|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6878th Meeting (PM)
Yemen Traversed Critical Phase in Its History, Having Learned Peace
Can Emerge From Ashes of Conflict, Security Council Told
In Briefing, Special Adviser Says National Dialogue Possible ‘Crucible
For New Yemen’; Country Representative Asks for Patience as Challenges Met
Yemenis had learned that the “gun as a tool to answer the legitimate aspirations has passed, and a peaceful solution can emerge from the ashes of conflict”, the United Nations top official in that country told the Security Council today in a briefing on recent developments.
“Yemeni men and women have armed themselves instead with the principles of wisdom, mutual respect and peaceful interaction, and have thus avoided the abyss of civil strife,” said Jamal Benomar, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General.
The upcoming National Dialogue Conference was an opportunity for Yemenis to build the future that met the aspirations of all, he said. The Committee for National Dialogue could indeed be the “crucible for a new Yemen”, with a diverse composition and strong commitment of all parties, he said, urging continued strong support from the international community at this critical juncture.
One year after the country had signed its peace and transition agreement, it had transformed itself from turmoil to normality on the way to the 2014 national elections, he said, adding, however, that the long and arduous road ahead remained rife with grave challenges on multiple fronts on the path to national elections in 2014. Among the toughest hurdles were restructuring military forces under one command, rooting out corruption, expanding State authority, quelling terrorist threats and attacks, and consolidating national unity.
Unrest in the South and an acute humanitarian crisis, with an alarming number of people on the “edge of starvation”, one quarter of the population lacking basic health care and half of all Yemenis without access to clean water could also upend progress. Further threatening the transition were “spoilers”, keen on impeding progress and profiting from instability. Blackouts and attacks on oil and gas pipelines had affected millions and caused massive revenue losses.
Despite those grave challenges, said Jamal Abdullah al-Sallal, Yemen’s representative, his Government had made great strides in stabilizing the country and restructuring the armed forces. Concerned that as the humanitarian situation could become a obstacle to all progress, he appealed to the international community to continue to support his country in dealing with its challenges, calling on Yemenis, in addition, to exhibit patience as those challenges were met, with a view to making the political transition a success.
When the floor opened to Council members, speakers voiced their full support for Yemen’s transition process. The United Kingdom’s representative said a priority was to make certain that the national dialogue addressed all key challenges and represented the full population, including youth and women. Condemning continued attacks, he insisted that the Council would not hesitate to act against the so-called spoilers.
Echoing that sentiment, Germany’s representative insisted that what the Council said and did mattered to the people of Yemen. He also raised a widely held concern that the progress achieved so far was not irreversible. What Yemen needed now was support from the Security Council and beyond, he said.
Agreeing, India’s representative sounded a common call among members, saying that the international community’s continued support was crucial as the country traversed a critical phase in its history.
Looking forward to elections, South Africa’s representative urged all Yemeni stakeholders to forego narrow positions and focus on the future of the entire country.
The representatives of China, United States, Portugal, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Togo, Guatemala, France, Pakistan and Morocco also delivered statements.
The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:26 p.m.
JAMAL BENOMAR, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Yemen, said one year after the country had signed its peace and transition agreement, it had transformed itself from turmoil to normality on the way to the 2014 national elections. Commending President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi Mansour and the Government, he highlighted that, while fighting for control of cities by rival militias had ended and freedom of movement was being restored in major urban areas, the road ahead remained long and arduous as Yemen faced grave challenges on multiple fronts.
Difficult issues, he said, included military restructuring, as the armed forces remained divided, with the powerful Republican Guards led by the former President’s son, and the first Armoured Division, led by General Ali Mohsen, who broke from the regime during last year’s uprising. Corruption remained widespread and systemic institutional reform was needed to bring all armed forces under one command.
State authority remained limited in parts of the country, which remained awash with arms and new ones were reportedly coming in, fuelling clashes between tribal groups, he said. Terrorism also remained a serious threat. While the Government’s initiative to dislodge Al-Qaida’s elements, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula had deserted the open field and infiltrated cities to attack their targets, including the killing of a Saudi military attaché last week.
