Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
Yemen is a republic headed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh, who has ruled the country since 1978 (first as president of North Yemen and then later of unified Yemen), was reelected to a seven-year term in 2006 in a generally open and competitive election, characterized by multiple problems with the voting process and use of state resources on behalf of the ruling party. Although the country has a multiparty system, overwhelming power rests with the ruling party, the General People's Congress. Significant human rights problems continued to exist, compounded by pervasive corruption, and weak governmental institutions. There were limitations on citizens' ability to change their government due to corruption, fraudulent voter registration, and administrative weakness. There were reports that government forces committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Torture and poor conditions reportedly existed in prisons. Prolonged pretrial detention, judicial corruption, and executive interference continued to undermine due process. Arbitrary arrest and detention increased, particularly of individuals with suspected links to either the southern movement or the al-Houthi rebellion in Saada governorate. Restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, and peaceful assembly also increased, and harassment and intimidation of journalists and oppositionists continued. Restrictions on freedom of religion remained a program. Pervasive and significant discrimination against women continued to occur. Child labor and child trafficking were significant social problems, and government restricted the right of workers to associate.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
With the goal to assist the country in becoming a truly democratic state where the rule of law prevails, the United States works with government officials, human rights and civil society actors, and diplomatic interlocutors to encourage the government to enact genuine political and economic reforms. The U.S. Government supports programs to improve the functioning of the country's political parties, parliament, and elections. The chief of mission meets with senior government officials, including the president, and other U.S government officials meet with political party members, the Supreme Commission on Elections and Referenda (SCER), and with members of parliament, to advocate for needed electoral reforms. In light of a two-year delay in parliamentary elections, now slated for 2011, the United States will urge the ruling party and opposition to enact the agreed-upon electoral reforms in a timely manner.
The U.S. Government supports those elements of civil society essential to an inclusive democratic process, including an independent media, full electoral participation by women, independent democratic labor unions, and effective NGOs. U.S. officials speak out publicly in support of press freedom and regularly meet with civil society activists and journalists who support democracy and human rights. In the areas of human development and economic reform, the U.S. Government remains focused on anticorruption and poverty-reduction efforts. To achieve these goals, the United States coordinates with other major donors to press the government to implement its delayed reform commitments and maximize the benefit of limited resources.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The United States employs numerous programs to support democratic practices and human rights. In preparation for parliamentary elections, now scheduled for 2011, the United States is implementing an intensive electoral program focusing on strengthening the SCER, enhancing parties' electoral competitiveness, and improving campaign finance regulations. The program includes a voter education campaign and promotes women's political participation. The chief of mission and other U.S. officials will continue a dialogue with political parties to push for a meaningful political reconciliation prior to the parliamentary elections. The U.S. Government provides technical support to reform-oriented parliamentarians via a program to enhance their ability to fight corruption, legislate more effectively, and establish and adhere to sound administrative procedures.
To promote good governance, the United States supports decentralization at the national and district levels. The United States helped the country develop the Ministry of Local Administration's National Decentralization Strategy in 2007-2008. One U.S. program focuses on helping citizens to build strong, independent local councils, thereby generating a greater sense of the citizens' influence over their country's democratic institutions. The United States and the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation developed activities to increase the credibility and institutional capacity of key government agencies and selected private organizations, including implementing reforms to strengthen the capacity of the High Tender Board, the Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption, and the Central Organization for Control and Audit. The United States also supports anticorruption systems within these agencies. Separate programs help develop media expertise in investigating and reporting on corruption. The United States is also working with the Ministry of Finance to increase efficiency of disbursement of multilateral and bilateral loans and grants.
The U.S. Government supports freedom of the press, freedom of association, and civic engagement through a number of related programs and diplomatic engagement. U.S. officials speak out against press freedom abuses and meet with journalists who experience harassment. In the spring of 2008, the U.S. Government made a series of public statements in support of press freedom in relation to the imprisonment of opposition journalist Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani. International pressure ultimately resulted in al-Khaiwani's pardon and release in September 2008. The United States also funds several programs to support independent media. The U.S. government supports domestic NGOs, especially in the areas of electoral, judicial, and political reform, women's political empowerment, and human rights. One program trains imams on the values of democracy and human rights. Through a small grants program, the United States empowers civil society organizations to become more active in the political process. A multiyear education project teaches critical thinking skills and civic responsibility to underprivileged high school students through the study of English. Another program supports the formation and operation of parents' councils in schools in the northern governorates.
The United States employs a strategy of outreach and engagement with the country's tribes, including programs focused on dispute resolution and development promotion. To counter extremism and intolerance, the United States supports youth programs aimed at reducing religious radicalism and unemployment. The programs engage youth in community development, provide platforms for discussion, and encourage young people to participate in the political and civic arenas. The United States supports efforts to combat trafficking in persons, forced labor, and child labor by funding awareness and education programs. U.S. funds help run two rehabilitation centers for trafficked children. The U.S. Government works with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, and an international organization to provide care for at-risk children and assistance to their families. Through funding to international organizations, the United States supports the more than 115,000 Somali and Ethiopian refugees living in the country. The U.S. Government also provides operational and training support to the Coast Guard to ensure humane treatment of refugees by the Coast Guard in its attempts to apprehend human smugglers crossing the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the United States seeks to enhance respect for human rights within the country's military and security agencies through training programs with human rights components.