UNSC discusses Yemen's humanitarian crisis

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien addressed the United Nations Security Council on Friday to appeal for relief funding for Yemen. “The Yemeni people’s suffering has relentlessly intensified,” he said, noting that 7 million Yemenis were on the brink of famine and that 16 million lacked access to water

UN humanitarian leaders address UNSC meeting on Yemen crisis

The United Nations Security Council convened on Wednesday for a meeting to address the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien addressed the Council, emphasizing the food security crisis and the cholera outbreak in Yemen. He stressed that the Yemeni health system has collapsed, pointing to the facts that 65% of health facilities in the country have closed and that 30,000 health workers have not received their salaries in nearly a year. He also noted that UNOCHA’s Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan is only 33% funded. Finally, he called for more serious international action to hold the parties to the conflict accountable for violations of international humanitarian law and to demand the opening of the airport in San’a and the protection of the port in al-Hudaydah

NGOs welcome UN Security Council Statement on Yemen: Words Must Now be Turned into Action

On Monday, 19 June 2017, the Yemen Peace Project, along with 10 other humanitarian and human rights organizations, released a joint statement commending the UN Security Council presidential statement on Yemen. The statement urges the UNSC to turn their words into action to end Yemen's suffering and find an immediate political solution to the conflict. 

UNSC issues Presidential Statement on Yemen

The United Nations Security Council released a presidential statement today regarding the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The statement expresses concern about the humanitarian impact of the conflict, highlighting the cholera epidemic and the risk of famine. It calls on all parties to the conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law, emphasizing the importance of distinguishing between civilians and combatants in selecting targets, of allowing unhindered access for the distribution of humanitarian aid, and of ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

YPP and 21 other NGOs call on UNSC to act now

Yesterday the Yemen Peace Project and 21 other NGOs sent a letter to all members of the UN Security Council calling on them to take immediate action to advance peace negotiations and address the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. The Council will meet to discuss the situation and hear an update from the UN Special Envoy on May 30. The full text of the letter is below.

UN Security Council must act to end man-made humanitarian crisis in Yemen

We the undersigned organisations call upon UN Security Council members to take action to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, end the humanitarian crisis and support the UN Special Envoy's efforts towards an inclusive political solution to the conflict.

October 6–19: Civilians suffer as conflict drags on; new peace talks announced

Yemen’s civil conflict is now in its seventh month, and UN-backed peace talks remain stagnant. The conflict that started in late March has killed more than 4,500 Yemenis so far, including at least 502 children, according to UNICEF. An estimated 10% of the country’s population has been internally displaced. While 80% of Yemenis needs humanitarian assistance, more than half a million children face life-threatening malnutrition as a risk of famine grows. In an open letter, Oxfam and other NGOs urged UN Security Council members to act to end the months-long civil war and alleviate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. On Tuesday, October 6, suicide attacks in the southern port city of Aden targeted the exiled government, which forced Vice President/ Prime Minister Khaled Bahah along with a handful of ministers to withdraw from the city. Three IS-claimed suicide attacks in Aden—the provisional capital—hit the exiled government’s temporary building, the residence of Emirati troops, and the Coalition’s Joint Command Center. At least 15 coalition troops and Southern Resistance fighters were reportedly killed in the attacks, which reveal that Aden’s security situation is much more fragile than it appears to be.

Some 400 Sudanese troops—out of 6,000 that the Sudanese government has reportedly pledged—were deployed to this “liberated” port city On Monday, October 19, two days after 300 troops had already arrived. But it has not yet been confirmed whether this second batch of Sudanese troops will be tasked with maintaining security in Aden, or be sent into combat elsewhere.

On Wednesday, October 7, more than 40 people were killed when an airstrike hit the house of three brother-grooms in Sanaban village, east of Dhamar city in Yemen’s central highlands. This was the second wedding party to be bombed in 10 days, as Saudi-led airstrikes continued to hit cities and towns across the country.

With aerial cover and support, fighting near the Red Sea coast continued to drag on with the aim of advancing on and “liberating” Taʻiz city, where pro-Houthi/Saleh forces have been imposing a siege for weeks now, leaving the local residents with no water, fuels, or other basic necessities. Although it has been more than two weeks since the Saudi-led coalition launched their operation liberate Taʻiz, no clear action has been taken, other than airstrikes, which have taken a heavy civilian toll along with artillery shells from pro-Houthi/Saleh forces. The coalition-allied fighters, which were deployed outside Lahj province on the road to Taʻiz late in September, have not been able to advance further since then. A coalition spokesperson said that “the geographical nature of the battlefield” is one reason behind that. Over this weekend, Saudi-led warplanes mistakenly struck some of those allied fighters, killing at least 30 and wounding 40 others.

In Marib Governorate, the Saudi-led coalition forces along with local tribal fighters are trying to maintain full control over the governorate, but landmines are slowing their progress. However, the coalition forces and their tribal allies are aiming to open another front in the neighboring governorate of al-Jawf. The Qatari government has reportedly offered to send troops to join the al-Jawf battle ground.

