Country’s Delegate Details Government’s Actions to Relieve Humanitarian Situation
Delivering impassioned pleas on behalf of 14 million civilians teetering on the edge of famine in Yemen, senior United Nations and civil society leaders today briefed a largely unified Security Council on political and humanitarian steps forward, emphasizing that a new “window of hope” has now opened in that country’s devastating and overlooked war.
“Never has so much international attention and energy been given to this crisis, and rightly so,” said Martin Griffiths, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen. Welcoming the light recently shed on the situation, he reminded Council that the situation nevertheless remains the world’s largest humanitarian disaster with an ongoing fight against famine, civilians dying from preventable diseases and an economy on the verge of collapse. “This is a crucial moment,” he said, noting that he has spent the last two months seeking support from the warring parties for an updated version of a framework for negotiations.
Outlining the contents of that newly-emerged framework — including the establishment of principles and parameters for United Nations-led, inclusive Yemeni political negotiations, a set of interim security and political arrangements to end fighting, the return of Sana'a’s friendly relations with neighbouring countries and a restoration of State institutions — he said he plans to visit Yemen next week to draw attention to the continued need for a pause in fighting. Welcoming the recent announcement by Yemen President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi of plans to move swiftly towards a political solution, he urged Council members to seize the current momentum and pursue a comprehensive and inclusive settlement to the conflict.
Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, recalled his October warning to the Council that a grave economic crisis and escalating conflict had pushed Yemen closer to famine than ever before. Shortly afterwards, an alert was issued that the world’s largest food security emergency faces a “catastrophic deterioration”. In that regard, he reiterated the five priority requests he previously delivered to the Council, namely: A cessation of hostilities in and around infrastructure on which aid operations and commercial importers rely; the protection of food and essential goods; a larger and faster injection of foreign exchange into the economy; an increase in funding and support for the humanitarian operation; and the parties’ full and open engagement with the Special Envoy.
The World Food Programme’s (WFP) Executive Director, David Beasley, emphasized that the words “heart breaking” and “tragic” do not do the conflict in Yemen justice. Describing his recent trip to the country, he said “soft words” cannot properly illustrate what is happening to civilians there — the stuff of nightmares, horror, deprivation and misery. Noting that the value of the Yemeni rial has dropped by 235 per cent since January 2015, he said the price of basic food staples has doubled in the last eight months while household incomes are declining. Meanwhile, Yemen — unlike other conflict-affected countries — cannot grow its own food, and there are 3.6 million more hungry people in the country than three months ago.
Rasha Jarhum, Founder and Director of the Peace Track Initiative Yemen, said children’s cries in Yemen go unnoticed as the conflict parties continue to use weapons in populated areas. Underlining the severe impacts on Yemeni women and girls, she said rapes and child marriages are soaring. Women have been assaulted by Houthi gangs and have had family members abducted. Calling for an immediate ceasefire, she also called for a ban on the arms and mines flowing into Yemen as well as on the recruitment of child soldiers. Peacekeepers from totally neutral States should be deployed to Yemen and the results of the National Dialogue should guide a transition to peace, she said.
As Council members took the floor, many underscored that while delegations are often divided on issues before them, today they stand largely united on the situation in Yemen. Speakers around the table agreed on the need for urgent political progress, while also voicing support for the Special Envoy’s political plans and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator’s five priority requests. Some welcomed the initiative to relaunch political negotiations in Stockholm, Sweden, at the end of November, while others urged their fellow Council members to use their individual and collective leverage to bring the parties to the table.
The United Kingdom’s delegate, welcoming the strong coordination between the United Nations units and civil society represented in the Chamber today, said the appalling situation on the ground calls for redoubled efforts to relieve humanitarian suffering and a political solution to the crisis. Urging the parties to engage constructively with the Special Envoy to pave the way for formal negotiations, she said her delegation – as the penholder for the issue – plans to take advantage of the current window of opportunity by bringing a draft resolution in support of the five points before the Council next week. “What men have created, men can resolve,” she stressed.
Kuwait’s representative joined other speakers in expressing hope that all the parties to Yemen’s conflict will commit to engaging in the upcoming negotiations in Stockholm in good faith and without any strings attached. However, in September, similar hopes were dashed, and the conflict continued unabated. The deeply troubling humanitarian situation — including the looming threat that 14 million people may soon be caught up in a famine — requires the Council to act and the international community to support the efforts of Yemen’s legitimate Government to prevent a further devaluation of the rial. “Humanitarian suffering in some cases is the fruit of deliberate attempts to prevent the delivery of assistance,” he stressed, citing instances where aid convoys have been purposely delayed or ransacked.
