April 2024 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action

In April, the Security Council is expected to hold a briefing, followed by closed consultations, on Yemen. UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and a representative of OCHA are expected to brief. There may also be a civil society briefer. The head of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), Major General Michael Beary, is expected to brief during consultations.

Key Recent Developments

Attacks by the Houthi rebel group on commercial shipping following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in October 2023 have continued, significantly disrupting trade routes in the Red Sea and prompting retaliatory military strikes by the UK and the US since 11 January. The situation has also stalled—and risks upending—peace talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia and deliberations on a UN roadmap for an inter-Yemeni political process.

On 2 March, the Belize-flagged and UK-owned cargo ship Rubymar, which was struck by a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile on 18 February, sank in the Red Sea. This was the first vessel to sink since the start of the crisis, and triggered environmental concerns as it was carrying approximately 21,000 metric tonnes of fertilisers that could cause ecological damage.

On 6 March, three crew members (two Filipino nationals and one Vietnamese citizen) of a Barbados-flagged merchant vessel were killed when the ship was hit by a missile in the Gulf of Aden. These were the first deaths caused by the Houthi attacks. The Houthis claimed that the vessel, called the True Confidence, was US-affiliated. According to media reports, the ship had been owned by the US private equity company Oaktree Capital but a new, non-US company had recently purchased it.

At the Council’s 14 March briefing on Yemen, Grundberg observed that the longer the crisis continues, the more likely it is that Yemeni parties will “shift calculations and alter their negotiation agendas”, adding that in a worst-case scenario they could decide to return to war. Amid this regional turmoil, Grundberg underscored the importance of the Council’s maintaining its unity in support of a political process under UN auspices. OCHA Director of Operations and Advocacy Edem Wosornu, who recently visited the Yemeni governorates of Aden, Sana’a and Amran, also briefed. Wosornu highlighted a “surge” in food insecurity and malnutrition in Yemen. Recent UNICEF and World Food Programme (WFP) assessments showed an 11 percent increase in food insecurity since November 2023, according to Wosornu. She indicated that this was partially a result of the WFP’s suspension late last year of general food assistance in Houthi-held areas over differences with Houthi authorities about whom to prioritise for assistance. Wosornu said that there had been progress in resolving the issue but that the resumption of assistance would require donor funding totalling $230 million for the next five months.

During the briefing, the UK and the US raised concerns about recent reports that Iranian ships had entered Hodeidah port without receiving clearance by the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM). Since 2016, commercial ships travelling to Yemeni ports not under the internationally recognised government’s control have been required to report to UNVIM, which conducts inspections of ships and clears them for continued transit. The system was set up to facilitate commercial imports into Yemen and to ensure compliance with the targeted arms embargo against the Houthis. Executive Director Jorge Moreira da Silva of the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which manages UNVIM, briefed along with General Beary in closed consultations after the open session.

In an 18 March press statement, Council members condemned in the strongest terms Houthi attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea, including the attacks on the True Confidence and the Rubymar. Among other points, the statement called for “practical cooperation”, including with the Yemeni government, to prevent the Houthis from acquiring the arms and related materiel necessary to carry out further attacks and reiterated that all UN member states must comply with the targeted arms embargo.

Meanwhile, Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced in a televised address on 14 March that the group would expand its campaign to prevent ships linked with Israel from passing through the Indian Ocean towards Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Since last year, the Houthis have said that their attacks on Israeli-owned ships or ships travelling to Israel would continue until Israel ends its military campaign in Gaza and allows more humanitarian aid into the territory. That same day, Russian news agency RIA Novosti cited an unidentified official as saying that the Houthis had successfully tested a hypersonic missile. Other media outlets picked up on the report, though a US spokesperson rejected its accuracy. On 18 March, a Houthi cruise missile hit an open area near the southern Israeli city of Eilat, which was the first time the group struck Israeli territory. No damage or injuries were reported. Previous Houthi drones and missiles had struck neighbouring countries or been intercepted by air defences.

