The first Yemen Exchange conference, co-hosted by the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies and the Mideast Wire, took place April 12 – 16 in Beirut, Lebanon.
Participants included diplomats, security experts, scholars and journalists from around Europe, North America, the Middle East and China, who were brought together with a wide spectrum of Yemeni experts, actors and thought leaders – including current and former ministers, general secretaries of political parties, diplomats, bureaucrats, economists, historians and tribal leaders – representing the various warring parties in Yemen’s ongoing war and a diverse array of local power brokers from across the country.
Discussions throughout the five-day event explored the complexity of the Yemen’s ongoing crisis, delving into the economic, socio-political, sectarian and historical complications of the ongoing civil war. Topics included the Yemeni economy, the 2011 uprising; the role of the National Dialogue Conference and regional powers in precipitating the current conflict, the potential for Yemeni tribes to guarantee and enforce potential peace agreements, and the Yemeni institutional capacity of the governing authorities in both Aden and Sana’a.
Significant attention was paid to the roles and interdynamics between the various local, regional and international power brokers involved in the current war – including the internationally recognized government, the Islah Party, the Southern Movement, the Houthis, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the General People’s Congress party, powerful tribal and provincial groups, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and the United Nations – and the role each of these groups played in the lead up to the conflict, their influence and motivations in the war today, and how this weighs on the prospects for peace in Yemen.
The Exchange offered participants both the objective analytical assessments of nonpartisan experts, as well as the partisan perspectives of policymakers from the various sides of the Yemeni conflict, who conveyed each party’s internal political narrative. In order to foster frank and unfettered discussions, all conference sessions were carried out under Chatham House rules with very limited use of panel discussions, allowing most presenters to have the floor to themselves and fully lay out their positions to Exchange participants.
The next Yemen Exchange will take place in October 2017, with exact dates and the opening of applications to be announced at end of May 2017