BRIEFING TO UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL BY THE SPECIAL ENVOY FOR YEMEN, HANS GRUNDBERG
Thank you Mr. President.
Mr. President, Members of the Council, thank you for the opportunity to brief you again on the situation in Yemen and on the United Nations’ relentless efforts to support a peaceful resolution of this conflict. Yemenis have been denied the possibility of living in peace for too many years. We need a joint concerted effort by Yemenis and the international community to break this never-ending cycle of violence and lay the foundation for a sustainable peace.
Allow me first to give a few updates on the past month’s developments. In Taiz, the exchange of artillery shelling has again inflicted civilian casualties and damage to residential buildings. Hostilities have also been reported in Sa’adah and Al Dali’ governorates. Airstrikes inside Yemen continue, this month primarily on frontlines in Marib and Hajjah. In Marib, Ansar Allah continues its offensive, which for over two years has caused enormous harms to civilians. In Hudaydah’s southern districts, hostilities continue, with reports of civilian casualties including women and children. The United Nations Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement is working to rebuild communication between the parties, re-establish avenues for de-escalation, and enhance the Mission’s monitoring of the ports, while expanding its patrolling reach. I join General Beary in stressing the need to maintain the civilian nature of the ports, which are a lifeline for millions of Yemenis. The violence also continues to spill into the region. On 21st of February this year, shrapnel from a drone intercepted over Jizan City’s King Abdullah Airport wounded 16 civilians.
Mr. President, sometimes territory exchange hands, sometimes it changes back. We see frontlines go quiet in one part of the country, only to intensify elsewhere. Always, we see civilians paying an unacceptable price for choices they have no influence over. Through the ebbs and flows of the conflict, the fact remains that a military approach is not going to produce a sustainable solution. Years of fighting have only destroyed Yemen’s institutions, economy, social fabric and environment. As UNICEF reported, at least 47 children have been killed or maimed in Yemen just during the first two months of this year. More than 10,200 children were verified injured or killed over the past seven years, with actual numbers likely much higher.
As the fighting goes on, Mr. President, the economic crisis continues to deepen. As we will also hear from the Under-Secretary-General Griffiths, it is likely to get worse. In Aden and the surrounding governorates, the Yemeni riyal has decreased by 20 per cent against the dollar since January, raising concerns of another precipitous decline in the currency, increasing prices and deepening divisions in the nationwide economy. Tangible measures are needed to stabilize the currency. Throughout Yemen, accessing fuel is increasingly difficult. This is particularly acute in Ansar Allah controlled areas, where fuel shortages have grown even more severe. Since my last briefing, one cooking gas ship has entered Hudaydah ports; two fuel ship vessels remain in the Coalition holding area waiting for clearance. Impediments to overland deliveries have also aggravated shortages. Currency depreciation and fuel shortages impact on Yemenis’ everyday needs – clean water, food, transportation, electricity, and healthcare. Civilians will be affected even more during this period as Yemeni households prepare for the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Yemenis also continue to live with severe restrictions on their freedom of movement. The closure of Sana’a airport prevents many Yemenis in the north from traveling abroad. Ongoing fighting, the proliferation of checkpoints, and the closure of access points, especially in Taiz, impede Yemenis’ movement within the country. International Women’s Day this month was a reminder that women and girls face additional movement restrictions with the imposition of a male guardian. Against these exceptional challenges, we see Yemeni women coming together to advocate powerfully for political change. In Taiz, for example, women, youth and civil society recently launched a campaign to challenge the arbitrary demand for a guardian when women apply for passport and to insist that Yemeni law be upheld. This campaign has achieved initial success with the Prime Minister issuing directives to the Ministry of Interior to uphold the law.
Mr. President, I am keenly aware of the urgent need to halt the violence and to provide relief to Yemenis. This is why, in parallel to my work on the Framework, I am actively exploring options with the parties on immediate de-escalation measures that could reduce violence, ease the fuel crisis and improve freedom of movement. With Ramadan approaching, I hope the parties will engage swiftly and constructively with my proposals to bring the people of Yemen some much-needed hope and relief. In this regard, I am looking forward for the opportunity to engage with the leadership of Ansar Allah in Sana’a on this issue and on how we can move the political process forward.
However, and as I have said before, Mr. President, any potential de-escalation measures will not hold unless they are supported by a political process. This is why my Framework and its attempt to chart a path toward reaching an inclusive political settlement are vital.
Since I briefed this Council last month, my Office has launched a series of structured consultations intended to inform the development of my Framework. I am encouraged by the interest in and active engagement from Yemeni political parties, components, experts and civil society representatives. I am also grateful for the very constructive discussion I had earlier this month with President Hadi about the process.
Over the past week, I have held bilateral meetings with leaders from the General People’s Congress party and with delegations from the Islah party, the Yemeni Socialist Party, the Nasserist Unionist People’s Organization and the Southern Transitional Council. I want to express my gratitude to the Government of Jordan for facilitating the holding of these meetings in Amman, and I want to thank the Members of this Council and other Member States who have shown clear support for the Consultations.
Mr. President, I am focusing the consultations on identifying short- and longer-term priorities for the agenda of the multi-track process envisaged for the Framework. I am also exploring guiding principles for the process and gathering an understanding of the participants’ vision for the future. I hope these consultations mark the beginning of a serious and structured conversation between Yemenis about finding an end to the war.
In the coming weeks, I will be holding consultations with more Yemeni political components, security and economic actors, and civil society representatives. Furthermore, I have strongly encouraged all political parties and civil society organizations to include at least 30% women representatives in the consultations, and my Office continues to follow up with the delegations to encourage them to reach this standard. I also intend to consult the broader Yemeni public, including youth, to ensure the Framework reflects public priorities and aspirations.
Mr. President, following all these years of war, there is a need for serious, constructive and solution-oriented political dialogue. The consultations held in Amman are an encouraging reminder that this is possible. Together, we need to pursue solutions that will not only end the war, but also build the foundations for a sustainable peace. I will continue to look to the Members of this Council to support the process as it moves forward.
Thank you, Mr. President.