Editor’s Note: On March 7, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns led the U.S. delegation to the Friends of Yemen ministerial meeting in London, United Kingdom. This meeting reaffirmed the international community’s continued support for the people of Yemen during their historic transition process, including the upcoming National Dialogue and, ultimately, national elections in early 2014. The United States is committed to the Friends of Yemen process and its goal of supporting Yemen as it endeavors to achieve meaningful political, economic, and security sector reform. As part of this commitment, Rashad Hussain, Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, recently traveled to Yemen.
As a part of our on-going efforts to deepen and expand partnerships with Muslim communities around the world, I recently visited Sana'a, Yemen. I heard first-hand from Yemeni government officials, civil society, and religious leaders about a variety of issues, including the country’s political transition and National Dialogue, U.S.-Yemen cooperation, and U.S. engagement with Muslim communities around the world. I was impressed by the passion and optimism of Yemen’s vibrant civil society, and by the determination and sincerity of its people. There is so much more happening in Yemen than what is conveyed in news headlines that I wanted to share some of my observations.
Just before my arrival, the government announced that the National Dialogue would officially begin on March 18. I spoke with a broad array of civil society activists about their goals and concerns about the National Dialogue. I encouraged the full and active participation of all parts of Yemeni society in the National Dialogue, and highlighted the important role that civil society plays in ensuring the Dialogue’s success.