Yemen: Mandate Renewal of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement*
Tomorrow (13 July), the Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) for one year, until 14 July 2023. The UK, the penholder on Yemen, circulated the draft resolution last week, seeking comments from Council members by 7 July. It placed a revised version of the draft resolution under silence procedure on 8 July. Russia submitted comments on the draft on 8 July, after the deadline for comments had expired and the revised draft had already been put under silence. This led to a further revised version of the text, which passed silence procedure yesterday afternoon and was put into blue.
The draft resolution retains UNMHA’s four-point mandate, last set out in resolution 2586 of 14 July 2021, including its role in monitoring the December 2018 Hodeidah governorate ceasefire agreement. It seems that most members preferred having a rollover of the mandate, and the initial text contained only a few changes in comparison with resolution 2586. This included updating the text to welcome the nationwide truce announced in April and its subsequent extension, and to call for the truce to be strengthened and translated into a durable ceasefire and an inclusive, comprehensive political settlement. The draft resolution in blue, as initially proposed, also welcomes the establishment of an UNMHA presence in Yemeni government-controlled areas; this is a reference to UNMHA’s recent permanent deployment of personnel to the port city of Mukha, which follows the withdrawal of government-affiliated forces from Hodeidah city in November 2021; and the shift in frontlines to about 70 kilometers south of the city.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) made several proposals to the text. It seems that it raised the idea of possibly needing to revise the mandate, given the recent changes on the ground, and thus proposed shortening the renewal period to six months. But other Council members felt that this was unnecessary, in part reflecting the UN’s view that the mandate does not need to be adjusted. While the one-year extension is maintained, new language is added to state the Council’s intention to make any necessary adjustments as may be required by developments on the ground, including a durable nationwide ceasefire.
Language has also been added to the draft resolution, based on another Emirati proposal, recognising the Yemeni government’s flexibility in enabling the entry of fuel ships into Hodeidah and enabling civilian flights between Sana’a and Amman and Sana’a and Cairo, and calling upon the Houthi rebel group to act with flexibility in negotiations and to open the main roads around Taiz immediately. This language was drawn from the Council’s 3 June press statement that welcomed the extension of the truce.
Echoing last year’s mandate renewal, the draft resolution in blue demands that the Houthis end the restrictions and hindrances to the movement of UNMHA personnel. Based on another proposal by the UAE, new language has been added on the inclusion of announced and unannounced UNMHA patrols.
Other additions to this year’s text stemming from the UAE’s comments include a paragraph calling on the parties to observe their commitments, in accordance with the Hodeidah Agreement. These include, as the draft resolution states, not bringing any military reinforcements and military objects to and through the city of Hodeidah, the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa, and the governorate of Hodeidah, as well as removing military manifestations (e.g. barriers and trenches) from the city. This language is largely drawn from the text of the Hodeidah Agreement. Some members apparently preferred using the verbatim wording from the Hodeidah agreement, though the draft resolution in blue includes differences such as the addition of the term “military objects”.
Perhaps the most sensitive of the UAE proposals was the addition of a paragraph that expresses concern at “accounts of the military use of the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa”. Several members preferred to remove this paragraph from the revised version of the draft resolution, expressing concerns over the Council pronouncing itself on an issue that has not been verified in any reporting to the Council. Neither the Secretary-General’s review of UNMHA, dated 14 June, nor reporting by the Panel of Experts supporting the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee has documented such military use. It was important, however, for the UAE and apparently other Gulf states to reflect this concern in the text. In an attempted compromise, the penholder replaced “reports of…military use” with “accounts of…military use”.
Among other changes to this year’s mandate renewal is a paragraph recognising the importance of engaging and consulting with local communities, including a diverse range of women’s organisations, to increase women’s participation in the Hodeidah Agreement’s implementation and locally led peace initiatives. This addition, which was proposed by Ireland, is based on a recommendation made by the Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women Peace and Security in 2021. New language in the draft text also highlights the issue of mine action, which the Secretary-General flagged in his review of UNMHA as an increasingly important function for the mission.
The version of the draft resolution that passed yesterday’s silence procedure apparently streamlined some of the references to the Houthis in the text, which may have facilitated Russia’s agreement.
Tomorrow’s scheduled renewal of UNMHA’s mandate follows the Council’s monthly briefing and consultations yesterday (11 July) on Yemen. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya briefed during the open session. The head of UNMHA, Major General Michael Beary, briefed members in the closed consultations.
As Grundberg noted during his briefing, the expiration of the truce agreement is three weeks away. He reported that he recently shared with the parties a new updated proposal for the phased reopening of roads in Taiz and other governorates, but that the Houthis, who have maintained a siege of Taiz city for years, had not accepted it. Grundberg said that he would continue efforts to reach a negotiated solution on re-opening the roads—which is one of the key elements of the truce agreement—while also exploring with the parties the possibility of a longer extension of the truce to provide an opportunity to start discussions on security and economic issues and a more formal ceasefire agreement.
Funding shortfalls were also flagged at yesterday’s session. The UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM), established in 2016 to facilitate commercial shipping into Hodeidah ports, is at risk of having to shut down by September without new donor funding. The UN also continues to face a $20 million shortfall in order to begin the first phase of a plan to transfer oil from the decrepit SAFER oil tanker, which risks an oil leak or explosion that would cause an environmental, humanitarian and economic catastrophe in the Red Sea. More broadly, the Yemen humanitarian response plan is only 27% funded, forcing UN agencies to scale back relief work. During her briefing, Msuya further highlighted the importance of Saudi Arabia and the UAE disbursing the $3 billion economic support package for Yemen that they announced in April, given the economic pressures that are driving humanitarian needs.
*Post-script: On 13 July, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2643, extending the mandate of UNMHA until 14 July 2023.