“In terms of governance, one year into the transition, it is clear that the honeymoon period is over,” he said. “Yemenis now expected the Government to deliver — to provide better security for the nation and social services.”
However, he continued, distrust between the two principal political blocs constituting the Government of National Unity remained entrenched, playing out in a “war” in the media. Further, unrest in the South was rooted in the marginalization and discrimination of communities since unification. The rights-based Hiraak movement over the years had radicalized towards an agenda for a separate State. He urged the Government to take confidence-building measures to address the Southerners’ grievances and start a national dialogue.
In the background was a current acute humanitarian crisis, he said. Nearly half the population suffered from lack of food security and an alarming number lived on the “edge of starvation”. A quarter of a million children were severely malnourished and dying without proper intervention, one quarter of the population lacked basic health care and half the population lacked access to clean water. While there were modest signs of economic progress, strong support from the international community was needed so Yemenis could start seeing improvement in their daily lives.
The upcoming National Dialogue Conference provided an opportunity for Yemenis to build the future that met the aspirations of all, he said. The Committee for National Dialogue could indeed be the “crucible for a new Yemen”, with a diverse composition and strong commitment of all parties, he said.
After the Committee became deadlocked this week over the issue of representation and allocation of seats at the National Dialogue Conference, he said he had suggested ideas to help the process move forward and was pleased that those efforts would bear fruit with the delivery of a final report.
Active support through the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNFPA) and a new multi-donor trust fund had boosted preparations for the national dialogue, he said, adding that he was pleased to report that a new electoral commission had been established by presidential decree. Now critical was to focus on the creation of a new voter registry. To move forward, a “true reckoning with past injustices and steps to heal old wounds were essential”, and he hoped a draft law would be adopted by consensus.
Yet, transition was threatened by “spoilers” of all sorts that were keen on impeding progress and profiting from instability, he said. Blackouts and attacks on oil and gas pipelines affected millions and caused massive revenue losses. “Many Yemenis expect the Security Council to keep a careful watch on the spoilers’ actions and to hold them to account,” he said. “We count on the continued consensus in the Security Council that has played a crucial role in supporting a peaceful transition. We are all determined to continue supporting a transition that is unique in the region and one that is based on a clear road map.”
While there were still tremendous challenges, he was convinced that Yemen had the potential to be a prosperous country, which enjoyed stability and was governed according to the genuine will and aspirations of its population.
“Change in the region has all too often been borne by sacrifices that should not have been necessary, and that we cannot ignore,” he said. Yemenis had learned that the “gun as a tool to answer the legitimate aspirations has passed, and a peaceful solution can emerge from the ashes of conflict”. As the Secretary-General observed during his visit to the country two weeks ago, Yemeni men and women had armed themselves instead with the principles of wisdom, mutual respect and peaceful interaction, and had thus avoided the abyss of civil strife. “Let us continue our work together to support this profound transformation that the country is now undertaking,” said Mr. Benomar.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) recognized that much had been achieved in Yemen, but stressed that permanent lasting change that fulfilled the basic rights to freedom and democracy now needed to be ensured. A priority was to make certain that the national dialogue begun this year addressed all key challenges and embraced the full population, including youth and women. Timely preparations for elections and the upcoming referendum were also critical. Condemning continued attacks, he expressed concern over so-called spoilers and insisted that the Council would not hesitate to act against them. The international community must also provide adequate humanitarian support, he added, noting the successful result of donor conferences, including his country’s contributions. The challenge now was to turn all pledges into action so that they quickly made a difference for the Yemeni people. The example of Yemen showed the importance of the Council’s unity for preventive action and in support of the Secretary-General’s good offices. A more positive future for generations of Yemenis was now within reach as a result.
