Third-party mediation and peace-making processes in Yemen: Issues and challenges

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This article is featured in Orient IV/2023.

The legacy of third-party mediation and peace-making in Yemen has not succeeded in holding long. Between 2000 and 2023, there have been more than ten third-party mediation initiatives in Yemen, by both regional states and multilateral organisations. None of these third-party mediation efforts, nor ensuing peace or de-escalation agreements, have been durable or contributed to a durable peace agreement lasting longer than three years. The longest surviving deal was the GCC initiative, which lasted for less than three years and delayed the outbreak of full-scale violence in the country due to short-termism, poor management of spoilers, flaws in agreement design and ambitious implementation timelines and regional interference, among other reasons. The fall of each process has contributed to a gradual increase in structural violence and a deepening of grievances and the intensity of regional interference. While the Yemeni government has been key to all processes, the protracted nature of the conflict has expanded the scope of parties, with the rise of regionally-backed new hybrid groups that continue to shape conflict and peace trajectories at a sub-national levels. It is interesting that the overlap of mediation and facilitation efforts pursued by regional states and multilateral organisations have complicated negotiation dynamics, creating greater manoeuvre room for armed groups than for the Yemeni government but also weakening the credibility of the UN when uncoordinated.

Ibrahim Galal Fakirah is a Non-Resident Scholar with the Middle East Institute’s (MEI) Arabian Peninsula Program and a senior consultant. He has worked with donors and international organisations such as the United Nations, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Sussex University’s Institute of Development Studies in research and advisory capacities, occasionally briefing audiences – including think tanks, diplomatic corps, UN officials, the private sector and humanitarian organisations – and taking part in Track II events related to Yemen and the MENA region. His research examines third-party-led peace and dialogue processes in Yemen, the proliferation of armed non-state actors and their implications for the implementation of peace agreements, post-war security orders and stabilisation efforts, the politics of social assistance in fragile and conflict-affected states, violent extremism and the foreign and defence policies of the Gulf and Western states in Yemen. Prior to joining MEI, Ibrahim was a Visiting Scholar at Macquarie University’s Department of Security Studies and Criminology in Australia.

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