July 2024 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action

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

The Council is also expected to renew the mandate of UNMHA, which expires on 14 July.

Key Recent Developments

The Houthi rebel group continues to attack commercial shipping in the Red Sea region, which it started in November 2023 to pressure Israel to end the war that it launched in the Gaza Strip after the 7 October 2023 attacks led by the Palestinian armed group Hamas. Combined with US-led strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen in response, the situation has frozen Yemen peace talks. On 30 May, joint UK-US strikes in Hodeidah governorate killed at least 16 people and wounded 42, according to the Houthis. This was the highest publicly announced death toll in the US-led operation since it started in January.

On 7 June, the UN said that the Houthis had detained 11 of its Yemeni national staff, as well as personnel of other aid organisations, in four governorates: Amran, Hodeidah, Saada, and Sana’a. Six of the UN personnel are affiliated with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). They also include one staff member from each of the following: the Office of the Special Envoy for Yemen, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP); and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The UN subsequently updated the number, reporting that in total, 13 national staff members had been detained in addition to five Yemeni staff of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and many more from national NGOs and civil society.

On 11 June, the head of the Houthis’ intelligence agency, Major General Abdulhakim al-Khayewani, announced that the staff of the UN and other humanitarian organisations had been arrested for belonging to a US-Israeli spy ring that used the “cover of international and UN organizations”. The Houthis previously detained four other UN staffers from OHCHR and UNESCO—two in 2021 and another two in 2023—whom the rebel group continues to hold, and in October 2021, they arrested dozens of Yemeni national staff employed by the US embassy, 11 of whom are still detained, according to reports.

On 11 June, UN Secretary-General António Guterres demanded the “immediate and unconditional release of all detained UN personnel”. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk made a similar call while categorically rejecting “the outrageous allegations against UN staff”.

At the Council’s 13 June briefing on Yemen, both Grundberg and OCHA Director of Operations and Advocacy Division Edem Wosornu echoed the Secretary-General’s demand for the immediate release of the UN staff. Grundberg added, “Such arbitrary detentions are not the expected signal of an actor who is seeking a mediated solution to conflict”.

Grundberg and Wosornu also raised concerns about the Houthis’ and the Yemeni government’s intensification of economic measures against one another. Grundberg said it represented the “zero-sum mindset” that the parties had reverted to in recent months instead of respecting their commitments to an inter-Yemeni political process. He noted that the parties had yet to respond to his invitation to mediate talks for resolving the economic tensions. According to Wosornu, the potential that Sana’a-based banks will be excluded from using the SWIFT banking system for their failure to comply with a government directive to relocate their headquarters to Aden could have “catastrophic ramifications”. It risks undermining the private sector’s ability to conduct financial transactions to import food and other essential goods and making it difficult for humanitarian organisations to pay staff salaries and for the services that their operations use.

Ahead of the meeting, UK Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward read a statement at the stakeout on behalf of 11 Council members, Yemen, 27 other member states, and the EU, which condemned the latest detentions and demanded the release of the detainees.

On 17 June, the US announced new sanctions on three individuals and six entities that have facilitated weapons procurement for the Houthis and that have enabled the group to generate revenue, including in China and Oman. A vessel owned by one of the designated entities was also identified as “blocked property”, according to the US announcement.

On 19 June, the Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned and -operated bulk carrier, the Tutor, sank in the Red Sea. A Houthi bomb-laden boat had struck the vessel one week earlier, in an attack which killed a Philippine crew member. The Council extended the monthly reporting requirement of the Secretary-General on Houthi attacks against commercial and merchant vessels—first established in resolution 2722 of 10 January—until 15 January 2025, when it adopted resolution 2739 on 27 June.

Human Rights Developments

According to OHCHR’s press briefing notes from 14 June, the six UN Human Rights Office staff members, including two women, have not had contact with their families since their detention. The UN has also been unable to access them or receive individual confirmation of their detention. OHCHR stressed that the targeting of human rights and humanitarian workers must cease immediately, and efforts should instead be stepped up to serve the needs of the 18.2 million people in Yemen who currently require humanitarian aid and protection.

Key Issues and Options

Houthi attacks on commercial shipping and US-led strikes on Houthi targets in response are a key issue. A related key issue is preserving the progress made prior to the Gaza crisis in the now-stalled Omani-facilitated talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia to reach a peace agreement and Grundberg’s efforts to develop a road map for a ceasefire and an inter-Yemeni political process.

Members are likely to monitor developments in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and encourage the parties to engage with the Special Envoy to protect the gains made to date in peace talks. Members could reiterate the need to resume an inter-Yemeni peace process and encourage the parties to continue engagement with the Special Envoy on his roadmap. They could also encourage the parties to accept the Special Envoy’s offer to oversee talks to defuse economic tensions.

The mandate renewal of UNMHA is a key issue. The Council is likely to renew its mandate, which includes monitoring the ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate that the December 2018 Stockholm Agreement established. The Secretary-General’s annual review of the mission, dated 11 June, noted the persistence of hindrances to UNMHA’s freedom of movement, including independent patrols of Houthi-held ports, and an increase in rhetoric from government officials, blaming the 2018 Stockholm Agreement for the current Red Sea crisis. In renewing the mandate, the Council could reiterate that the parties are to ensure UNMHA’s unhindered access, including unimpeded patrols of Hodeidah ports and frontlines under government control.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen, where 18.2 million people require assistance and protection services, remains a key issue. The main drivers of humanitarian need remain Yemen’s deteriorated economy, lack of public services, and protracted conflict-induced displacement. Insecurity and access restraints have been long-standing impediments to relief efforts. The detention of humanitarian staff could further undermine the ability of the UN and other partners to provide assistance. The Yemen sanctions designation criteria include the obstruction or impediment of humanitarian assistance. Council members could consider expanding sanctions designations on Houthi officials if they do not release the detained personnel.

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 their consequences on maritime security, freedom of navigation, and Yemen’s peace process.

Nonetheless, there have been some notable divisions on the Yemen file as a result of the Red Sea crisis. Recently, this manifested itself in the inability of Council members to issue a proposed press statement on the detention of UN staff. China and Russia, in objecting to a UK-proposed text, apparently contended that there was a need for additional information, while Russia also objected to “condemning” the detentions and proposed replacing calls for the immediate release of the detained personnel with calls to provide access to them. Traditionally, Russia seeks to streamline references to the Houthis and is reluctant to single them out in Council products. The UK organised the 13 June stakeout on the detentions because members could not agree on the press statement.

Algeria, China, and Russia abstained in the vote adopting resolution 2739. In their explanations of votes, they indicated that this decision was consistent with their abstentions on resolution 2722 because of their concerns over that resolution’s language, particularly wording on the right of states to defend their merchant vessels from attacks, which was not drawn from existing international law, and how resolution 2722 was subsequently interpreted by some member states and implemented. They also reiterated, as they often do, the need to end the war in Gaza for resolving the crisis in the Red Sea.

The UK is the penholder on Yemen. The US and Japan have served as co-penholders on the Red Sea crisis. 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.

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