Amid Humanitarian Crisis, Yemen Advancing towards Peace as Ceasefire in Hodeidah, Key Ports Holds, Special Envoy Tells Security Council

Amid a languishing humanitarian crisis in Yemen and many hurdles to overcome, gradual and tentative progress has moved the nation along on a path towards peace, officials told the Security Council today, providing updates on fresh achievements in reducing hostilities.

Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, speaking via video-teleconference from Amman, Jordan, provided an update on implementing Security Council resolution 2451 (2018), adopted in December 2018 to express support for recent talks between the Government and the Houthis that culminated in the Stockholm Agreement on security concerns in the city of Hodeidah and key ports, a prisoner exchange and the situation in Taiz. By its provisions, the Council also authorized the Secretary-General to dispatch a monitoring mission to ensure prompt implementation of the Stockholm Agreement. (See Press Release SC/13643.)

I am under no illusion that these are very sensitive and challenging days for both parties and for Yemen as a whole, he said, describing Stockholm as just a start and highlighting a need to sustain momentum for the political process to advance and to convene another round of consultations soon.

Equally essential is building on the momentum gained in Stockholm, he said, sharing findings from the Secretary-General’s latest report on the status of implementing resolution 2451 (2018), contained in document S/2019/11. Both sides have largely adhered to the ceasefire in Hodeidah Governorate that began on 18 December 2018, with a significant decrease in hostilities. The rapid deployment of a United Nations advance monitoring team in Hodeidah, led by Major General Patrick Cammaert of the Netherlands, is a clear signal of the international community’s desire to turn the Stockholm Agreement into facts on the ground. He also welcomed steps taken towards establishing a joint committee for Taiz that hopefully will meet soon to agree on a peaceful way forward. On the exchange of prisoners, he said work is underway, in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to finalize a list of names ahead of a meeting on 14 January in Amman.

Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, summarizing the current situation, said the Stockholm Agreement and resolution 2451 (2018) have already had an impact on the ground. Reports from aid agencies in Hodeidah indicate that civilians are a little less afraid of air strikes or getting caught in the crossfire as they go about their daily lives.

The important progress we have seen on the political track deserves our full and continuing support, he said. But, it does not of itself feed a single starving child. Millions of Yemenis are looking to us for assistance and protection and we need to see more and faster progress on all the humanitarian elements of your resolution to make any practical difference to their lives.

Reflecting these dire conditions, he said, the 2019 humanitarian response plan will cost almost double the 2018 amount, with half of an expected $4 billion requirement to be slated for emergency food aid. At risk are more than 24 million Yemenis needing assistance, almost 80 per cent of the population, including 10 million people who are one step away from famine. Millions are hungrier, sicker and more vulnerable than a year ago and only half of all health facilities are functioning. Hundreds of thousands fell sick in 2018 due to poor sanitation and diseases such as cholera.

Even though aid agencies are now scaling up efforts to meet these needs, he said, only 15 million people in need will be reached if funding is available. As such, he expected more generous contributions at a forthcoming pledging conference in Geneva in February. Highlighting the humanitarian provisions of resolution 2451 (2018), he said that in addition to establishing sustainable funding, efforts must also target economic development and broadening access for aid deliveries.

Providing a snapshot of recent developments, Yemen’s representative conveyed the Government’s ongoing support of resolution 2451 (2018) and the Stockholm Agreement. Yet, since the ceasefire began, the Houthi militia have violated its provisions, he said, urging the Council to condemn these violations and take necessary measures to punish perpetrators.

Council members shared a range of grave concerns, from the dire humanitarian situation to an urgent need to build trust among the Government and the Houthis. South Africa’s representative said all parties must agree on confidence-building measures to breach the trust deficit that exists, noting that during the reporting period, both sides made statements about allegations of ceasefire violations. We hope that the spirit of trust and resolve shown by the parties in Stockholm will build the foundation for the next round of negotiations that will lead to a framework for a political solution to the conflict, he said.

