Final Activity Report: The First Colloquium on the Development of Election Administration in Yemen

Publication Date: 
31 May 1999

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The first conference in the Arab world to bring together governmental and non-governmental actors to discuss election organization took place at the Central Organization for Control and Auditing (COCA) in Sanaa, the Republic of Yemen from March 15 through 18, 1999. The First Colloquium on the Development of Election Administration in Yemen was convened by Yemen's election commission, the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC), in conjunction with the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES). IFES, a non-profit, non-partisan foundation based in Washington, DC, provides technical assistance to support democratic development worldwide, with a focus on the organization of competitive, transparent elections. IFES has conducted project activities in Yemen since 1993.

Yemen continues to be an important locus for encouraging democratic development in the Arab world.  Yemen has the only multiparty system on the Arabian Peninsula. The SEC is the only permanent election commission in the Arab world.

The Colloquium brought together fifty-nine of Yemen's main actors in the country's election process. Participants addressed the legal and administrative framework for Yemen's election system, reviewed lessons learned in the 1993 and 1997 Yemeni elections, and generated recommendations for improvements. Participants included SEC members (from the current and the two previous commissions), former local level election officials, representatives from the major political parties (in their capacities as former SEC members), Parliament, civil society and relevant government ministries, as wel1 as some of Yemen's leading women's activists.

The methodology of the conference differed significantly from the typical conference format in Yemen. Rather than inviting several hundred guests to listen to speeches delivered by notable persons, this event provided a forum for sustained discussion and brainstorming among a smaller group of influential figures.

Discussions took place over a two-day period, March 16 and 17, 1999, with participants assigned among six working groups. A distinguished group of eleven international moderators from Palestine, the United Kingdom, Morocco, Canada, Lebanon, Spain, Egypt, Jordan and the U.S. facilitated the discussions. Working group topics were voter education and awareness; the election system; voter registration; election day procedures and the vote count; the independence and neutrality of the SEC; and election administration and training. The sessions were closed to the public to stimulate open discussion. Yemeni rapporteurs documented the proceedings for inclusion in the final record.

By the close of the conference, participants had adopted more than eighty recommendations for improvements to the election process. Notably, all recommendations but one were agreed to by unanimous consent. The recommendations were presented at the closing ceremony on March 18. More than two hundred Yemeni government officials and other distinguished guests attended this event, as wel1 as the opening ceremony on March 15.

The recommendations are now being carefully reviewed for implementation by the SEC, the Parliament, and other Yemeni decision-makers. They have been well-publicized in Yemen, and in other Arab countries as well, through the involvement of the Arab moderators. A full list of the recommendations is included in Appendix II to this report.

This report describes IFES' activities in designing, preparing for and carrying out the conference in coordination with the SEC. IFES received funding from the United Nations Development Programme/Sanaa (UNDP) for many aspects of the conference project. The UNDP funding included contributions from the British Embassy/Sanaa and from UNDP/Sanaa. The UNDP funding was made available through a contract between IFES and the UN Office of Project Services (UN-OPS) [contract number YEMEN/96/002]. In addition, the Japanese Embassy/Sanaa provided funding to cover the costs of the five moderators from the Arab world. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), through Elections Canada, covered the expenses associated with the Canadian moderator.

IFES commends the SEC commissioners -Chairman Dr. Abdallah Barakat, Vice Chairman Mohamed Dammaj, and members Mansour Sayf, Ali Saeedi, Khalid Abdelaziz, Ahmed Haidera, and Abdallah Ba Matraf-- and staff for their outstanding efforts on the conference project. IFES also recognizes the superb contributions and enthusiasm of the participants, and the skillful work of the international moderators. IFES sincerely thanks the donors -UNDP, the Embassy of Britain, the Embassy of Japan, and CIDA-- without whose support the event would not have been possible; we extend special thanks to UNDP/Sanaa and Resident Representative Onder Yucer and Deputy Resident Representative Khalid Alloush. IFES also appreciates the assistance of Ambassador Abdulwahhab al-Hajjri and the staff of the Embassy of Yemen in Washington, DC and officials of the Government of Yemen in Sanaa in helping to facilitate the conference. Finally, special recognition is due to IFES consultants Dr. Ronald G. Wolfe and Mazen S. Luqman, who served, respectively, as Project Manager and Local Representative.

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