Expected Council Action
In September, the Security Council will hold its monthly briefing on Yemen in closed consultations. UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg, a representative of OCHA, and the head of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), Major General Michael Beary are expected to brief during the consultations.
Key Recent Developments
On 11 August, the UN announced the completion of the ship-to-ship transfer of more than one million barrels of oil from the FSO Safer to the replacement vessel, the MOST Yemen (previously named the Nautica). The successful operation, which started on 25 July, ended the threat that the decrepit oil tanker, moored in the Red Sea off Hodeidah governorate, would have an oil spill or explosion, creating a major environmental and humanitarian disaster. The next step of the UN-facilitated plan, to tow and scrap the FSO Safer, can now begin, though the UN must still fill a $22 million donor funding gap to carry out this work.
Recent weeks saw increased reports of attacks by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on Yemeni government-affiliated forces in Abyan and Shabwa governorates. On 11 August, the UN announced the release of five UN staff members of the UN Department of Safety and Security, who had been held for 18 months after AQAP kidnapped them in Abyan on 11 February 2022. According to a Secretary-General’s statement on their release, available information suggested that all five personnel were in good health. Two other UN staff, whom the Houthi rebel group arrested in Sana’a in October 2021, remain detained.
On 1 August, Saudi Arabia announced that it would provide $1.2 billion to support the Yemeni government, which has witnessed a major decrease in revenues after being forced to stop oil exports last year following a series of Houthi drone attacks on oil terminals in October and November 2022. Government revenue shortages, also exacerbated by Houthi restrictions and fees on inter-Yemeni trade, have further hindered the provision of basic services, which has caused recent protests in Aden and surrounding governorates in the wake of extensive power outages and the depreciation of the Yemeni rial in government-held areas.
The Council met on Yemen on 16 August. Omani-facilitated talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition in support of Yemen’s internationally recognised government, have remained stalled. Referring to this process, Grundberg said at the 16 August briefing, “The issue of salary payments [to public employees], including the question of revenue sources, remains a central issue for which the parties need to find a mutually agreeable solution”. In addition to the usual engagement with Yemeni and Houthi interlocutors in Riyadh and Muscat that Grundberg holds between his monthly Council briefings, he reported on recent meetings that his office has held in Sana’a and Aden with military officials and local security actors regarding technical elements required for a future ceasefire agreement and the work of the Military Coordination Committee, which was established during last year’s truce to de-escalate security incidents. Though hostilities have not returned to pre-truce levels, Grundberg noted continued intermittent fighting along front lines and said that “there have been public threats to return to war”. He called on the parties “to refrain from escalatory rhetoric”.
Director of OCHA’s Operations and Advocacy Division Edem Wosornu provided an update on relief efforts at the Council session. During her intervention, Wosornu called “for a comprehensive investigation into the attack” that killed the head of the World Food Programme’s office in Taiz, Moayad Hameidi, on 21 July, and “for those behind it to be held accountable”.
The Council also heard a briefing by Amat al-Salam Abdullah Abdo al-Hajj, founder and president of the Abductees’ Mothers Association. Al-Hajj said that since 2016, her organisation has documented the abduction of 9,568 civilians by different parties to the conflict in Yemen, with the Houthis responsible for 9,130 abductions, including 130 women. Thousands who have been released have permanent injuries from torture, according to al-Hajj, who also reported that 140 people have died from torture or medical malpractice while in prisons. Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the UN, Abdulaziz M. Alwasil, also participated—only the third time that a Saudi representative has addressed the Council on Yemen since the coalition intervened in March 2015, all of which have occurred since Alwasil became ambassador in August 2022. “We reiterate our strategic initiative to end the war in Yemen and reach a comprehensive political solution”, he said, in an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia’s continuing talks with the Houthis. He also expressed Saudi Arabia’s support for UN efforts to achieve a political solution as per resolution 2216, which the Council adopted in April 2015.
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 on 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 encourage the parties to continue talks and show flexibility for a ceasefire agreement. They may further reiterate the importance of an inclusive Yemeni political process under UN mediation for a sustainable resolution of the conflict.
Yemen continues to face massive humanitarian need, which remains a key issue. An estimated 21.6 million people require aid or protection. Access constraints and interference in relief operations include the Houthis’ enforcement of mahram, requiring Yemeni women aid workers to be accompanied by male guardians, which has negatively affected aid delivery. Major funding shortfalls for the 2023 UN humanitarian response plan are causing relief programmes and services to be scaled back or cut. Moreover, economic conditions are exacerbating the humanitarian situation in addition to potentially undermining political efforts. At the August briefing, Worsunu also highlighted the negative impact of increasing misinformation and disinformation against humanitarians in Yemen.
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 31.2 percent funded as at 18 August. Council members could similarly reiterate calls for donors to help fill the remaining funding requirements for completing the FSO Safer operation.
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. 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.
The UK is the penholder on Yemen. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha (Albania) chairs the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON YEMEN
|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|
|16 August 2023S/PV.9396||This was a briefing on Yemen by Special Envoy Grundberg; OCHA Director for Operations and Advocacy Division Edem Worsunu; and Founder and President of the Abductees’ Mothers Association Amat al-Salam Abdullah Abdo al-Hajj.|