Wael Zakout's blog
This month marks the midpoint of the transition process in Yemen. As agreed upon in the peace initiative in November 2011, the transition will include a national dialogue that brings together a broad geographic and political cross section of the country, the drafting of a new constitution, and concluding with new parliamentary and presidential elections.
Much like Jerusalem, the old city of Sana’a has tears in its eyes crying for peace, stability and normality. For a time when people can live peacefully as good neighbors. Diversity of views should be considered a strength rather than a source of conflict. From my dealings with Yemenis, I truly believe that all Yemeni people love the country in their own way.
The other day I was invited to a wedding - not a normal Yemeni wedding - but a wedding without Qat! This was a novelty I was keen on witnessing, but was unfortunately unable to accept the invitation as I was travelling outside the country at the time. I was, and remain, intrigued. This small, baby step is a demonstration of the “New Yemen”.
The other day I was in a car going to a meeting with Yemen’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation. A car bomb exploded less than 500 meters from our location, targeting the Minister of Defense. The minister escaped but 12 people were killed and many more were injured. These are only some examples of events that we face in a fragile and conflict-affected state.
Yemen is currently engaged in a national dialogue. It is a vital phase of the reconciliation process launched in the aftermath of last year’s crisis. A political agreement was reached, sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council and supported by the international community, which included a commitment to reform the structure of the state to address long standing political fault lines between the north and the south, and regional grievances over the concentration of power in the capital, Sana’a.
I just arrived back in Sana’a from Riyadh. I want to take this time to share with the Yemeni people, young and old, men and women, what was achieved at the donors meeting there. While most of the media reports over the last few days focused on the generous pledges by donors, which reached US$6.4 billion, I want to tell you about the commitments made by the government and the international community to make sure this money reaches you - all of you - quickly, transparently, and efficiently.
I am on my way to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a meeting next week with a diverse range of government representatives and members of global development organizations that will focus on a single subject: a stable and prosperous future for Yemen, and how to achieve it. It will be an opportunity for a broad cross section of the international community to discuss with the transitional government the many challenges the country faces.
I visited Change Square in the center of Yemen’s capital Sana’a a few days back to meet with Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate. We met in her tent, a simple space but full of ideas, energy, love of Yemen and a strong desire for change.The visit reminded me of the camp we used in Bir Zeit University in the West Bank where I studied in the eighties. I was a young student then, like Tawakkol, full of energy, hope and desire for change and for a free Palestine and a democratic state where Muslims, Jews, and Christians can live together with equal rights and as good neighbors.
During my first visit to Yemen, I met with a group of young people in the capital, Sana'a. The purpose of the meeting was to learn more about how the youth are thinking; what is important to them; and how the World Bank can help them achieve their goals. I was amazed at the level of their understanding of priorities, the immediate and short-term ones. Their enthusiasm was overflowing with an expression of unconditional love to serve and develop Yemen, their country. They expressed their full readiness to contribute to the national dialogue and work to build the new civil state if they were given the opportunity to do so.