What's In Blue

Posted Tue 13 Jul 2021

Yemen: Vote on UNMHA Mandate Renewal and Consultations*

Tomorrow (14 July), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) for another year, until 15 July 2022. Following the vote, Council members will hold their monthly meeting on Yemen in closed consultations. The expected briefers are Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Acting Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ramesh Rajasingham, and General Abhijit Guha, head of UNMHA and chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC).

UNMHA Mandate Renewal Resolution

The draft resolution in blue is largely a straightforward renewal of UNMHA’s existing mandate, which was most recently outlined in resolution 2534 of 14 July 2020.  This has been the Council practice in the three UNMHA renewals since the mission’s establishment in January 2019. The draft text in blue retains the mission’s four-point mandate to:

  • lead and support the functioning of the RCC to oversee the ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate, redeployment of forces and mine action operations;
  • 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 maintained 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.

The text includes two notable updates, based on requests by General Guha during the Council’s most recent consultations on Yemen, which took place on 15 June. It contains a new paragraph in which the Council calls upon the parties to work towards the stability of Hodeidah, including through cooperation in the RCC and with UNMHA, stressing the importance of the functioning of the RCC and its joint mechanisms to implement the Hodeidah Agreement. The language was added amid the impasse in reactivating the RCC since the Yemeni government suspended its participation in the committee over a year ago, following the March 2020 shooting and subsequent death of a government liaison officer at one of the joint observation posts.

Another addition to this year’s resolution on UNMHA is language demanding an end to the obstruction of movement of UNMHA personnel in Hodeidah governorate. As documented in the Secretary-General’s latest review of UNMHA, dated 3 June, restrictions imposed by the Houthi rebel group have kept the mission from undertaking patrols of Hodeidah city since November 2019 and accessing hotspots and sites of significant “ceasefire incidents”. The text also contains new language expressing support for UNMHA efforts to reactivate the RCC, as well as to meet the access needs of all parties and be equally responsive to their access requests; this language was apparently added to address the Yemeni government’s concern over the mission being based in Houthi territory, making government access to UNMHA more difficult.

The negotiations on the draft text in blue appear to have been smooth. On 2 July, the UK, the penholder on Yemen, circulated a draft resolution extending UNMHA’s mandate for one year. After receiving comments from Council members, the UK circulated a revised text on 8 July and then placed it under silence procedure until the next day. The draft resolution passed silence on Friday (9 July).

It seems that India sought to strengthen the language on reactivating the RCC, while China apparently made suggestions to soften this call. The penholder adjusted the text to accommodate both positions—it replaced the term “a return to cooperative participation in the RCC” with “cooperation in the RCC”, while adding new references to the importance of the functioning of the RCC and the Council’s support for its reactivation. At China’s suggestion, language was also strengthened to “demand” an end to hindrances on UNMHA’s movement.

Several members made proposals that were not incorporated in the draft resolution. One delegation apparently suggested highlighting the need for the parties to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law amid the continued violations of the ceasefire and civilian casualties in Hodeidah. Ireland and Mexico also proposed language based on the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security’s recommendation that the Council call on UNMHA to ensure that it is systematically engaging with a diverse range of women’s organisations in all areas of its work and to report on the outcomes of such outreach. It appears that the penholder preferred to avoid opening the text to new elements other than those proposed by Guha.

Closed Consultations

Tomorrow’s monthly meeting on Yemen will be held in closed consultations, which France, the president of the Council in July, announced would be the format this month for all recurring monthly agenda issues.

Ceasefire talks remain stalled. During the Council’s 15 June meeting on Yemen, Martin Griffiths provided his final briefing as UN Special Envoy to Yemen, outlining the parties’ positions in recent negotiations. According to Griffiths, the Houthis are insisting on a stand-alone agreement to reopen Sana’a airport and to lift restrictions through Hodeidah ports before agreeing to discuss a ceasefire. The Yemeni government, Griffiths said, wants these issues agreed to and implemented as part of a package. It seems that an announcement on Griffiths’ replacement could come soon; however, with a new UN Special Envoy to Yemen yet to be named, Oman has continued its intensified efforts to secure a ceasefire, according to media reports.

At tomorrow’s meeting, DiCarlo is likely to update members about developments on the ground. Fighting continues on the front lines outside Marib City, as the Houthis seek to seize the oil- and gas-rich governorate, which is the government’s last stronghold in the north. In Yemen’s central al-Bayda province, heavy fighting reportedly broke out earlier this month as the government, with support of al-Bayda tribesman and the Giants Brigade (“Al-Amaliqa” in Arabic), which is made up of primarily Salafi fighters from the south that have fought in Hodeidah, launched an operation to recapture the governorate’s capital from the Houthis. There have also been renewed tensions between the government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC). New fighting between the two sides—which are nominally allied against the Houthis—broke out last week in Abyan governorate as progress remains slow in implementing the Riyadh Agreement, the power-sharing accord brokered by Saudi Arabia between the government and STC.

Updating Council members on the humanitarian situation, Rajasingham is likely to highlight the declining value of the Yemeni riyal, which the UN has repeatedly warned weakens Yemenis’ purchasing power, increasing the risk of famine in a country that imports most of its food. In the past week, the currency fell for the first time below 1,000 Yemeni riyals per one US dollar in Aden and other areas controlled by the government. Meanwhile, the riyal is trading at about 600 riyals to the dollar in Houthi-controlled areas.

Some Council members may refer to findings on Yemen contained in the Secretary-General’s 2021 annual report on children and armed conflict, which was made public on 21 June. In Yemen, the UN verified the killing of 269 children and maiming of 855 during 2020. The main causes for child casualties were mortar and artillery shelling (339), gunshots and crossfire (305), explosive remnants of war (212) and air strikes (150). As has been the case in the past, some civil society organisations have criticised the Secretary-General’s decision not to include in the report’s annexes, which list parties that have committed grave violations against children, the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen, even though the report showed it was responsible for killing and maiming at least 194 children in 2020. (The Saudi-led coalition was delisted from the annexes of the Secretary-General’s 2020 annual report for the violation of killing and maiming).

 

*Post-script: On 14 July, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2586, which extended the mandate of UNMHA until 15 July 2022.