Regarding the humanitarian situation, many members highlighted that 80 per cent of the population remained dependent on critical aid, with some calling for more robust contributions to the 2019 response plan and targeted efforts to boost sustainable economic development. Many also commended gains made in Stockholm and on the ground, with some offering suggestions to trigger further advances. For its part, the Council will need to closely follow progress, said the United Kingdom’s representative. As the pen holder on Yemen, the United Kingdom will take forward work on a technical resolution regarding the United Nations team supporting implementation of the Hodeidah ceasefire, she added.

Some members emphasized that the Council must remain united in its support for ongoing talks and efforts led by the Special Envoy. We should move the ball forward, Indonesia’s delegate said, stressing that the Council must also take immediate action, particularly regarding the dire humanitarian situation. Agreeing, France’s delegate applauded the real breakthrough the Stockholm talks represent, urging parties to engage in further dialogue to strengthen mutual trust. Meanwhile, the Council’s immediate priority is to ensure that the observation mission has an appropriate mandate.

Also delivering statements today were representatives of China, Russian Federation, Peru, Kuwait, Germany, Equatorial Guinea, Belgium, Poland, United States, CAte d’Ivoire and the Dominican Republic.

The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 11:55 a.m.

Briefings

MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, speaking via video-teleconference from Amman, Jordan, thanked the Security Council for adopting resolution 2451 (2018), saying it sent a clear signal of the international community’s support for the Stockholm Agreement. Emphasizing the need to build on the momentum gained in Stockholm, he said he met in recent days with the President of Yemen and the leader of Ansar Allah. Both welcomed the progress made in Stockholm as an important step towards a comprehensive resolution to the conflict, as well as their determination to find a way forward on all their commitments and to build on progress made through another round of consultations. Concerned parties and key Member States � they know who they are � echoed their enthusiasm, he said.

He reported that both sides have largely adhered to the ceasefire in Hodeidah Governorate that began on 18 December 2018, with a significant decrease in hostilities, notwithstanding very limited violence in Hodeidah city and southern districts of the governorate compared to the weeks prior to the Stockholm consultations. That relative calm points to the tangible benefit of the Stockholm Agreement for Yemen’s people, he said. The rapid deployment of a United Nations advance monitoring team in Hodeidah, led by Major General Patrick Cammaert of the Netherlands, is a clear signal of the international community’s desire to turn the Stockholm Agreement into facts on the ground. He urged the parties to engage regularly and in good faith with the Redeployment Coordination Committee, chaired by Major General Cammaert, thus building confidence and laying the groundwork for the next round of consultations.

Regarding Taiz, he recalled that the parties agreed in Stockholm to the creation of mechanisms to reach consensus on how to address the situation in that city, which not only has enormous historical significance for Yemen as a whole, but also for its inhabitants who have suffered for far too long. He welcomed steps taken towards establishing a joint committee for Taiz that hopefully will meet soon to agree a peaceful way forward. On the exchange of prisoners, he said work is under way, in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to finalize a list of names ahead of a meeting on 14 January in Amman. Hopefully, he added, that meeting will enable thousands of prisoners to go back home to their families.

Progress on implementing the Stockholm Agreement, while gradual and tentative, has made a tangible contribution to peace, he said. Without a doubt, there are many hurdles to overcome, but the parties must not be diverted from their commitments, he added, urging the Council to encourage them to stay the course. I am under no illusion that these are very sensitive and challenging days for both parties and for Yemen as a whole, he stated, describing Stockholm as just a start and emphasizing the need to sustain momentum for the political process to advance and to convene another round of consultations soon.

MARK LOWCOCK, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, summarized the current situation, saying the Stockholm Agreement and resolution 2451 (2018) have already had an impact on the ground. Reports from aid agencies in Hodeidah indicate that civilians are a little less afraid of air strikes or getting caught in the crossfire as they go about their daily lives. But, it’s very early days and we must do everything we can to support the Stockholm Agreement, he said. We must keep reminding the parties that international humanitarian law must be respected in all locations and at all times.

Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said more than 24 million people need assistance, almost 80 per cent of the population, including 10 million people who are one step away from famine. Only half of all health facilities are functioning and hundreds of thousands fell sick in 2018 due to poor sanitation and diseases such as cholera, while millions are hungrier, sicker and more vulnerable than a year ago. Even though aid agencies are scaling up efforts to meet needs, including expanded World Food Programme (WFP) operations, only 15 million people in need will be reached if funding is available. While access for aid deliveries has been restricted, he remained optimistic that measures would be established following intense, constructive discussions between agencies and de facto authorities.

Referring to humanitarian provisions in resolution 2451 (2018), he said economic development, stable funding and access for aid deliveries are crucial. While one of the Stockholm Agreement’s immediate goals is to regain access to aid warehouses, this must happen quickly, considering that enough grain to feed 3.5 million people risks spoiling, having sat unused for nearly four months at the Red Sea Mills storage facility. He expressed hope that a constructive dialogue among all stakeholders would ensure the impeded flow of humanitarian imports.

At the same time, efforts must target predictable funding and economic growth, he said, underlining that continued inflation would have a devastating effect on millions of people. He hoped talks with the resident coordinator and the Central Bank would lead to practical and sustainable improvements. Highlighting a call for the international community to consider additional funding for the 2019 humanitarian response plan, he said that a total of $2.4 billion was raised in 2018, or 83 per cent of requirements. For 2019, a response plan will be finalized, with an expected requirement of $4 billion, half of which will be for emergency food aid. Noting commitments such as Saudi Arabia’s $500 million pledge to combat hunger, he said he is counting on all donors to announce more generous funding at a pledging conference to be held in Geneva in February.

The important progress we have seen on the political track deserves our full and continuing support, he said. But, it does not of itself feed a single starving child. Millions of Yemenis are looking to us for assistance and protection and we need to see more and faster progress on all the humanitarian elements of your resolution to make any practical difference to their lives.

Statements

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said it is critical that the parties in Yemen accelerate their efforts to implement the Stockholm Agreement. Expressing full support for the Special Envoy’s efforts, she looked forward to the parties continuing their constructive engagement with him, including participation in the next round of consultations. As the pen holder on Yemen, the United Kingdom will take forward work on a technical resolution regarding the United Nations team supporting implementation of the Hodeidah ceasefire. For its part, the Council will need to closely follow progress on the ground. On the humanitarian side, she said it is shocking that 80 per cent of Yemen’s people need assistance. There isn’t a day to lose, she said, emphasizing the urgency of access to ports and all areas where people require help. She called on all parties to address the issues raised by the Under-Secretary-General, adding that she hopes the Council will remain united on Yemen going forward.

FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France), satisfied with progress made in allowing for a rapid deployment of a United Nations verification mission, said discussions must now aim at building on achievements to further bolster trust among all parties. We need to turn this into a goal, he said, using a sports reference. However, the current positive dynamic must not detract from the worrying humanitarian situation and gains made in Stockholm must translate into results on the ground. All parties must take ownership of the process, respect the protection of civilians and human rights law. While commending the $200 million Saudi Arabia deposited for aid, he regretted to note the spiralling inflation, which must be promptly addressed. Steps must also be taken to open critical ports to allow for food deliveries and broaden humanitarian access. The Council’s immediate priority is to ensure that the observation mission must have an appropriate mandate, he said, expressing support for the United Kingdom’s efforts. The Council must now remain united in supporting the Stockholm Agreement and all parties must allow the mission to deliver on its mandate. Applauding the real breakthrough reached in Stockholm, he encouraged further discussions towards finding a political solution to end the conflict.

