The Case of Hadhramaut: Can Local Efforts Transcend Wartime Divides in Yemen?

The Case of Hadhramaut: Can Local Efforts Transcend Wartime Divides in Yemen?

20 April 2021 - The Century Foundation (Written by Adam Baron and Monder Basalma)

Yemen faces a critical moment. After almost six years of continuous war, the conflict in the country has weakened the state while disrupting the social and political fabric of Yemeni society. Today, the country is at risk of entering a cycle of ever-increasing fracturing, as its bitter conflict exacerbates existing divisions or creates new ones. Any peace process, political settlement, or effort at de-escalation that fails to account for the conflict’s regional dynamics and the relationship between Yemenis and the central state risks sowing the seeds of future conflict. The role of the central government is also important: international and Yemeni stakeholders need to devote significant efforts to restoring and rebuilding the capacities of state institutions.

At this precarious juncture for Yemen, peace-building and state-building efforts will require bottom-up models that focus on accounting for wartime shifts in power. Such efforts will need to work to ameliorate local tensions, to facilitate the transition of postconflict Yemen into a more effective governance system.

Fortunately for Yemen, there are examples of subnational areas that have enjoyed a modicum of success and cohesion, even during the war, and which the beleaguered country can draw upon as “bottom-up” models for peace and state building. The governorates of Hadhramaut and Ma’rib are two such examples. In Hadhramaut especially, local authorities and local communities have played a crucial role in preventing the governorate from being stuck in a devastating civil war or trapped in political tensions, while also uniting to lobby for the governorate’s collective concerns with national-level authorities, most notably gaining the devolution of a share of oil resources. Perhaps even more importantly, the governorate’s local communities were able to come together in 2017 to independently organize a conference, called the Hadhramaut Inclusive Conference, to unify the political vision of Hadhramaut.1 The conference presented a consensus on revenue sharing and autonomy that has nudged the governorate toward greater local control over economic resources and security.

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