29 May 2012

Political Transition in Yemen ‘Largely on Track’, but Those Attempting to Obstruct, Sabotage Process Must Be Held to Account, Special Adviser Tells Security Council

29 May 2012
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6776th Meeting (PM)

Political Transition in Yemen ‘Largely on Track’, but Those Attempting to Obstruct,

Sabotage Process Must Be Held to Account, Special Adviser Tells Security Council

Government of National Unity, Presidential Elections among Positive Steps;

Also Highlights Need for Assistance to Address ‘Unprecedented’ Humanitarian Crisis

Yemen’s transition to more representative Government, following last year’s protest movement, remained “largely on track”, but those who continue to pose security threats and otherwise undermined legitimate authority must be held to account, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser told the Security Council this afternoon.

“Those who encourage sabotage and obstruction from behind the scenes must know that they are being observed, that they will be held accountable and that international patience is wearing thin,” Jamal Benomar told the 15-member body in an open briefing preceding consultations on the issue.

The Yemeni parties had made much progress in implementing the Transition Agreement signed in November 2011 and Security Council resolution 2014 (2011), Mr. Benomar said, citing the formation of the Government of National Unity, the beginning of the restructuring of the armed forces, the holding of presidential elections, the peaceful transfer of power and the recent launch of preparations for a national dialogue conference.

In addition, new President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi continued to take important steps to lead the country through the transition within its tight timeline and his efforts had received “overwhelming support and goodwill” of Yemenis, he said, pointing to rearrangement of military command and the difficult demilitarization of urban areas.

However, a multitude of armed non-State actors, most dangerously Al-Qaida, continued to compete for power.  In addition, there were refusals among some commanders to follow the President’s directives for military reorganization.  He had helped mediate, but after his departure, and as of today, an open defiance and a standoff continued regarding leadership of a critical battalion, which was one of the most well-equipped units in the country and was located in the heart of the capital, Sana’a.

The planned national dialogue conference could help reduce such tensions, he said, if it was well prepared, gained legitimacy in the eyes of all Yemeni constituencies and included the genuine participation of all relevant political parties, the Southern Movement, the Houthis and civil society representatives, including youth and women’s groups.  The dialogue must also, he stressed, be set up in a transparent manner and must generate outcomes that were fully implemented.

Describing progress made so far in preparations for such a dialogue, he said that the process must be designed and driven by the Yeminis themselves.  That would require strong international support, but “its footprint should be light”, he added.  The United Nations would provide political facilitation to help resolve disputes as they arose, technical support to the secretariats of the conference, capacity-building to encourage the participation of key constituencies, including women, youth and displaced persons, and support for a public awareness campaign.  Those efforts, led by his office, would be funded in the preparatory phase by $2 million from the Peacebuilding Fund.  A small team of political advisers had already been deployed to Sana’a.

Sustained support was also needed in the area of security, he said.  In the north, the Houthis continued to assert control in several areas.  In the south, Yemeni forces had stepped up operations against Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, with air and navy support and with some success, but last week’s terrorist bombing that had killed some 96 soldiers and other plots were reminders that the organization remained lethal and intended to strike both western and regional targets. 

Separatist sentiments in the south had also been on the rise, after the Hirak, or the Southern Movement, had met repression following its demands for human rights and equal representation, and began to advocate for independence of the south.  In addition, incidents of abduction, assassination and hostage-taking had increased in the past few weeks.  The presence of armed forces and militia was widespread and pipelines and electrical lines were frequently attacked for both political and criminal reasons.

He called the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen “unprecedented”, saying that the figures were much bleaker than previously reported.  Ten million people, almost half the country’s entire population, were food insecure, with half of those in need of immediate assistance and almost 1 million children under the age of five suffering from malnutrition.  More than a half million were internally displaced and the country hosted nearly 220,000 refugees with a high influx continuing.

The United Nations humanitarian response, he said, had been significantly expanded in 2012, but capacity, security and funding remained challenges.  The appeal for $455 million was currently only 43 per cent funded, while needs had increased.  Members of the Security Council, he suggested, should play a more active role in bringing the humanitarian crisis in Yemen to the world’s attention.  He added in that context that the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of Yemen had met to provide “a framework and momentum” for the country’s political, economic and security reform plans.

Among other urgent issues, he said that all forces who still held persons detained during the recent conflict must account for them, allow access and grant their rapid release.  Those who committed human rights violations should be held to account.  He commended efforts to generate a credible law on transitional justice, but regretted that ministers from the ex-ruling party had again failed to endorse the draft.  The draft should now be submitted to the Prime Minister and President for a decision under the Transition Agreement. 

Finally, he said, a decision to set up an independent national human rights institution had been adopted in April by the Council of Ministers, who requested follow-up from the Ministry of Human Rights.  He called it a positive step that would require considerable support from the United Nations and international donors.  The Government of National Unity, he concluded, was steadily making progress in helping to realize aspirations for change.  “They deserve your continuing support,” he said.

Following that briefing, Yemen’s representative, Jamal Abdullah Al-Sallal, expressed appreciation for the work of Mr. Benomar and the United Nations in assisting the transition process, concurring with the Special Adviser’s assessment that the Government had made much progress.  In that regard, he highlighted efforts to prepare for the dialogue conference and formulating legislation on transitional justice, which he said the President had pledged to move forward on.  He also pointed to work on the establishment of an independent human rights agency and drafting of a new constitution.

He also agreed that Al-Qaida posed a serious threat, saying that the country had focused its security efforts in the fight against the organization, “tightening the noose” on it in some areas, but also suffering continued terrorist attacks.  That violence, he stressed could not be addressed by military means alone, and humanitarian efforts were critical.  The overwhelming number of refugees hosted by his country greatly exacerbated intense food insecurity there.

Also noting the gap between funds requested and received for humanitarian aid in that context, he appealed to all Member States to provide the necessary support for refugees and displaced people, and help his country deal with an increase in unemployment and a “general economic deterioration”.  He stressed the capability of the Yemini people to continue to make reforms and to address all challenges with international help.  He thanked all those who had already provided assistance.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:34 p.m.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.