|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6976th Meeting (AM)
Yemenis on ‘Extraordinary Course’ in Heart of Transition, Secretary-General’s
Special Representative Tells Security Council
Representative Calls National Dialogue Cornerstone of Settlement Process
“Yemen is in the heart of its transition,” the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on that country told the Security Council today, while cautioning that there were no guarantees for what lay ahead.
Briefing the Council on the situation in the country, Jamal Benomar said Yemenis had embarked on an “extraordinary course”, and were counting on the international community, especially the Security Council, to understand the importance of continuing to “walk” with them through the entire transition process, to meet the challenges and to deliver all available political and financial support.
He described a nation in the midst of “an undertaking of great hope in a fragile environment, where a range of perspectives and diverse interests were seeking to realize a new and better order”. Just days ago, he recalled, he had sat with President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Abdel-Latif al-Zayani, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as 565 delegates from all major groups shaped the future of a country “awash with arms and a history of conflict”. That inclusive process showed the Yemeni people’s commitment to choosing dialogue over violence and consensus over division.
Yet the transition was delicate, he warned, recalling a weekend clash between security forces and Ansar Allah demonstrators outside the National Security Bureau in the capital, Sana’a, which had resulted in several deaths and injuries. Driving home that point, he declared: “Let there be no illusion. There are those who wish to undermine the transition.” Citing the increasing number of attacks on electricity lines that plunged families into darkness and unbearable heat, he said patience was wearing thin. Besides attacks on oil and gas pipelines, interruption of energy exports and constant repairs to electricity lines were costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars, he said, adding that, while the perpetrators were apparently known, impunity prevailed.
In the South, the streets were “heating up”, as pent-up resentment of more than two decades of “unaddressed grievances and systematic marginalization is reaching a tipping point”, he said. Southerners had grown wary of unmet promises, and since February, more and more demonstrators had flooded the streets. Organized acts of civil disobedience had become commonplace, at times resulting in deaths and injuries. The collection of complaints was under way, but the commissions established to address unlawful seizure of property and unjust dismissals from the military and civil services needed “far greater” resources to deliver effective remedies.
“Without tangible improvement in people’s daily lives, the voices of discontent will amplify, narrowing the space for dialogue,” he warned, adding that the Government had yet to meet its obligation to establish a commission of inquiry into the events of 2011 or to adopt a law on transitional justice. Only such critical steps could ensure national reconciliation and a new Yemen, he emphasized. The “partisan war” continued to play out in the media, which was rife with misinformation, fabrication and incitement. A “media truce” was badly needed, he said, urging politicians to stop “instrumentalizing” the media.
Other serious challenges weighed heavily on the transition, he said, citing, in particular, the fragile security situation and the “lethal threat” of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, despite all efforts to counter it. Most recently, the group had been trying to establish a foothold in Hadramawt, with a view once again to control territory. Alongside other ills, the number of assassinations of mid- and high-level security officials had increased, and the humanitarian crisis continued unabated. More than half the population was in need of assistance and over 1 million children were suffering from acute malnutrition.
On a positive note, he said critical steps had been taken to restructure the Armed Forces and many of the military commanders who had played major roles in the violent clashes of 2011 had been removed from their posts. As stability improved, 90 per cent of those displaced had returned to their homes. And, despite the challenges, Yemen was the “only country in the region” to have emerged from the violence of 2011 with a peacefully negotiated agreement, including a clear road map and timeline for a broad-based democratic transition, he noted, urging the Government and people to stay the course, which would include deliberations among political opponents, “even enemies”.
He went on to report that progress had been achieved across the board. More than 100 working group recommendations, many of them involving constitutional guarantees of human rights, had been submitted to the plenary, and, despite deep divisions in the Saada group, its members had managed to achieve consensus on a common vision of the conflict’s roots. Going forward, the delegates would need to build consensus on major issues, including the structure of the State and the governance system. He said his team had been working closely with all groups, and while it had no recipes for resolving the challenges, sharing experiences from other national situations had enabled delegates to make more informed decisions.
The next and final session of the plenary and working groups would be critical to reaching agreement on the principles and main contours of a future constitution, he emphasized. The dialogue was extending well beyond the National Dialogue Conference, as Yemeni men and women engaged in debate about their country’s problems and possible future. He recalled that a member of the Military and Security Working Group had been moved to tears during a visit to the Political Security Headquarters, saying that the “breaking of a wall of fear” was under way.
He explained that the National Dialogue would be followed by a constitutional drafting process, the outcome of which would be confirmed by a referendum. General elections would be “endowed with full popular legitimacy”, and despite the challenges, the political transition was “largely on course”, he said. Preparations for the elections were under way and registration was due to begin in September. The timeline “leaves no room for any delays”, he cautioned. In sum, a new dynamic was emerging with the new inclusive politics. Unfortunately, cooperation and pledged funds were not always forthcoming, he said, paying tribute to Saudi Arabia — the largest contributor and the first to deliver — and urging others to follow suit.
Taking the floor next, Jamal al-Sallal ( Yemen) said the National Dialogue launched on 18 March represented a cornerstone of the settlement process and the only way to deal with the issues and form a new Yemen. When all parties had met “at the same table for the first time”, the country’s interests had been placed above all else, he said, describing the meetings and timelines for continuing engagement and the priority items to be addressed, including in nine working groups. They concerned issues of the South and of Saada governorate, transitional justice, State-building and good governance, security-sector reform, building institutional independence, security rights and freedoms, and comprehensive development.
He went on to highlight the many steps taken by the President to further the transition, with a view to protecting constitutional legitimacy and preserving State sovereignty. Despite accomplishments, the country faced several difficulties, foremost of which were fragile security, terrorism and subversive actions such as blowing up electrical lines, oil and gas pipelines, which incurred heavy losses for an already burdened national economy, while negatively affecting daily life.
Yemen’s political settlement had entered an “extremely delicate and pivotal phase”, requiring the international community’s continuing support, he said. Indeed, political support was essential, but must be accompanied by support for development. In that regard, Yemen looked forward to the realization of donor pledges, and appealed to the international community to support the humanitarian response plan. With all roads now leading to the February 2014 elections, it was to be hoped that a secure, prosperous and stable Yemen would emerge, he said.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 10:37 a.m.
* *** *