Geneva, Switzerland

03 April 2018

Secretary-General's press encounter on the Pledging Conference on Yemen

SG: Ladies and gentlemen from the media, thank you very much for your presence.  It is my pleasure to announce that this Pledging Conference represents a remarkable success of international solidarity to the people of Yemen.  The pledges announced represent more than $ 2 billion and if you compare with last year’s Pledging Conference, we reached $ 1.1 billion.  So practically, we have doubled the international commitment to Yemen from 2017 to 2018. 

You will ask: you had requested almost $ 3 billion, but you only got $ 2 billion.  But if you look at last year, at the Pledging Conference we had $ 1.1 billion, and afterwards we got more donations, and in the end, we had $ 1.7 billion.  And even today, several countries have already announced that there will be more donations from now until the end of the year.  So we are quite optimistic that we will be able to reach the level that corresponds to the needs detected in relation to the tragedy that the Yemeni people is facing. 

But of course, humanitarian resources are very important, but they are not enough.  It is essential that they reach the people in need.  And for that, we need unrestricted access into Yemen; and we need unrestricted access everywhere inside Yemen; and we need all the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, and to protect civilians; and above all, we need a serious political process to lead to a political solution. Because there was never a humanitarian solution for any humanitarian crisis.  The solution has always been political. And also in Yemen what we need is a political solution for this Pledging Conferences not to be repeated in the future. 
Q: How do you see the contradiction of one country presenting itself as a main donor and a main helper of Yemen while it is striking since three years the country, including civilian areas.  This country is giving money to repair what it is destroying.
SG: Well, we all know that there is a war, we all know who are the parties to the war, but the two things need to be seen separately.  Independently of the fact that there is a war, there are humanitarian obligations that are assumed by countries, and today we were exactly registering a very strong support of the international community to the people of Yemen. 
And it is true that countries that are also parties to the conflict were party to this international effort to support the people of Yemen.  But the reason why we, from the beginning, said that humanitarian solutions do not exist - the solutions are always political - is the reason why we believe that as important as the financial contributions to this conference, is the commitment of the parties to the conflict to come together to put an end to the war.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, did you receive any encouraging signs from the new Special Envoy after his visit recently to Sana’a and the region, and are we going to see very soon Yemeni talks in Geneva or elsewhere?
SG: I have to say that my Special Envoy Martin Griffith came very encouraged from the visits to Riyadh and Sana’a. He will now be visiting also the Emirates, and Oman and Aden. And I think that there are positive, positive perspectives for a plan of action to be prepared and for that plan of action to lead to an effective intra-Yemeni dialogue able to achieve a political solution, with of course the involvement of all those that are relevant in this conflict.  I am optimistic about that possibility, and my strong appeal to all those involved in the conflict is to consider that this is an opportunity to be seized and that that opportunity should not be missed.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you just said you are very optimistic when it comes to the question about the political solution.  What makes you so confident, because we are in the fourth year of conflict?

SG: I did not say I was very optimistic, I said that the visits that took place by my Special Envoy to both Sana’a and Riyadh, encouraged him to move forward in order for a plan of action to be prepared and that plan of action to be able to involve all the parties to the conflict in serious negotiations to put an end to the conflict and to find a political solution. 

And I believe there is an opportunity, and that opportunity must be seized.  Jean Monnet - who is one of the most important thinkers in my youth - used to say he was not optimistic, he was not pessimistic, he was determined.  We are all determined to reach peace in Yemen. 
Q: A follow-up on that: there were secret talks three weeks ago in Oman. So I would like to know how close the UN was associated to that? And is it a first track to move forward before that plan of action can be activated?

SG: I think that the best thing we can do about secret talks is to keep them secret! Thank you very much.

NB: the Secretary-General gave this press stakeout together with Ms. Isabella Lövin, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden and Minister for International Development Cooperation, and Ambassador Manuel Bessler of Switzerland, Head of the Humanitarian Assistance Unit of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs.