Briefing to the United Nations Security Council by the Special Envoy for Yemen – Hans Grundberg, October 14, 2021 – Yemen

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Thank you, Mister President.

Mister President, Since I briefed this Council last month, I have conducted numerous consultations with Yemeni, regional and international actors. In all of these discussions, I have focused on the question of how to move forward towards a lasting political solution to end the conflict. I asked my interviewees to assess what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past, and their perspective on the way forward. Member States reiterated their support for the efforts of the United Nations, for which I am grateful.

In my conversations, Yemenis without exception have stressed the need to end the war. They also underlined the urgency to address economic and humanitarian concerns, including by stabilizing the economy, improving the delivery of basic services and facilitating freedom of movement within and outside the country. Yemenis from all walks of life have also recognized that their country cannot be effectively ruled by a single group and that lasting peace will require pluralism.

The Yemeni men and women I have met have shared with me their concerns about the long-term consequences of the conflict. They observe a systematic erosion of their fundamental rights as well as of state institutions. They worry about a whole generation of children traumatized by war and lacking basic education. Since the start of the conflict, civilian infrastructure has been damaged and repairs will likely take decades. Ending the war is therefore only a first, but an essential step in a long recovery that includes healing the societal wounds that worsen each day the conflict continues.

There is, however, a hope on which we must continue to build. Youth representatives from all over Yemen emphasized to me the role of the new generation in driving positive political change. In my meetings with Yemeni women, their determination to have a say in shaping the future of their country is unwavering and must have our full support. From inclusion in political talks to the removal of roadblocks that hinder their full participation in civic, political and economic life, the legitimate demands of Yemeni women and youth must be met by all parties to this conflict.

Mister President, It is no secret that there are differences between the Yemenis that I have engaged with. The gap in trust between the belligerents is large and growing. I met the government of Yemen in Riyadh and Aden, and Ansar Allah in Muscat. The question of the sequencing of possible intermediate steps remains a concern that overshadows the need to start discussing the parameters of a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict.

My view, which I shared with them, is that while interim progress is to be made on pressing humanitarian and economic issues, a lasting solution can only be found through a negotiated comprehensive political settlement. I have been clear in all of my commitments that there should be no preconditions for these urgent political talks. And humanitarian measures should not be used as political leverage. Dialogue and compromise are the only sustainable way forward. For my part, I remain at the disposal of those who wish to get involved.

I have also made it clear in my conversations that measures to mitigate the immediate impact of the conflict on civilians are of paramount importance. Wages must be paid, roads in Taiz, Marib and elsewhere must be opened. Restrictions on the importation of fuel and goods through the Port of Hudaydah must end, and the fuel must be available for unrestricted civilian use. Sana’a airport must be opened to civilian traffic. These measures can make a real difference in the lives of Yemenis in the immediate future. The responsibility for resolving these urgent matters rests with the parties. I hope they will receive strong encouragement from the international community, in particular from regional member states, in this regard. The United Nations is ready to do its part.

Mister President, since my last briefing, the military escalation on the ground has taken an alarming turn. Marib and its surroundings, including Shabwa and Al-Bayda, remain the epicenter of the war. As we will learn from my colleague Assistant Secretary-General Rajasingham, the situation is worsening every day for civilians, with thousands forced to flee in search of safety in recent weeks. I remind all parties to the conflict of their obligations to respect international humanitarian law and to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. The encirclement of Abdiyah district in southern Marib has persisted for nearly a month, leaving thousands of people in dire straits. As repeatedly stated in this Council, the military escalation of Ansar Allah in Marib must end. The Secretary-General himself is closely following developments in Abdiyah. And I reiterate the UN’s call to all parties to facilitate safe, rapid and sustainable humanitarian access to affected areas. I am also deeply concerned about military developments and incidents elsewhere in Yemen. Continued fighting increases the likelihood of injury and death among civilians from indirect fire, missiles and air strikes. I call on all parties to de-escalate.

Mister President, the conflict continues to leave a tragic and widespread legacy of human rights violations. In recent weeks, we have seen public executions, enforced disappearances, killings and the use of live ammunition against protesters in several parts of the country. Lack of accountability and impunity have diminished the confidence of Yemenis in the possibility of peaceful coexistence and a future in which the rights of all Yemenis are respected. In this context, it is regrettable that the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts has not been renewed. Nonetheless, the UN will continue to hold Yemen to account.

Mister President, last week I visited Aden, where I met Prime Minister Maeen Abdelmalik, local officials and representatives of various political components, as well as civil society and women’s rights advocates. I hailed the Prime Minister’s return to Aden as an important step towards improving the functioning of state institutions and their ability to respond to the urgent need for economic recovery and the delivery of basic services. Lasting improvements, however, will only be possible if political actors work together, across political divisions. In Aden, I also took the time to listen to the many perspectives presented to me by southern Yemenis. As I said in my first briefing, these cannot be ignored, and these discussions will need to continue.

Likewise, I have therefore stressed to the Yemeni Government and the Southern Transition Council the importance of the implementation of the Riyadh Accord to restore stability in the southern governorates. Recent serious security incidents in the south, including an assassination attempt against government officials, are illustrations of an untenable situation.

In Hudaydah, UNMHA continues its tireless efforts to engage the parties to reactivate the work of the Redeployment Coordination Committee. The United Nations urges the parties to re-engage with the Committee without delay, as it remains the only viable framework to ensure lasting de-escalation, mitigate the impact of violence on civilians and alleviate the humanitarian situation. I would like to take this opportunity to salute the contributions of General Guha, who completed his term as head of UNMHA earlier this month. He has worked to support the parties in their implementation of the Hudaydah Accord under difficult political and logistical circumstances and deserves our gratitude and appreciation.

Looking forward, Mister President, a comprehensive, negotiated political settlement is needed to end the violence once and for all. Critical political, security and economic priorities will have to be taken into account. A comprehensive political settlement should aim to restore and reunite state institutions and pave the way for economic recovery and development. In order to maintain long-term peace, the need for accountable governance, justice and accountability, and the rule of law cannot be ignored. The promotion and protection of all human rights of Yemenis cannot either.

Mister President, I will continue my consultations with Yemenis and others on the way forward towards an inclusive political settlement. Let’s face it, it will be a laborious and complicated task that will take time, but it has to happen. The past weeks have illustrated the tension between the pace of war and economic collapse on the one hand, and the time required to design and consult on a workable way forward, on the other.

My goal is to reach agreement on the way forward. Such an agreement will require the support of the members of this Council, of the States of the region and of the international community at large. I also count on your support to reinforce to the warring parties that it is their responsibility to meet and engage seriously with each other under the auspices of the United Nations.

Thank you, Mister President.


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