The Friends of Yemen group recently held three meetings to discuss improving Yemen's ability to manage complex funding from donors. The funds were originally pledged to support development and security as part of an initiative to fight terrorism and extremism.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi spoke to Al-Shorfa about the importance of the meetings, especially the upcoming New York conference, which will focus on ways to support Yemen in its fight against terrorism.
Al-Shorfa: How do you evaluate the latest Friends of Yemen meeting, especially when the London conference produced several other meetings, but without tangible results?
Al-Qirbi: The latest London conference [in January] resulted in the formation of workgroups in co-operation with Arab and allied countries which have experience working with Yemen. These workgroups are based upon recommendations to help Yemen identify its problems.
Two workgroups were formed. The first seeks to strengthen the state and rule of law while the second focuses on development and good governance. The first group includes Germany and Jordan, and the other group includes the Netherlands and UAE.
The core function of these groups is to identify suitable means to overcome the obstacles Yemen faces in implementing the financial pledges offered during the 2006 London donors conference.
The latest meeting was a gathering of technical teams from the second workgroup on good governance and development. The attendees issued recommendations on the technical problems of supporting development and good governance. These will be referred to the next Riyadh conference that will be held in May or June.
Al-Shorfa: Will there be a donor conference in New York?
Al-Qirbi: During the meeting of the UN General Assembly in September in New York, a donor conference on Yemen will also be held to evaluate what has been accomplished. The Yemen meeting will take advantage of the presence of foreign ministers [for the UN meeting].
Al-Shorfa: Will Yemen receive additional funding or at least receive the allocations from the London 2006 conference?
Al-Qirbi: Receiving new funding depends on what will be presented by the work groups, their technical committees and their results.
Al-Shorfa: How can this funding assist Yemen's fight against terrorism?
Al-Qirbi: The London conference was about two issues: development and fighting poverty. These factors gave rise to extremism, and extremism breeds terrorism. Consequently, an economic plan, job creation and poverty reduction is part of the fight against terrorism.
The other conferences have examined the security side. How can the capacity of the security services, counter-terrorism forces and the coast guard be built? How can resources be allocated with training and providing the necessary equipment to follow, besiege and arrest terrorists?
Al-Shorfa: There have been warnings that the Yemeni economy is in danger and may collapse. What is the truth and how can this be addressed?
Al-Qirbi: The economy's weakness is one of the most important challenges the government faces. There are several problems. The national economy is not diversified and it relies heavily upon oil, whose production has fallen by half with the fall of global oil prices by 40%. This represents a huge problem for state revenues, and caused Yemen to review many of its financial policies.
Al-Shorfa: Do you expect support from the Arab League?
Al-Qirbi: Support from the Arab League, whether for development or combating terrorism, already exists. All of the Gulf States support Yemen. There are other Arab countries that are not supporters, or actually cannot support Yemen. Some countries with huge oil reserves like Algeria can contribute if not by direct support then through investments in Yemen. The issue of co-operation in fighting terrorism is organised and co-ordinated by a pan-Arab agreement.
Al-Shorfa: Is there security co-ordination with Saudi Arabia?
Al-Qirbi: Saudi-Yemeni co-operation is continuing, especially in the fight against terrorism, through an intelligence initiative. Terrorist elements were pursued and arrested and many of the wanted were exchanged if they were from the two countries. This co-operation represented a huge success for the two countries.
Al-Shorfa: Do you think Yemen is capable of eliminating al-Qaeda in its territory?
Al-Qirbi: Al-Qaeda is first of all an international group, not a Yemeni organisation. Fighting it should come as part of an international security and intelligence effort and through attempts to identify the reasons that led to the appearance of this group and its deception of many youths. All these sides will be studied comprehensively. Focusing only on the security side and turning a blind eye to the other issues will, I think