August 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 July 2023
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Expected Council Action

In August, the Security Council will hold its monthly briefing, followed by closed consultations, on Yemen. UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and a representative of OCHA will brief. The head of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), Major General Michael Beary, is expected to brief during the consultations.

Key Recent Developments

There has yet to be a breakthrough in the Omani-facilitated talks that have continued since October 2022 between the Houthi rebel group and Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition in support of the internationally recognised government of Yemen. During his 10 July Council briefing, Grundberg appeared to express greater concern over the lack of progress and recent hostilities. He called on the parties to stop military provocations and to agree to a sustainable nationwide ceasefire. He further stressed the need to “reverse antagonistic economic policies”. Grundberg added that the parties must make progress on restarting an intra-Yemeni political process under UN auspices, which he described as urgent “in order to consolidate gains … and prevent fragmentation”.

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya, who also briefed at the session, similarly underscored concerns about the impact of economic conditions and policies that she said were a key driver of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. She stressed the need for oil exports from Yemeni government-held areas to resume after they were forced to stop last year following a series of Houthi drone attacks on oil terminals in October and November 2022. This has created significant revenue shortages for the government, hurting its ability to provide basic services and pay public sector salaries. The obstruction to the transport of commercial goods from government- to Houthi-controlled areas must also be addressed, according to Msuya. This appeared to be a reference to the Houthi ban since late May on cooking gas produced in government-held areas—another significant source of revenue—and a requirement that cooking gas be imported through the Houthi-controlled ports in Hodeidah.

On 21 July, the head of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) office in Taiz, Moayad Hameidi, a Jordanian national, was shot and killed by unknown gunmen in Turbah, Taiz governorate, according to a WFP statement.

Progress continues in conducting the salvage operation of the FSO Safer oil tanker, the decrepit vessel moored off Hodeidah governorate that the UN has warned for years risks creating an environmental disaster in the event of an oil spill or explosion on the ship. On 25 July, Secretary-General António Guterres announced that the critical step of pumping the oil from the FSO Safer to a replacement ship had begun that morning. The ship-to-ship transfer of the oil is expected to take 19 days to complete. UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly, who has led UN efforts to organise the salvage operation for the past two years, briefed at the Council’s 10 July session, noting that a crisis management team was deployed in Hodeidah to respond to any incidents that could occur during the oil transfer. Gressly drew attention to the continued need for funds for the operation’s estimated $143 million budget; a gap of $25 remains, as Gressly noted, including for the repayment of the $20 million that the UN’s Central Emergency Relief Fund loaned to get the operation started.

On 10 July, the Security Council adopted resolution 2691, which renewed the mandate of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement for an additional year until 14 July 2024. Council members characterised the resolution, which was a short, one-page text, as a “technical rollover” of the mandate.

Human Rights- Related Developments

On 19 June, a group of UN experts issued a statement calling for the immediate release of 16 followers of the Baha’i faith who were abducted by the Houthis on 25 May. The experts reiterated their concern for the fate of the members of the group, whose whereabouts remain unknown, and emphasised that the abduction and concealment of their fate and whereabouts are “acts tantamount to enforced disappearance”. The experts noted that they had expressed concern for several years regarding the “targeted persecution of religious minorities” in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The statement observes that religious minorities in Yemen have been subjected to detention, torture, and ill-treatment by the Houthis in the past. The experts underscored their fear that the disappeared group is facing the risk of torture and other human rights violations and given the record, “may even face death sentences in connection with the legitimate exercise of their rights”.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 10 July, the Secretary-General informed the Council that he had appointed Jasser Al Shahed of Egypt to be the regional affairs expert of the Yemen Panel of Experts. The panel has not had an expert for regional affairs in over a year and a half.

On 20 July, the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee met with the Panel of Experts to discuss the panel’s mid-term update, which is an unpublished report on the implementation of the sanctions regime.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue for the Council is how to support ongoing peace talks and efforts to establish a formal ceasefire and political process. Houthi-Saudi talks have stalled since April, apparently over differences about the use of Yemen’s resources and associated revenues to pay the salaries of public employees. A related issue is the fragile relations between the various factions that make up the anti-Houthi forces and that form the Yemeni government’s Presidential Leadership Council. Council members could reiterate the importance of an inclusive Yemeni political process under UN mediation for a sustainable resolution of the conflict.

Despite some positive signs in the peace process, Yemen continues to face massive humanitarian needs. An estimated 21.6 million people require aid or protection. Access constraints and interference in relief operations include the Houthis’ enforcement of mahram, requiring women to be accompanied by male guardians, which has negatively affected aid delivery. Economic conditions risk undermining political efforts in addition to exacerbating the humanitarian situation. Landmines and explosive remnants of war have become an issue of greater concern since the reduction in fighting following last year’s now-expired April 2022 truce agreement.

Council members may highlight concerns over policies that are fuelling socioeconomic challenges and tensions. Members may further reiterate calls on all parties to facilitate the safe, rapid, and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief to all civilians in need and to protect humanitarian personnel and assets in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law. In addition, they may urge donors to support the Yemen 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan, which calls for $4.3 billion but was only 30.1 percent funded as at 21 July.

Council members are also likely to continue closely monitoring progress in the FSO Safer salvage operation.

Council Dynamics

Council members are united in their support for the UN Special Envoy’s mediation efforts. Members have further welcomed the potential for the Houthi-Saudi talks to yield meaningful results. At the same time, they stress the ultimate importance of an inclusive Yemeni political process under UN auspices to achieve a sustainable resolution to the conflict. Council members’ approach to mandate renewals this year—the February renewal of the Yemen sanctions regime and the renewal of UNMHA—has so far been to avoid significant changes that could disrupt ongoing diplomatic processes.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a leading member of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and is active in pushing for its views, coordinated with the Yemeni government and Saudi Arabia, to be reflected in Council products. Russia has traditionally objected to language in Council products that it perceives as too critical of the Houthis or not balanced. This dynamic played out during negotiations on resolution 2691, in which Russia raised objections about mentioning Houthi hindrances to UNMHA’s freedom of movement while the UAE felt it was important that the mandate renewal address this issue, which the Secretary-General’s annual review of UNMHA documents as a key ongoing challenge. The opposing positions resulted in a small revision to the text of the resolution, which recalled the Houthi restrictions on the mission’s movement.

The UK is the penholder on Yemen. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha (Albania) chairs the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee.

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Security Council Resolutions
10 July 2023S/RES/2691 This resolution extended the mandate of UNMHA until 14 July 2024.
15 February 2023S/RES/2675 This resolution extended the Yemen asset freeze and travel ban sanctions measures nine months until 15 November, and the mandate of the Yemen Panel of Experts until 15 December.
Security Council Meeting Record
10 July 2023S/PV.9370 This was a briefing on Yemen with UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msyuya and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly.

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