The PDSP supports Yemeni and international efforts for a political solution that provides the basis to end the war, to resume an inclusive political dialogue, and to relaunch the political transition.
Timeframe: 2012 - 2022
On request of national stakeholders, the Political Development Forum – Yemen (PDF) and the Berghof Foundation started providing technical and process-related support to the National Dialogue in Yemen in February 2012. Since then, the Political Dialogue Support Programme (PDSP) has been an ongoing partnership combining PDF’s in-depth local knowledge and Berghof’s international expertise concerning National Dialogues and negotiation processes. It has been supported by the German Federal Foreign Office since its inception. The PDSP is committed to ending the war and supporting a peaceful transition by helping the conflict parties identify common ground and by supporting dialogue and consultations between the Yemeni parties and stakeholders. Since the outset, the programme activities of the PDSP have been closely coordinated with the Office of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen (OSESGY).
Phase I: 2012-2014
The programme was established to support an inclusive Yemeni-led National Dialogue process. The National Dialogue was intended to provide the framework for the overall political transition process following the overthrow of the former President towards a stable, peaceful and democratic Yemen. Throughout the dialogue process, the programme provided capacity-building, process advice and thematic expertise to the Yemeni stakeholders, political parties and components in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), such as facilitation, dialogue formats, mappings, thematic options papers, and analysis. After the conclusion of the NDC, the programme focused on supporting the implementation of NDC outcomes, providing space for inclusive dialogue to continue the political process and enhancing consensus-building for unresolved issues from the NDC through high-level meetings for problem-solving, multiparty dialogue processes, and dialogue forums in the Yemeni regions.
Phase II: 2014-2022
Since the outbreak of the war, the PDSP has been continuing consultations with all parties and organising multiparty discussions in and outside Yemen. Its aim now is to support the Yemeni stakeholders to identify ways to end the war and re-launch the transition. In addition to its work with Yemeni actors, the PDSP is also engaging with regional and international actors to support efforts for a political solution in Yemen.
Root causes of the conflict and structural challenges for a peaceful solution
The reasons for the war in Yemen were manifold. The two main internal causes for the war are a) an elite-conflict over control of the Yemeni state and b) the lack of mutually accepted (inclusive) mechanisms to solve the conflict peacefully. There are two additional structural conflicts that further contributed to the war: c) the Saudi-Iranian struggle for hegemony over the region and d) the deep-rooted mistrust of many in Southern Yemen vis-a-vis the North. These root causes and contributing factors need to be addressed to end the war, either during the negotiations or during the subsequent political dialogue.
Yemen between war and dialogue
The war in Yemen has been dragging on since 2014. Fighting escalated in summer 2014 between supporters of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and his allies in government, notably the Islah party on the one side and the supporters of Ansar Allah (“Houthis”) and the former President Ali Abdullah Salih on the other side. It further intensified, when in March 2015 Hadi and his government had to flee the country into exile and the Arab Coalition, led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), entered the war. Despite large-scale fighting that has displaced millions of Yemenis and dramatic infighting within the opposing blocks—which saw the Houthi Movement kill former President Saleh and the Southern Transitional Council break away from the internationally recognised government for a time—the front lines of the conflict have moved little since mid-2015.
The results of war are devastating. Tens of thousands have been killed by the fighting, hundreds of thousands have died from malnutrition and disease and millions have been forced to flee their homes. Crucial infrastructure has been destroyed and basic service delivery relies almost entirely on international aid. The Saudi-led Coalition has imposed an aerial and naval blockade that hinders the import of basic commodities and slows humanitarian aid. Alongside Houthi restrictions on humanitarian actors, this contributes to the desperate humanitarian situation.
Three rounds of UN-led political negotiations in 2015 and 2016 and attempts to broker a ceasefire since 2018 have so far not produced a sustainable ceasefire agreement that would allow for a resumption of the official political dialogue.
We work with all relevant Yemeni, regional, and international stakeholders. These include the Yemeni parties directly involved in the conflict at leadership and more technical level as well as other Yemeni political parties and movements. In addition, we engage with key regional stakeholders and ensure communication and coordination with the international community.
Partners and funding
Our main partner in the PDSP is the Political Development Forum Yemen.
Our activities are currently funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The PDSP encompasses the following areas of engagement:
- High-level problem-solving consultations: Inclusive track 2 and track 1.5 consultation meetings outside Yemen with eminent personalities with links or affiliations to political parties and movements as well as with youth and women representatives regularly take place outside of Yemen. The meetings are organized in close coordination with the office of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen. The discussions focus on a range of topics and themes, for example elements of a political solution, interim security mechanisms, the restoration of state functionality, the Southern issue, local governance, inclusive local security, political dialogue, national partnership, trust and confidence building measures, and the banking sector. The consultation meetings with Yemeni stakeholders are also complemented with dialogues with key regional actors to explore potential opportunities for developing options to overcome major challenges and stumbling blocks in the peace process.
- Multiparty consensus-building: A multiparty strategy support group was established in Sana’a to provide a dynamic platform to engage with relevant parties on unresolved and emerging issues of the National Dialogue and transition process in early 2014. Since then, the regular meetings and workshops complement the consultation meetings outside Yemen. The PDSP currently has two further multiparty platforms in Aden and in Taiz. The groups consist of mid- and high-level political actors representing the main components and political parties and they continue to meet despite military escalations in different areas.
- Capacity-building and negotiation support: The PDSP further offers capacity-building and negotiation support activities to all Yemeni parties. Mapping papers, think pieces, and expert papers are being produced to deepen the discussions in the various thematic areas, provide analysis on the changing dynamics in some areas of Yemen, and develop options for discussion with the Yemeni parties.
Updates from this work:
- 2-month extension of truce in Yemen and meeting with conflict parties in Montreux 15 Jun 2022
- Yemen – A multi-track approach 19 Jul 2021
- Oman: Bridging to peace 16 Jun 2021
Publications from this project:
- Berghof Foundation: 50 years of conflict transformation
- Peace Process Support in Times of Crises. The National Dialogue Support Programme in Yemen 2014-16
Oliver Wils, Sonja Neuweiler. 2018
We regularly produce summaries of our consultation meetings, briefing notes, and thematic background papers for limited circulation. These may be available upon request. Other publications connected to the project include:
- 'Stabilisation and mediation: the mediators' Article on the work of our Yemen team (website of the German Foreign Office)
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