March 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2014
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MIDDLE EAST

Yemen

Expected Council Action

In March, the Council expects a briefing on Yemen by Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General. This will be his first briefing after the adoption of resolution 2140 on 26 February, which expressed the Council’s strong support for the next steps of the political transition and established sanctions against individuals or entities that the 2140 Sanctions Committee determines to be engaging in or providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen.

The mandate of the Special Adviser on Yemen was renewed on 12 June 2013 without an expiration date. Current sanctions expire one year after the adoption of the resolution.

Key Recent Developments

On 21 January, the members of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) finally agreed on a Document of the National Comprehensive Dialogue. This outcome document endorses the federal structure of the state, and provides for the creation of a constitution-drafting commission to build on the generally agreed principles by the nine working groups of the NDC. On the southern issue, following a 23 December 2013 agreement on the creation of a federal state, a 22-member commission appointed by President Abdo Rabbud Mansour Hadi decided on the federal structure of the state, comprising six regions, with two regions in the south and four in the north.

The security situation in the country continues to be precarious. A truce was reached in early February between Salafist groups and the Zaidi Shi’a Houthis in Dammaj and other parts of the Sa’ada, Arhab and Amran governorates. Since October 2013, these clashes left hundreds dead or injured and resulted in thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), mainly non-local Salafists. Ongoing unrest persists in the eastern Hadramout governorate, where armed tribesmen have been fighting with the government since December 2013. This unrest has had a negative impact on oil production, with crude oil exports declining by 23.8 percent in 2013 according to the Central Bank.

Since December 2013, there have been reports of fighting between government forces and a local secessionist movement in the southern governorate of al-Dhale’e. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has described unconfirmed reports of indiscriminate shelling in al-Dhale’e, including of civilian infrastructure, resulting in civilian deaths. The Humanitarian Country Team members, who estimate 3,150 people have been displaced by the conflict, have not been granted access to al-Dhale’e due to security concerns. An armed assault, on 13 February on a prison in Sana’a resulted in the freeing of at least 14 inmates believed to be members of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

In consultations on 28 January, Benomar briefed Council members on the remarkable achievement of the NDC in agreeing on the only negotiated transition in the context of the Arab Spring. Benomar also reported on the systematic pattern of obstruction to the transition process, which could plunge the country into chaos if the threat is not removed soon. On 26 February the Council adopted a resolution expressing its strong support for completing the next steps of the transition, in line with the Implementation Mechanism, including the drafting of a new constitution, the adoption of a new electoral law, the holding of a referendum and general elections and the transition of the structure of the state from unitary to federal. The resolution established a sanctions regime, a sanctions committee and a four-member panel of experts and included among the designation criteria undermining the successful completion of the political transition, impeding the implementation of the final report of the NDC or being responsible for human rights abuses in Yemen. The resolution stops short of listing anyone (even though former President Ali Abdullah Saleh or former Vice-President Ali Salim Al-Beidh were named in a 15 February 2013 presidential statement in the context of the Council’s expressing its readiness to impose sanctions). The Council also expressed its concern over reported serious human rights abuses and violence against civilians in both the northern and southern governorates, including al-Dhale’e.

The 2014 Humanitarian Response Plan developed by OCHA highlights how an estimated 58.3 percent of Yemen’s population—or 14.7 million people—are in need of humanitarian aid. The vulnerable population includes some 306,600 IDPs, 147,500 migrants from the Horn of Africa and 228,900 returnees. The crisis is exacerbated by the security situation, the difficulties of humanitarian access, insufficient funding, lack of service delivery in areas of return, the increasing prices of basic items (90 percent of food is imported) and endemic poverty. OCHA issued a Consolidated Appeal for 2014 of $592 million.

Human Rights-Related Developments

Following the 29 January review of Yemen, the Human Rights Council’s working group of the Universal Periodic Review adopted a report on 31 January (A/HRC/26/8). Some 166 recommendations formulated during the interactive dialogue received Yemen’s support while another 25 recommendations will be examined by Yemen before June.

Key Issues

Helping ensure the stability of the Hadi government in the transition process and ensuring the solidifying of the results of the National Dialogue is the key issue for the Council. 

Preventing spoilers from further obstructing the political process is a closely related issue.

Promoting the inclusivity of the constitution-drafting process and preparing for the general elections are key issues in the upcoming period.

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 closely related issues.

The bleak humanitarian situation—including widespread food insecurity, the challenges for IDPs, returnees and refugees and limited humanitarian access—are ongoing issues.

Options

Options for the Council include:

  • receiving a briefing and taking no action; or
  • issuing a statement urging the government to form the commission formally established in 2012 to address human rights violations related to the events of 2011 and, as per the NDC final document, a Transitional Justice Commission to address past abuses, lessons learnt, ensure the reparation to the victims and helping to establish an all-inclusive historical narrative.

In the Sanctions Committee, a key option is to move towards targeting former President Saleh and former Vice-President Al-Beidh with sanctions.

Council Dynamics

Council members have shown a high degree of convergence regarding the situation in Yemen. They 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 cost-effective UN engagement.

However, during the negotiation on the resolution, Council members could not agree on the imposition of sanctions specifically on Saleh and Al-Beidh. Leaving this matter to the Sanctions Committee was the accepted compromise. Although Hadi had made known his preference for the imposition of sanctions, it seems other factions within the government were wary of the consequences such a move could have on the stability of the transition.

The UK is the penholder on Yemen.

UN Documents on Yemen

Security Council Resolutions
26 February 2014 S/RES/2140 This resolution expressed the Council’s strong support for the next steps of the political transition and established sanctions against those threatening the peace, security or stability of Yemen.
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 Press Statements
5 December 2013 SC/11202 This press statement condemned the attack on the Defence Ministry and hospital in Sana’a that caused numerous deaths and injuries.
27 November 2013 SC/11195 This press statement emphasised the importance of concluding Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference as soon as possible to move to constitutional drafting and electoral preparations, as the next steps in the transition.
Security Council Meeting Record
27 September 2013 S/PV.7037 This was a briefing by Jamal Benomar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Yemen and Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council.