The Southern Consultative Meeting, held in the capital, Aden, on May 4, 2023 (Official)

One Year On: Outcomes and Hopes of the Southern Consultative Meeting


Sun, 19-05-2024 07:29 PM, Aden

"It is still too early to speak about holding another Southern Consultative Meeting."

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24) 

On May 8, 2023, South Yemen’s capital, Aden, witnessed the conclusion of the most important consultative meeting, the Aden Consultative Meeting, also known as the Southern Consultative Meeting. Sponsored by the Southern Transitional Council (STC), it gathered South Yemen’s political parties, civil society institutions, independents, and tribal parties. The meeting followed two years of smaller intra-dialogues and consultations, carried out by internal and external dialogue teams, whose status was formalized by a decree issued by the STC President in August 2022.

The meeting produced four main documents, signed by the STC and roughly 53 political, civil, and tribal entities, as well as female and youth representatives. These documents included the ‘Southern National Pact’, the ‘Draft Directions of the Political Vision for the Current Stage’, the ‘Foundations and Controls for the Next Political Negotiation’, and the ‘Foundations for Building the Next Federal Southern State’.

Related: Declaration of the Southern National Pact and the Form of the Next State 

The event was an unprecedented move for the political parties in South Yemen, the like of which has not been seen since 1990 when the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen engaged in a unity project with the Yemen Arab Republic. The project collapsed later due to the 1994 Yemeni civil war.

Furthermore, the Aden Consultative Meeting led to a broad political restructuring within the STC. It included appointing leaders of political wings and entities to senior leadership positions and decision-making centers, such as the Presidency.

Related: A New Birth for the STC in South Yemen 

Despite successfully executing this transition, Southern entities boycotted the Consultative Meeting. Some had already participated in previous rounds of meetings with the STC's dialogue teams. This has prompted the STC to emphasize the continuation of its open approach and ongoing dialogue with other Southern parties, as part of “the top priority interests of the South Issue, as well as the aspirations and hopes of the people.”

So, one year later, what has changed?

The second stage

In December 2023, Al-Zubaidi issued Resolution No. 55, which ordered the restructuring of the Southern National Dialogue team, to be chaired by the Southern diplomat Abdulsalam Qassem and his deputy Saleh Al-Fardi. The decision came as part of the STC's measures to push forward the second stage of the national dialogue process with other Southern parties.

Saleh Al-Fardi told South24 Center that “the second stage of the dialogue aims at resuming the tangible outcomes achieved during the past period at the internal, regional, and international levels.”

He added: “The first stage included the signing of the Southern National Pact by 37 political and partisan entities, civil society parties, innovative and trade unions, syndicates, youth, and women. The second stage targets other parties and political entities in South Yemen intending to reach common ground in achieving the aspirations of our people”.

The outcomes of the first stage

Sheikh Jamaan Saeed, the Secretary-General of the Arbitration of Hadramout Tribes, raised doubts regarding the outcome of the first stage of the Southern dialogue, on which the STC has worked. He described the dialogue process as being “mere nominal meetings and promises about a federal South, without a discussion on details or provision of guarantees to implement these promises”.

He also told South24 Center: “Actually, we didn’t boycott the dialogue that was called on by the STC. We welcomed it and participated with three representatives of the Arbitration of Hadramout Tribes who went to Egypt for this purpose. However, we didn’t find any dialogue. Therefore, what we boycotted in Aden was the party that announced that some Southern and Hadrami figures had joined the STC”.

However, Mohammed Abdullah Al-Hamed, a leader in the Inclusive Hadramout Conference, believes that the political structure has fulfilled many requirements needed to improve the performance level of the STC’s leading bodies and expand the national participation of the newly merged forces, or those that allied with it.

He told South24 Center: “Significant political and social parties are still outside the STC. They should be merged, or cooperation with them strengthened, to confront the challenges of the stage that the Southern nation, across its large geographical area, is facing.” 

Al-Hamed criticized the boycotting of the Southern Consultative Meeting by his group. He indicated that he supported attending the Consultative Meeting without any preconditions or prior approval of the outcomes, depending on the approval of the bodies affiliated with the Inclusive Hadramout Conference, such as its presidency and supreme body.

He added: “I still believe that the Inclusive Hadramout Conference’s boycotting decision was based upon presumptions and wasn't the right one. According to dictionary definitions, a boycott is used by the party that lacks influence or the ability to apply pressure as a way of improving the meeting's conditions and achieving guaranteed gains.”

Southern political researcher Osan Bin Siddah praised the Consultative Meeting and its outcomes, although according to him, it wasn't typical. He told South24 Center: “The lack of the culture of dialogue and consultation among Southerners have long constituted a basic feature in the modern political history of South Yemen. The conflicts have overcome the principles of dialogue and listening to everyone.”

He believes that “the outcomes of the meeting weren't typical, but they have constituted a positive move on the road to consensus. Several Southern factions have been merged into the STC despite their previous disagreements with it. They previously agreed with the STC on the principle of independence and the restoration of Southern sovereignty”.

Bin Siddah believes that “There are several reasons behind the rejection of the STC's efforts by some Southern groups and parties. Some of the reasons derive from self or financial interests that some factions hope to fulfill. The ideological and political disagreements also hinder these efforts”.

A second version?

Saleh Al-Fardi stressed that “it is still too early to speak about holding another Southern Consultative Meeting. The dialogue team seeks to complete the national dialogue agenda with the remaining entities and parties who haven't yet signed on to the Southern National Pact, by holding bilateral rounds of dialogue with them.”
He added: “This continuity confirms the keenness of the STC's leadership to confront the challenges of the current stage and the entitlements of the coming period”.

He pointed out that “holding a general conference for all political and civil entities is possible to translate these gains which have become clear and push everyone toward national partnership to determine the fate of the Southern nation”.

Al-Fardi emphasized the importance of convening such a conference within the framework of regional and international solutions to solve the political crisis, ensuring that everyone involved is inclined to approve the upcoming peace plan.

Bin Siddah pointed out that to hold another version of the Southern Consultative Meeting, “Independent and experienced figures should be selected to moderate the dialogue. This is in addition to creating one political status that merges the Southern parties, providing real concessions by the STC, and taking the South’s neighbors’ interests into consideration.” 

On May 11, the STC’s bases across all the Southern governorates celebrated the seventh anniversary of the STC’s foundation, following the historic Aden Declaration on May 4, 2017. This declaration was in response to a rally held by millions of people calling to establish a political entity that represents the South Issue and maintains the gains achieved since 2015.

Despite criticism of the STC by some of its local opponents, the council is widely seen as the most important gain for the Southern national movement (the Southern Hirak) launched in 2007.

Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

Editorial contributor to this report:
Jacob Al-Sufyani, Director of the Regional Office of the South24 Center in Aden

Note: This is a translated version of the original text written in Arabic on May 16, 2024.

South YemenAdenSouthern National PactSouthern Consultative MeetingSTCHirakSouthern Parties