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MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series : ‘Difficult Diplomacy: The Challenges of Speaking to the South’ by Martin Jerrett

Martin Jerrett, Programme Manager, International NGO, Yemen
Martin Jerrett, Programme Manager, International NGO, Yemen

Martin Jerrett, former United Nations Senior Political Affairs Officer, who advised both Jamal Benomar and later his successor Ismail Ould Chaikh Ahmed on southern Yemen, presented the second lecture of the MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series at the London Middle East Institute on Thursday 17th November. The lecture, “Difficult Diplomacy: The Challenges of Speaking to the South”, co-hosted by the British-Yemeni Society and the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, proved to be extremely popular and the MBI Al Jaber Seminar Room was filled to capacity.

Martin talked about fragmentation in South Yemen; the challenges this poses to the international community; the lack of southern representation at the NDC, and the problems that arose when trying to identify authentic voices among the southern body politic. He also discussed his remit of speaking to southerners and familiarising himself with the political and security currents in the various governorates.

Setting out “to understand how thousands of people were organised to come out onto the streets of Aden”, Martin met with many of them. He was struck by the resemblance of HIRAK to the Intifada of the late 80s/early 90s in the Occupied Territories – the clandestine groups; the “targeted” youthful leadership; the lack of international support - and the fact that the old leadership struggled to impose its relevance on them. In his concluding statement, Martin admitted that, to some extent, he had been naïve during his time in Yemen.

Although this lecture was conducted under “Chatham House Rules” and was, therefore, not recorded, Martin agreed to being filmed during an interview covering the same topic. This is now available on the MBI Al Jaber Foundation YouTube channel.

The third lecture in the MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series will take place at 5.45pm on Thursday, 19th January, 2017 and will be presented by Adrian Chadwick OBE, Regional Director (MENA) at the British Council, who will be talking about “Why People to People Engagement in the MENA Region Matters”. We very much look forward to seeing you there!

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