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‘No time to lose’ UN envoy tells Security Council, ‘Yemen cannot wait’

Shaker Ali sits in front of what used to be a marketplace in Aden, Yemen. (22 June 2019)
© UNHCR/Saleh Bahulais
Shaker Ali sits in front of what used to be a marketplace in Aden, Yemen. (22 June 2019)

‘No time to lose’ UN envoy tells Security Council, ‘Yemen cannot wait’

Peace and Security

One month ago, the United Nations top Yemen envoy told the Security Council the country was facing “a crucial moment” in the course of its long and bloody conflict, and on Tuesday, he again urged members to acknowledge that recent infighting around the Government stronghold of Aden were “a clear sign” that the conflict must be brought to a swift, peaceful end.

“A continuation of this current situation is simply untenable”, Special Envoy Martin Griffiths said via video-link from Amman, Jordan, referring to a series of clashes in the port city this month between formerly-allied separatists and pro-Government forces that have led to dozens of civilian deaths and injuries to hundreds of others.

The UN envoy condemned “the unacceptable efforts by the Southern Transitional Council to take control of State institutions by force” and deplored “the harassment of Yemenis of northern origin in Aden, such as through physical violence, forced displacement and denial of freedom of movement, including targeting of Government officials and supporters”.  

Flagging that State institutions “almost certainly may break down further”, worsening daily life for many, Mr. Griffiths warned of “a grave risk of further damage to Yemen’s social fabric and the spread of violence to other southern governorates”.

He warned about a possible resurgence of violence involving extremist groups that might further fragment the security sector in Aden and other areas, impacting civilians and prospects for future stability.

“I am grateful to all those Member States, including members of this Council, who have called for restraint and dialogue”, he said, welcoming the Coalition’s efforts “to restore calm” and those of Government allies Saudi Arabia “to convene a dialogue in Jeddah to discuss the situation”.

Peace hangs in the balance

Citing Aden and Abyan, the Special Envoy said, “the fragmentation of Yemen is becoming a stronger and more pressing threat”, that is making peace-process efforts “more urgent than ever”.

“Every additional day of the conflict adds to the total of the tragedy and the misery” Mr. Griffiths maintained. “No country can tolerate the stresses of internal conflict indefinitely. Yemen cannot wait”.

Every additional day of the conflict adds to the total of the tragedy and the misery– Special Envoy Martin Griffiths 

Stressing that “there is no time to lose”, he said, “the stakes are becoming too high for the future of Yemen, the Yemeni people and the wider region”.

Describing more positive developments, eight months into the Stockholm Agreement which he helped broker, Mr. Griffiths reported “there have been no major military operations in Hudaydah city” involving Houthi rebels and pro-Government forces, violence there has diminished, and aid continues to move through the ports, which “by itself a major achievement” that benefits civilians in “Hudaydah and elsewhere in Yemen”.

Calling it “a key milestone in Yemen’s peace process”, he advised the Council not to allow its implementation “to override our broader imperative to bring the conflict to an end. Yemen cannot wait”.

Noting that the situation on the ground “is changing with great pace”, Mr. Griffiths urged the Council “to seize opportunities for progress”.

‘Volatile and unsustainable’ war 

For her part, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ursula Mueller, updated the Council on five key priorities aimed at reducing the suffering in Yemen.

Beginning with international humanitarian law, she listed an array of offences, bemoaning the conduct of hostilities and its “devastating consequences for civilians and civilian infrastructure”.  

Secondly, she spoke about humanitarian access, saying that “humanitarian agencies working through the UN response plan are assisting an average of 12 million people every month”, but that may not last.

Segueing to funding the UN response plan, she lamented that “there has been no major increase” and that “only 34 per cent of plan requirements have been met”, which is “a tragedy” because with adequate resources, “we can save millions of lives and reduce people's suffering”.

For her fourth point, she bemoaned a worsening economy – “a key driver of humanitarian needs”, saying that food, fuel and other essentials, almost all of which must be imported “will rise even higher for ordinary Yemenis”, many of whom “already cannot afford current prices”.

Finally, she underscored “the urgent need for peace” through a political solution to “address the country’s enormous humanitarian crisis”.