Following on from its engagement with Afghanistan, and its more recent one with Somalia and South Sudan, IDLO is stepping up its commitment to fragile states by providing assistance to Yemen. The nation, which has only recently emerged from authoritarian rule, has embarked on a reform experiment known as the National Dialogue Conference. This horizontal, multi-stakeholder consultation process – meant to create a new political order – is taking place even as the nation grapples with severe security and development challenges.
In what is often described as the poorest Arab country, much will depend on the ability to deliver prosperity for a fast-growing population of some 24 million. This is why IDLO is chiefly targeting the commercial and maritime law sectors, where needs are seen as most acute.
Despite its largely coastal geography and seafaring past, Yemen is poorly equipped to enjoy the benefits of global trade. “Maritime law is very important to us,” says Shaher al-Salihy, advisor to the Minister of Justice. (He was speaking at IDLO headquarters, during a collective visit to Rome: the Yemeni delegation’s trip also took in the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is funding the project.) “But we have a lack of knowledge of international maritime law and conventions,” Mr al-Salihy adds. “Specialist training of our judges by IDLO will help boost investment.”
Further down the road, the Organization sees wider potential in its partnership with Yemen, where the rule of law, in broader terms, is a whole new concept. “There is a good awareness of what it means in the capital, Sana’a: people expect a lot from the court system,” explains Mr. al-Salihy’s colleague, Abdul Hakeem Othman of the High Judicial Institute. “Outside the main urban centers, however, popular expectations continue to center on the goodwill of tribes and sheikhs. We need to enhance public awareness of what it means to have access to justice, increase the quality of our judges, and make it easier for ordinary people to use the system. People must be encouraged to seek justice through the courts,” Mr. Othman concludes, “not to turn to weapons or tribal mechanisms.”