27 September 2013
Security Council
SC/11134

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

7037th Meeting (PM)


Yemen’s Political Transition at ‘Critical Juncture’, Secretary-General’s


Aide Tells Security Council in Briefing

 


Special Adviser Outlines Challenges, Progress,

As Members Hear from Foreign Minister, Representative of Regional Grouping


Yemen’s political transition was at a critical juncture, with the country facing several serious political, economic, humanitarian and security challenges, the Security Council heard today.


The National Dialogue Conference had faced difficulties in the run-up to the conclusion of its work, Jamal Benomar, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, said in a briefing to the 15-member body.  The “Southern Question” had proven particularly difficult to deal with, and the Hiraak Southern Movement had suspended participation in the Dialogue, feeling their legitimate grievances were not being adequately addressed.


However, those difficulties should not jeopardize the gains already achieved, he said, adding that he had been facilitating talks aimed at finding a consensual solution to the Southern Question since 10 September.  Various proposals on the establishment of a federal Yemen were under consideration, but southern support was contingent on the Government working to redress past injustices, and the Government of National Unity was urgently implementing confidence-building measures.


Given the emerging consensus on federalism, he continued, debate had begun on a “constituting period” during which benchmarks would be cleared, resources pooled and capacity built for the transition to a federal State.  Some proposals on the need for more inclusion and power-sharing had been drawn up, and there had been questions about the timing and character of elections.  Other issues discussed would require more work, but the Conference had never been meant to address all challenges at once, he said.  Rather, it was a vehicle through which Yemenis could lay the foundations for more inclusive politics, agree on broad principles and initiate processes for resolving long-standing conflicts.


He said the National Dialogue Conference was one of several major achievements that Yemen could celebrate, bringing together youth, women, civil society members and other previously marginalized groups to discuss the country’s future and resolve outstanding grievances through dialogue.  The Conference was making “extraordinary progress” in engaging with key challenges facing the country.  Its work was now 90 per cent complete and its recommendations would “provide a blueprint for a more peaceful, just and prosperous Yemen”.


Among its many recommendations, the Conference called for greater participation of women in decision-making and stronger guarantees of their human rights.  Women’s rights were to be enshrined in the new constitution and a guarantee was in place for all three branches of Government to have 30 per cent representation of women.  That was “quite extraordinary, particularly in a part of the world that suffers from an evident deficit on women’s rights and gender equality”, he said.


Outlining the major humanitarian, economic and security challenges that Yemen still faced, he said they continued to drive vulnerability.  The National Unity Government needed support to tackle problems like poverty, malnutrition and water shortages, as well as a volatile security situation, with Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and other terrorist groups operating within the country.  Public infrastructure was regularly sabotaged, he said, and attacks had increased and amplified at a cost of millions of dollars.


Nonetheless, Yemen remained the only “Arab Spring country” involved in a negotiated, peaceful transition, he said, pointing out that the National Dialogue Conference was the most genuine, transparent and inclusive deliberative process the Arab region had ever witnessed.  It was a model of dialogue and deliberation that could inform other such processes.


Abdul Latif bin Rashid al Zayani, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, also delivered a briefing, expressing optimism that Yemen would pass through “a critical period in its history”.  The Security Council was vital to settling disagreements and preventing aggression, and could protect Yemen’s political transition due to its high level of legitimacy.  It must bolster the National Unity Government’s work, particularly with regard to fulfilling the people’s expectations of political and economic reforms, as well as continued national dialogue.


Nonetheless, all efforts would come to nought without the wisdom of the Yemeni people themselves, he emphasized.  The confidence they had shown in the Gulf Cooperation Council had helped the latter play an important role in building confidence in the process, he said, adding that all wished to avoid civil war.  He commended President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi’s “wise decisions and leadership” during the transition period, saying his determination had been vital in hauling Yemen out of crisis.  He also praised the work of the Friends of Yemen, whose cooperation was an outstanding example of dispute settlement.


He stressed that the member States of the Gulf Cooperation Council would continue working with the Friends of Yemen and the donors’ conference to meet the people’s needs, noting that most of the money donated to the Yemeni cause was coming from those countries.


Abubaker Abdullah al-Qirbi, Yemen’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the various Yemeni parties had demonstrated their willingness to pursue peaceful solutions and a democratic transfer of power.   The National Dialogue Conference provided an important forum for all stakeholders to express their views and seek consensus.  Its results would feed into a constitution-making process and pave the way to the future.  Six of its nine working groups had finished their work, but differences remained over a number of issues, including the Southern Question.  Nonetheless, Yemen was optimistic about the Dialogue’s eventual success.


