The following information reports U.S.Government priorities and activities of the U.S. Mission in Yemen to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Yemen's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and the International Religious Freedom Reports
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
Improving democracy and governance in Yemen is a key foreign policy priority for the United States. Recognizing that Yemen is a sovereign nation responsible for its own development and security, Administration officials are implementing a two-pronged strategy. First, the U.S. seeks to strengthen the Government of Yemen’s ability to promote security and deal with the threat posed by violent extremists within its borders. Second, we seek to mitigate Yemen's economic crisis and deficiencies in government capacity, provision of services, and transparency. As Yemen's security challenges and its social, political and economic challenges are interrelated and reinforcing, U.S. policy must be holistic and flexible in order to be effective both in the short and long terms.
Improving governance and helping Yemenis meet socio-economic challenges is an important goal of U.S. policies and development assistance in Yemen. Priorities include political and fiscal reforms and initiatives to address internal grievances; better governance through decentralization; health and education service delivery; and economic diversification to generate employment, enhance livelihoods and strengthen natural-resource management.
The recently launched Friends of Yemen process promotes multilateral engagement and donor coordination to encourage genuine political and economic reforms. The Friends of Yemen process, which includes the Government of Yemen, seeks to identify immediate and long-term actions for the Yemeni government to take and ways for the international community to support Yemen in undertaking them, through two working groups, one focused on economy and governance, and the other on justice and the rule of law.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The United States employs numerous programs to support good governance, democratic practices, human development and dignity, and human rights.
USAID, through its Community Livelihoods Project, is working to improve livelihoods through greater food security, clean water, health care, and education. Further, USAID is pursuing opportunities to expand engagement with local civic and religious leaders on traditional practices and customs that can reinforce environmental sustainability, food security, and social cohesion to bring vulnerable communities together and protect Yemen's natural environment, unique traditions, and cultural heritage.
USAID's Responsive Governance Project works to strengthen Yemeni institutions, to increase the government's capacity to absorb bilateral and international assistance, and to coordinate service delivery. USAID's strategy includes efforts to promote better interaction between Yemenis and their local governments. USAID programs in Yemen's rural areas focus on the development of strong, independent local councils as a means to generate the Yemeni people's ownership of their nation's democratic institutions.
The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) works with Yemeni civil society to strengthen good governance and the rule of law, improve internal stability, and empower Yemenis to build a more peaceful and prosperous future. MEPI has 26 active projects in Yemen, including a number of grant programs to local nongovernmental organizations that propose and implement their own civil-society projects. MEPI programs include training for Yemeni government ministries and advocacy and capacity-building for civil society and nongovernmental organizations. Work with Yemeni organizations enables assistance programs to be particularly flexible and far-reaching in an often difficult operating environment.
Women's empowerment is a primary focus of MEPI programs, which promote women's political participation and entrepreneurship. Women in Technology (WIT) is a representative example. WIT strives to empower women and expand their participation in the workforce by providing them with cutting-edge curricula and training opportunities in business planning, professional development, and information technology. The program also aims to train local women's organizations to become financially sustainable, support current work force demands, and empower women to play an integral role in shaping their country's future. WIT Yemen was launched in October 2005 and has trained more than 2,000 women — more than 60 of whom are now employed in banks, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutes. It works directly with five local Yemeni partners, most of whom are located outside of Sana'a.
The U.S. Government recently concluded a grant program to increase public awareness and understanding of religious freedom and tolerance with a particular focus on youth. This program aims to cut the roots of radicalization by helping to counter extremism in its early stages and supports a culture of tolerance through a combination of youth chat radio series, youth leadership trainings, journalist trainings, and public roundtables. Activities such as these help Yemeni youth, civil society, religious leaders, journalists, and government officials understand the importance of tolerance, pluralism, and the compatibility of Islam with human rights and good governance. Other recent programs support independent media and access to information, which will help strengthen transparent and accountable governance.
More broadly, the U.S. Government supports programs to improve the functioning of the country's political parties, parliament, and electoral processes and institutions. The ambassador meets regularly with senior government officials, including the president and leaders of opposition parties, and other U.S. embassy officials meet with government officials, political party members and 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 parties to enact the agreed-upon electoral agreement in a timely manner.
The United States' electoral assistance program focuses on enhancing political parties' electoral competitiveness, and improving campaign finance regulations. The program includes a voter education campaign and promotes women's political participation. The ambassador and other embassy 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 parliamentarians via a program to enhance their ability to fight corruption, legislate more effectively, and establish and adhere to sound administrative procedures.
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 select private organizations, including implementing reforms to strengthen the capacity of the High Tender Board, Supreme National Authority to Combat Corruption, and the Central Organization for Control and Auditing. 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 and transparency 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 initiatives. U.S. officials speak out against violations of press freedom and meet with journalists who experience harassment.
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 multi-year 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 promotion of development activities. 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.
The embassy is continuing efforts to support the passage of legislation mandating a minimum age for marriage, rendered more difficult by prevailing cultural attitudes that make early marriage and the resulting loss in girls' education and productivity an accepted practice. USAID is working through its Basic Health Services project to educate local communities on the dangers of early marriage in Yemen. Since August 2008, the project has raised awareness about the consequences of early marriage and has worked directly with the Yemeni Women's Union to provide valuable health-education materials to community members in Amran governorate in an effort to delay the marriage of young women there. The project aims to improve community knowledge of the social and health consequences of child marriage and encourage community attitudes that favor marriage at a later age; to strengthen community support for alternatives to child marriage, especially keeping girls in school; and to increase nurse midwives' and community stakeholders' endorsement of delayed marriage.