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Société civile, associations et pouvoir local au Yémen

Sarah Ben Nefissa
Maggy Grabundzija
Jean Lambert

Chapter 1: History

The Experience of the Cooperative Associations for Development (abstract)

Ahmed al‑Harbi

Entrées d'index

Texte intégral

1In Yemen, civil society exists only on the level of local cooperation. This cooperation previously existed in traditional peasant society: mutual aid at field work (al‑‘awn) and creation of solidarity funds guarantied the economical survival of an individual. On a more elaborated level, charity, often bearing a religious character, ensured such public services like taking care of orphans or construction of fountains (sabīl) in the streets. In Taez region, this type of traditional mutual aid rapidly evolved after the Revolution of 1962, leading to numerous development projects financed by the emigrants coming back home and to the creation of popular committees (lijān sha‘abīya).

2The foundation of the Local Development Committee can be dated as far back as 1964, when an emigrant, native of Taez, Ahmad ‘Abduh Sa‘īd, coming back after having stayed for a long time in the US, launched the “Help yourself” movement, fashioned after Anglo-Saxon models. Having found its supporters in this region so rich in mutual aid traditions, the idea spread rapidly. The supporters of the movement succeeded to convince the key figures in the government to finance, under certain conditions, its Civil Development Committees (Hay’āt al‑Tatwīr al‑Ahlī).

3A Development Committee was first created in Taez, conducting its activities in the fields of education, health care, water supply and road-building. Very rapidly, this model spread to Hujarīya, Hayfān and Rāhida. Later, local committees were created after the same model in other cities in Yemen: in 1972, there were 28 of them. The success of the local committees could be measured by the amount of their activity in the most remote villages. These committees were supported by numerous beneficiaries and financed by Yemeni emigrants and international humanitarian organizations. This dynamic structure was completely new as compared to traditional forms of solidarity.

4Even though the state also committed itself to developing concurrent governmental committees, the civil committees succeeded to preserve their financing. They were considered as a bridge between society and the state, which, under their pressure, started a struggle for development. Thus, these committees contributed to strengthening social democracy, encouraging people’s participation and even fighting against corruption.

5In the enthusiastic atmosphere of success, the first congress of civil committees was opened in July 1973 with support of numerous intellectuals and in the presence of a number of leading political figures, including Ibrāhīm al‑Hamdī, who was to become soon president of the Republic. The committees were renamed as Civil Cooperation and Development Committees (hay’at al‑ta‘āwun alahlī wa-l-tatwīr). The problem was to coordinate the activities of local committees and to work out formal rules for elections and functioning, for only they could guarantee that the committees would preserve their democratic character. These organizational issues continued to be discussed at the two following congresses. The debates ended in forming the Union of Cooperation Committees. At the end of 1970’s, such committees were also established in the domain of industrial production.

6However, starting with the Third Congress, the dynamism of civil committees clearly showed the failure of governmental committees. This inevitably caused a fundamental rupture between the state and the Union of Cooperation Committees. The law, promulgated in 1975, acknowledged the existence of the committees and allotted to them new financial resources. At the same time, nevertheless, this law allowed governmental control of their activities, thus restricting their efficiency and threatening their legitimacy. The law of 1978, creating local municipalities, paved the way to the appropriation of the committees by the state at the beginning of 1980.

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