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Cablegate: Mepi's Local Grants Program: A Yemen Success Story

VZCZCXRO9109
PP RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR
DE RUEHYN #2170/01 3410818
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 070818Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3328
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 002170

SIPDIS

NEA FOR DAS TAMARA WITTES
NEA/PI FOR TIM ANDREWS
EMBASSY ABU DHABI FOR RALPH FALZONE
NEA/ARP FOR ANDREW MACDONALD
USAID FOR CHRIS KISCO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMPI KDEM KPAO EAID PREL PGOV SOCI YM
SUBJECT: MEPI'S LOCAL GRANTS PROGRAM: A YEMEN SUCCESS STORY

REF: A. 07 SANAA 1220
B. 05 SANAA 310
C. 03 SANAA 1559
D. 03 SANAA 166

1. Summary. With more than 7000 registered Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs), but little to no indigenous funding for
its nascent civil society, Yemen has benefited greatly from
the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)'s local grants
program. The local grants program has made a particular
impact in supporting emerging CSOs in Yemen and in creating
linkages between already existent organizations. Yemeni MEPI
alumni, from both local grants and exchange programs,
continue to act as like-minded reformists across society.
Although CSOs have benefited from an active civil society,
operating in Yemen is becoming increasingly repressive for
CSOs. Despite efforts by the ROYG to control the NGO sector
by introducing a new, more restrictive NGO law, civil society
in Yemen remains lively and will resist being controlled by
the central government. Post recommends the continuation and
preferably the increase of MEPI local grants funding to Yemen
in the future. End Summary.

FUNDED BY THE US, MADE IN YEMEN
-------------------------------

2. With more than 7000 registered Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs), but little to no indigenous funding for
its nascent civil society, Yemen has benefited greatly from
the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)'s local grants
program. Since the advent of the MEPI program in Yemen in
2003, dozens of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have
received small grants. MEPI has funded projects in Yemen
through local grants in all of the four original "pillars" )
political, economic, democracy, and women. Yemeni MEPI
projects have focused primarily on promoting women's
political participation, legislative reform, human rights
awareness, and economic development. (Comment: The success
of the MEPI local grants program in Yemen is particularly
notable given the larger context: As the poorest country in
the Arabian Peninsula, Yemeni CSOs and the Yemenis that run
them are hungry for funding. In the first six months of
2009, the MEPI Committee at Embassy Sana'a received over
sixty applications for local grants. Of the sixty,
approximately twenty to thirty were qualified for funding,
while the program could fund only ten to twenty. End
Comment.) The local grants program functions as a rapid
reaction force for change. For example, when the Department
expressed an interest in finding and funding an NGO to work
on the issue of early childhood marriage in September 2009,
the MEPI Committee was able to identify an appropriate NGO
and solicit a grant application in a few of weeks.

3. The local grants program has made a particular impact in
supporting emerging CSOs in Yemen and in creating linkages
between already existent organizations. Hafez Al-Bukari,
President of the Yemen Polling Center, said that MEPI was the
first donor organization to support his Center and that USG
grants were intrinsic to its ability to build the
organization to international standards. Dr. Arwa Yahya
Al-Deram, Executive Director of SOUL, a CSO that focuses on
the health, education, and social development of women and
children, echoed Bukari, saying that MEPI helped in both the
establishment and development of her CSO. A 2005 week-long
visit from Laura Schultz, then MEPI Political Pillar Officer,
was invaluable to SOUL in formulating its strategic plan.
The MEPI program brought existing CSOs into contact with each
other, often making the initial connections between major
players in civil society in terms of operation. In the words
of Ezzadin Al-Ashbahi, General Director of the Human Rights
Information and Training Center (HRITC), "the best thing that
MEPI did was (to use the Forum for the Future) to create
coalitions of CSOs" both within countries like Yemen and
throughout the region.

4. Yemeni MEPI alumni, from both local grants and exchange
programs, continue to act as like-minded reformists across
society. They have formed an active network, continuing to
nurture bonds made during and after their participation in
MEPI programs. With support from the America-Mideast
Educational and Training Services, Inc. (AMIDEAST) and from a
steering committee based out of Sanaa, MEPI alumni organize
independent programs emphasizing entrepreneurship and women's
empowerment, both key reform issues in Yemen. MEPI alumni
often become leaders in civil society. Upon her return to
Yemen, former Leader for Democracy Fellow Intisar Aladhi
became Secretary General of the All Girls Society for

SANAA 00002170 002 OF 002


Development, the implementer of a MEPI local grants project,
and an active reformer within the civil society community.

ROYG CRACKING DOWN ON CIVIL SOCIETY?
------------------------------------

5. Although CSOs have benefited from an active civil society,
they are finding it increasingly difficult to operate in
Yemen. The ROYG is attempting to introduce and impose a new,
more restrictive NGO law, which will make it more difficult
for CSOs to receive funding and register as NGOs. According
to the Democracy School Chairman Jamal Abdullah Al-Shami, the
new law will make it harder to obtain and use foreign
funding. Today, there is no stigmatization in receiving USG
funding. In fact, at least one NGO leader, the Democracy
School's Shami, has said that it adds to their prestige and
credibility. Still, there are signs that the ROYG is
gradually making it more difficult for organizations to
operate within Yemen. Shami estimated that 30 percent of
CSOs are operating without a license and remain unable to
register or renew their registration. Meanwhile, the ROYG is
pressuring donors to require licensing when making their
decisions to award funding. (Note: One of the most
established and reputable human rights NGOs in Yemen, HOOD,
has been operating for 11 years without a license due to the
ROYG's refusal to issue a license. End Note.) Enforcing the
current NGO law, the ROYG has also shut down 1500 "fake"
NGOs, ostensibly for operating as front organizations ) in
some cases for terrorist finance and money laundering
activities. While the ROYG claims that it is targeting
specific NGOs due to their connections with nefarious
activities, Shami alleges that the ROYG is also using the law
to target some NGOs for political reasons.

COMMENT
-------

6. Despite efforts by the ROYG to control the NGO sector by
introducing a new, more restrictive NGO law, Yemeni civil
society has potential, and will resist being controlled by
the central government as long as funding is available. The
MEPI local grants program, for its part, has assisted in
solidifying the development of civil society. Civil society
leaders remain in touch with and responsive to people at the
grassroots level. As a result, civil society leaders and
their respective CSOs informally act as both an "alternative
society" and an "alternative governance structure," providing
space for both expression and action, however limited. Post
recommends the continuation and preferably the increase of
MEPI local grants funding to Yemen in the future. End
Comment.
BRYAN

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