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FEATURE STORY

Local Communities Taking Charge of Development in Yemen

May 22, 2012


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Direct beneficiaries of the project will be the people that live in dispersed, sparsely populated, rural areas where 80% of the investments will be made. 

Scott Wallace l World Bank l Yemen

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The recent political crisis in Yemen was driven in large part by widespread frustration with social and economic exclusion.
  • A recent Bank project aims at providing improved access to basic public services, and to create short term employment.
  • The project requires a high degree of cooperation between the government and local communities, which would lead to a stronger social contract between the Yemeni state and its citizens.

Yemen presents a number of development challenges, not least of which are its rugged terrain and highly dispersed and remote communities. Many of these communities lack basic infrastructure, and have limited access to social services. This often means that the daily effort to acquire basic necessities crowds out all other activities. It can have a significant impact on human development. For instance, in remote communities without a regular supply of water, young girls must spend as much as to four to seven hours of each day fetching water. Fulfilling this traditional responsibility can leave them little time for critical activities such as school.

The recent political crisis was driven in large part by widespread frustration with social and economic exclusion. In remote, rural communities these conditions can be starkly apparent. The board of the World Bank recently approved the Labor Intensive Public Works Project which promises to address specific needs such as infrastructure and employment, while promoting the longer term goal of better engagement between citizens and their government. The project will be managed by World Bank Senior Operations Officer, Ali Khamis. As he is from Yemen, Ali has a unique grasp of the country’s geographic and developmental challenges, and both a personal and professional commitment to tackling them.

What are the goals of the Labor Intensive Public Works Project, and who will it benefit?

Ali Khamis (AK), Senior Operations Officer, Urban Development Sector: The project’s objectives are to provide needed infrastructure to improve access to basic public services, and to create short term employment. As the project will require a high degree of cooperation between the government and local communities, it will have the added effect of strengthening the longer term social contract between the Yemeni state and its citizens.  Direct beneficiaries of the project will be the people that live in dispersed, sparsely populated, rural settlements, where 80% of the investments will be made, as well as poor communities in urban areas. 


" "Success will also come from elevating local communities to full partners in development, which will ultimately strengthen the social contract between the Yemeni state and its citizen." "

Ali Khamis

Senior Operations Officer at the Urban Development Sector for the Middle East and North Africa Region

What was the decision process for including specific public works in the project?

AK: The need for basic infrastructure services in the country is high. The project implementing agency received close to 17,000 requests from various local communities for different types of basic infrastructure services. The US$65 million made available under the proposed Labor Intensive Public Works Project will contribute to meeting as many of these requests as resources allow. The project has been designed to ensure a fair and transparent distribution of funds. This will involve a two step approach. As the project will cover the entire country, allocations for each of Yemen’s 21 governorates will first be determined according to population size, poverty index, and remoteness. Following which, all sub-projects will be screened against specific criteria. These include community contribution to the investment cost, minimum labour content of the sub-project, and the sub-project’s contribution to poverty alleviation.  In addition, baseline surveys will be conducted before selection to ensure that all sub-projects meet a clear demand and that they are sustainable over the long term.      

How will local communities be involved in its actual implementation?

AK: Requests for the sub-projects have come from the communities themselves. They are deeply involved in both the identification and preparation stages, and are therefore highly invested in the projects. Once selected, sub-projects are then contracted out competitively to small-scale, local contractors.  Responsibility for the construction supervision is in turn contracted out to local consulting firms, which report to the Project Management Unit. Communities will be responsible for locating and preparing sites, and ensuring that contractors have access to it throughout the construction period. For sub-projects involving sanitation, water supply, and water harvesting schemes, local communities will be responsible for their long term sustainability, taking charge of operation and maintenance.

In your view, what will constitute the success of the project?

AK: We anticipate that about one million people will benefit from the services delivered. We also expect that the implementation of the project will generate 120,000 temporary person-month jobs. More broadly, the project will be a success if the process of identifying and preparing projects empowers communities living in sparsely populated, rural areas and the urban poor, by giving them a greater role in decisions about their future. Success will also come from elevating local communities to full partners in development, which will ultimately strengthen the social contract between the Yemeni state and its citizen.


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