WANG MIN ( China), also welcoming progress in Yemen, said that continued support for a Yemeni-led political process, with respect for the country’s independence and territorial integrity, was needed. An inclusive national dialogue was important for that purpose, as was a holistic approach to security threats, including addressing the root causes of terrorism. Humanitarian and development assistance were also critical in consolidating the country’s stability. He called for well-coordinated support, and noted the assistance provided by China for Yemen’s economic and social development. He pledged continued work in coordination with the international community in favour of Yemen’s further progress.
ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa) also welcomed progress in Yemen, including preparation for a national dialogue process, and called for the latter to be as inclusive as possible and to be held as soon as possible. Looking forward to elections, he urged all Yemeni stakeholders to forego narrow positions and focus on the future of the entire country. Counterproductive activities must be discouraged, he added, stressing that support must be given to fight terrorism. Alleviating the humanitarian crisis required urgent assistance and, in that connection, he welcomed the donor conferences. Maintaining that the success of the mediation in Yemen was due in large part to a united Security Council working with the Gulf Cooperation Council and other regional organizations, he encouraged the Security Council to visit Yemen at the earliest possible time.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) said his country would continue to support efforts for inclusive national dialogue and accountability in Yemen, and oppose those who obstructed Yemen’s progress. He looked forward to a timeframe for the dialogue, as well as work on substantive questions of reform through that activity. Welcoming election developments, he looked forward also to progress related to the constitutional referendum, transitional justice, strengthening the rule of law and other necessary advancements. Maintaining that addressing humanitarian needs was important for the transition, he urged donors to cooperate with the Government priorities in that regard and to meet the humanitarian appeal, noting that his country had doubled its assistance.
His country, he said, was also working on a range of ways to help support long-term economic development in Yemen, which could consolidate the political transition. He condemned acts of terrorism in the strongest terms, recognizing the efforts of Yemeni security forces and strongly supporting presidential decrees to restructure them. He called on all Yemenis to show their willingness to put the country before individual interests, and pledged to consider further action, as appropriate, against those who blocked progress, and to continue to support the people’s aspirations for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Yemen.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) said that Yemen had come a long way in the past year and he looked forward to the early launch of an inclusive national dialogue. However, the challenges were manifold. Condemning all terrorist acts, he supported Government efforts to address them and to restructure its security forces, and welcomed intentions to end all child recruitment. The humanitarian situation required urgent address. In addition, all those responsible for human rights violations must be held accountable. He called on all Yemenis to press ahead with the next phase of the transitional process. The international community must continue to support them, and the Council must be seized with the complete fulfilment of its resolution towards fruitful change and meaningful reform in Yemen.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said the Security Council had supported progress in the transition after a period of great challenges, and he congratulated the Government and Yemeni people in their efforts towards a secure, prosperous, and democratic future. Yet, the current fragile situation exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and the ongoing violence and terrorist attacks were grave challenges. Noting the Government’s efforts to restructure the armed forces and engage in the National Dialogue Conference, he hoped such initiatives would pave the way to a referendum on the constitution in 2013 and the elections in 2014. India would continue to support Yemen in its efforts. The international community’s continued support was also vital as the country traversed a critical phase in its history.
PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said that when peaceful demonstrations in Sana’a had been met with violence in early 2011, his country had called for Council action. In hindsight, that had been the right thing to do, since early action in the Council could prevent conflicts from escalating. The Council’s united decision to endorse the Gulf Cooperation Council transition plan had made a difference on the ground. Indeed, what the Security Council said and did mattered to the people of Yemen. The progress achieved so far was by no means irreversible, and continued support from the international community, the Council and beyond was crucial. A balanced national dialogue was critical, and he encouraged all relevant actors to engage constructively in the National Dialogue Conference. He also welcomed the visit to Yemen by the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, as well as the country’s efforts to end the recruitment of children.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) welcomed the leadership’s policy in implementing Security Council resolutions, and added that his country would continue to provide assistance to the national dialogue process. During the current complex phase, Yemenis needed to coalesce around President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi Mansour to craft and adopt a new constitution and to hold national elections in 2014. Welcoming the signing of the presidential decree on elections and referendum, he said the players should coordinate to address the country’s common needs. Condemning the 28 November killing of a Saudi military official and his guard, he said those crimes must be punished. That tragedy demonstrated that there were no “good” or “bad” terrorists, and that attempts to apply double-standards were unjustified. Efforts to fight Al-Qaida, eradicate hunger and poverty, provide basic services and assistance to all, and set up socio-economic reforms must be implemented, and he called for continued international support.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said Yemen had made great strides in moving the country forward, among them, the National Dialogue Conference. The international community must continue its support to the country at this juncture. Engaging with all political forces and groups was vital, and in that light, he welcomed the inclusive nature of the national dialogue preparation efforts. The presence of rebel groups in the north and movements and unrest in the south jeopardized security, and he supported the Government’s efforts to defeat those threats. On the ongoing humanitarian crisis, he said more must be done to address, among other things, hunger and the needs of returning refugees and internally displaced persons. Azerbaijan fully supported Yemen and hoped efforts would bear fruit.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said the people and Government of Yemen needed and deserved the world’s full support to ensure a democratic future. An inclusive national dialogue should make it possible to hold general elections in 2014. He was pleased that an agreement had been reached on seat assignments for the National Dialogue Conference, and noted that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress party and partners would receive 112 of the 565 seats. Also positive had been the return of many internally displaced persons, and the greater support for that endeavour. There had been deep changes over the past year, but more should be done to reform the armed forces. Continued attacks highlighted the need to reorganize State forces. The Council and the international community must speak with a single voice on those issues, he said.
KOKOU NAYO M’BEOU ( Togo) congratulated the Yemeni Government on its efforts to create a political environment that rested on democratic institutions. He hoped that the establishment of the election commissions would lead to inclusive, credible elections, with the country’s entire political class supporting the preservation and consolidation of the transition’s accomplishments. To ensure that collaboration, inclusive national dialogue was needed on all issues, including the unity of the country and the reconciliation of all its strands. He called on all political and military groups to respond positively, without further delay, to the President’s appeal to take part in the dialogue. The Council should assist the Yemeni authorities to find a solution to issues related to the southern groups and support them in eradicating terrorism. Welcoming the announced end of child military recruitment in national forces, he called for all armed groups to make the same commitment. He thanked the international community for its generosity so far in relieving the humanitarian crisis in the country, and he invited greater efforts to alleviate the plight of refugees.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) welcomed the progress achieved in what he called a “fairly complicated transition process”, which must continue with the necessary reforms. A framework for respect of basic rights of all individuals must be completed; he hoped that the recent visit of the Secretary-General would contribute to that goal. National dialogue must be appropriately prepared with the support of the entire population, and he welcomed the seating accord in that regard. It was vital for all parties to show mutual respect, to desist from the use of force, to show flexibility and to accept compromises. The restructuring of security forces was also important. Condemning all acts of terrorism, he urged all groups in Yemen to refrain from provocation and assist in the full implementation of Council resolutions. All those participating in human rights violations must be held accountable. In addition, socio-economic problems that increased insecurity must be addressed. In that light, he hoped that the results of the donor process would help to advance the transition.
