The Tangible Dialogue : UNDP-Yemen Governance Team is Turning Perceptions into the Palpable
SANAA, YEMEN – Inside the five-star Movenpick Hotel Sanaa, in its large spacious halls, and vast marbled floors, some 565 delegates of the Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference are attempting to turn a intangible dialogue about the nation’s most serious issues into a tangible – namely a new constitution.
- The Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference is about ideas and solutions
- Thirteen issues are crowded around the dialogue table, Women’s Issues, Freedom and Rights, the Southern Issue,... etc
- UNDP has created an citizen information kit, shaped like an airplane seat television screen, called the “Dialogue in Between Your Hands.”
Talk and cooperation was only a dream more than two years ago, when during 10 fractious months, protracted clashes between government forces and the opposition, led to the jarring crack of gunfire across the country rather than the tranquil sound of conciliation. It was only right that on the date when protesters were met with a hail of gunfire, March 18, 2011, known to all across Yemen as the “Friday of Dignity,” that two years later the guns would go silent and the sound of cooperation would ring loudly on the opening day of the conference, March 18, 2013.
The Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference is about ideas and solutions. Thirteen issues are crowded around the dialogue table, Women’s Issues, Freedom and Rights, the Southern Issue, the Sa’ada Issue, National Issues, National Reconciliation and Transitional Justice, State-Building the Principles and Foundations of the Constitution, Good Governance, Foundations for Building – and the role of -- the Armed Forces, Independence of Special Entities, Development, Special Social and Environmental Issues, Formation of a Committee to Draft the Constitution, and Assurance of Successful Implementation of Conference Issues.
In short, the concepts are the product.
That has become the driving motto of the UNDP Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference Communications Support Programme. Translating concepts into educational commodities is a difficult task, especially in a country where bread and butter issues, rather than broad constitutional concepts, are the course du jour for a country plagued by 63 percent unemployment. Yet, away from where the delegates congregate, inside small halls rented by civil society organization staff representing large swaths of the country, the dialogue is being delivered to a citizen’s very hands.
Designed to address the central concepts of the dialogue, UNDP has created an citizen information kit, shaped like an airplane seat television screen, called the “Dialogue in Between Your Hands.” Open the kit, and a citizen is armed with a informational booklet created by the National Dialogue Secretariat to inform the masses, knowledge flashcards on each of the 13 issues of the dialogue, as well as a lapel pin, a pen and a sticker.
“People are unclear what the conference is about, other than our ‘future,’” said a youth civil society representative, who is a part of a large CSO network known as the Studies and Economic Media Center distributing boxes across the country, and literally placing the dialogue between citizen hands. “This makes it clear, that to be involved you have to have knowledge. Knowledge is our strength.”
It may seem like a quite simple concept, but it is in fact revolutionizing the way the dialogue reaches people. Distributed through civil society organization networks, the dialogue box reaches the hands of those on the frontlines of many of the issues of the conference, whether its women’s issues, or the southern issue, which is the cause of much friction and discord across the country. The conference secretariat itself has praised the tool, calling it the central didactic product produced to support its mission – turning the intangible to the tangible.
“In simple terms, the ‘Dialogue Between Your Hands’ is about taking ideas and commodifying them into a tangible communication and educational tool,” said Edward Christow, head of the UNDP Governance Unit. “The more hands around the dialogue, the more likely concepts will turn into solutions.”