Yemeni-German Friendship: Going Strong over the Years [Archives:1999/43/Interview]
By Ismail Al-Ghaberi
The Federal Republic of Germany is considered to be one of the very few countries that are supporting different projects in the developing countries, especially in the field of water sector and sanitation. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Yemen-Germany cooperation projects as well as the resumption of diplomatic relationship between the two countries, Mr. Ismail Al-Ghabri of the Yemen Times met Dr. Heiner Schmidt-Burr, from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Mr. Henning Rudt Von, the Division Chief of the KFW, Dr. Magdy Menshawy, consultant in the GTZ, Anwar Al-Sahooly, Chairman of the Technical Secretariat, and the German as well as Yemeni officials who are involved in the water sector and other projects.
Q: Dr. Heiner, Yemen and FRG are celebrating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations. How do you evaluate this time tested relationship?
A: Well, This cooperation is going very well. We started more than thirty years ago working in two fields, agriculture and education. These fields were chosen by the KFW, especially by the chairman of the cooperation. Our cooperation with Yemen for development has a lot of promise of fulfillment. This can be seen from the time we started our relations. However, we are working now in other fields which have proved much more complex. We are supporting as much as we can, and if we look for infrastructure for development, we will find that water supply, sanitation, and conservation of water resources have occupied key places in terms of our priorities since the beginning. This will be the main point in the future as well. Then, we take up health and the family planning. This institutional capacity building and training are going on a few contrary setbacks. Another field of importance is basic education along with preservation of the cultural heritage. But we are working in other fields at the national levels together with the government and the ministries. We are also supporting on a technical level the office of the presidency and perhaps we may also cover the national population council. These are very complex changes that have taken place as a result of our cooperation.
Q: Mr. Henning, What do you want to say on the occasion of celebration of the anniversary ?
A: This is something very special for the two countries. Yemen has become a special country for us, especially for the people who are working here very hard in this old traditional culture. This characteristics are not found in any other country.
Q: Could you please give us details of the amount of assistance during this period ?
A: If we calculated all together, it is about 2.2 billion DM. We are active in Yemen since 1969. Our field is mostly the financing of Infrastructure Projects. We started our cooperation with Yemen by financing Sana’a airport in 1969. We have also financed a lot of projects in building roads such as Sana’a-Taiz road and those in some other areas. At present, we focus on other major areas, such as the water sector. We are financing projects with a total amount of around 2.65 billion DM. To mention some of them, we have already financed a lot of water and sanitation projects in certain provinces in Yemen as Beit Al-Fakeeh, Bajal, Al-Mansoureah, Zabid, Mokha and Hajah. So, we are supporting many towns. We are also supporting the process of increasing autonomy for the branches of the National Water and Sanitation Authority in Yemen to be nearer to the consumers of the services. We do this in close cooperation with the German technical aid GTZ. Another big project is the Waste Water Project in Aden amounting to 75 billion DM. Its implementation is in progress, and we are confident of very good results in regard to this issue. At present, we have gone into the sector of primary education in two governorates, Ibb and Abyan. Then, we are financing the extension and rehabilitation of primary schools. This is a successful project and we put much emphasis on the participation of the local population who will get the benefit of this project. Moreover, we have two projects in the field of primary health and family planning in four governorates in Yemen.
Q: What is the prospective areas of cooperation you are going to embark upon in the future ?
A: I believe that we will stay in the same field as we are at present, namely the water sector, primary education, primary health care and family planning. Our projects aim at increasing the spirit of decentralization. We feel confident that we will continue our support in these fields
Q: Dr. Magdy, What is your assessment of GTZ cooperation in the field of water sector in Yemen ?
A: The main focus of the economic cooperation is in the fields of water sanitation as well as waste management. I am from the GTZ, responsible for planning and technical implementation projects. Our support has been related to human resource development and institution capacity building announced at the cost of approximately 45 million DM . At present, we have two major projects under implementation. The first one, according to the request of the Yemeni government, is the support given to the NASA, technical cooperation needs accompanying bilateral projects implemented in terms of financial cooperation and technical expertise. This started in the middle of 1980s and is still going on. Both governments approved of the extension of this cooperation. In addition to that, the German government is supporting the technical secretariat within the water sector for the implementation of the water reform. This institution is supported by the GTZ with a lot of expertise needed for implementing reform. In the past, we had taken up certain projects in rural areas which were all compete during the last two years.
Q: What do you think about the policy of the Cabinet resolution concerning the water reform ?
A: As I mentioned before, this project is intended to support the technical secretariat. It has been agreed upon 4 years ago and it is still under implementation.
Q: Mr. Anwar, What is the function of the technical secretariat?
A: Cabinet Resolution No (237) of 1997 sets out the functions and duties of the technical secretariat for water supply and sanitation sector reform under the supervision of the steering committee and in cooperation with NWSA which are as follows:
a) conducting different studies that include financial and organizational viability of Rcs, initial identification of RC Service areas, financial and cost recovery, human resources development, and so forth;
b) designing technical assistance programs.
c) helping in the preparation of regulations, standards to control sector activities.
d) establishing a national training program.
Q: What are the major achievements of the technical secretariat?
A: The technical secretariat and the steering committee for water supply and sanitation sector were formed in 1996. Since then a great deal has been achieved. Until now the technical secretariat has held 11 workshops, organized 4 training courses and prepared a number of studies. Since 1998 T.S. activities have continue to surge in a sort of blast off. It is hard to cover all the activities in detail, however, some examples may give a clear picture of the work done:
a) Development and elaboration of the principles of decentralization of Rada’a branch. The first phase of this sector involves restructuring and focusing on decentralization (1998-2001) which is progressing in full speed, while preparations for phase two focusing on establishment regional corporations are starting ahead of schedule.
b) The issue of the cost recovery is being addressed in all decentralized branches especially in the 5 Tihama towns.
c) The issue of community participation is best addressed in a new pilot project for rural water and sanitation service. Necessary provisions through a new responsive approach is being tested in six villages.
d) Human resources development is a major area of concern to T.S. efforts. So far, the first and the second phases have been accomplished. They consisted of the preparation as well as training course material. We will embark soon on the third phase of the implementation of the national training and organization program.
Q: Who are the other bodies that the T.S. coordinate with?
A: Coordination and cooperation is an essential element of T.S. activity in the form of institutional reform activity. This is achieved through various mechanisms, such as (a) the steering committee in which the main decision making bodies at the sectoral level are represented. (b) the workshop in which the stakeholders are given a scope to discuss various policies, strategies and procedural issues. (c) Progress meeting to discuss various interim issues. (d) Day to day contacts and communications.