All 15 members of the Security Council delivered statements.


The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:20 p.m.


Background


The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in the Middle East.


Briefings


JAMAL BENOMAR, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen, said the National Dialogue Conference was making “extraordinary progress”, engaging with key challenges facing the country.  While acknowledging the difficulties associated with trying to reach agreement on the “Southern Question”, its work was now 90 per cent complete and its recommendations would “provide a blueprint for a more peaceful, just and prosperous Yemen”.  However, the political transition was at a critical juncture, with the country facing several serious political, economic, humanitarian and security challenges.


Among its many recommendations, the Conference called for greater participation by women in decision-making and stronger guarantees of their human rights.  Women’s rights were to be enshrined in the new constitution and a guarantee was in place for all three branches of Government to have 30 per cent representation by women.  That was “quite extraordinary, particularly in a part of the world that suffers from an evident deficit on women’s rights and gender equality”.


Emphasizing that the Conference was part of a wider and longer-term political transformation process, he said it was a single step in the transition and had never been intended to resolve all of Yemen’s challenges.  Delays in implementing the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and the Implementation Mechanism (Transition Agreement) were impacting an already tight timetable, leaving only months to complete a process that had taken other countries years.


The Conference had also faced difficulties in the run-up to the conclusion of its work, he said, stressing, however, that they should not jeopardize the gains achieved.  The Southern Question had proven particularly difficult to deal with, and the Hiraak Southern Movement had suspended its participation in the Dialogue, feeling that their legitimate grievances were not being adequately addressed.  He said he had been facilitating talks aimed at finding a consensual solution to the Southern Question since 10 September, and progress was being made.  Various proposals were under consideration with a view to establishing a federal Yemen, he said.  However, southern support was contingent on redressing past injustices, and the Government of National Unity was urgently implementing confidence-building measures.


Given the emerging consensus on federalism, he continued, debate had begun over a “constituting period” during which benchmarks would be cleared, resources pooled and capacity built for the transition to a federal State.  Some proposals focused on the need for greater inclusion and more power-sharing, he said, adding that the debates had also raised questions about the timing and character of elections.  Other issues discussed would require more work, but the Conference had never been meant to address all of Yemen’s challenges at once.  Rather, it was a vehicle through which Yemenis could lay the foundations for more inclusive politics, agree on broad principles and initiate processes for resolving long-standing conflicts.


He outlined the major prevailing humanitarian, economic and security challenges, saying they continued to drive Yemen’s vulnerability.  The National Unity Government needed support to tackle problems like poverty, malnutrition and water shortages, as well as a volatile security situation, with Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and other terrorist groups operating in the country.  Public infrastructure was regularly sabotaged and attacks had increased and amplified at a cost of millions of dollars to the Government.


Nonetheless, Yemen remained the only “Arab Spring country” involved in a negotiated, peaceful transition and the National Dialogue Conference was the most genuine, transparent and inclusive deliberative process that the region had ever seen.  It was a model of dialogue and deliberation that could inform other processes in the Arab world and beyond.


ABDUL LATIF BIN RASHID AL ZAYANI, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, expressed optimism that Yemen would pass through “a critical period in its history”.  The Security Council was vital to settling disagreements and preventing aggression, and it could also protect the political transition because of its high level of legitimacy.  The Council must bolster the work of the National Unity Government, particularly with regard to fulfilling the expectations of the people on political and economic reforms, and continued national dialogue.


Nonetheless, efforts would come to nought without the wisdom of the Yemeni people themselves, he cautioned.  The confidence they had shown in the Gulf Cooperation Council had helped to bring its mediation forward, he said, noting that all parties subscribed to the goal of avoiding civil war.  He commended President Hadi’s wise decisions and leadership during the transition period, saying his determination had been vital to hauling Yemen out of crisis, meeting the people’s expectations at a very difficult time.  He also praised the Friends of Yemen, saying its cooperation was an outstanding example of dispute settlement.


The States of the Gulf Cooperation Council wanted peace and were open to the world, he said.  They respected the sovereignty and independence of States and would continue working with the Friends of Yemen and the donors’ conference to meet the needs of the people.  Most of the money donated to the Yemeni cause was coming from the Gulf Cooperation Council, but more was needed, he said.  People would judge the political changes on the back of their effect on their situations, with economic rebuilding essential to restoring stability.  The United Nations would be vital to supporting implementation of those changes and to ensuring the peaceful settlement of the dispute.


