Executive Summary 14 - Yemen: Developmental Dysfunction and Division

Executive Summary of Research Paper 14

Sarah Phillips, February 2011

When the Chinese revolutionary leader, Zhou Enlai, was asked about the impact of the French Revolution of 1789, he allegedly quipped “it is too soon to say.”  As Yemen and the Middle East experience major shifts in early 2011 it is important to examine the underlying drivers of these changes.  This paper looks behind the scenes at the Yemeni regime’s opaque internal politics and at the nature of the neopatrimonial system that it has entrenched over the past 32 years.  Yemen is at a critical juncture, and the calculations and strategies of the country’s key actors may shift rapidly and on the basis of unpredictable factors, but it is important to keep in mind that deeply patrimonial systems are not transformed overnight. 

This paper offers an analysis of that system and the dynamics that have brought Yemen to this critical juncture.  It asks why the leaders and elites of some countries are so ineffective in addressing serious threats to the viability of their states and to the wellbeing of their citizens?  Is failure primarily attributable to individual leaders – that is, to agency – or are leaders and elites constrained by structural factors beyond their control? How important are external actors? 

Based on data gathered from political actors within Yemen in 2010, interviews with donors and local actors, government records, media reports, and observations made in previous field research, this analytical study examines the relations between the structures and agents that constitute the Yemeni polity.  The paper examines the roles of the key players in Yemen’s formal and informal elites, with a particular focus on the dynamics of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s secretive inner circle.

About DLP

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

Find out more

News

Doing Development Differently workshop - Jakarta 2017

Thursday 30th March 2017

Putting the concept of Thinking and Working Politically into practice was at the heart of a workshop on 15-16 March attended by more than 200 delegates from the field of international development. Delegates from the government, civil service and local organisations of the host country, Indonesia, were joined by academics, including DLP researchers, and staff from donor organisations and NGOs.

Read more

DLP shares research at FCO Africa Study Day

Monday 27th March 2017

DLP findings on the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the topics discussed with with UK diplomats and civil servants at the FCO's Africa Study Day, held at Sandhurst on 21 March. This year's Foreign and Commonwealth Office event was organised by University of Birmingham's International Development Department, home to DLP.

Read more

Follow: @dlprog