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Société civile, associations et pouvoir local au Yémen

Sarah Ben Nefissa
Maggy Grabundzija
Jean Lambert


Reality of Civil Organizations in Yemen

Fuad al‑Salahi

Texte intégral

1Civil society in Yemen, like anywhere in the world, is still understudied. It should be emphasized that civil society is a result of the impact of globalization upon Yemen; therefore, its study should be conducted by way of including the concepts, which have been brought by globalization to poor countries.

2Yemen society, traditionally known for its mechanisms of cooperation, has experienced since 1962, through the Reunification in 1990 till nowadays, various types of associative activities.

31/ The concept of civil society should be defined first. Beside the experience of cooperative development associations of the 1970’s, one should distinguish between a traditional civil society (ahlī) and a modern civil society (madanī). Sociologically, the latter cannot develop without a prosperous middle class, well-educated and dynamic. One should emphasize as well the role of the development of civil society organizations, its political impact which could be considered alongside with the failure of Arab intellectuals to come up with an alternative to authoritarian regimes.

42/ Historically speaking, one may distinguish three major stages of the development of civil society:

  • The first stage, before the Revolution of the North and the Independence of the South, aimed, primarily, at building a modern state.

  • The second stage, until the Reunification of 1990: the associations played mostly a role in the process of development.

  • The third stage, since 1990, witnessed the state’s recognition of political pluralism, and consequently, of the right of association. This allowed an important development, both quantitative and qualitative, of civil society organizations in Yemen.

53/ The third stage is particularly characterized by new organizational activities, such as the defense of human rights, feminine organizations, the defense of the refugees, environmental issues, etc.

64/ Civil society organizations are spread unequally in the governorates in Yemen; likewise, some issues are better presented in certain governorates than in the other ones. For example, civil society development organizations are numerous in rural areas, whereas human rights organizations are found mostly in big cities, especially in the capital, Sana’a. By these criteria, and by the other ones of sociological order, the participation of women is also unequal.

75/ Civil society organizations can be classified according to the type of their principal activities:

  • social services

  • social development

  • legal defense

8This classification, however, does not take into account certain superposition.

96/ The degree of the modernity of civil society development organizations should be questioned, including their institutionalization and internal organization: the lack of internal democracy and excessively personalized leadership in some of them resemble more traditional community organizations rather than those of a modern civil society. Quite often, tribal structures can be found within such organizations, slightly disguised by modern trimming.

107/ It should be emphasized that the new political values imported from outside, have a real impact on the life of associations in Yemen, in spite the fact that these values were introduced through official organizations, which was especially the case before the Reunification. Another important factor should be taken into consideration, namely, that since the 1990’s the state admitted its defeat in the face of the challenges brought about by social and economic development. This allowed many civil society organizations, with the help of foreign investors, to boost their activities. Generally speaking, a new style of political behavior has been adopted which is in disagreement with traditional politics’ making.
However, one can remark that the development of civil society (parties, associations, etc.) is slower than the integration of Yemen into the international capitalist economy system, which creates tensions between the modern political style and the traditional one.

118/ The relationship between civil society and the state is still characterized by the dependence of the first on the second (on legislative, financial and political levels).

129/ Poverty relief should be considered as one of fundamental human rights. Moreover, the state tries to camouflage the structures of power and traditional inequalities by way of liberal discourse, whereas the actual level of human development is getting lower. The present stage can be considered, therefore, as transitory, where the modern and the traditional being mixed together, cause misbalance.

1310/ Difficulties are both present on the external level:

  • lack of specialists in the field of association rights;

  • weakness of the middle class;

  • tendency of politicizing civil society organizations;

  • lack of governmental support to the civil society organizations;

  • negative aspects of foreign financing, parallel to its positive aspects;

  • weakness of associative culture;

  • survival of traditional concepts of social and political activities; etc.;

and on the internal level:

  • lack of properly trained employees;

  • leadership personalization;

  • inadequate administrative capacities;

  • competition between associations;

  • lack of coordination between civil society organizations;

  • concentration of civil society organizations in big cities and their relative absence in the countryside;

  • lack of publicity (transparency), etc.

© Centre français de recherche de la péninsule Arabique, 2008

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