The global implications of reform [Archives:2008/1143/Local News]

April 3 2008

By: David Merahn
As Yemen faces a time of great political tension, it is important to view the reform process in light of a larger regional movement with global implications. Yemen, as well as the larger Gulf region, is in the challenging position of balancing two substantive developmental processes. One is the difficult, but ever more pressing, issue of internal reform and increased democratization. The other is creating for Yemen a proper space in an increasingly interlinked international community. Domestic commentators have written much about the reform process in Yemen, while likewise international analysts have speculated about the future of geopolitically important gulf-states.

While these two issues are often discussed separately they are, and will become even more so, intertwined. It is crucial that the public and the leadership begin to recognize that reform and international activity go hand in hand. Reform and increased popular sovereignty will create a level of political stability, maturity, and –most importantly– credibility that will allow Yemen to take a more active role in the international community to the benefit of its neighbors and itself.

Gone are the days where the smaller Gulf and Peninsula nations can sit back and passively enjoy security guarantees from the United States, while pursuing an active economic agenda. The role of bijoux Middle Eastern nations increasingly entails a leadership role. This burgeoning role as a player on the international stage is highlighted by last week's high-level meetings between Yemeni officials and Palestinian representatives, in an effort to help resolve the fractured Palestinian community. In the upcoming years Yemen will have the opportunity and responsibility to take on more roles of this type, but in order to successfully pursue this new role Yemen must first have the credibility and standing that can only be obtained through further internal reforms. The past years have been witness to great political reform in the region. Nations like Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser extent Yemen itself, began steps to transform themselves into new and modern entities. Historically, such reform efforts have come from popular pressure, governmental crises or were attached to aid money such as the United States Middle East Partnership initiative. Recently, however, many of the regional reforms have been conducted in response to changing global conditions. In many of these countries the franchise has been expanded, women have begun to play a larger role, the power of local authority has been increased, and opposition figures have been given a bit more latitude. Reform and democratization provides safety and trust for international partners, as well as for a nation's own citizens. As more businesses and governments have felt safe investing, the economic benefits of political reform can be seen across the region. In the following years the same will increasingly be seen as far as international political affairs are concerned.

Reform moves slowly, but it is essential in an increasingly globalizing world. Unfortunately, in some cases the progress of reform has not manifested itself as steadily as might be desired. In many of these cases reform has failed because it is still viewed in the context of traditional internal political dynamics without factoring in the international aspects. It is crucial that reform efforts be viewed as part of a modernization process in both an internal and global sense. Political reform is a means of creating fluidity in the international community and will open up economic and political opportunities.

David Merahn is a historical researcher and journalist; he can be contacted at [email protected]