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Société civile, associations et pouvoir local au Yémen

Sarah Ben Nefissa
Maggy Grabundzija
Jean Lambert


Civil Society Organizations: Development and Failures

Ali Saleh Abdallah

Texte intégral

1One has not to be worried about civil society organizations because they have already received an important role to play in social activities, in the development and the defense of human rights. Therefore, they represent a key partner for the state, alongside with which they participate in economic and social development. In fact, nowadays, it is no longer possible for the state alone to vouch for social development and to assume responsibility for all social problems. The relations between these organizations and the state should be conducted in conformity with the principles of transparency, independency, and equal participation. Therefore, one should ask oneself, whether these organizations would be able to serve as an example for building democracy. What is the relationship between this sector and the state? How do the associations themselves view their legal status? Is there any chance to hope that these organizations will replace traditional and bureaucratic methods of work?

The role of the government in the well-being of civil society organization

2Since 1990, our country has made a choice of multi-party system, democracy and peaceful transfer of power. This fact presented an exceptional occasion for the development of the sector of non-governmental organizations. This orientation has been defined:

  • On the legislative level, by promulgation of two important laws: the associations and cooperatives law # 39 of 1998; and the associations and foundations law # 1 of 2001. These laws allowed a very positive development of numerous associations in various domains of social activities, charity, development, defense of human rights, etc.

  • On the economic level, accumulation of numerous types of funding, creation of mutual aid funds, providing education, struggle against poverty, especially by way of encouraging micro-credits and family run enterprises, protections of the women’s rights and the rights of the marginalized communities.

  • Financial support of numerous associations which met the criteria of the governmental authorities; tax exemption.

  • Providing education, especially on the legislative level.

The current situation of non-governmental organizations

3Many signs of the development of nongovernmental organizations are visible:

  • Quantitatively, there were approximately 5300 registered associations in 2005, carrying out of numerous projects with the help of governmental and foreign financing.

  • The law allows complete freedom of foreign financing. However, this is not without some negative consequences.

4The fields of activities are very numerous, just to mention: social activities, health care, struggle against illiteracy, education of women, family run enterprises, protection of the orphans’ rights, etc. Some statistics:

  • Number of feminists or women’s organizations: 438;

  • Number of environmental organizations: 100;

  • Number of organizations for the protection of handicapped persons rights: 79;

  • Number of children protection organizations: 43.

5From year to year, one notices the growth by 100% of the number of volunteers, which indicates that the members of civil society have understood that they may choose such activities in order to react adequately to their social problems.

6However, despite all these positive features, it seems that the number of the volunteers and the associations cannot deal with all existent social needs. This reveals numerous problems:

  • The significant growth of the number of associations prevented them from properly organizing themselves legally and administratively.

  • The lack of proper education, organizational shortcomings along with unsatisfactory planning of the organizations, their frequent drifting apart from their principal objectives, often makes their activities empty.

  • The promulgation of juridical texts has not been accompanied with proper education in order to make their meaning understandable, which caused some negative occurrences, like the leaders of the associations exceeding their commission.

  • In other cases, a number of associations were used for political goals, for or against some political parties, which is prohibited by Article 19 of the law, which also prohibits the promotion of regional and tribal interests.

  • A small number of associations have monopolized foreign financing, ignoring Article 23 of the law, stipulating the obligatory declaration of foreign aid.

  • The absence of internal democracy, for example, the absence of normative administrative meetings, has led to the abolishment of some 1500 associations and cooperatives by the Ministry because of their neglecting these basic regulations.

  • The erroneous understanding of associative activities, and their shifting towards commercial goals.

  • The absence of proper planning and clear definition of priorities.

  • Ineffectiveness and lack of competence of the part of the Ministry which is responsible for the associations.

  • The weakness of informational and statistics systems.

  • The lack of autonomy of the associations and the nearly total absence of self-financing mechanisms to produce their own income.

Conclusions and remarks

7The spirit of the legal texts is very liberal, especially concerning the procedure of founding associations, their free recourse to desired types of financing, etc.

8This liberalism was unfortunately used by some figures for political goals, supporting certain political parties to influence the elections.

9Therefore, there is an apparent need for better understanding the meaning and the legal status of volunteering and associative activity.

10The major problem is, evidently, the lack of available financing; however, recourse to external financing allowed to improve the level of this financing, not without some negative consequences, however, for it engendered taking after the objectives of the foreign investors who do not necessarily adopt the national interests of Yemen.

11The quantitative growth of associations must also be questioned: one has to ask whether they do not disguise a certain misbalance in connection with the lack of other sectors, such as the party sector, for instance.


12Despite all these problems, the civil society organizations in Yemen have progressed greatly, which can be attributed to the political orientation of the President Ali Abdallah Saleh, especially concerning his choice in favor of building democracy. Without being too optimistic, one can expect that civil society, in the near future, will overstep the following stages:

  • Establishment of a well-defined legal status.

  • Promulgation of education and improvement of administrative aspects.

  • Putting aside the activities in support of political parties and electoral activities.

  • Increase in governmental aid in the limits established by law.

  • Respect of the rights of the members of the associations, regular elections of the governing board.

  • Maintenance of financial assistance and exemptions on the part of the government.

  • Simplification of administrative procedures on the part of the state, and better understanding of the positive role of this sector.

  • Application of Article 23 concerning external financing and its better distribution, particularly thanks to a better coordination between the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Planning.

  • Use of the experience of the Coordination Network Council.

  • Strengthening the role of the Ministry’s control within the framework of the independence of the association; this would make them responsible for promoting general interests before particular ones.

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