Yemen: UNMHA Mandate Renewal
On Monday (13 January), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) for six months until 15 July 2020. The draft resolution, which is in blue, is very similar to the resolution 2481, which renewed the mission’s mandate in July. The UK, as penholder, circulated the text to the full Council membership on 9 January, placing it under a silence procedure, which it passed this morning.
The only substantive difference from the last renewal is a request for the Secretary-General to submit a review of UNMHA within five months, as opposed to the previous renewal that requested the review in 3 months. At the time of the last renewal in July, UNMHA was facing difficulties deploying personnel, and it seems that requesting a review within three months was to keep Council members updated on progress in setting up the mission, which is authorised to comprise up to 75 monitors. According to the Secretary-General’s latest review, submitted in October, UNMHA had achieved an initial operating capacity with 55 personnel, including 35 military and police monitors and 20 civilian staff.
UNMHA will continue to have the following four-point mandate:
- lead and support the functioning of the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) to oversee the governorate-wide ceasefire, redeployment of forces and mine action operations. (The RCC was set up by the Hodeidah agreement, is chaired by the head of UNMHA, General Abhijit Guha, and made up of representatives of the Yemeni government and Houthis.);
- monitor the compliance of the parties to the ceasefire and the mutual redeployment of forces from the city of Hodeidah and the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa;
- work with the parties so that the security of the city and ports is assured by local security forces in accordance with Yemeni law; and
- facilitate and coordinate UN support to assist the parties to fully implement the Hodeidah agreement.
Background on UNMHA
The special political mission was established by resolution 2452 shortly after the December 2018 Stockholm Agreement between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebel group. The Stockholm Agreement included as its main component a deal to demilitarise the important port city of Hodeidah, as well as a prisoner exchange mechanism and a statement of understanding to de-escalate fighting in Taiz. The UN brokered the accord amidst fears that an offensive to take Hodeidah by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that backs the government could exacerbate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. The Secretary-General’s review of UNMHA in October 2019 found that the mission’s presence continues to have a tangible calming and moderating effect and that UNMHA’s objectives remain achievable and appropriate for the situation on the ground. Implementation of the Hodeidah agreement, particularly the envisioned troop re-deployments, has stalled as the Houthis and government have been unable to agree on the composition of local security forces that would replace their military forces. Over the past year, Council members appeared to increasingly recognise that a political agreement on local forces is unlikely independent of broader peace talks that deal with future power-sharing arrangements.
In September, the mission established a joint operation centre that embeds senior liaison officers from the Houthis and Yemeni army to work with UNMHA personnel to diffuse tensions and address incidents that occur in the field. In October, this was followed by the establishment of four joint observation posts along the Hodeidah city frontlines, which are manned by teams of UN, government and Houthi monitors. In recent Council meetings, Special Envoy Martin Griffiths has flagged “increasing restrictions” on the movement of UNMHA personnel that includes difficulties operating freely in the port. In November 2019, Griffiths also announced an agreement on a mechanism for depositing taxes and customs from commercial oil and gas shipments into a special account in the Central Bank branch in Hodeidah, under UN supervision. The revenues will pay civil servants’ salaries, which is another element set out by the Hodeidah agreement.
Also next week, on 16 January, the Council is expected to receive its monthly briefing on Yemen from Griffiths. Director of OCHA’s Coordination Division, Ramesh Rajasingham is expected to brief on the humanitarian situation. General Guha is likely to brief in consultations. The UNMHA mandate renewal maintains the request that the Secretary-General report on a monthly basis on progress regarding the implementation of the resolution, including on any obstructions to the effective operation of UNMHA caused by any party; and on resolution 2451 (which endorsed the Stockholm Agreement), including on any non-compliance by any party. Meanwhile, the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee is meeting today to discuss the final report of the Yemen Panel of Experts.