Reform in Yemen?

In the run up to the London terror meeting, there have been some tentative signs of hope.  Yemeni officials have now confirmed that they are willing to pursue economic and political reform in the hopes of building a more stable country.  Improving the security situation would be aided if economic outcomes were to improve, as Yemen is by far the poorest country in the Arab world.  Additionally, undertaking reforms that would yield a more representative government that is responsive to the needs of society would also be a step in this direction.  After all, one of the major predictors of passive support for terrorism among members of society, which can provide critical resources to radicalized group, is a negative judgment of one’s government.

Unfortunately, the Yemeni regime has not provided specifics regarding the nature of the proposed reforms.  Moreover, given the political deliberalization which has taken place in recent years, such a broad pronouncement seems unlikely to be fully realized.  Often, the regime has made cosmetic changes when under the international spotlight only to backtrack at a later time.  Thus, it is critical that foreign governments continue to encourage reforms to prevent a repeat of this pattern. Yet, at the same time such calls should be made behind the scenes when possible, to prevent the perception that the regime is simply bowing to Western demands which could hamper the reform effort.


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