The existing dialogue between Arab countries and their neighbours - on issues that have acquired dramatic urgency in the wake of the 9/11 events - will be discussed at an inter-governmental regional conference to be held in Sana'a on January 10-12, 2004. The conference is particularly relevant and timely in the light of Saddam Hussein’s arrest, with all its implications for the international community and for its impact on the on-going efforts of reconstruction in Iraq.

Organized by the Government of the Republic of Yemen and by the Italian Ngo 'No Peace Without Justice', under the auspices of the Presidency of the European Union, the meeting is sponsored by the European Commission, the Governments of Canada, France, Germany, Ireland (EU president from January), Italy (current EU President), The Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, plus the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP). Among the participants are expected delegations from over forty national Governments, from the most important regional and international organisations, academics and representatives from civil society.

To date the following personalities have confirmed their participation: Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, the 2003 Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, the Foreign Affairs ministers, the ministers of Justice and the Presidents or Speakers of Parliaments from thirteen Arab and Northern African countries (Algeria, Djibouti, Eritrea, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen), the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, the UN Under-Secretary General for political affairs, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Arab as well as European parliamentarians and over a hundred Arab, European and American NGOs, research centres and foundations.

The conference will focus on enhancing dialogue, experience sharing and establishing principles that will aid countries in the region, within their own cultural and religious context, to make progress on the path of democracy and the rule of law.
The conference will be opened by the President of the Republic of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and will be articulated in three thematic sessions: the state of play of the ICC, the interdependence of democracy and human rights and, finally, the role and responsibilities of civil society in the promotion of democratic principles. The conference will close with the "Sana'a Declaration" to reaffirm the commitment of participating regional delegations to these values and to promote possible mechanisms for continued national and regional dialogue.

As Emma Bonino, former European Commissioner and founder of No Peace Without Justice, recently stated, "The Sana'a conference has a profound meaning to us for the fundamental issues at stake, because of where and when it is taking place, and for the level of participants: it is high time these issues are brought back at the top of the international agenda".