Statements


ABUBAKER ABDULLAH AL-QIRBI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Yemen, said the ongoing National Dialogue Conference provided an important forum for all stakeholders to express their views and seek consensus.  Its results would feed into a constitution-making process and pave the way to the future.  So far, six out of nine working groups of the Conference had finished their work, but differences remained over a number of issues, including the question of the south.  The humanitarian situation remained precarious, but the 2013 Humanitarian Appeal for Yemen was only 44 per cent funded, he said, calling for continuous support from the international community.


JULIE BISHOP, Council President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, speaking in her national capacity, welcomed the progress made in Yemen’s political transition, including the National Dialogue Conference and security-sector reforms.  However, Australia remained concerned about the country’s serious security, economic and humanitarian challenges.  Noting the delay in concluding the National Dialogue Conference, she emphasized the need to minimize any slippage in the political transition timetable.


Sectarian and tribal clashes, as well as terrorist activity, continued to undermine Yemen’s security, she said, deploring in particular the cowardly attack that had killed more than 40 soldiers last week.  As Chair of the Council’s Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, Australia would continue to address terrorist threats with partners.


A dire humanitarian situation further compounded the problem, with more than 13 million people lacking access to safe water and sanitation and about 3 million children malnourished, she said.  Australia encouraged partners such as the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Friends of Yemen to continue to provide support, adding that her country stood by the Security Council’s readiness to consider further measures, including possible sanctions, against those who sought to interfere in the transition process.


JEAN ASSELBORN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minster for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, said the remarkable progress Yemen had already made must be made irreversible.  The international community must support national reconciliation through Security Council resolution 2051 (2012), and Yemen must forge ahead with economic reforms, especially on employment and energy subsidies.  The transition faced security threats like terrorism, and the humanitarian situation was worrying, he said.  Widespread malnutrition and a lack of basic sanitation were just two other serious issues that exerted pressure on the political transition.  He stressed the need to respect the rights of children, and welcomed Yemen’s efforts in addressing the recruitment of child soldiers, while also stressing the need to impose a minimum age for marriage.


SAAD-EDDINE EL OTHMANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said that, with Yemen having entered a new phase in January 2011, there was cause for optimism, despite divisions, a harsh humanitarian situation and a tumultuous regional climate.  The self-confidence of Yemenis, despite the challenges, had helped to ensure that the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative took root and brought results within the framework of peaceful political transition.  The United Nations and the Security Council were determined to deal with those hoping for failure, he said.  However, remaining obstacles included a poor security situation, the proliferation of weapons, armed groups, terrorism, vandalism and the targeting of economic sites.


FERNANDO CARRERA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said the National Dialogue Conference had opened the space for Yemen’s marginalized groups to get involved in their country’s future.  The Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative had laid the foundations for an inclusive negotiation process, he said, stressing that any final agreement should take the Southern Question into account.  He expressed hope that Yemen’s general elections could be held in February, as scheduled.  Condemning the 20 September attack against Yemeni forces, he emphasized that such terrorist acts could not go unpunished, while reiterating the urgent need to fund the 2013 Humanitarian Response for Yemen.


ELMAR MAHARRAM OGLU MAMMADYAROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said that, although contentious issues were delaying the conclusion of the National Dialogue, all parties should continue their participation and strive to ensure its success.  Actions aimed at undermining the process should not be tolerated.  Yemen’s domestic security remained top priority, he said, condemning the recent terrorist attack against the Armed Forces and stressing the need to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Concerned about Yemen’s humanitarian situation, he called on the international community to continue providing support at the present critical juncture.


STEPHANIE RICE ( United States) said her country supported the transition, the National Dialogue Conference and confidence-building measures.  While understanding the challenges to peace and internal progress, the United States hoped to build on the important forward steps taken.  However, the nature of past grievances made it difficult to decide the new State’s structure, to tackle regional difficulties, to ensure accountability for past violations, and to meet humanitarian needs.  She said she was pleased that women were included in the transition process.  The objective was to translate its outcomes into a new constitution and legislative agenda.  That would entail updating the voters’ register, organizing constitutional reform and preparing for upcoming elections, for which the Government must prepare a budget.  Voicing supported for the restructuring of the security services, she commended efforts to deal with terrorism.  Looking ahead, the United States was encouraged by the parties’ commitment during a pivotal period, she said, stressing, however, the importance of staying on track with economic reforms and strong governance.


SAYED TARIQ FAHTEMI, Minister of State of Pakistan, said Yemen had “walked back from the precipice” by shunning violence and taking the difficult, rocky, arduous path of negotiation and dialogue.  Pakistan had strong ties to Yemen, so its peace, prosperity and stability were of great importance.  Full implementation of the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative was crucial to stability, he said, calling on the international community to support it while avoiding “micromanagement”.  Yemen was in the final phases of its National Dialogue and delays should not tarnish the existing spirit of compromise, he emphasized.  Several remaining obstacles, including the Southern Question and the economic and humanitarian situations, all needed skilful handling as they could derail the entire transition, he cautioned.


