Towards a more democratic society [Archives:2007/1105/Viewpoint]

November 22 2007

The Editorial Board
Current efforts to modernize the civil societies law is facing stiff opposition from the government. The government claims that this law, at its inception in 2001, was the most progressive civil societies law in the region, and that the government has ratified numerous international treaties which regulate the operation of civil societies.

Since 2001, over five thousand civil society organizations have been licensed. However, the majority of these are charities and social-action organizations, with around a hundred active organizations working towards political reform and expanding democratic development and human rights.

In fact, activists involved in democratic development and human rights claim that the current law does not provide an empowering legal framework that allows them to pursue their activities. Apparently, when the current law was conceptualized, emphasis was given to associations, cooperatives, and charities, while little understanding of the legal demands of human rights organizations. Thereby calling for modernizing the law.

There are several loopholes in the relationship between human rights organizations and the regime, which are a direct result of the gap in the current legal framework. For example, a prominent human rights organization has recently called for establishing a 'people's court' where obstacles to the political participation of women are prosecuted. The court is a publicity stunt in order to draw attention to the obstacles and discuss how to overcome them, however, the current legal framework outlaws such activities.

Legislators state that it isn't the law to blame, it is the interpretation and implementation of the law that is the real problem. Regardless of how many laws and regulations Yemeni legislators and parliament members formulate and approve, the relevant government agencies will implement only parts of the law which they are comfortable with. The Ministry of Social affairs, which is responsible for licensing Civil Society organizations has denies many their licenses to operate, and revoked other organizations' licenses in violation of the law.

It's not merely about the modernizing the legal framework, but more importantly, it is about modernizing the minds of the persons regulating the implementation of the law.