Briefing to the United Nations Security Council by the Special Envoy for Yemen – Hans Grundberg, September 10, 2021 – Yemen
Thank you. Madame President, I am honored to have been appointed Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, a post I started four days ago. I appreciate the expressions of support from Yemenis and the international community, including members of the Council. And I am also grateful to the previous special envoys who went to great lengths to end the conflict.
Madame President, I started working on Yemen over ten years ago. Yemen is a country with enormous potential, located at the gateway between Asia and Europe, between the Gulf and Africa. Yemen’s impressive business history, cultural richness and diversity is something that I continue to admire.
However, my experience with Yemen also makes me painfully aware of the complexity of this conflict. Unfortunately, these complexities multiply as the conflict drags on. I therefore have no illusions about the difficulty of the task entrusted to me by this Council. Enabling the resumption of a peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition process that responds to the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people, as mandated by this Council, will not be easy. There are no quick wins.
Madame President, the current armed conflict has continued unabated for more than six years. Civilians, including so many children, have been killed, displaced and impoverished. Civilian infrastructure has been targeted. Armed actors have detained, abducted and disappeared people with impunity. Gender-based violence has increased dramatically.
The epicenter of the military confrontation has shifted over time, with fighters taking turns on the offensive. Since the start of 2020, the focus has been on Ansar Allah’s sustained offensive against the Marib governorate, in which thousands of young Yemenis have lost their lives. Civilians, including the many internally displaced people who have sought refuge in Marib, live in constant fear of violence and further displacement. The UN and the international community have been clear in their message: the offensive must stop.
In Hudaydah, the city continues to see a notable decline in ceasefire violations, while hostilities in the southern districts of the governorate are of particular concern. The United Nations Mission to Support the Hudaydah Accord, UNMHA, continues its vital work, including urging the parties to come together through joint dialogue to define a sustainable way forward.
The situation in the southern governorates, where there are regular outbreaks of violence, is also of great concern. Basic services and the economy have deteriorated to a desperate state. The implementation of the Riyadh Accord continues to face challenges and the government has not fulfilled its functions since Aden. In this context, the impact of the conflict on the diversity of grievances and demands in the southern governorates cannot be ignored. Peace in Yemen will not be sustainable in the long run if the voices of the South do not play a role in how it responsibly shapes it.
The conflict in Yemen also spans borders, threatening regional security and international waterways. I am particularly concerned about the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure inside Saudi Arabia.
Madame President, the fighting must stop, the violence must stop.
In this regard, it is also vital that external actors encourage de-escalation. Their involvement should be based on supporting a Yemeni-led political settlement. A peaceful and stable Yemen is essential for the stability of the entire region.
Madame President, From relentless violence to fuel and electricity shortages to soaring food prices, every detail of daily life in Yemen is somehow tied to difficult political issues that demand comprehensive resolution. State institutions have separated, hampering the economy and leaving citizens and businesses to cope with dizzying and often conflicting administrative demands. The economic war waged by all sides sows devastating long-term consequences for the Yemeni state and its people. Yemenis across the country live with severe restrictions on their freedom of movement and the flow of essential goods due to ongoing fighting, checkpoints, road, port and airport restrictions. The UN position remains unchanged: the freedom of movement of people and goods inside and outside the country must be guaranteed. Roads must be open to allow people and goods to enter and exit Taiz. Sana’a airport must be open to commercial traffic. Restrictions on the importation of fuel and goods through the port of Hudaydah must end. There is a continued need for close coordination among all members of the United Nations family, the wider international community as well as the parties to the conflict to address these issues appropriately.
By now it should be obvious, Madame President, that the peace process has stalled for too long. Parties to the conflict have not discussed a comprehensive settlement since 2016. This has left Yemenis stuck in an indefinite state of war, with no clear path forward. It is therefore high time for the parties to the conflict to engage in a peaceful dialogue with each other under the facilitation of the United Nations under a comprehensive settlement, in good faith and without preconditions.
The UN’s approach to ending the conflict must be inclusive. To define the best way forward, I intend to assess past efforts, identify what worked and what didn’t, and listen to as many Yemeni men and women as I do. possible. The way forward must be guided by the aspirations of the Yemeni people.
My office and I will do everything possible to ensure the meaningful participation of women in all aspects of our engagement and to mainstream gender perspectives in all matters. As we will also hear from my colleague from OCHA, the rights of Yemeni women and girls are being ignored, if not ignored. The United Nations is obligated to fight for a peace that not only ends violence, but also a lasting peace that protects all of their civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural. A peace that guarantees accountability, good governance and state institutions that serve all citizens equitably.
We are clearly far from it today. Nonetheless, I will spare no effort to try to bring together actors from both sides of conflict lines, to engage Yemenis from all political perspectives and from all parts of society and from all parts of the country. , to discuss under the auspices of the UN how they can find common ground and resolve their differences. without resorting to force. I will be guided in this effort by the mandate given to me by this Council in its relevant resolutions.
Madame President, we all have a shared responsibility in our different capacities to end the conflict in Yemen. The start of my mandate should therefore be an opportunity to reassess our respective responsibilities. The initiatives of Yemen’s neighbors and members of this Council in support of the efforts of the United Nations have been appreciated and should be strengthened.
My first consultations with Yemeni, regional and international actors will begin soon. I will be traveling to Riyadh shortly to meet President Hadi and other members of the Yemeni government. I also look forward to meeting the leaders of Ansar Allah and other actors based in Sana’a, as well as other political actors across Yemen. And I plan to meet with regional leaders in Riyadh, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Tehran, Cairo and elsewhere. My office and I are prepared to spend as much time as possible in Yemen and with Yemenis. I will return to the Council each month to reflect frankly and openly on these discussions. And I will seek your tangible and coordinated support to move my mandate forward.
Thank you, Madame President.