MA ZHAOXU (China) said the overall situation in Yemen is moving in a positive direction, although challenges remain. The parties must earnestly implement the Stockholm Agreement and Security Council resolution 2451 (2018), including the Hodeidah ceasefire and the timely redeployment of forces. The Yemeni parties should demonstrate more good will between each other, including agreement on confidence-building measures in consultation with ICRC. For its part, the United Nations must continue to play its role as primary mediator, with the international community stepping up humanitarian assistance. He added that there can only be a political solution to the Yemeni issue, with all parties safeguarding the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), noting the steps taken so far, and endorsing efforts to expand the United Nations presence in Yemen, said his country is not expecting instant results. It is important for the Government and Ansar Allah to maintain their resolve to compromise on political matters while sticking to the agreements that have already been reached. Parallel efforts to improve the humanitarian situation, which is deteriorating every day, must continue, he said, noting the contribution being made by the Russian Federation and others, including Yemen’s close neighbours, in that regard. He added that a better overall atmosphere in the Middle East could help improve the situation in Yemen, with Council members having a shared duty to help regional players to that end.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said recent gains must be complemented by new measures, including establishing a clear definition of what constitutes a violation of the agreed ceasefire. Delays and non-compliance must not be used to skirt the commitments made in Stockholm. Caution and good faith must bolster ongoing efforts, including establishing a climate of understanding and establishing trust among the parties. He hoped for new developments in the area of prisoner exchanges and the payment of Government employees. Meanwhile, many of the population’s needs remain unmet, he said, underscoring the importance of guaranteeing the security of humanitarian workers and of issuing visas so they can do their work. Further, accountability for crimes committed must also be ensured.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said the Council must work on implementing the new Agreement and all parties must cooperate with the United Nations and humanitarian agencies. Applauding efforts addressing urgent humanitarian needs, he said Council resolutions must be implemented to overcome the many obstacles remaining towards the path to peace. For instance, gradual steps must be taken to build and enhance trust, including prisoner exchanges. Regarding the humanitarian response plan, he said Kuwait was among the largest donors in 2018 and his delegation looked forward to participating in the forthcoming pledging conference. To move towards a political solution to the conflict, he called on all parties to honour commitments to the Stockholm Agreement and participate in further discussions.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said accelerated steps are now needed to affect more gains on the ground. Fundamental issues must be addressed to overcome differences. In the peace process, the Special Envoy should involve women and young people. Every effort must be made to improve the humanitarian situation, he said, raising grave concerns. As starvation ravaged the population, urgently needed food deliveries were being blocked. Moreover, water scarcity is rampant across the country, representing a reminder of how climate change affects security. To address these and other security concerns, he encouraged further constructive dialogue regarding the stabilization of the situation on the ground.

PROTASIO EDU EDJANG NNAGA (Equatorial Guinea), commending recent achievements and the Council’s swift reaction to support the implementation the Stockholm Agreement, called on all parties and stakeholders in Yemen to respect the truce scrupulously. Noting that parties are respecting commitments made about Hodeidah, he encouraged national actors to further ensure the full implementation of the new Agreement. In addition, all belligerent parties must immediately ensure opening humanitarian delivery corridors and issuing visas to relevant humanitarian actors.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said it is crucial that the Stockholm Agreement is respected and implemented within a realistic timeframe. Emphasizing the need to ensure the smooth running of the port of Hodeidah, he said the situation in Yemen remains fragile, with enormous levels of mistrust. However, the parties must show restraint, refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and reach a shared interpretation of provisions regarding Hodeidah. They must also ensure access for the Redeployment Coordination Committee to the entire governorate and ensure the security of United Nations personnel. He underscored Belgium’s support for a Council resolution as soon as possible that would give legal basis to a United Nations mission in Yemen. He added that all parties must facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout the country, including the lifting of bureaucratic obstacles.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that compliance with the Stockholm Agreement will determine the future of the peace process. The ceasefire in Hodeidah must be upheld, with the United Nations verifying any redeployment of forces. Poland looks forward to the next round of consultations, she said, emphasizing the need to include women and youth in that process. She urged the parties to do their utmost to advance confidence-building measures so that humanitarian operations can go ahead without impediments or delays. That includes the reopening of the Hodeidah-Sana’a highway, she said, urging the Houthis to engage constructively on that matter.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States), referring to the Secretary-General’s report of 4 January on implementation of resolution 2451 (2018), said the important progress made to date must not be taken for granted. The United States shares the Secretary-General’s concerns about the complexity of task ahead, he said, emphasizing that the situation on the ground remains dire for millions of Yemen’s people, with only one containerized shipment arriving so far in 2019. He expressed concern over reports from WFP about the diversion of food by the Houthis and called for an investigation. Noting that the Council has long held that only a political solution will lead to sustainable peace in Yemen, he said the United States will keep supporting the Special Envoy’s efforts.

