Mediating Transition in Yemen: Achievements and Lessons

Yemen remains the only site of an Arab Spring uprising that ended in a negotiated agreement and an internationally supported transition process. In light of the recent conflict in the North of Yemen and Sana’a, with a constitution-drafting process underway, a referendum to approve a draft constitution, and coming elections all within the next year, the open dialogue established among key parties and factions in Yemen’s transition has become increasingly important.

This report explores how the UN proactively employed the good offices of the secretary-general to open an impartial space for dialogue where none had previously been considered possible and closely participated in designing and implementing a transition process for Yemen that involved the inclusive National Dialogue Conference (NDC). The highly complex environment posed numerous challenges for mediation, and the report identifies the UN’s multifaceted and still-evolving contributions, as well as some missed opportunities, in Yemen’s transition and in responding to the country’s ongoing and escalating conflicts.

After providing a historical context and analysis of the UN role in mediating Yemen’s transition process, the report concludes with recommendations and lesson learned for UN mediation, including the following:


• Draw with greater frequency on early, exploratory engagement.
• Harness the potential of large, transformative events amid transitions, such as the NDC.
• Reconsider the scope of national dialogue processes, moving particular issues to separate venues.
• Recalibrate technical support to dialogues and transitions, focusing more on mediation and communication skills among participants.
• Place an empowered and competent manager as second-in-command behind mediators.
• Differentiate the skills required for mediation from the skills required for large and complex dialogue processes.
• Consider developing guidance and training for UN mediators and facilitators that enable them to quickly access and draw on cross-context comparisons.