Ten days remaining for the start of Yemen’s largest ever conference:Big day approaching [Archives:2004/699/Front Page]

January 1 2004

Sana'a is currently preparing for the largest conference of its kind in the country. Around 300 delegates from all over the world will be coming to Sana'a to participate in the “Sana'a Inter-Governmental Regional Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the Role of the International Criminal Court” to be held during 10-11 January 2004.

In a presentation submitted to journalists last Monday, the organizers of the event, the government of Yemen and No Peace Without Justice organization have stressed on the importance of the conference, which is co-sponsored by the European Commission and governments of Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the United Nations Development Fund.

About the objective of the conference, the organizers say, “The conference is being held to provide a forum for Arab countries and their neighbors to initiate a serious dialogue to share their achievements, the difficulties faced and their commitments for the future, with special emphasis on the rule of law in the promotion of change and its safeguards.”
“Thus the conference will act as a catalyst for positive action in every country and as the beginning of periodic dialogue and consultation for the region.”

High-ranking participants
Ms. Emma Bonino, Former Member of the European Parliament, was there to answer questions of journalists about the number of participants expected and their level of representation. Bonino said that confirmations have been received from most of the Arab league members and their neighboring countries about the representation of their Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice, and the Speakers or Chairpersons of the parliaments. Tens of countries are expected to send delegations at ministerial level, while confirmations of a number of European ministers have also been received, while others are still pending.
As for invitees, the organizers said that invitees include “officials from the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the International Criminal Court, as well as experts, prominent members of civil society and statesperson from the Region, the Untied States, and Europe and beyond.”

Conference themes
The conference will have the thematic conferences. The first thematic conference will cover the start of operations of the International criminal court and its repercussions for the protection of human rights and the promotion of democratic values inherent in the Rule of Law.
The second thematic conference will be dedicated to a discussion of the interdependence of democracy and human rights.
The third thematic conference will be covering the roles and responsibilities of civil society actors in the promotion of democratic ideals and principles, including the role of nongovernmental organizations, political parties and the media.

High expectations
Member of the Consultative Council Mr. Mohammed Al-Tayyib, who is head of the local organizers of the event, has expressed optimism and high expectations in the conference, which he says will exceed in magnitude and influence the Emerging Democracies Forum held in 1999. “I believe this conference will be a great opportunity to bring together, for the first time, decision makers and civil society organizations to discuss with each other the roles they would play in promoting democracy and human rights. This conference is indeed unique, but at the same time it is also challenging.” he said.
The event will conclude with the Sana'a Declaration, which would be a short but conclusive document that reaffirms the commitment of the participating Regional Delegation to the values of Democracy, Pluralism, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law and international accountability for crimes under international law.
On the other hand, opposition parties have expressed some concern over the possible marginalization of their representatives in the conference by only allocating one representative of every major opposition or independent political party. Others have expressed little interest in the conference believing that it will only come out with recommendations and resolutions that will never find their way to reality. “It will be a lot of talk, but once everyone goes back home, little if any action will follow” one of the prominent opposition figures told Yemen Times.
“I just hope it would not be a repetition of the Emerging Democracies Forum, which had a wonderful (Sana'a Declaration) that is still kept in closed drawers awaiting implementation until today.”