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Société civile, associations et pouvoir local au Yémen

Sarah Ben Nefissa
Maggy Grabundzija
Jean Lambert

Chapter 3: NGO’s and Local Governance

Participatory Development and the Emergence of a Rural Civil Society (abstract)

Helen Lackner

Entrées d'index

Texte intégral

1The beginning of the 1990’s witnessed an important change in the concepts of rural development. The direct aid of state institutions being considered as no longer efficient, the major international investors emphasized on decentralization, privatization and the beneficiaries’ participation in the activities of development. These latter were defined as “community organizations”. However, this new ‘participating’ approach remains questionable, particularly in that whether the community organizations are sufficiently united or whether they are big enough for a development on a higher level than the local one. How did this new approach influence the Yemen civil society?

2In Yemen, at the beginning of the 1990’s, the investors’ support of “community organizations” led to an important growth of the number of small projects and local non-governmental organizations: their number increased from about a hundred at the beginning of the 1990’s to more than five thousand registered by the Ministry of Social Affairs in 2005. Some of these organizations are very active, while the other ones exist only nominally, their principal goal consisting in how to obtain more financing. Generally speaking, these organizations, representing civil society in the countryside, are the heirs of the Local Associations of Development of the 1960’s. Some of them are under the strong influence of religious motivations, falling back on zakāt for their financing; the other ones maintain close connections with the emigrants.

3In Yemen, decentralization is the result of the correlation of forces between, on the one hand, the civil society (including the tribal leaders), the opposition and the interested foreign investors and, on the other, the state which tries to strengthen its centralizing control of the country. The local administration law of 2000 is, therefore, the result of a compromise. Within the framework of the Reunification of Yemen, it was a compromise taking into account federal aspirations which had preceded the Agreement of 1990 between the North and the South. Therefore, if the local non-governmental organizations are not strong enough in the foreign investors’ opinion, in the view of the government, they are stronger than it should be necessary. The results of the elections for the local councils in 2001 and later in 2006 should be meticulously analyzed to clarify to what extent they brought a democratic change in the Yemeni campaigns, or rather whether they adapted to the existing local authorities.

4Since the mid90’s, the requirement of the international financial institutions and the bilateral investors, stipulating the direct participation of the beneficiaries in financial activities, has been fulfilled at the expense of the local branches of the governmental institutions.

5The Social Fund of Development (SFD), an important institution brought about by these politics, mobilizes a large quantity of these funds. The investors consider the SFD as a success because its approach envisages the beneficiaries’ participation (by way of organizing local committees) as well as contracts and the transparent mechanisms of payment. Moreover, though this institution operates according to the criteria of private functioning, it can be described as a para-state institution. Numerous questions arise as for the consequences of this system, especially in what concerns the relations established by the SFD between the non-governmental organizations and the local administrations. In fact, the coordination between them is desirable but underground tensions come to the surface quite often concerning the control of the resources.

6The World Bank, the PNUD and other international institutions, such as the International Funds for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have also developed on their part programs for community development. The project of the rural development of Mahra (launched five years ago), and more recently, the project of the rural development of Dhamar serve as good examples of a real support for their communities, for the latter really benefit from them and not from some imposed schemes from without. In these two cases, both of which are financed by the IFAD, like in the other ones, the projects try to establish a good coordination between the elected local councils rather than to compete with them, which, by the way, is not always easy.

7It is still difficult to define the respective roles of the state and civil society within the frame of rural development, for traditionally, everything was considered to be the responsibility of the state. Nowadays, however, the fact that foreign investors finance project in the fields of agriculture, education, health care, and that they favor the appearance of new leadership, makes the society more responsible and motivated, encouraging local initiatives. Nevertheless, the participation of the state remains quite desirable, especially under the influence of the emigrants who come home from the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, which embody the concept of the Providence State. Besides, the local rural organizations often experience difficulties in meeting the administrative requirements put forward by the donators, and moreover, in establishing their independence for a long term.

© Centre français de recherche de la péninsule Arabique, 2008

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