Only a broad approach that incorporates improving the economy, battling poverty, promoting stability and fighting terrorism will solve the underlying causes of Yemen’s many problems, the top United Nations political official told an international conference on the country today.
B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the High-Level Meeting on Yemen, held in London, that the UN is ready to assist the impoverished Arab nation make progress on the humanitarian, developmental and economic fronts. The country is one of the poorest in the region.
“The many challenges faced by Yemen can only be addressed in a systemic and comprehensive way,” Mr. Pascoe said, stressing that the Government and its people must be at the centre of this approach.
“But it is clear that the international community will need to support the Government’s efforts to tackle the underlying causes of the country’s difficulties. This support is fundamental in sustaining the country’s long-term stability and security, countering the terrorist threat, boosting its economy, meeting its development needs and fighting poverty.”
Mr. Pascoe said international support will also be invaluable in improving the Yemeni Government’s willingness and capacity to resolve internal problems through dialogue and collaboration.
“We welcome President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh’s calls for dialogue with opposition parties and civil society organizations to arrive at a unified national position on the internal problems the country faces. All sides must remain committed to protecting civilians and respecting international humanitarian law.”
Government forces have been engaged in fierce fighting with members of the al-Houthi rebel group in Yemen’s remote northwest since last year, displacing as many as 250,000 people and sparking concern from senior UN officials – including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes – about the humanitarian impact of the conflict.
Mr. Pascoe said today that Yemen will require particular help to deal with the conflict’s impact and also high food prices, rising unemployment and the perils posed by climate change.
He voiced serious concern that the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan for 2010, which calls for $177 million to help the country, has received less than 1 per cent of the funding so far.
Terrorism remains another critical issue, the Under-Secretary-General said, noting that “a small number of extremists” in both Yemen and nearby Somalia have caused problems in each country.
“Coordinated international support for Yemen, Somalia and other countries in the region in their efforts to improve border control and increase the security in their waters, including in dealing with piracy attacks, will also contribute to these efforts.”
At the end of today’s one-day meeting, participants – who include representatives of the Yemeni Government, the UN and more than 20 countries, regional groups and international organizations – agreed that the international community must boost its support for efforts to combat the threat posed by Al-Qaida and other terrorist or radical elements.
“It was clear that economic and social reform by the Government of Yemen was key to long-term stability and prosperity,” the participants concluded, according to a statement issued by the meeting’s chairman, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
Participants welcomed “the determination of the international community to engage further in support of Yemeni Government efforts to build law enforcement, legislative, judicial and security capacities,” Mr. Miliband said.
“Yemen’s partners agreed to support Yemeni Government initiatives to strengthen their counter-terrorist capabilities, and to enhance aviation and border security. This will include work on both land and maritime borders, including on strengthening the Yemeni coastguard.”
A “Friends of Yemen” process, bringing together key organizations and Member States, will be set up to help the country implement reforms, Mr. Miliband added, with the first meeting of the new group slated for March.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) also announced that it will host a meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 27-28 February to discuss how to make aid more effective in Yemen.
The country’s Government, meanwhile, committed to starting discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help strengthen its fragile economy.