Examining the Drivers of Change in Yemen
Dr Sarah Phillips, from the Centre for International Security Studies, Sydney University, presented her work on the crisis in Yemen to an audience of Australian officials from across government, and other interested parties, in AusAID on Wednesday, 8th June. Dr Phillips’ presentation looked behind the scenes at the Yemeni regime's opaque internal politics and at the nature of the system entrenched by President Ali Abdullah Saleh over the past 32 years. It also discussed the implications of this for Western counter-terrorism policies in Yemen.
Dr Phillips' recent research paper, commissioned by the Developmental Leadership Program (DLP), Yemen: Developmental Dysfunction and Division in a Crisis State, provides a rare and path breaking insight into the Yemeni Leadership. It also contains some key messages for policy makers on what needs to be done to affect developmental change within Yemen.
Developmental leadership is central to peace, security, economic growth and institutional legitimacy. The popular uprisings of early 2011 have given cause for unprecedented hope that developmental change is underway, but also trepidation, for the future. Following the series of events witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya and Bahrain, the natural impulse is to speculate on what transformations may occur, but it is equally important to examine the underlying drivers of the changes that have already occurred because they reveal much about constraints and opportunities for the future.
Deeply patrimonial systems of power are not transformed overnight, and many of Yemen’s structural and human barriers to developmental change remain in place. The defection of key members of the inner circle to the opposition was not in itself a signal that a more developmentally inclined elite is in the ascendant, although many of the young protesters have been articulating demands for a fundamental revision of the political system. Those who defected from Saleh’s inner circle have been instrumental in instilling the dysfunctional political settlement that brought Yemen to this point. By joining the protest movement they have not necessarily heralded a new era for the Yemeni people. Indeed, none has gone so far as to openly renounce the patrimonial system of government, or the ‘rules of the game’ that will shape the behaviour of anyone who might follow President Saleh.
Dr Phillips' paper is part of research funded by The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) to generate policy, strategy and operational advice on how to create environments where local developmental leadership (as opposed to predatory leadership) might flourish.
A summary of Sarah's presentation will be available here shortly.