Youth Consultative Council:A bright initiative struggling to survive [Archives:2007/1077/Reportage]

August 16 2007

“It's a huge step towards democracy,” said Abdu Alaziz Abdu Al-Ghani who heads of the Consultative Council describing Yemeni Youth Consultative Council (YCC). Many people haven't heard of this council because of many reasons, such as lack of financial support and conflicts within the members themselves, especially between the secretary general panel and the presidential board.

So, what's this council? How does it operate? Does the council affect Yemeni youth or is it just an empty frame?

Those questions were directly taken to Walid Al-Ariqi, a 28 years old young man who is president of the council. Al-Ariqi is an accountant graduated from Sana'a University; he is working with a non-governmental organization called the Democratic Social Forum. Al-Ariqi founded and is currently heading the youth development center at the Forum. He is also the General secretary of Takamul Arab Youth Network.

Wojoud Hasan Ali Mujalli interviewed him for Yemen Times.

Mr. Walid, first of all, thank you for taking time for this interview with us and I'd like to start by asking you about the council, what is YCC?

Well, thank you for giving me this opportunity to explain about the youth council. YCC is a national youth organization consisting of 111 members, representing different NGOs, political parties and national education organizations. The council started as a project proposal introduced by Mr. Gamal Al-Shami head of the Democratic School to National Endowment for Democracy in USA. The project was accepted and was granted $40,000 US. The mission of this council is to encourage the spirit of voluntary work among youth and provide them with opportunities to participate in civil society and social work. Al-Shami then directed invitations to NGOs and civil societies as well as political parties to recommend one of their members to represent them in the youth consultative council. This is how we got the diversity we have today, keeping in mind that all of this is on voluntarily basis. The members are to present studies and suggestions to enable youth to solve or recommend solutions of national issues.

How is the council organized and managed?

The council consists of the main committee, which is represented by the president and two vice- presidents, and there are 10 different council committees. The council committee are as follows: Anti Terrorism and extremism committee, Anti Corruption committee, Revenge killing committee, Poverty and illiteracy fighting committee, Smoking and Qat fighting committee, Democracy and Civil Society support committee, Human Rights and freedom support committee, Media and Culture committee, Health and Environment committee, and Law and Constitution committee.

The council's structure seems quite sophisticated, but what is the operating mechanism?

The council holds a general meeting once every six months to discuss specific youth issues and the council's plans. The agenda of the meeting are defined by the presidential board of YCC or by the secretary general panel.

However, each committee panels holds a monthly meeting to discuss the tasks and achievements of the their committee and they operate all year round. The council issues a quarterly publication in which the activities and issues are reflected.

Can you tell us about the recent activities of the council?

Recently we had a seminar about terrorism in coordination with the ministry of interior. Our Anti Terrorism and extremism committee organized a seminar titled terrorism its consequences and effects and was adopted by Minister of Interior. Also our Human Rights and freedom support committee organized a seminar in Sana'a titled “Youth where from and to where”.

Our Democracy and Civil Society support committee arranged for two seminars, one with Taiz University on youth and social development, and the other with Dhamar Universities about political representation of youth in public life.

I would like to say at this point that the presidents of universities were quite helpful and cooperating with us.

We could do our activities in the beginning because each committee was given around 200$ to carry out a single event and each committee had some training.

We are going to host a seminar in Aden in cooperation with Aden University about electronic terrorism coming week.

So does the council face any problems?

I'm sure that you've heard about the problem with the secretary general Mr. Gamal Al-Shami and the presidential committee. According to the internal charter, the general secretary is responsible for technical and administrative matters. The financial issues and funding must be taken care of by the finance section of the council. There had been problems in availing external funding in order to create new activities and make the council visible and useful. However, Mr. Al-Shami would not allow the council members to take the initiatives financially. In fact, we feel he is trying to divide the council and recruit new members instead of the existing ones although this should council's responsibility. We are still looking to solve this problem, and we know the young men and women who gathered for this purpose and will eventually achieve their goals.

I can see that your spirit is still high and I believe that this is the youth spirit in here but tell me how this affects Yemeni youth?

That's an excellent question you've got in here. Actually this council tackles issues at the core of Yemeni youth society. We target problems Yemeni youth have. We welcome the youth to come to us and contribute to the council and feel it is theirs. I believe the most important objective for this council is to help youth understand that there are places for your voices to be heard and to be a true citizen and tries to understand their rights and obligations.

Now what is your plane for the next coming months?

Well, we're planning to have as many seminars as much as our tight budget allows. Each of the 10 committees aims to spread knowledge and educate others in many different fields. We are suppose to have our semi meeting with the real consultative council lead by Mr. Abdul Alaziz Abdul Al-Ghani soon but we're trying to solve some of our internal issues with the secretary general as mentioned before.