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London, 18/02/2014

Inaugural British-Yemeni Society Lecture Supported by MBI Al Jaber Foundation

Inaugural British-Yemeni Society lecture sponsored by Arab philanthropist H.E. Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber

Helen Lackner, Editor of the book, Why Yemen Matters, which was launched at the event Her Excellency, Ms Amat al-Alim Alsoswa, Yemen’s first woman minister, speaking at the event

The future of Yemen was discussed at the first annual British-Yemeni Society lecture, sponsored by the MBI Al Jaber Foundation at SOAS, London, last night, with a keynote address from Ambassador Amat al-Alim Alsoswa.

Her Excellency, Ms Amat al-Alim Alsoswa, Yemen’s first woman minister, highlighted the importance of the National Dialogue Conference which recently brought 10 months of negotiation to an end and set the stage for democratic elections later this year.

Ambassador Amat al-Alim Alsoswa commented: "Success of the implementation of the NDC outcome is challenged by diverse demands and internal and external political layers: state fragility, violent insurgencies, tribal and sectarian feuds and terrorists’ presence in a challenging economic and demographic reality. The majority of Yemenis face a daily struggle in a country with a severe water shortage and underdeveloped water management, high level of illiteracy and rising unemployment rates especially amongst youth and women. Yemen's friends ought to continue their focus on Yemen. On the other hand, Yemen’s government and political parties should fulfil their national duties."

The lecture, part of a wider seminar supported by the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, was aimed at strengthening ties and support from the West for Yemen. The country, which is ranked amongst the poorest in the Middle East, is making rapid progress towards democracy but still has many political, social and economic challenges to address. Additional seminar participants included SOAS scholar Dr Gabriele vom Bruck, Chairman of the British-Yemeni Society Dr Noel Brehony, and Helen Lackner, editor of “Why Yemen Matters”.

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber commented: “Thanks to the hard work of many, Yemen has succeeded in moving ahead with a genuinely inclusive dialogue that involves all aspects of its society in shaping its future constitution. Since the Arab Spring, we have witnessed many green shoots wither in the Middle East, but countries such as Yemen show there is real hope for progress. It is essential that the international community continue to act as witnesses and champions of the Yemeni people in their journey toward democracy.”

Dr Noel Brehony, Chairman of the British-Yemeni Society, said: “The British-Yemeni Society is delighted that Amat al-Alim Alsoswa is inaugurating this series of lectures at a time when Yemen with the support of the international community is about to restructure its political system and embark on economic and social reform that will – and must – deliver a better life for all Yemenis.”

His Excellency Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber is a long-standing supporter of SOAS which hosted the seminar and has made a series of substantial donations to the university, including the recent £1 million from the MBI Al Jaber Foundation to enable the relocation of the London Middle East Institute, of which Sheikh Mohamed is the sole Founding Patron and Donor, to a prestigious and more accessible new home at 21 Russell Square.

Support for the lecture and seminar are part of wide ranging support for Yemen on the part of the MBI Al Jaber Foundation including a $1 million donation to UNESCO in the area of educational strategy, scholarships and the opening of the MBI Al Jaber Media Institute. The Institute is an independent, privately funded institution which is currently training journalists, students, teachers and trainers and citizens in all aspects of media. It seeks to promote free and non-partisan press reporting to encourage greater transparency and dialogue with the world community and to bring attention to the cause of journalists in Yemen, where in the past they have faced the threat of violence or imprisonment. Already, more than 100 students have completed courses at the Institute and many of them are now working in the media in Yemen.

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