Key Issues and Options

The Houthi threat to commercial shipping and the continued exchange of attacks by the Houthis on vessels and by US-led forces on Houthi targets is a key issue. Moreover, the crisis has complicated Omani-mediated talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia to reach a peace agreement and Grundberg’s efforts to develop a road map for an inter-Yemeni political process.

Preserving progress that had been made in these mediation efforts prior to the start of the crisis and preventing even the possibility of a return to war between Yemeni parties is also an important issue. Fragile relations among the factions that form the Yemeni government’s Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), and how a political process should address some PLC members’ calls for a separate southern Yemeni state, remain additional concerns related to political efforts.

If peace talks remain stalled, one option for Council members is to issue a press statement to encourage the parties to protect the progress that has been made and continue engaging with the Special Envoy to develop his roadmap. Such a statement could also call for parties to de-escalate the current Red Sea crisis and to refrain from provocative actions or rhetoric.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen remains a key issue. OCHA’s 2024 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), released in January, projects that 18.2 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection services in 2024, compared to 21.6 million in 2023. The risk that regional conflict dynamics linked to the Houthi attacks on commercial shipping could reverse humanitarian gains and exacerbate needs is a key issue. Council members may highlight the need for donors to fully fund the HRP.

Council Dynamics

Council members are united in their support for the various mediation efforts. They have welcomed the Houthi-Saudi talks and stress the ultimate need for an inclusive Yemeni political process under UN auspices to achieve a sustainable resolution of the conflict. Members have also condemned the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and are concerned about the consequences for maritime security, freedom of navigation, and Yemen’s peace process.

The Red Sea crisis, though, has created some Council divisions on the Yemen file. On 10 January, the Council adopted resolution 2722, which took note of the right of member states, in accordance with international law, to defend their vessels from attacks. However, Algeria, Mozambique, Russia and China abstained on the vote, and China and Russia have criticised the US and UK for strikes in Yemen without Council authorisation. The US and UK stress that their strikes are undertaken in self-defence under article 51 of the UN Charter. In the Council, the US and Japan co-authored resolution 2722. They also co-drafted the 18 March press statement. The Houthis continue to hold the Japanese-operated cargo ship Galaxy Leader and its crew since capturing the vessel, linked to an Israeli businessman, in November 2023.

Russia, China, and the African Council members (Algeria, Mozambique and Sierra Leone) and Guyana, which are known as the “A3 plus one”, also highlight the importance of a Gaza ceasefire to end the Red Sea crisis, and in Council negotiations on products on the Houthi attacks they have argued for explicitly recognising the link between the two crises. A long-standing red line for Russia is identifying Iran as supplying the Houthis with arms in the Council’s Yemen products.

The UK is the penholder on Yemen. Ambassador Joonkook Hwang (Republic of Korea) chairs the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee.

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Security Council Resolution
10 January 2024S/RES/2722 This resolution demanded that the Houthis immediately cease all attacks on merchant and commercial vessels and took note of the right of member states, in accordance with international law, to
defend their vessels from attacks, including those that undermine navigational rights and freedoms.
Security Council Letters
20 March 2024S/2024/250 This was a letter from the Yemeni government about the Houthis killing of civilians on 19 March in the town of Rada’a, Bayda governorate.
8 February 2024S/2024/155 This was a Secretary-General’s letter containing his report, in accordance with resolution 2722, on Houthi attacks on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea covering the period 10 January to 6 February 2024.
Security Council Meeting Record
14 March 2024S/PV.9576 This was a briefing on Yemen by UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and OCHA Director of Operations and Advocacy Edem Wosornu.
Security Council Press Statements
18 March 2024SC/15631 This press statement condemned in the strongest terms Houthi attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea, including the attacks on the True Confidence which killed three sailors on 6 March, and the Rubymar, which sank on 2 March.
1 December 2023SC/15513 This press statement condemned in the strongest terms recent Houthi attacks against a commercial vessel in the Red Sea, and called for the immediate release of the vessel MV Galaxy Leader and its crew, which the Houthis seized on 19 November.

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