The representative of France declared: “There is a window of opportunity today that the Council must seize” by demanding an end to hostilities and supporting the political plan backed by the Special Envoy. Also warning of the threats of famine, a large-scale cholera epidemic and a risk that generations of Yemenis will be deprived of an education. Responding to the Under-Secretary-General’s five requests must be the Council’s top priority he stressed that all humanitarian and medical staff must also be protected and be able to plan and implement their operations in a secure environment. France stands willing to draft a Council resolution addressing both the humanitarian situation and the need to reach a lasting, global and inclusive solution to the conflict.
Yemen’s representative, describing action taken by his Government to help relieve the humanitarian situation, cited efforts to increase the rial’s value, stem oil smuggling and allow citizens to pay a reasonable rate for vital supplies. While food importation has been facilitated through credit measures, Houthi militias have set fire to food warehouses and have held hospital patients hostage. Calling on the international community to put pressure on the Houthis to end the blocking of resources and the use of civilians as human shields, he said what has hurt Yemen’s people the most is that those militia’s crimes go ignored while the perpetrators continue to recruit child soldiers, besiege cities and avoid peace talks. Against that backdrop, the Council must do more than simply denounce the situation. Concrete action is needed, he stressed, noting that opportunities still exist to achieve peace based on Gulf Cooperation Council agreements.
Also speaking today were representatives of the Russian Federation, Côte d’Ivoire, Sweden, Peru, Poland, United States, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Netherlands and China.
The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 5:36 p.m.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Special Envoy for the Secretary-General for Yemen, welcomed that today Yemen is no longer “the forgotten war” that is has long been. “Never has so much international attention and energy been given to this crisis, and rightly so,” he said, stressing that Yemen remains the world’s largest humanitarian disaster with an ongoing fight against famine, civilians dying from preventable diseases and an economy on the verge of collapse. Expressing support for efforts to pursue the five requests presented by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator in October as a road map forward, he said the Council has consistently called on the parties to avoid a further humanitarian catastrophe. However, the situation remains fragile and unstable, including in the port city of Hodeidah. Noting that he will visit that city next week to draw attention to the need for a continued pause in fighting, he welcomed the recent announcement by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, President of Yemen, that he plans to move swiftly towards a political solution.
To that aim, he announced his intention to swiftly convene the parties, emphasizing that “we are close to resolving the preparatory issues to make this happen”. He expressed gratitude to members of the coalition for agreeing to the proposed logistical arrangements, as well as to the Government of Oman for its agreement to facilitate the medical evacuation of some injured Yemenis out of Sana’a city. “This is a crucial moment for Yemen,” he stressed, noting that he has spent the last two months seeking support from the parties for an updated version of the framework for negotiations. Emphasizing that the framework is in line with the Council’s requirements and the new realities of the conflict, he said that while the plan is his vision, “it is not mine alone”. Indeed, every conversation and negotiation that has gone before is reflected in the document, on which he said he will seek the Council’s endorsement as soon as both parties have formally agreed to its terms.
Outlining the plans laid out in the proposed framework, he said it establishes the principles and parameters for United Nations-led, inclusive Yemeni negotiations to end the war and restart a political transition process. Among other elements, it includes a set of interim security and political arrangements which will allow for an end to fighting, the return of Yemen’s friendly relations with neighbouring countries and the restoration of State institutions. “The framework reflects in fact and words the resolutions of this Council,” he said, adding: “My task is to fashion a road towards principled compromise which allows the people of Yemen to live in peace again.” Warning that further conflict is not yet off the table, he said for a political settlement to be sustainable it must be inclusive and enjoy the support of the Yemeni people. Actors in the south of the country, in particular, will have a crucial role in safeguarding outcomes of the peace process being worked out now. “It is vital to secure their buy-in,” he stressed.
Noting that he had hoped to be able to present to the Council today with a signed agreement on a detainee exchange — which would have marked the first formal signed agreement between the parties — he expressed hope that those arrangements will be reached in the coming days, sending a “timely message of hope” to the people of Yemen. Urging the parties to come together without any precondition under his auspices to jointly address Yemen’s dire economic situation, including the rapid deterioration of the Yemeni rial — he said that issue remains the main cause of the famine. “This is beyond confidence-building measures,” he said, noting that it is the parties’ moral obligation to take action. In that vein, he pledged to soon convene a meeting of the Central Bank of Yemen to be facilitated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an agreed action plan. “We must seize this positive momentum on Yemen,” he concluded, noting that it provides a crucial opportunity to pursue a comprehensive and inclusive settlement to the conflict.