MARTIN BRIENS ( France) reiterated his country’s support for the Yemeni Government in its efforts to complete an orderly political transition that responded to the aspirations of its people. Welcoming significant progress in the implementation of resolution 2014 (2011), he said that to consolidate the second phase of the transition, it was important to launch the inclusive national dialogue, for which he offered French legal expertise, and to seriously address the steadily deteriorating humanitarian situation. In that regard, he welcomed the results of the donor conferences in Riyad and New York. Noting that his country was the leading investor in Yemen, he said it looked to maintain its engagement, particularly in projects related to the electricity sector, as well as broader cooperation in areas from security to humanitarian aid. The final priority of the second phase of the transition should be the restructuring of security forces. Reiterating the strongest condemnation of all acts of terrorism, he said it was important to protect industrial and transportation facilities that were critical for the country’s economy. Calling the transition in Yemen one of the successes of the Council, he said that the body must be fully engaged in the completion and consolidation of the process. He reminded potential spoilers that the Council was ready to apply measures against them.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) welcomed progress in Yemen, cautioning, however, that it did not obviate the need to keep further challenges in sight. Noting the deep, long-term ties between his country and Yemen, he expressed hope that the full implementation of the initiative for the transfer of power would lead to normalization of conditions. The continued support of the international community was crucial, but it should not “micromanage” Yemeni affairs and it should retain respect for the country’s independence and sovereignty. He hoped that the convening of an inclusive national dialogue process would soon occur along with the timely conclusion of the transition process. Condemning terrorist attacks in the country, he added that his Government stood ready to provide any assistance needed for Yemeni efforts to fight the scourge. Welcoming the return of displaced persons, he called, however, for the international community to do everything possible to fund efforts to alleviate a humanitarian crisis he termed worrisome and reiterated his country’s unflinching support to the Government and people of Yemen.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, pledged his country’s full support to efforts to gain full Yemeni participation in a national dialogue, looking forward in particular to a declaration by southern factions that they would participate. He welcomed progress in the country, such as the President’s firm commitment to peaceful transition and comprehensive reform, including restructuring of the security sector. Plans for reconciliation and transitional justice were also needed. He called on the international community to provide adequate support for Yemen to face continued violence, as well as to alleviate deteriorating socio-economic conditions. Affirming the importance of respect for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he looked forward to further support for the consolidation of the progress that had been made towards its stability and prosperity.
JAMAL ABDULLAH AL-SALLAL ( Yemen) thanked the Council for its commitment to the political advancement, unity and stability of his country and for its help in preparing it successful national dialogue. Mr. Benomar had accurately portrayed the progress and grave difficulties remaining. Despite the challenges, the National Unity Government had achieved great progress in, among other areas, restoring services. Recent successes had reflected well on the abilities of Yemenis to improve their future, to which the international community had shown its commitment. The Government should continue to be supported in that context.
In the second phase of the transition, the Government had made great strides in stabilizing the country and restructuring the armed forces for that purpose, he said. In addition, an investigatory committee and election commission had been established, as had premises for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The Government was keen on having an inclusive, successful national dialogue on time, towards the goals of social peace, multilateral democracy, human rights and good governance. The recent agreement on allocation of seats for the dialogue, including for civil society, women and youth, was an important step. Further steps were in motion. The President also reaffirmed commitment to a timely constitutional referendum and elections.
Turning to socio-economic difficulties, he stressed that the situation was exacerbated by terrorist attacks. Extreme poverty and unemployment had increased, threatening the stability of the entire country and region. The country also bore a huge burden due to the arrival of asylum-seekers from the Horn of Africa in waves that did not stop. As the humanitarian situation could become a obstacle to all progress, he appealed to the international community to continue to support his country in dealing with its challenges, calling on Yemenis, in addition, to exhibit patience as those challenges were met, with a view to making the political transition a success. The Government would work together with the international community in helping to fulfil Yemeni aspirations for a democracy that respected human rights and other values of the United Nations.
Mr. BENOMAR said the transition in Yemen was largely on track and moving forward despite the challenges. He paid tribute to the peaceful demands by youth for change, which had resulted in the transformations seen today. He also saluted Yemeni leaders that were working to make the peaceful transition possible, and reaffirmed that progress had been through an entirely Yemeni-led process.
He was pleased to see Council members unanimously commending the leadership of President Hadi, whose strong and effective stewardship was steering the country towards a bright future. He was also pleased that the Council was speaking in one voice. The national dialogue represented the beginning of a new Yemen, one which allowed men and women across the political spectrum to collectively shape the future of their country. It was important, he added, for all of Yemen’s partners to contribute to the trust fund established to support the national dialogue.
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