By Mohammed Albasha
Calling Yemen a failing state was a safe bet during the turbulent and bloody events of 2011. Thousands of youths marched to protest their legitimate grievances while Yemen's factionalized military forces were at odds. In the south, al Qaeda affiliates capitalized on the turmoil and expanded their footprint. The turmoil amplified Yemen's troubles and catapulted the nation into the international spotlight.
More than a year later, however, much has changed for the better in Yemen. The security situation is slowly stabilizing, the government is restructuring its forces, and the country is no longer teetering on the edge of a civil war. Yemen has also intensified the fight against al Qaeda, pushing out militants from territories they controlled. Most important of all, the fabric of Yemen's resilient society remains intact.
Not long after being sworn into office on Feb. 25, President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi launched an effort to convene an inclusive and transparent National Dialogue Conference, to be held in the coming months. Prominent southern activists and leaders of the northern Houthi movement have signaled their interest in participating, and youth groups, women's groups, NGOs, and other stakeholders will be able to take part in the dialogue as well. Reforming the political structure and amending the constitution in a Yemeni-led process will cement the steps necessary to implement urgent reforms. The decentralization of power, for example, can embrace the challenges of Yemeni diversity and tribal autonomy but still hold local leaders accountable. Building institutions, implementing good governance, and enforcing accountability will also help combat corrupt practices.
Despite these early successes, Yemen remains a troubled nation and faces an extraordinarily volatile mix of economic, political, security and socio-developmental challenges. It is struggling with an endemic culture of corruption and the mismanagement of dwindling natural resources. A nationwide addiction to the qat plant is diverting water resources away from agriculture and adversely affecting national wealth. Terrorism and tribal unrest have damaged Yemen's oil and gas infrastructure, leaving the economy floundering. One-third of adults are unemployed, and half a million Yemenis have been internally displaced by an indigenous rebellion in the north and an al Qaeda insurgency in the south. Humanitarian agencies are now warning of a looming hunger crisis.
These challenges threaten the nation's recent gains and may cause Yemen to collapse if they are not adequately addressed. This is a key moment, and if it is missed it may not come around again. Yemen needs the international community to speak and, more importantly, to act as one.
U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.N. Security Council recently adopted resolutions supporting President Hadi's unwavering resolve to move Yemen forward. Yemen hails the ongoing efforts of the "Friends of Yemen" group to confront the country's web of entangled and deeply rooted challenges by promoting investment, developing feasible aid policies, encouraging entrepreneurship, and strengthening educational programs. Additionally, millions of Yemenis will be anticipating the outcome of an upcoming donor conference in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Yemen looks to its global partners as it transitions to a strong, unified, democratic, and prosperous nation. But first and foremost, Yemen needs to continue getting its house in order. For reforms to be effective, the government must continue to improve security and stability.
Mohammed Albasha is a spokesperson for the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Washington, D.C.