MARK LOWCOCK, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, reminded that on 23 October he warned the Security Council “a grave economic crisis and escalating conflict had pushed Yemen closer to famine than ever before”. Shortly afterwards, the Famine Early Warning System Network issued an alert stating the world’s largest food security emergency faces a “catastrophic deterioration” threatening significant loss of life for many of the millions in crisis.
Citing the two famines declared this century — Somalia in 2011 and South Sudan in 2017 — he noted that most fatalities occur before famine is declared and takes hold, which is “what we are trying to prevent”. Yemen already faces mass hunger and has avoided famine thus far for two reasons: first, due to the world’s largest aid operation, undertaken by the United Nations and humanitarian agencies and reaching almost 8 million Yemenis every month; and second, Member States have acted when the risk of famine has risen, as is again the case.
He called for a series of urgent actions beginning with a cessation of hostilities around aid infrastructure and facilities; violence has instead recently escalated, with nearly 800 separate incidents of shelling, clashes and air strikes, including around Hodeidah. Targets included hospitals, sending some patients fleeing while still connected to medical devices. He stated 30 per cent of Hodeidah’s population is “barely surviving”, including a quarter of the children. Some humanitarian operations have been scaled back as staffers have also left.
Other urgent actions include protecting the supply of food and essential goods; injecting foreign exchange and paying salaries and pensions; increasing funding and support to the aid operation; and calling all belligerents to work with the Special Envoy to end the conflict, he said. Some efforts have been made, with Saudi Arabia depositing $200 million to strengthen the Yemeni rial, and donors providing $2.3 billion for the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (nearly 80 per cent of estimated requirements). However, he said the five actions must be seen as a package and called for support on all of them.
DAVID BEASLEY, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), recalling his recent three-day trip to Yemen, said that “soft words” will not do justice to what is happening to mothers and fathers and boys and girls in the country. What he has seen is the stuff of nightmares, horror, deprivation and misery. While the country has suffered for years, it is now on the brink of catastrophe, with all of humanity to blame. “The conditions the Yemenis are enduring would not exist at all if stubborn men would just sit down and talk instead of shoot.”
Addressing the economic impact of the crisis, he said the value of the Yemeni rial has dropped by a 235 per cent since January 2015, wiping out two-thirds of the currency’s purchasing power. In the last eight months, the price of basic food staples has doubled, all while household incomes are declining. For a country dependent on imports for basic needs, the situation is disastrous, particularly as it cannot — unlike South Sudan and Zimbabwe — grow its own food. This is the primary reason why hunger is increasing dramatically, he explained, warning that nearly half the country is just one step away from famine. The monitoring systems of WFP show that there are 3.6 million more hungry people in Yemen than three months ago. Currently, the Programme is helping approximately 8 million people a month and, as of early November, several food shipments are en route to various ports in the country.
Starvation is on the horizon unless circumstances immediately change, he warned. With the economic crisis accelerating the scale of the damage, humanitarian assistance must be combined with an all-out effort to restore Yemen’s economy. Humanitarian assistance alone cannot reverse the dire situation. But as that work begins, the warring parties must guarantee access in and out of the port of Hodeidah. Indeed, if the port shuts down without alternatives, there will be a catastrophe, he said before calling for much greater access throughout the country, as well as expedited clearances for shipments, visas and equipment. Urging the international community to stop the war and rescue Yemen’s economy, he said the words ‘heart-breaking’ and ‘tragic’ do not do the situation justice.
RASHA JARHUM, Founder and Director of the Peace Track Initiative Yemen, said that children’s cries are going unnoticed as the parties to the conflict continue to use terrible weapons in populated areas, including air attacks by the coalition supporting the Government and mines by the Houthis, which not only kill and maim but also obstruct humanitarian aid. Women in particular were suffering. Before the conflict, Yemeni women were already in a subsidiary position, following the start of the conflict rapes and child marriages are soaring. Women have been assaulted by Houthi gangs and have had family members abducted. “We as women have the highest stake in peace,” she said. For that reason, women’s groups are actively working on the ground and in many sectors. Describing some of those activities, she said the Women in Support of Abductees Group has gotten hundreds released as compared to the United Nations-sponsored group, which has been unsuccessful thus far. The Yemen National Dialogue promoted by the Security Council was critical in addressing women’s issues and should be re-established. Women are now excluded from negotiating processes, and they must be meaningfully represented at all levels of the process. There is no sustainable peace without an inclusive process, she warned.
She called for an immediate ceasefire starting with the ending of the coalition bombardment and relocation of all armed groups outside of populated areas. To protect civilians and allow delivery of humanitarian goods, she urged bans on arms inflows, on mines and on child recruitment and called for the start of reintegration programmes for child soldiers. Peacekeepers from neutral States should be deployed to Yemen and the results of the National Dialogue results should be used to guide a transition to peace. Supporting Mr. Lowcock’s five points, she also called for the integration of gender concerns into all support and development plans, and implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. She called, in addition, for the Government to report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Support to the efforts of grassroots women activists in Yemen is critical for a durable peace, she stressed.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), welcoming coordination by the United Nations units and civil society represented in the Chamber today, said that the appalling situation on the ground called for redoubled efforts to relieve humanitarian suffering, which in turn requires a political solution to the crisis. The parties need to engage constructively with the Envoy to pave the way to formal negotiations. Bringing the framework back to the Council is also a welcomed step. It was critical to involve women in the negotiations, as requested by all the speakers today. Agreeing that there is a window of opportunity at the moment, she called for action to take advantage of it and pledged, as penholder for the issue, to bring a draft supporting Mr. Lowcock’s five points before the Council next week. “What men have created, men can resolve,” she stressed.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) expressed hope that all parties will commit to engaging in negotiations in Sweden, in good faith and without any strings attached. However, in September, similar hopes were dashed and the conflict continued unabated. Noting that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States have been the victims of ballistic missile attacks launched from inside Yemen’s borders, he called on the Houthis to refrain from any measures that would undermine the legal prerogatives of Yemen’s legitimate Government. The deeply troubling humanitarian situation — including the looming threat that 14 million people may soon be caught up in a famine — requires the Council to take action and the international community to support the legitimate Yemeni Government’s efforts to prevent a further devaluation of the riyal. “Humanitarian suffering in some cases is the fruit of deliberate attempts to prevent the delivery of assistance,” he stressed, citing instances where aid convoys have been purposely delayed or ransacked. Kuwait stands ready to participate in the Secretary-General’s planned conference in February 2019 as well as to help facilitate the various parties’ travel to Stockholm for negotiations, he said.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that the world has the collective responsibility — and now the chance — to end the war. “There is a window of opportunity today that the Council must seize” by demanding an end to hostilities and supporting the political plan backed by the Special Envoy, he stressed. Still, recent bombings and clashes continued to jeopardize civilian lives and the delivery of humanitarian aid is still being blocked. There is also the threat of famine, a large-scale cholera epidemic and a risk that generations of Yemenis will be deprived of an education. Emphasizing the need for a military pause, he nevertheless stressed that “everyone knows that we need to go further”. Responding to the Under-Secretary-General’s five requests must be the Council’s top priority, including ensuring humanitarian imports and supporting the stabilization and recovery of the Yemeni economy. Humanitarian and medical staff must also be protected and be able to plan and implement their operations in a secure environment. Welcoming efforts to draw up a unified humanitarian plan jointly backed by all relevant United Nations agencies, he also expressed support for renewed negotiations, telling the Special Envoy that “France is resolutely at your side” and stands willing to draft a Council resolution addressing both the humanitarian situation and the need to reach a lasting, global and inclusive solution to the conflict.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) welcomed the reduction of violence around the port of Hodeidah and called for a similar reduction of clashes across all of Yemen. Hailing progress towards bring the parties together, he said that while the divide between them will be difficult to overcome, the Russian Federation stands ready to support the negotiation process. Moscow has long called for a negotiated political solution to Yemen’s crisis. Condemning indiscriminate strikes against civilian targets and ballistic missile attacks, he also expressed concern that much of Yemen’s population is hungry and lacks access to medical care. “Humanitarian assistance to Yemenis must be one of the main areas of our work,” he said, adding that it must be provided on a non-discriminatory basis. While the Russian Federation is providing assistance, improving the situation through humanitarian aid will not be possible. A political solution is required, and all parties must support the Special Envoy’s efforts to those ends. Noting that the ongoing war only serves to strengthen some terrorist groups which have taken root in the south of Yemen, he voiced hope that the threats of force and sanctions will give way to peaceful negotiations and a comprehensive security framework for all States of the Middle East.
GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire), expressing deep concern over the intensification of fighting in Yemen and its humanitarian consequences, paid tribute to the United Nations agencies and organs for their efforts to end the deadly clashes and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. Also highlighting the initiatives of the international community aimed at ending the crisis, he reaffirmed support for the work of the Special Envoy and urged the parties to observe the ceasefire in Hodeida and to engage in frank negotiations while making necessary compromises. He called for the Council to act in unity to enable a peaceful solution to the crisis in the interest of the people of Yemen.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), paying tribute to all humanitarian personnel working in Yemen and noting the deteriorating humanitarian conditions there, said that, in seizing current opportunities, an urgent focus must be put on ending the fighting and getting the parties to the table. Political consultations led by the Special Envoy are the best chance to reach a turning point, move toward a political solution and alleviate the suffering. Fully supporting the five interventions outlined by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, she urged all with influence to call upon the parties to engage in good faith with the Envoy’s political consultations and implement a cessation of hostilities. Humanitarian and commercial access must be ensured. Confidence-building measures must be put in place regarding Sana’a airport, the Central Bank and the matter of prisoners, to name a few. The futile war in Yemen has been going on too long, she stated, stressing that a united and active Security Council in support of humanitarian and political action can make a difference.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), expressing deep concern over the cycles of destruction and uneasy calm in Yemen while the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, voiced his tribute and full support to humanitarian workers in the country, calling for unobstructed humanitarian access there. The parties must prioritize protections of civilians and engage constructively in efforts to bring about a political solution. In that context, the Council must unite to support the five points of Mr. Lowcock and the road map of the Special Envoy. He pledged to support a Council resolution that aims to end one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that thinking the conflict can be solved by military means is a delusion. She urged all parties to show goodwill, flexibility and a readiness to compromise and engage with the Special Envoy without preconditions. She also called upon all relevant stakeholders to make progress on confidence-building measures and to participate in the next round of consultations under the auspices of the United Nations. The catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen and its continued deterioration of security conditions require decisive and unified action by the Council. She said she remained gravely alarmed by the recent escalation of fighting in the city of Hodeidah and urged both the Houthis and the coalition to immediately deescalate and cease all military activities in the whole governorate. Hodeidah constitutes a critical supply chain for humanitarian and commercial deliveries and any disruption of this lifeline will contribute to the spread of famine, she warned.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said today’s briefings bring devastating clarity to the situation in Yemen, but also underscore what is already known ‑ that the only solution to that country’s man-made crisis is a political one. Renewing his call on the parties to engage with the Special Envoy as soon as possible and on all Council members to assist, he said the parties must stop arguing about the terms of negotiations and commit to working with the Special Envoy towards a solution. Calling on the Houthis to promptly agree to participate in the upcoming talks in Stockholm, he said all parties must protect the flow of commercial goods into Yemen. Thousands of civilians are threatened by the current fighting and it is growing harder to bring supplies from the port to those who need them. He also called for an end to all obstructions and threats against journalists and aid workers. Noting that the United States will continue to provide critical humanitarian aid ‑ which must be supplied, regardless of the state of negotiations – he emphasized that while the Council remains deeply divided on many issues, it stands united on Yemen. All members agree that the time for political progress is now, and they support the political plans and the five priority requests. In addition, he said, all Council members should use their individual and collective influence to bring the parties to the table.
HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia) said that, while there had been a marked increase in clashes in Hodeidah governorate at the beginning of the month, the intensity of the violence has now been reduced. Reports indicate that the coalition has halted its military operations there, he said, expressing hope that this will lead to a sustained ceasefire. Underscoring that the international community should act to stop the violence and prevent an imminent humanitarian catastrophe, he noted that this could be achieved by fully supporting the continued diplomatic endeavours of the Special Envoy who continues to make preparations for the upcoming round of consultations to revive the political talks. The continued and sustained de-escalation of violence is vital in order to create an enabling environment for the political process, he said.
