NDI’s Resident Representative in Yemen to YT: “Press should be free to present the problems and aspirations of people” [Archives:2000/12/Law & Diplomacy]
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) was very instrumental in preparing for the Emerging Democracies Forum held in Sana’a late 1999. The NDI is now having some programs in Yemen related to democratic development. They have now a program with the parliament. This program is designed to help the people through the Parliament as it is the only elected institution in the country. It is the backbone of democracy as people elect the members of the Parliament. It is important for the members of the Parliament and citizens to interact and communicate and for the citizens to understand the rights and duties of the citizen in a democracy, so that they can play meaningful role in developing democracy. So, NDI works on areas relating to promoting a healthy relation with the public, but it also works with people in the constitution, and with people who can work in the society to help organize the communities for public meetings with NDI, creating awareness about the role of the members, institution of Parliament, and citizens in democracy as well as to help citizens to talk about the problems and issues they face with the constitution, organizing public meetings for the discussion groups in promoting awareness of Parliament of citizens role in discharging their responsibilities.
Mr. Nick Green is the current resident representative of the (NDI) in Yemen. He has been in Yemen for ten months now, working with the external relations program in the Parliament. Before working with the NDI in Yemen, he was in Bosnia, working for about fifteen-years in the Civil Society Development. Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi, Yemen Times Managing Editor met him and filed the following interview. Excerpts.
Q: How far do you think you succeeded in your programs?
A: I think we need more time, and with the national agency coming here, we need more time to work. I think that we may succeed helping the people to understand the value of holding public meetings in the constitutions. The people need to know how to address their issues of concern, which in my opinion has been a very important program involving working with citizens and people in the community. We help them to understand that it is heartening to hold a public meeting of all discussion groups. Our success does not make me feel complacent. However, we need working with more people in the community who have not yet got any attention.
Q: You have been launching a lot of programs, what is your next program?
A: We hope to continue with the Parliament program depending on certain funding situations. We are actually going to start next week, at the beginning of March. It is a political development program. What we are going to do is to work with the political parties, helping them to develop their skills regarding campaigning for elections such other activities. That includes things like strategy planning, message, development, and platform development. Things that would prepare them for involves running effective campaigns in the forthcoming elections in order that the people in Yemen have a clear understanding of what the political parties represent, what they stand for and what they talk about. It aims at the parties relating their campaigns more meaningfully issues, their future planning. That is the goal of the programs.
Q: Can we consider this a change in cooperating with the Parliament to the political parties?
A: NDI has different programs to be implemented. We have programs in some places relating to civil relations. We have programs with the parliament. We have civil society development programs for community group NGOs. We have election monitoring programs. We have a lot of different programs that are related to the development of democracy and we would like to work with the parliament for certain time, and to continue working into the year 2000. So, we do not intend to stop our work, but to supplement that, we have this political party development program, and beyond that have a political party development program to enhance competition between the parties. We also want to monitor the process of campaigns. We would invite cooperative endeavor to reinforce our efforts regarding this political delegation monitoring not only the elections but the campaign process, the election process; this would ensure that the people have their access to the media get educated about standard practices all over the world. The NDI thrives or public support, and looks forward to my coming here, we need more time to work. I think that we may succeed helping the people to understand the value of holding public meeting in the constitutions. The people need to know how to address their issues of concern, which in my opinion has been a very important program involving working with citizens and people in the community. We help them to understand that it is heartening to hold a public meeting of all discussion groups. Our success does not make me feel complacent. However, we need working with more people in the community who have not yet got any attention. our rigorous efforts is to monitor the process of the elections themselves. That will increase the reliability of the elections and make people realize their responsibility in the process. This would go long way helping political parties to campaign effectively in the elections, and elections are free and fair.
Q: Your cooperation with the media and NGOs is not visible, why?
A: The NDI has limited resources and limited money, and we can not tackle the challenges of the democratic development in all its ramifications. At the same time program that you talk about, monitoring the process of the elections. We hope to partner with some local NGOs that are interested in collaborating with us. For example, local NGOs may be aware that the media is closely keeping a watch or the elections and invite people to have free access to the media. Local NGOs will be responsible for covering one constituency and doing their best to give people confidence in the process, so that the voting becomes actually meaningful. So, there are different areas that we want to work with local NGOs in future.
Q: Regarding the elections, you said that one of the most important aims of the NDI is monitoring the elections, but you did not participate in the presidential elections, why?
A: We wanted to make sure who was going to monitor the presidential elections because we were going to see how it is going on. Then, we wanted to pool resources to do that. We brought the people to monitor the process. We did not do an official monitoring the process because we took some strategic steps to revitalize the process because the competition was so low.
Q: There are a lot of changes are taking place in Yemen like the presidential elections; what is the stand of the NDI in this context?
A: The elections were great because they are the first such phenomenon in the Arab World I think they are a big leap for the future. However, they were not competitive enough. There were two people from the same party. So, I think we have to look to it from this point of view. The positive aspect in this process is that people have the opportunity for the first time to go and elect their president. Hopefully, in the next elections there will be more competition and there will be more candidates from different parties.
Q: We have some kind of democracy here in Yemen, but the press continues to face hassles and a lot of newspapers are on trial. What is your comment?
A: I do not know the details regarding the individual newspapers, but in principle in order for democracy to function, it has to be free and fair. Press should be free to present the problems and aspirations of people. So, in principle, I support free and fair democratic press that should be open to publish different view points.
Q: Launching the local authority law, was for the opposition and the public very frustrating? What is the NDI’s comment about this law?
A: As the process unfolded only few months back, there are members of the parliament that asked the NDI for some pertinent examples regarding local self administration in other countries and how they coping with problems on emerging democracy. So, what the NDI did was that we translated the relevant laws into English and presented these to different people from different local administrations, to experts from the local law, experts from the U.S.A, from Africa and Éetc. So on in order to enable them to have a look at the current draft of Yemeni local law and give their professional comments for the benefit of people in Yemen who are eager for an efficient rule system in their own country and who are struggling to define their own level in democratic press. That was also presented to the members of the Parliament, government, press and civil society. When they were discussing the process in the parliament, the agency responsible for local administration would then be able to have their own reactions and perceptions. The NDI wants people in Yemen to decide the course of law that is best for them. NDI have to promote the discussion in this regard by providing these comparative examples.