Yemen Briefing by Special Adviser Jamal Benomar
Tomorrow morning (4 April) Council members will receive a briefing in consultations by Jamal Benomar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Yemen. (In resolution 2051, the Council requested an update on developments in Yemen every 60 days.) No outcome is expected.
Council members will be keen to receive an update from Benomar on the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) which opened on 18 March. (The NDC will be conducted over a six-month period and will feed into the drafting of a new constitution, in the lead up to general elections slated for February 2014.) There is also expected to be interest in how the NDC is addressing the issue of southern separatism.
Some members may also be looking for further clarification on the decision of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate and youth representative Tawakkol Karman to withdraw from the NDC the day before it opened, citing dissatisfaction with the performance of the transitional government during the preparatory process and its failure to comply with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-backed power transfer terms as reasons for her withdrawal.
There may also be concerns regarding the participation of other important groups, such as that of the southern separatist movement and the Houthis. (The latter group suspended its participation for a 24-hour period following an assassination attempt on one of their leading figures, Abdul Wahid Naji Abu-Ras, in Sana’a on 24 March.) Benomar may share his views on possible strategies the NDC could use to address such concerns and promote ongoing engagement.
Council members may also seek more information on the departure of former President
Ali Abdullah Saleh, who reportedly left Yemen for Saudi Arabia on 2 April for medical treatment. At press time, it was unclear how long Saleh would remain out of the country, nor what impact his absence would have on the political process. Following the presidential statement (S/PRST/2013/3) adopted on 15 February in which Council members sent a strong message to potential spoilers—including Saleh and former Vice President Ali Salim Al-Beidh, reiterating Council members’ readiness to consider sanctions against individuals who interfere in the transition process—pressure had been mounting on Saleh to go abroad to ease political tensions.
On 7 March, the fifth ministerial-level meeting of the Friends of Yemen was held in London, co-chaired by Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UK and attended by 39 countries and international organisations. The meeting focused on progress on the NDC, preparations for elections, the security and humanitarian situations and following up pledges of $7.8 billion promised by the Friends of Yemen in 2012. It seems Benomar may touch on this during his briefing.
The Council remains united on the issue of Yemen, demonstrating its close attention and vigilance through maintaining a 60-day reporting cycle. Council members have two more opportunities to discuss progress during the 6 month long NDC. The next round of consultations, most likely in late May or early June, is expected to be of particular interest for Council members as it is expected to provide further updates on the work of the NDC’s working groups, as well as provide insights into the emerging structure of the national constitution.
While there remains a certain degree of optimism among Council members, there is recognition of the fragility of the security situation in Yemen and an awareness that the success of the NDC cannot be taken for granted, in light of ongoing threats from both inside and outside of the country. Council members also agree on the importance of the critical role the GCC plays in the transition process.