VERÓNICA CORDOVA SORIA (Bolivia), reaffirming her support to the Special Envoy’s efforts to bring about a political solution in Yemen, said that the international community should be ashamed of what is happening in the country as it is an example of an extreme malfunction of the multilateral system. If action is not taken today, individuals on the Council should feel an extra dose of shame. Consideration of where the missiles and bombs that cut apart civilians come from must also be undertaken. The supply of weapons must be halted. The placing of mines, in addition, must stop, particularly since they obstruct humanitarian access. Describing the results of attacks on hospitals, she reminded the parties that any attacks on such civilian facilities may amount to crimes against humanity. As a military attack on Hodeidah would be a humanitarian catastrophe, she called for the end of the struggle over the port city. The Council, she stressed, must make it crystal clear to the parties that compliance with Security Council resolutions is obligatory, along with engaging with negotiations under the Special Envoy with no strings attached.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) said that the situation in Yemen is so alarming that it requires the immediate attention of the international community. Expressing deep concern over insecurity of civilians who have been rendered hopeless by years on end of deteriorating conditions, she called on the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, of which thousands of violations have already been recorded. In that context, there must be an immediate humanitarian pause. She paid tribute to humanitarian workers who are struggling to get aid delivered and to fighting the cholera epidemic. Affirming full support to the proposals of the Special Envoy, she called on the Council to act with unity in support of his work and that of the Emergency Relief Coordinator.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that prior to a possible meeting in Sweden of parties involved in the conflict there had been a surge of violence in the Hodeidah governorate. He called on all parties to safeguard civilian lives, prevent deaths and injuries, allow freedom of movement and protect hospitals, clinics and schools, in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law. He also urged all parties to find compromises and reject unilateral decisions that could harm the peace process. The search for a peaceful resolution to the conflict should be intensified and an urgent universal ceasefire must be reached without preconditions. A key role in the process belongs to the Special Envoy; his efforts to find a political solution should be supported. A revamped regional approach is needed to uphold the ceasefire and promote the peace process, he said, commending the Special Envoy’s attempts to involve different States in the Middle East and the Gulf region.
KAREL VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that the end of extreme hunger in Yemen ultimately depends on collective political will. The situation is compounded by interference with United Nations depots and continued air strikes and shelling, which have damaged critical civilian infrastructure as well as water, sanitation and health facilities. Depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival and starving them intentionally as a method of warfare is not permissible and may even constitute a war crime, he said. It is the responsibility of the Council to take a firm stance against the persistent violations of international humanitarian law seen in Yemen. Furthermore, humanitarian access should not be politicized by the parties to the conflict. The international community should continue to raise its voice against impunity, and perpetrators must be held accountable, he said. It is time to focus on fighting the famine and finding a political solution to the conflict.
MA ZHAOXU (China), Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, underscoring that all issues in Yemen can only be resolved through political channels. The international community should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen and promote dialogue among the parties, he said, welcoming the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to establish a dialogue between the parties and urging full participation in those discussions.
The representative of Yemen, thanking all humanitarian workers in his country, particularly those on the ground including women, affirmed that the situation there is deteriorating and the cause of the crisis must be addressed. He described actions taken by his Government to try and relieve the situation of the people, such as those that have resulted in an increase in the value of the country’s currency and said that new legislation has stemmed oil smuggling and allowed citizens to pay a reasonable rate for vital supplies. Food importation has been facilitated through credit measures, and supplies have been distributed to all those in need included Houthis. He called on humanitarian agencies to buy foodstuffs in the local markets and take other measures to strengthen the economy. He welcomed, in that context, support from friendly countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, which he said has provided millions of dollars monthly for those purposes. Meanwhile, Iran continues to provide missiles and mines that devastate his people. He called for the international community to put pressure on the Houthi militias to end the blocking of resources and the use of civilians as human shields.
What hurt the Yemeni people most, he said, is that the crimes of the militias are being ignored, while they avoid peace talks, recruit children as soldiers to besiege cities and to kidnap journalists and activists. Noting Mr. Beasley’s evocation of famine, he said Houthis have set fire to food warehouses and have held hospital patients hostage. He named children who had been killed by Houthi militias, among the dozens he said were killed daily in their attacks. The Government on the other hand, having reached agreements on prisoners through the Special Envoy, stands ready to accept all proposals to bring an end to the conflict. In that context, the Council must do more than simply denounce the situation; there must be concrete action on the ground. There are still opportunities to reach peace on the basis of the Gulf Cooperation Council documents and other previous agreements. He reiterated support for negotiations through the Special Envoy to achieve peace so that dignity, peace and prosperity can be restored to his people. His country will never, however, accept Iranian influence or the replication of Tehran’s system in the country. He pleaded for the Council to help put an end to struggle in Yemen once and for all.