Geneva, Switzerland

26 February 2019

Near verbatim transcript of the Secretary-General's press encounter at the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

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Ladies and gentlemen of the press,

Thank you very much for your presence.

Today’s pledging conference can be considered a success. The donors have pledged thirty percent more than last year to help address the dramatic humanitarian situation in Yemen: from two billion USD in the pledging conference of 2018 to 2.6 billion USD in the pledging conference 2019. Several countries have naturally increased their contributions, but I think it is fair to say that the two most relevant elements in this increase came from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. At the same time, it is our experience that a pledging conference is a starting point.  We believe that until the end of the year there will be many more forms of support, many more pledges made, and many more contributions in order to make sure that we address the extremely dramatic needs of the Yemeni people.

But I would like to end with two notes.

First, the Yemenis deserve this solidarity. Yemenis were able in the past to always open their borders to refugees coming from Somalia and other parts of the region, and doing so with enormous generosity, granting all Somalis prima facie refugee status. And when one sees the debate about refugees or migrants, namely in Europe, we understand how generous it is for a country like Yemen, a poor country like Yemen, with all the problems that Yemen always has, to have this very generous attitude of solidarity towards those that have been looking at Yemen as a place of protection. So, the solidarity that Yemenis have always given to refugees seeking their protection, now they deserve that solidarity from the international community.

And the second note is: there is no humanitarian solution for humanitarian problems.  It is very important to address the dramatic needs of Yemeni people in this terrible situation, but more important is to end the conflict.  We had an important moment in Stockholm in which it was possible to agree on a ceasefire in Hodeida and a number of other aspects.  We know there is hope for the end of the conflict, but we know we are also facing many obstacles in the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement.  But I can guarantee to all of you that, while we are facing those obstacles, we are convinced we will overcome those obstacles, and that the UN and myself will not give up in order to make sure that the Stockholm Agreement is implemented, and that with that we create the first step for peace to be re-established in Yemen.

Question: You mentioned some very generous pledges from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They are also parties in this conflict. What problem do you see there? Is there any conflict there between the donations and they’re also partaking in the conflict?

Secretary-General: I think that humanitarian aid is based on humanitarian principles. And so independently of the role that a country can play in a conflict, there are humanitarian needs, and there are obligations of all of us to support the response to those humanitarian needs. I have to say that we have had, in the discussion that led to Stockholm, a very constructive attitude of both Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, and it is also true that their contributions today were largely responsible for the possibility to have an increase of thirty percent in the response to the humanitarian needs in the country. But that humanitarian aid will be distributed in full respect of the humanitarian principles, which means that it’s a needs-based analysis, people will receive according to the needs that are accessed, and second - there will be impartiality, neutrality and independence in the way the distribution is made, which means that the distribution will impact both areas controlled by the government and areas controlled by the Ansar Allah without any discrimination, and these conditions were accepted by all the donors. In this regard, I don’t think there is any contradiction in relation to what has happened today.

Question: I would just like a follow up on Nina’s questions because I think it’s important to give an opportunity to also talk about the violence and the bombings, and the blockage that are jeopardizing lives and even taking lives, by some of the same participants. And at the same time that you are praising these two major countries for their donations, can we also get your real concern about their participation in the actual war that’s going on there, thank you?

Secretary-General: We are not disregarding the war that exists and the fact that a number of countries, not only the ones that you mentioned, but other countries, have direct impact on the war. And obviously what we want is to end the war, and to end all the consequences of the war, the people that are killed, the people that suffered all other kinds of impacts. Independently of that, today we had a pledging conference to address humanitarian needs; and at this pledging conference to address humanitarian needs, we had what has happened. As you know, I have, in several aspects, in relation to other issues, been quite vocal. And we took even positions that sometimes generated reactions, because of the clarity with which we denounced several aspects related to the war. With the same objectivity, we need to recognize the important humanitarian contribution that was given today.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, this is a third pledging conference. I am sure you are hoping we are not here next year. I would like to ask you, though, at the same time as the pledging goes on, and aid operations, we have had UN human rights investigations which have suggested that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Yemen. Do you foresee a time when there will have to be justice, well, at least prosecution, possibly justice for these things? 

Secretary-General: Well, there are a number of human rights instruments that are doing their work.  Their work is being done without any interreference, in total independence, and obviously their work will lead to conclusions. And I have always been a supporter of accountability in relation to whatever happens in conflicts around the world.  Again, it is not an issue for today, but, as you know, the different instruments of our human rights architecture have been quite active, and they will go on being active, in full independence, in order to clarify, as much as possible, the truth in relation to the questions you have raised.