September 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 August 2013
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MIDDLE EAST

Yemen

Expected Council Action

Late in September, the Council expects a briefing on Yemen by Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen. Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani and a senior representative of Yemen are expected to brief the Council as well. The outcome will largely depend on the successful completion of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) set for 18 September.

The mandate of the Office of the Special Adviser on Yemen was renewed in June without an expiration date.

Key Recent Developments

Following concerns about potential terrorist attacks, the US State Department closed 19 US embassies in the Middle East and Africa on 4 August. While the closure—which was followed by other Western countries—lasted about a week for the other embassies, the US Embassy in Sana’a only reopened on 18 August. Although it is unclear what kind of threat motivated this decision, the involvement of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in a terrorist plot has been reported. An August assessment of Al-Qaida by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service stated that, of the different Al-Qaida regional affiliates, “Yemen-based AQAP is frequently identified as the most potent threat”. Since 27 July, attacks by US drones in Yemen have been reported to be on the rise and have sparked protests.

The situation in the Sa’ada province, controlled by the Houthi Shia rebel group, remains tense. Nonetheless, in the 11 June briefing, Benomar highlighted how despite deep divisions, the Sa’ada NDC working group has succeeded in reaching a consensus on language about the roots of the conflict. Moreover, Houthi militants were able in June to re-bury their leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who was killed in 2004, after the government handed over his remains in December 2012, in a ceremony attended by tens of thousands of followers. However, clashes between Houthi groups and security services have continued in the reporting period, escalating tensions with Sunni members of the Islah party and Salafi groups.

The second plenary session of the NDC—which will contribute to the drafting of a new constitution and pave the way for the holding of general elections in 2014—started on 8 June. The session, which lasted for a month, dealt with reports by working groups on rights and freedoms, independent government bodies, good governance, defence and security, sustainable development and transitional justice. The groups working on the southern issue, Sa’ada and state-building were not able to agree on key issues, and consultations continued at the working-group level before debating and putting them to a vote in the third and final plenary to be held in September. The NDC is scheduled to conclude by 18 September, but it is unclear that it will be able to reach all its objectives at the set date.

The consensus committee, which met in June for the first time, is expected to play an important role on issues that cannot be agreed upon at the working-group level. The final outcomes adopted by vote at the NDC will be the general principles and rules for the constitution and future legislation. Local press reported in mid-August that members of the southern movement had abandoned the NDC, protesting the lack of tangible solutions to the southern issue so far. On 21 August, state television broadcast a government apology to the people in the south, the east and the Houthis for the wars waged against them under former President Ali Abdullah Saleh despite the fact that current President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi was then vice president for 18 years.

Although the progress of the NDC has been slower than initially planned, preparations have started for the holding of general elections in February 2014. In June, the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER), supported by the UN Development Programme and several donors, began to replace the existing voter registry with a biometric one. The SCER also announced that the referendum for the new constitution would be held on 15 October.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stressed in July the severe humanitarian and early-recovery needs Yemen still faces. Regarding internally displaced persons (IDPs), 306,791 people remain displaced in the north and 232,025 former IDPs have returned home, mainly in the south, where they need help to rebuild their lives. In addition, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees reported that more than 46,000 refugees (mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia) had reached Yemen during the first six months of this year. OCHA outlined the risks for vulnerable groups as humanitarian activities shift from relief to early recovery where open conflict has ended. In spite of the humanitarian challenges (e.g. food insecurity, areas with unexploded ordnance, lack of basic services), OCHA said the Yemen humanitarian consolidated appeal remains underfunded at just 43 percent, including five thematic clusters funded at less than 25 percent.

Human Rights-Related Development

During its 24th session (9-27 September), the Human Rights Council will consider the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Yemen (A/HRC/24/34). The High Commissioner notes with concern the practice of prolonged detention without trial or without proper documentation and the instances of security forces using excessive force when dispersing demonstrations. The report documents cases of threats and physical attacks on journalists by security forces and various armed groups as well as cases of threats against judges and discrimination against the Muhamasheen community. The High Commissioner regrets that since September 2012 the government has not reached a consensus regarding the appointment of commissioners for the national commission of inquiry into allegations of human rights violations that occurred in 2011.

Key Issues

Ensuring the timely completion of the NDC and the successful achievement of its objectives, including agreement on the form of government, is a key issue. The inclusiveness of the measures leading up to the general elections—including the constitution-drafting process—is a related issue.

Immediate issues for the Council include the precarious security situation, the presence of AQAP and persistent violent clashes among tribal groups. Funding and supply of weapons from regional actors are related issues.

The bleak humanitarian situation, including the challenges for IDPs, returnees and refugees from the Horn of Africa, is an ongoing issue.

Options

Options for the Council will depend on the accomplishments of the NDC by the time of the briefing. If the 18 September deadline is not met, the Council could issue a statement:

  • encouraging NDC delegates to make use of internal conflict-resolution mechanisms for the issues that remain unsolved (such as the use of the consensus committee);
  • asking political actors in Yemen to finalise the NDC as soon as possible,  agreeing on general principles to feed into the constitutional process in a peaceful, transparent, constructive, and reconciliatory manner;
  • reiterating its warning to spoilers of the political process that Article 41 measures could be taken against them; and
  • calling upon all parties to honour to the extent possible the timetable and benchmarks set out in the transition agreement and to hold general elections by February 2014.

Although unlikely, if the NDC is successfully concluded as planned before the briefing, the Council could issue a statement commending the work of the delegates of the NDC and looking forward to the adoption of the new constitution based on general principles agreed by the NDC, and the holding of a referendum and general elections in February 2014.

Council Dynamics

Council members continue to follow the situation in Yemen closely: there was a Security Council mission to Yemen on 27 January, a presidential statement was adopted on 15 February (S/PRST/2013/3) and there are bi-monthly briefings from Benomar. Council members are aware of the importance of the political transition in Yemen at a critical moment for other transition processes in the region and highlight the close cooperation with regional organisations, the constructive discussions within the Council and the cost-effective UN engagement. The sixth meeting of the Friends of Yemen is scheduled to take place on 25 September on the margins of the General Assembly in New York, co-chaired by Saudi Arabia, the UK and Yemen.

The UK is the penholder on Yemen.

UN Documents on Yemen

Security Council Resolution
12 June 2012 S/RES/2051 This resolution focused on the second phase of the transition and expressed the Council’s readiness to consider further measures, including under Article 41 of the Charter.
Security Council Presidential Statement
15 February 2013 S/PRST/2013/3 This was a presidential statement that reiterated Council members’ readiness to consider sanctions against individuals who interfere in the political transition process.
Security Council Letters
18 June 2012 S/2012/469 This letter was from the Secretary-General to the President of the Council noting his intention to establish a small office of the Special Adviser for the initial period of 12 months.
21 June 2012 S/2012/470 This letter was from the President of the Council noting the receipt of the Secretary-General’s 18 June letter.
Security Council Meeting Record
11 June 2013 S/PV.6976 This was a briefing by Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser on Yemen.
Security Council Press Statement
12 April 2013 SC/10969 The Council welcomed Yemen’s reorganisation of the military and called on all parties to support the President’s decrees and to work to ensure their prompt implementation.
Other Relevant Facts

Special Adviser to the Secretary-General and UN Envoy to Yemen
Jamal Benomar (Morocco)