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Cablegate: Follow Up to the Cairo Speech: Next Steps For

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FOR NEA/ARP, NEA/PPD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO YM
SUBJECT: FOLLOW UP TO THE CAIRO SPEECH: NEXT STEPS FOR
CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT

SUMMARY


1. Yemen's daunting internal challenges present many
opportunities for more robust US engagement in the areas that
President Barack Obama outlined in his June 4 speech in
Cairo. Consultations with Yemeni interlocutors point to
continuing opportunities to support Yemen's government and
civil society in improving educational opportunities,
developing democratic institutions, and securing the rights
of women. Meanwhile, the Palestinian question and the status
of Guantanamo detainees significantly shape Yemeni popular
perceptions of the US and are critical to achieving a "new
beginning" in Yemeni-US relations. END SUMMARY.

CONSULTATIVE STRATEGY


2. The areas of potential cooperation between the US and the
Muslim world that President Barack Obama outlined in his June
4 speech in Cairo resonated with Yemeni interlocutors. Post
organized a variety of consultations on the speech with key
interlocutors, ranging from formal events hosted at the
Ambassador's residence to informal conversations with
business contacts in Aden. Consultations with youth were
particularly important, and 'watch parties' were organized
with students studying English at several institutions in
Sana'a, followed by discussions of the President's remarks.
Through these consultations, post discerned opportunities to
follow up on the speech's key themes.

EDUCATION: THE WELL THAT NEVER RUNS DRY


3. As oil reserves dwindle and the population swells, Yemen
is seeking to develop a skilled labor force to diversify the
economy and integrate with lucrative neighboring markets.
President Obama's pledge to increase citizen exchanges and
educational and scientific cooperation attracted attention
from educational administrators and policy makers as they
seek to further develop the country's human capital.

4. One of the best ways that post can provide educational
support in Yemen is through English-language instruction,
which continues to be in high demand. The post-managed Yemen
America Language Institute (YALI) is a flagship institution
for English instruction in Sana'a, where many up-and-coming
ROYG and private sector leaders study. Through partner
organization Amideast, post is currently expanding our
English Access Microscholarships program into rural areas of
Yemen that are recruiting grounds for extremist
organizations, including the governorates of Abyan, Lahj, and
Hadramaut. The Access program is a highly cost-effective way
to expose underprivileged Yemeni youth to intercultural
dialogue and to give them a sought-after and marketable
skill: English-language proficiency. USAID is also managing
basic education projects designed to increase the quality of
educational services and boost enrollment at the primary
level.

5. Interlocutors frequently request the development of direct
partnerships between US and Yemeni universities, to increase
the number of students traveling between the two countries,
increase capacity-building programs for Yemeni university
administrators and faculty, and to collaborate on research
projects in areas of local need. Interlocutors also request
increases in the numbers of Fulbright fellows and other
exchange participants sent from Yemen to the US. Currently,
only four to six Yemeni Fulbrighters travel to the US each
year for masters degree programs. American Fulbright
students and scholars were evacuated from Yemen in the spring
of 2008 and security policies have not yet permitted their
return.

6. In addition to educational exchanges, scientific and
technical cooperation will be essential in helping Yemen to
overcome chronic scarcities of water and electricity. In the
immediate future, Yemen will need to develop new sources of
fresh water, conserve existing non-renewable water sources,
and increase local electricity generation capacity to address
worsening nationwide blackouts. Cooperation in fields like
biotechnology and renewable energy will be helpful on these
fronts.

A DEMOCRACY AT A CROSSROADS


7. President Obama's emphasis on the importance of
representative government comes at a difficult time for
Yemeni democracy. Parliamentary elections scheduled for
April 2009 were postponed for two years because the ruling

party and opposition could not agree on fundamental issues
affecting the conduct of the elections. President Ali
Abdullah Saleh has governed for 31 years, and few
interlocutors can identify a potential successor who could
manage the country's numerous political fissures and crises.

8. Through MEPI and Public Diplomacy grants, post is
supporting projects to increase civic participation among
youth, facilitate workshops on electoral reform for
parliamentarians and political party activists, and
facilitate legislative advocacy by key stakeholder groups
like the national journalists' syndicate, among other
initiatives. Post has a strong partnership with the National
Democratic Institute (NDI), working together on election
monitoring and anti-corruption projects. USAID is currently
supporting projects to decentralize public service delivery,
strengthen electoral institutions, and train parliamentarians
on anti-corruption strategies. In the past, both MEPI and
USAID have partnered with the International Foundation for
Electoral Systems (IFES) on democracy and governance projects
as well. Looking ahead, interlocutors stress that a return to
regularly scheduled parliamentary elections in 2011 is
essential to rehabilitating Yemen's fledgling democracy.

WOMEN'S RIGHTS: HALF THE BATTLE


9. In a country with only one elected female
parliamentarian, women still face significant socioeconomic
and political barriers. President Obama's emphasis on
women's rights and girls' education ties into existing MEPI
and Public Diplomacy grants to train women leaders on project
management, journalism, and human rights, and to establish a
women's "shadow parliament" to involve women leaders in the
national political dialogue. MEPI has also funded training
for women on information technology and IT entrepreneurship.
USAID is currently supporting projects to increase women's
participation within political parties and as candidates for
elected office, and post has worked with NDI to launch a film
promoting women's political participation. Post is currently
working with religious leaders to educate the public about
child marriage, discouraging the practice and emphasizing the
importance of women's education in Islam in communities where
child marriage is particularly prevalent.

CHALLENGES BEYOND YEMEN'S BORDERS


10. Educational initiatives, democratic development, and
women's rights are important areas for US-Yemeni cooperation.
However, according to many interlocutors, a "new beginning"
in US-Yemeni relations will be signaled by movement on two
issues: Palestine and Guantanamo. In discussions of the Cairo
speech, most interlocutors focused on the perceived need for
the US to work with Israel to ensure a just resolution of the
Palestinian question. Likewise, the continuing detention of
close to 100 Yemeni nationals in Guantanamo Bay draws regular
condemnation from the Yemeni media and civil society
organizations. Many interlocutors are expecting the
repatriation of all of the Yemeni nationals in Guantanamo
upon the closure of the facility. Thus the popular
perception of US-Yemeni relations depends to a significant
extent on issues that are beyond Yemen's borders and outside
of post's control.

COMMENT


11. Yemen is currently facing unprecedented challenges on the
economic, political, and security fronts, and many local and
international observers are issuing pessimistic forecasts for
the near future. However, there is still an opportunity to
reverse troubling trend lines. A more robust engagement from
the United States in the areas outlined above could pay
significant dividends and help prevent the chorus of downbeat
prognostications from becoming reality. END COMMENT.
SECHE

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