Middle East (Yemen) - Security Council, 8995th meeting

Speakers Denounce Houthis’ Military Expansion, Refusal to Engage in Mediation

After more than seven years of war, Yemen is becoming a chronic emergency, marked by hunger, disease and other miseries that are rising faster than aid agencies can reverse, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths told the Security Council today, as the Special Envoy for the country called for joint efforts by Yemenis and the international community to break the entrenched cycle of violence.

As the world turns its attention to new crises unfolding in Ukraine, Mr. Griffiths, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, cited grave risks for inertia and fatigue in attenuating the severe conditions in Yemen. “We must not give in to those forces,” he insisted. He drew attention to the 16 March high-level pledging event to alleviate the suffering of the traumatized Yemeni people, with aid agencies seeking nearly $4.3 billion to help 17 million in 2022 alone.

New nationwide assessments confirm that 23.4 million people now need assistance — about three of every four people. Among them are 19 million people who will go hungry in the coming months — an increase of almost 20 per cent from 2021 — while more than 160,000 of them will face famine-like conditions.

Noting that Yemen relies on commercial imports for 90 per cent of its food and nearly all its fuel, he said one third of its wheat comes from the Russian Federation and Ukraine, where the conflict sparked on 24 February may push food prices – which already doubled in 2021 — even higher. Fuel imports have fallen sharply through Hudaydah port, where volumes in February were less than half the average.

More than 75 per cent of the $14 billion generated by United Nations appeals has come from six donors — the United States, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Germany and the European Commission — whose funds have staved off mass famine, he said.

But such gains are now at risk: two thirds of major United Nations programmes having already been scaled down or closed, with deep cuts made to food aid, water, health care and relief services for people fleeing violence. “If we have one message for the world today, it is this: do not stop now,” he emphasized. Member States must demonstrate that “out of the headlines does not mean left behind”.

Detailing the violence, Special Envoy Hans Grundberg, said that over the last month, artillery shelling in Taiz again inflicted civilian casualties and damage to residential buildings, while hostilities have been reported in Sa’adah and Al Dali’ governorates. Air strikes continue, primarily on front lines in Marib and Hajjah. The United Nations Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) meanwhile is working to rebuild communication between the parties, re-establish avenues for de-escalation and enhance monitoring of the ports, while expanding its patrolling reach.

“Through the ebbs and flows of the conflict, the fact remains that a military approach is not going to produce a sustainable solution,” he said, noting that he is exploring options with the parties for immediate de-escalation measures that could reduce violence, ease the fuel crisis and improve freedom of movement. In particular, he looked forward to engaging with leaders of Ansar Allah — known as the Houthis — in Sana’a.

He also updated on the series of structured consultations launched in February, encouraged by the engagement from Yemeni political parties, components, experts and civil society representatives, and describing as “very constructive” his recent discussion with Yemen President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi. “I hope these consultations mark the beginning of a serious and structured conversation between Yemenis about finding an end to the war.” He called for a serious, constructive and solution-oriented political debate, with civil discourse brought back to guide the settlement of the conflict.

In the ensuing debate, delegates affirmed that a Yemen-led peace process is the only way for the country to forge sustainable peace and voiced support for the Special Envoy’s structured consultations, urging all stakeholders to engage constructively in them.

In that context, the representative of the United States called on parties to allow the Special Envoy to visit Sana’a, a trip which is “long overdue”. The Houthis have detained another of her delegation’s local staff, who was abducted while shopping at a market and she called “loudly and clearly” for the release of current and former employees, pointing to resolution 2624 (2022), which applies the arms embargo explicitly on the Houthis.

Brazil’s delegate reiterated support for making women, youth and civil society representatives an integral part of the consultations. As the conflict rages along nearly 50 front lines, civilians in Marib are under threat from the Houthis. “We must do all we can to keep Yemen at the top of the agenda,” he stressed.

On that point, India’s representative emphasized the need for sustained and focused diplomacy to bring the peace process back on track, noting that any such framework should consider the legitimate aspirations of all Yemenis. He welcomed the resumption of consultations between Saudi Arabia and the Southern Transitional Council as a step in the right direction.

Echoing comments by the United Kingdom, France and other delegates, the representative of the United Arab Emirates, President of the Security Council, spoke in his national capacity to denounce the Houthis’ refusal to engage in United Nations mediation efforts and expansion of their military presence. Condemning their drone attack on a Riyadh refinery, repeated attacks on Abha Airport and the missile launched towards the Red Sea, he called for the imposition of sanctions on the Houthis “until they realize that there is no alternative to a political solution that is chosen by the Yemeni people”.

Rounding out the discussion, Yemen’s delegate blamed the Houthis for escalating the violence and praised the recent resolution describing them, for the first time, as a “terrorist organization”. For its part, the Government is doing everything possible to relaunch development projects and ensure the restoration of the economy. He expected Government reforms to have a deep impact — stabilizing the currency, addressing inflation and ultimately tackling the humanitarian crisis. He invited the Council to put more pressure on the Houthis and Iran’s regime in efforts to stop the bloodshed.

Also speaking today were representatives of Norway, Ghana, Albania, Gabon, China, Kenya, Ireland, Russian Federation and Mexico.

The meeting began at 10:29 a.m. and ended at 12:13 p.m.