ALISTAIR BURT, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, recalled his recent visit to Yemen and commended the country on its progress in the political transition, national reconciliation and security reforms.  However, it still faced various challenges, such as corruption, budgetary issues and youth unemployment.  Concerned that the dire humanitarian situation could destabilize the country and undermine the political process, he called for continued international support and stressed the need for United Nations agencies to “deliver as one”.  The United Kingdom had earlier pledged ₤70 million for humanitarian assistance, he said.


SHIN DONG-IK, Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs of the Republic of Korea, said that, although Yemen’s National Dialogue had not concluded as scheduled, it was pleasing to know that it had achieved results on a number of key issues and was on course to reach an outcome document.  Achieving consensus and national reconciliation was more important than meeting deadlines, he stressed, calling on all stakeholders to work persistently and patiently, and not to lose the precious moment.  Concerned about Yemen’s volatile security situation, including recent tribal clashes and terrorist attacks, he urged the Government to enhance security measures.


EDUARDO ZUAIN, Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Argentina, stressed the Gulf Cooperation Council’s importance in setting the basis of a negotiated political transition in Yemen.  Its initiative was one of the best examples of timely involvement by a regional or subregional organization in a potentially volatile situation.  Violence could return to Yemen, but the regional body, working with the Security Council, had defined a comprehensive road map for peace through the National Dialogue Conference, the constitutional framework and the elections scheduled for 2014.  In just a few months, Yemen’s leaders would have to discuss the foundation of a new State.  Much remained to be done, however, particularly regarding the South, where maintaining the trust and commitment of the major players was a significant challenge.  Recalling that protesters had called for socioeconomic, as well as political, improvements, he said the transition’s viability would depend on tangible improvements in the quality of life for Yemenis.


ALEXANDER PANKIN ( Russian Federation) said the National Dialogue Conference had been a lengthy and difficult process, but it was Yemeni-owned and Yemeni-led, and would stick to its timetable.  External economic assistance would be needed and it was up to the Government to set priorities.  However, the political process could not be deemed successful while Al-Qaida and other terror groups were working to sabotage infrastructure and attacking the military and police, he warned, emphasizing that the Government must fight terrorism relentlessly.  Nonetheless, despite the challenges, Yemen had not slid into widespread confrontation, and had maintained civil peace, said.


KODJO MENAN ( Togo) welcomed Yemen’s progress on national reconciliation and reconstruction, noting that the National Dialogue Conference had achieved 90 per cent of its agenda.  Regarding the security situation, he strongly condemned attacks against military forces, civilians and infrastructures.  As for the worsening humanitarian crisis, he urged the international community to do more in helping humanitarian agencies meet the people’s needs.


LIU JIEYI ( China), while welcoming Yemen’s steady progress, pointed out that its economic situation remained bleak, the political situation volatile and national reconciliation a daunting task.  All parties concerned should focus on the national interest and resolve their differences through dialogue, he said, calling on the international community to enhance cooperation and synergy in providing support for Yemen.  He also stressed the importance of respecting the country’s sovereignty and independence, and pledged that China would further scale up its assistance.


OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda) said the establishment of a commission to address land issues demonstrated the Yemeni Government’s willingness to address historical grievances.  Rwanda welcomed the Government’s apology to the people of the South for the wars waged by the former regime, and encouraged the resolution of grievances through political settlements.  Al-Qaida had attacked police and military personnel, and its sabotage of infrastructure was undermining the already dire humanitarian situation, as well as Government efforts to address the transition.  Noting that the 2013 Humanitarian Appeal for Yemen remained underfunded, he stressed that donors must fulfil their pledges.  Despite many challenges, Yemen’s political transition remained a model, and it had avoided civil war, for which the people deserved commendation.


ALEXIS LAMEK ( France) welcomed President Hadi’s apology to southerners, while urging all parties to maintain their commitments and stick to the timetable.  To consolidate the second phase of the transition, progress was needed in other areas.  The security sector needed restructuring, particularly given the challenges it faced, he said, condemning all terrorist activities.  The Government must prioritize the struggle against terrorists and secure the sites that were being sabotaged.  Yemenis were responsible for the reforms needed for development and for transforming their governing institutions, he said, stressing the importance of the rule of law in fostering development.  Women’s rights still needed work, particularly the issue of marriage, as did the question of capital punishment for minors.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record