Overview of the challenges facing local governance in Yemen, focused on Sanaa, Dhamar and Aden
Yemen’s local councils are responsible for the day-to-day provision of basic public services to 26 million Yemenis and are amongst the most crucial institutions of governance in the country. However, the outbreak of civil war in 2014 and the subsequent Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen in March 2015 has devastated local councils’ ability to provide these services: financial resources have evaporated, armed militias challenge their authority, and extremist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have assassinated council members. Despite the challenges, local councils have been generally resilient and continue to operate in some form in most parts of the country, though they have been rendered ill-equipped to handle the largest humanitarian crisis in the country’s history.
This paper assesses the historical context through which the local councils came to prominence, their role in decentralization and governance, the challenges they have faced through the uprising and civil war, and their essential role in any negotiated cessation of hostilities and post-conflict reconciliation. This paper will examine why it is critical for the international community to coordinate with and channel humanitarian support through the local councils, given that this would help alleviate widespread suffering, help sustain this crucial form of governance in Yemen, and prevent jihadist groups – most notably Al Qaeda – from exploiting gaps in basic services to garner support.
To provide a balanced view of the challenges facing local governance in Yemen, this paper focuses on three specific areas of the country: Sanaa, which is currently under the control of the Houthis and their allies; Wessab, in central Yemen, currently controlled by local councils in coordination with the central government in the capital; and Aden in South Yemen, currently under the nominal control of the internationally recognized government.
Other resources you may be interested in:
Evaluation of the Cooperative Communities project, an initiative to re-establish trust between communities and local governance structures in Abyan, Aden, and Lahj governorates of Yemen. The evaluation includes recommendations with potential broader relevance. The Cooperative Communities project is an initiative to re-establish trust between communities and local governance structures, through inclusive dialogue and cooperative action […]
Survey on the traditional tools used to settle disputes in Yemen, including tools used by women which may be used in future; and the extent to which women are affected by disputes and obstacles related to women’s engagement in settling disputes. Youth Leadership Development Foundation (YLDF) is a non-governmental non-profit organization, located in Sana’a […]
Counterterrorism focused report that analyses the appeal of AQAP in relation to local governance failures in Yemen. It also includes an analysis of local governance in Yemen with a focus on its potential contribution to counterinsurgency operations. In this Policy Focus, Daniel Green, a former defense fellow at The Washington Institute, draws on extensive […]