Briefing and Consultations on Yemen
On Tuesday (21 June), the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, will brief the Security Council via video-teleconference. The briefing will be followed by consultations.
Members will be receiving an update on peace talks in Kuwait between the Yemen government and the Houthis and their allies from the General People’s Congress, the party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, which started on 21 April. The Special Envoy informed Council members at his last briefing on 25 May that there was general agreement between the parties on the need for the government to return to Sana’a and to establish inclusive governing arrangements, which would include the Houthis. There were differences, however, according to the Special Envoy, over the sequencing for the establishment of an inclusive government and the Houthis’ withdrawal from captured territory, and over the level of Houthi representation and powers they would exercise in such governing arrangements. He said the Houthis want agreement on their role before withdrawing and disarming, while the government wants them to take these actions first. Members will be interested to learn of any progress in advancing the talks and what issues continue to impede progress. Some Council members could express frustration that the talks have not yielded more concrete results after two months.
During his previous briefing, the Special Envoy reported that most progress in the talks had been over plans to release detainees and prisoners and may provide a follow-up on progress in this area. Members are likely to be interested in Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s assessment of the cessation of hostilities which began on 10 April. Ahead of a prisoner exchange last weekend, fighting around Taiz seemed to have returned to pre-cessation of hostilities levels. In this regard, members may be looking for information on how effectively the De-escalation and Coordination Committee, which is composed of representatives of the two sides and mandated to address ceasefire violations, is operating.
Some members may ask about the extent of influence that the negotiating parties exercise over the wide array of groups that have been fighting. Council members may also want to know how agreements reached during the talks can be delivered on the ground. Members are further expected to reiterate concerns over Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which have expanded their presence in Yemen during the war.
An emerging concern that could be raised by some members is the risk of the imminent collapse of Yemen’s economy, highlighted by the Special Envoy and OCHA head Stephen O’Brien in their briefings last month. Members may want information on steps taken to stabilise the Central Bank and to support the economy, such as reactivating the Social Welfare Fund for providing cash transfers to Yemen’s poor.
Ould Cheikh Ahmed may update members on initial steps to expand the Office of the Special Envoy. Last month, the Secretary-General submitted to the Council a plan for the expansion of the office, in order to provide greater support to the negotiations, the De-escalation and Coordination Committee, and the implementation of any agreements emerging from peace talks such as disarmament or other security sector issues (S/2016/488). Council members took note of the Secretary-General’s proposals in a letter on 26 May (S/2016/489).
Members are likely to reiterate concerns over Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and the impact the war has had on civilians. Over the past year, along with the immense humanitarian needs, Council members have frequently expressed concerns over civilian casualties and the need for the parties to uphold international humanitarian and human rights law. In this context, some members may want to discuss in the consultations the Secretary-General’s removal of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition from the listing in the annex of his annual report on Children and Armed Conflict, where it had been included for the first time. The Secretary-General’s annual reports since 2002 have contained annexes listing parties to armed conflict responsible for certain categories of violations affecting children. The violations that can trigger inclusion are recruitment of children, sexual violence, killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, and abductions. A party must sign and implement an action plan in order to be removed from the annexes. The Secretary-General’s children and armed conflict report identified Coalition airstrikes as responsible for 60% of child casualties in 2015, and nearly 50% of attacks on hospitals and schools; these figures appear consistent with information the Council has received during briefings from OCHA, from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and from the Panel of Experts supporting the Yemen Sanctions Committee.
Earlier this month, following heavy pressure by Saudi Arabia and other countries, including threats to cutoff financing for humanitarian operations in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan and Syria, the Secretary-General decided to remove the listing of the Coalition pending the conclusion of a joint review of the report’s findings with Coalition members. The review is expected to be completed ahead of an anticipated debate on the report in August, when Malaysia, the chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, will be Council president. On Wednesday, Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman will be in New York, and are scheduled to meet the Secretary-General.
For more background on recent developments on Yemen, see our report in the June Monthly Forecast.