Civil Society Voices Key to Yemenis’ Push for Peace, Open Society Report Shows
Yemeni civil society organizations believe justice and accountability can play a decisive role in establishing a lasting peace in Yemen, according to a new Open Society Foundations report.
A Passage to Justice: Selected Yemeni Civil Society Views of Transitional Justice and Long-Term Accountability in Yemen highlights the leading role of Yemeni civil society in articulating the interplay between peace and justice, as well as the role that justice matters play in the peace process. It focuses on Yemenis’ views about accountability for violations committed in the war-torn country since conflict broke out there in 2014.
“Transitional justice is a transit from something to something. I believe transitional justice can help with transiting from wartime to peacetime, from destruction to construction,” the report quotes one civil society advocate from Mareb as saying. (Individuals quoted in the report are not identified by name to protect their safety.)
The Biden administration announced last week that it would end support to the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The announcement comes on the heels of other administration action aimed at bringing peace to Yemen including an announcement to stop sales of precision-guided bombs to the Saudis, and U.S. designation of a special envoy to help negotiate a peace settlement in the war-torn country. But while these measures are welcome, the United States and the international community must also help ensure accountability and back Yemeni civil society’s efforts to disrupt the cycle of impunity that threatens to undercut any peace agreement.
“As part of its new push to the end the war, the U.S. must also back Yemeni civil society’s efforts to ensure real accountability for the crimes committed, and for the lives destroyed,” said Chris Rogers, a senior program officer at the Open Society Human Rights Initiative and an editor of the report. “Because for many Yemenis, it is not U.S. bombs that are the real enemy to lasting peace—it’s impunity.”
Many civil society leaders interviewed for the report noted that the peace process must be attuned to the concerns and needs of victims of the conflict, now entering its seventh year. “Listening to victims makes us think about peace,” one civil society leader from Aden told the report writers.
A peace plan that is sensitive to addressing the needs of victims and their families must consider the social and economic costs of the conflict, in addition to gross human rights abuses and violations. Victims’ organizations, family associations, and other civil society organizations must have a way to have their voices included in peace negotiations.
The report also shows that language on accountability and on transitional justice has progressively been de-emphasized in Security Council resolutions and other key instruments since the conflict started in 2014. The report argues for a return of stronger language to Council resolutions. It highlights the important role such language can play in building political support and, at a later stage, the endorsement of an accountability and transitional justice agenda for Yemen.
The Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros, are the world’s largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights. We provide thousands of grants every year through a network of national and regional foundations and offices, funding a vast array of projects—many of them now shaped by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.