforms tendering processes to comply with
international norms of transparency and fairness. Aden
Container Terminal tender and the third GSM tender are
completed successfully.

-- Post will continue to apply direct pressure on the ROYG
regarding high profile tenders. The TIFA-WTO accession
process will also be used to bring Yemeni tendering practice
into compliance.

Milestone: Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank, and other
key ministries demonstrate fiscal transparency.

-- A coalition of international donors, including the World
Bank, DIFD, the Dutch Embassy, and the U.S. are initiating a
program in public financial management reform. USAID and the
MEPI-funded Treasury office in Abu Dhabi will contribute
funding and expertise to specific aspects of this reform

Milestone: Legislative and regulatory reform enacted for WTO

-- Ongoing efforts with USTR and specific reform projects,
such as customs valuation, will reduce opportunities for
corruption by introducing legal and regulatory uniformity.
Ongoing efforts are needed in the areas of
telecommunications, IPR, and biotechnology.

4. Strengthened Rule of Law

Establishing rule of law is one of the greatest challenges to
advancing democratic freedoms in Yemen. The Yemeni system is
fragmented and disorganized, prone to corruption, and often
bypassed in favor of tribal justice. Citizens must begin to
gain confidence in the judicial system and businesses must be
able to trust rule of law if they are to expand investment.
There is nascent effort and pressure from NGOs, some ROYG
technocrats and parts of the legal community to focus on this
issue, and it will be a key part of Post,s strategy for

Milestones & Diplomatic Strategies

Milestone: Court system starts to be viewed as viable option
in cities for dispute resolution. Higher Judicial Institute
admits women. Increased independence of the judiciary from
the executive branch.

-- MEPI funding for an ABA program emphasizing judicial
independence and women in the law would provide a long-term
strategy for these critical milestones.

Milestone: Reports indicate due process is more uniformly
adhered to in criminal cases.

-- Post will use the annual Human Rights Report to advocate
for the right to a fair trial. A MEPI small grant will be
given to a local NGO to train law students in human rights.

Milestone: Businesses increasingly view commercial court
system as a viable option for dispute resolution.

-- The ROYG identified rule of law, specifically in the
commercial courts, as a major component of its MCC Threshold
proposal. Specific programs are currently in development,
and will be central to Post,s strategy. The Commercial Law
Development Program proposes to streamline Yemeni commercial
law to make it faster and simpler to adjudicate cases. Post
recommends allocating funds to initiate this program.

5. Increased Government Accountability

A major focus in this effort is to increase the role, power
and authority of local government, particularly pertaining to
fiscal authority. Post supports strengthening local
councils so they may actively pursue local legislation and
exercise legitimate budgetary and legislative powers as
enumerated in the Yemeni Constitution. In the central
government, a stronger oversight role for Parliament will
help rationalize the budget process and introduce a check on
corruption at the highest levels. A bottom-up legislative
process at both the local council and Parliamentary levels
will increase citizen participation and faith in the
democratic process.

Milestones & Diplomatic Strategies

Milestone: Central government increases resources to local
councils from 2004 funding level.

-- MEPI/USAID allocated $1.59 million over two years to the
UNDP Decentralization program. Through this effort we will
exert bilateral and multilateral pressure on the ROYG to
allocate funds to local government as required by law.

Milestone: Increased sector decentralization within
ministries, specifically health and education.

-- USAID incorporates decentralization goals in its education
and health programs. With support from the U.S., UNDP is
currently sponsoring a study and action plan for target
sectors. Post will vigorously support these plans through
the relevant ministries when completed.

Milestone: Parliament begins to consider seriously and, where
appropriate, amend legislation offered by the executive.
Political party caucuses organize to address policy issues
and begin to initiate legislation. Local councils
demonstrate initiative through locally enacted legislation.
-- A CEPS-administered, MEPI funded project with NDI is
working on an $800,000 program for reform-minded
parliamentarians. U.S. funds also cover a resource center
for responsible legislation, housed at NDI. In the past, NDI
provided training to new local council members. Post
recommends that a similar program be funded following the
2006 elections.

C. Consequences of Proactive Reform Agenda

Yemen is well positioned for proactive democratic reforms.
Local civil society and active media are pushing for reforms.
With a multi-party electoral system and a Parliament that is
increasingly willing to exercise power, there are many
reasons to be carefully optimistic about Yemen,s future.
Considerable challenges remain, however, and there are
several factors that could impede future progress.

Corruption is endemic and retards reform efforts in all
areas. Although the ROYG has made considerable progress in
increasing national security since the 2000 attack on the USS
Cole and 9/11, any renewed terrorist activity would pose a
threat to democratic aspirations. General conditions in
Yemen are primitive and complicate efforts to reach large
portions of the population, 80% of which live in rural areas.
Basic demands in health, education, and infrastructure are
considerable, and are often prioritized by the ROYG above the
pressing need for democratic reform. The ROYG has taken
significant steps towards reform since unification in 1990,
but it remains in many respects a young country and the
coming years will offer a test of political will for Yemen,s

End text.

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