KACOU HOUADJA LA�ON ADOM (CAte d’Ivoire) said that, at this crucial phase in the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement, Council unity on Yemen must be strengthened. All parties in Yemen must cooperate fully with the United Nations in the implementation of that agreement. On the humanitarian situation, he called on the Government and the Houthi rebels to work, in concert with United Nations specialized agencies, on the protection and delivery of aid. In that regard, he welcomed the declared intention of the Houthi leadership to investigate the diversion of nearly 12,000 tons of humanitarian aid in the capital in August and September 2018. He concluded by calling on parties to the conflict to honour their commitments so as to give peace in Yemen a chance.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), raising grave concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, welcomed efforts to address these urgent needs, including the Secretary-General and Special Envoy’s recent initiatives and the Redeployment Coordination Committee’s success in bringing together the Government and the Houthis. All parties must agree on confidence building measures to breach the trust deficit that exists, he said, raising concerns that, during the reporting period, both sides reported allegations of ceasefire violations. We hope that the spirit of trust and resolve shown by the parties in Stockholm will build the foundation for the next round of negotiations that will lead to a framework for a political solution to the conflict, he said, appealing to both sides to spare the lives of women and children of Yemen.

DIA TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), concerned about the crisis in Yemen, said the Council must keep track of progress and monitor progress in implementing resolution 2451 (2018) and the Stockholm Agreement. We should move the ball forward, he said, encouraging that the Council take immediate action following the Stockholm discussions, particularly regarding the dire humanitarian needs. He supported the proposal to establish a United Nations mission to support the implementation of the Agreement reached on Hodeidah and other ports, monitor the redeployment of forces from both parties and ensure that humanitarian assistance can be delivered on time to needy Yemeni people. He expressed hope that the current political solution under discussion will bring immediate relief and an improvement in the humanitarian situation.

JOSA� SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic), Council President for January, spoke in his national capacity, commending the Special Envoy’s diplomatic leadership in fostering recent gains in Yemen. He hoped further discussions would lead to a political solution to the conflict. Applauding the work of aid agencies, he said recent achievements must encourage efforts towards resolving the conflict and ensuring humanitarian access. Moving forward, funding requirements must be met to reach the 24 million Yemenis in need, including by implementing initiatives that foster sustainable development. More immediately, he urged parties to expedite measures to ensure timely aid deliveries to reach those in need. He also urged all actors on the ground to provide effective and transparent humanitarian assistance.

ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen), commending the adoption of resolution 2451 (2018) and underscoring his Government’s commitment to implement the Stockholm Agreement, said that, since the Hodeidah ceasefire was announced, the Houthi militia has violated its provisions on an ongoing basis. Up to 7 January, there had been 434 violations with 33 people killed and more than 200 injured by sniper fire, mortars and ballistic missiles. Such violations are surely provocations aimed at undermining the Stockholm Agreement, he said, adding that, over the past three years, 199 new sand walls have been constructed to hamper civilian movements. Conveying his Government’s support for the Chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee, he said any delays or extensions of the established timeline should not become a Houthi militia tactic. He urged the Council to condemn violations by the Houthi militia and take necessary measures to punish the perpetrators.

He reiterated the President of Yemen’s support for the Special Envoy, adding that the Government will participate in any political consultations convened by the United Nations. Emphasizing that security in Hodeidah is the responsibility of local security forces, he said that Yemeni law, as well as the United Nations Charter, recognize that there is only one legitimate Government in Yemen. He itemized several instances in recent years in which container ships, oil tankers and food convoys had been detained, and urged the United Nations to put pressure on Houthi militia to halt barbaric acts that add to the suffering of the Yemeni people. International efforts to restore the fabric of Yemeni society must not be undermined, he said, adding that lasting peace means ending an illegal coup d’etat in which national institutions were taken hostage. Security Council resolutions must no longer be defied, and arms must be laid down.

Source: United Nations

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