Posted by Yemen Times on July 17, 2014 in News Clips
In Washington DC, lobbying is mainly concerned with congressional influence. But it is not exclusively confined to Congress and by its very nature it occurs across the whole of the US, including government and non-government agencies. Effective lobbying strategies tend to derive from highly motivated and well-organized lobby groups with sharply focused agendas, a case in point being the Israel lobby and the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association, the Institute for Legislative Action.
These groups are very successful in pushing Israel’s agenda and calling for the “right to bear arms.” Though many consider lobbying to be mired by corruption, others believe it to be an essential part of a healthy and functioning democracy.
Can Yemen benefit from lobbying in the US? What must be done?
The Arab American Institute has provided statistics of the ten states with the highest Arab American populations. California tops the list with 272,485, Michigan is second with 191,607, and New York is third with 149,627. Pennsylvania numbers tenth on the list with 60,870 Arab Americans.
Population analysis based on Census Bureau data suggests the total Arab American population is nearly 2 million, though research by the Arab American Institute indicates that that number is a significant underestimate. The organization contends that the Arab American population is closer to 3,6 million.
This latter figure places the Arab American lobby on a similar scale in terms of population as the 5 to 8 million American Jews or the assessed 4.2 million NRA members.
About two percent of the total Arab American population is believed to be Yemeni. Data on the Yemeni diaspora living in the US is patchy, however. Five key Yemeni enclaves in the United States are located in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC. Over 11,500 Yemenis live in Michigan, specifically in the greater Detroit area, while an estimated total of 10,500 Yemenis live in the New York metropolitan area.
It is clear that 70,000 Yemenis at face value cannot influence politics as effectively as 3.6 million Arab Americans or 4 million NRA members. However, as Yemen emerges from the ashes of the so-called Arab Spring and undergoes a socio-political transition, the potential benefit of utilizing Yemen’s US-based diaspora should be considered within the broader mobilization of the Arab American lobby group.
The US has indicated strong support for Yemen and President Obama has recently made at least two important statements on Yemen.
Speaking at the US Military Academy Graduation Ceremony on May 18, 2014 he said:
“I am calling on Congress to support a new counter-terrorism partnership fund of up to $5 billion which will allow us to train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries in the front lines. These resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al-Qaeda.”
In June 2014, he addressed the American people about the deteriorating situation in Iraq and presented Yemen as a potential model for counter-terrorism, saying:
“… Yemen, [is] a very impoverished country and one that has its own sectarian or ethnic divisions. We do have a committed partner in President Hadi and his government. And we have been able to help develop their capabilities without putting large numbers of US troops on the ground … in Yemen, for example, a wide-ranging national dialogue took time but helped to give people a sense that there is a legitimate political outlet for grievances that they may have.”
The time is right for Yemenis—as an independent part of an aspirant Arab American lobby group—to organize and focus lobbying activities in support of development and continued American assistance. This should begin with appointing a lobby leader to garner support for the effort.
Moreover, it is necessary to get a better understanding of the Yemeni population in the US and to map it to congressional representative and senatorial boundaries to determine which officials can be influenced directly in support of Yemen.