Envisioning a new Yemen

Published on Friday, 4th of June 2021

CMI’s Yemen project is a paragon of our approach. Working in tandem with Yemeni specialists, CMI brings together key groups that have been excluded from the main negotiating tables.

Sheikh Abdulwahab Mawdhah in the tribal leaders’ workshop in Istanbul. Photo: Olli Puumalainen

After more than five years of war, the scene in Yemen is vastly different from the way it was at the outset. The country is torn by deepening divisions, including the fragmentation of military and political power. There is also little scope for agreement among regional and global powers on ways to tackle instability – and how or even whether to end the violence in the country.

So any effective long-term strategy to resolve the conflict must prioritise a process that not only produces agreement but also brings about sustainable peace. To do so, the peace process needs to be inclusive. The conflict has many levels, and peacebuilders need to create paths between them, creating opportunities for involvement and linking issues and groups. Only an inclusive peace process can start to defuse the underlying tensions that have pulled apart the political and social fabric of the country.

CMI’s Yemen project focuses on broadening the participation in the official UN led peace process and the transitional period, enhancing the agency of key groups to actively build peace. The project brings together women, tribal leaders and political parties. Each of the three groups is highly diverse, representing a multitude of Yemeni voices.

“Our aim with the tribal leaders is to help activate local mechanisms for peace-making. With the political parties we are looking for ways to bring politics back and give it the weight to discuss and decide over Yemeni questions. Now it has been left to the armed groups,” explains Farea Al-Muslimi, chairman and co-founder of Sana’a Center, an independent think-tank specialising on Yemen and the surrounding region and CMI’s partner in the Yemen project.

Unlike formal peace negotiations, informality enables the project to engage all relevant parties and actors, bringing their representatives together to explore and test new ideas. Informality creates much needed flexibility, especially when official channels have been exhausted.

CMI’s Yemen project, in partnership with the Sana’a Center, is co-operating and coordinating closely with both its donor, the European Union, and the Office of the UN Special Envoy and the UN at large, which provide political guidance and a diplomatic umbrella for the project.

“CMI brings to the table a lot of international expertise and networks, plus institutional capacity, while the Sana’a Center provides groundbreaking local narratives, political and social understanding and access to stakeholders. So, it’s a good combination for both organisations,” says Al-Muslimi.

Layla Al-Thaour in the tribal leaders’ workshop in Istanbul. Photo: Olli Puumalainen

The next steps


Population: 29.9 million
Area: 528,000 km2
Largest cities: Sanaa, Hodeida, Taiz, Aden
Human development index: 0.470 (ranked 179th in the world)
Our work: CMI works with a local partner to support the broader inclusion and participation of key groups (women, tribal leaders, political parties and movements) in the peace process and the ensuing transitional period.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed methods of implementation. Several in-person activities had to be postponed. Instead, consultations in 2020 were mostly con- vened online, while the project prepared for the next phase of the work and adapted to the new reality.

Many postponed activities were eventually held in Jan- uary 2021 following strict Covid-precautions. Separate meetings with tribal leaders and political party repre- sentatives in Istanbul were a long-awaited step forward in the project. In addition, the project, together with CMI’s Women in Peacemaking team, organised an on- line mediation training for Yemeni women delegates.

The next steps in the project include broadening CMI’s reach among tribal leaders, to engage participants from all sides of the conflict, to provide capacity training for the political party representatives, and to convene an in- terparty dialogue.

This article was published in our Annual Report 2020