Human Rights between state and civil society [Archives:2005/870/Viewpoint]

August 22 2005

Right now, debates on the National Human Rights Report for 2004, issued by the Ministry of Human Rights are ongoing among several institutions, mainly civil society and non-governmental organsiations. Many questions have been raised regarding what should have been added in the report, the deficiencies and shortcomings tc, in a way that the whole purpose of such seminars and debates seems to be to demean any initiative by the government through a gathering of cynics and critics.

The concept of civil society and non-governmental organizations in Yemen is yet very misunderstood. The role of the civil society is not to await opportunities to pick on the government and criticize its work. It is rather a complementing role through being a measurement or gauge of the reform and development process in a country. Not only that, but before bringing this report by the Ministry of Human Rights which at the end is a government body to discussion, shouldn't we have asked ourselves to begin with is the Ministry credible enough to be delegated the task of monitoring itself? The mandate and duties of the Ministry are well understood but shouldn't the job of issuing such a report be given to one of the state's independent bodies? Nevertheless, the Ministry fulfills its required tasks as a policy maker ensuring the application laws and implementation of international conventions signed and endorsed by our country. And in any case, this initiative from the ministry should be appreciated and encouraged.

What is expected from the civil society, on the other hand, is to take a leading role in following up and monitoring the violations of human rights, advocating for freedoms, and raising awareness on related issues, especially on democracy which backbone of any nations development and progress. Moreover, civil society should regularly report on the status of human right in an objective manner that aims at enforcing respect of these rights at all formal and informal levels.

More so, respect for human rights not just a theory or cliche discussed in round tables and reports, it is rather a culture and practice in real life starting from the house among the family members, passing by all social institutions such as schools and markets to the society at large. It is a matter of learning how to accept and respect others even though they may differ with you. And this; is the real issue people in Yemen – government and civil society – yet need to learn.