Across the borderline, pro-Houthi troops continue to pound the Saudi Army bases and installations in Najran, Jaizan and Aseer. Several Saudi soldiers have been killed and many others captured. Another Scud missile was also fired from the capital, Sanʻa, toward Khamis Mushayt airbase last week. While the Houthi army spokesman said that the missile hit its target, the Saudi-affiliated media contradicted this.

The launching of the ballistic missile came hours after the top Houthi leader, ‘Abd al-Malik Badr al-Din al-Houthi delivered a televised speech on Wednesday, October 14. His speech came right after a speech made by former president ʻAli ʻAbdullah Saleh. Both blamed Saudi Arabia for stalling the UN-backed talks aimed at ending the months-long conflict in Yemen. On Sunday, the UN envoy to Yemen announced that a new round of peace talks will be held soon. All parties to the conflict have agreed to participate in the talks that will be held in Geneva late this month.

EU Parliament condemns violence by Houthis, Saleh, KSA

The plenary session of the European Parliament adopted today a resolution on the current conflict in Yemen. Beyond the standard "expressions of concern" and calls for restraint, there are a couple of clauses in this resolution that are particularly noteworthy. Overall, it's a more impassioned and strongly-worded document than we usually expect to see in such cases.  The most striking thing about this resolution is that it positions the EU, as a body, outside the conflict. It does this by criticizing the Saudi-led coalition as well as the Houthi-Saleh alliance. Here's a key paragraph (#3, emphasis mine):

[The European Parliament] Condemns the destabilising and violent unilateral actions taken by the Houthis and military units loyal to ex-President Saleh; also condemns the air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition and the naval blockade it has imposed on Yemen, which have led to thousands of deaths, have further destabilised Yemen, have created conditions more conducive to the expansion of terrorist and extremist organisations such as ISIS/Da’esh and AQAP, and have exacerbated an already critical humanitarian situation;

Compare that to, for example, the UN Security Council's Resolution 2216, which condemns the Houthis' actions, but implicitly approves of the Saudi-led intervention. What makes the paragraph above really interesting is that a number of EU member states--specifically the UK, France, and Belgium--are involved in the Saudi bombing campaign in one way or another. In fact, the voting record for today's resolution shows a very interesting amendment, which will be added to the finalized version of the text:

[The European Parliament] Expresses its concern regarding the intensive arms trade of EU Member States with various countries in the region, as in the case of the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Germany; calls on the Council in this connection to verify whether there have been breaches of the EU Common Position on Arms Export Controls and to adopt measures to ensure that this common position is fully respected by all the Member States;

You can find a provisional PDF copy of the full resolution here.


Feb. 17-23: Negotiations in question as Hadi challenges Houthi rule

Local news coverage during the Last week has again been focused on the political process intended to fill the void left by the resignation of the president and the government last month. The political parties involved in UN-led talks reportedly agreed to form a new national legislative body which would include representatives of underrepresented groups in addition to the incumbent members of Yemen’s parliament. The new body would add 250 members to the current roster of 301 members of parliament. It is not clear yet how the new members would be chosen; proclamations made recently by Ansar Allah—the Houthi movement’s political leadership—suggest that the movement’s so-called Revolutionary Committees would appoint new legislators. The Houthis dissolved the sitting parliament by revolutionary decree earlier this month.

Despite the relative ease in the ongoing talks between rival parties, opponents of the Houthi movement accused UN special envoy Jamal Benomar of "legitimizing" what they called the "Houthi coup." Such accusations were implicitly reinforced by the Gulf Cooperation Coucil, which demanded that the UN Security Council adopt a resolution against the Houthis under Chapter VII, which would open the way for possible economic and military measuresRussia and China have been featured in the local media as the main powers that opposed such a resolution, calling instead for supporting the ongoing UN talks "without imposing ready-made solutions from the outside."

President Hadi, who had been under house arrest in capital Sanʻa since he was forced to resign last month, appeared in the southern port city of Aden on February 21, after militia men loyal to him captured parts of the city last week. Hadi issued a statement upon his arrival, positioning himself as the legitimate president of the republic and calling on the international community to regard all steps taken by the Houthis since September as null and illegitimate. It's not yet clear how Hadi made it, amid strict security measures, out of his house and through several checkpoints manned by the Houthis. Unnamed Houthi sources claimed that Hadi was disguised in woman clothes during his escape. Other news suggested that the Houthis let Hadi out under pressure from the UNSC to release him without condition.

Hadi’s escape gave him, along with his old allies in the opposition coalition, a strong position from which to negotiate with Ansar Allah. Backed by Saudi Arabia and the GCC, Hadi has called for negotiations be moved to a safe place. The GCC issued a statement on Monday welcoming Hadi's exit to Aden and pledged its full support for the transition.

Feb. 10-16: War of Words between Houthis and Foreign Powers

The closure of several western diplomatic missions as well as those of GGC countries in Yemen got the most attention in local media during the last week. One of the leading local media outlets speculated that the departure of the missions, all of which cited security concerns over the Houthi group's seizure of power, could be a preamble to an international military action against the group. The Houthis are often referred to as an Iranian proxy aimed at destabilizing neighboring Saudi Arabia.

The prospect of a military action against Houthi forces increased as the Egyptian envoy to Yemen threatened to use force if the Houthi leadership decided to shut the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

Yemen’s main political parties were reported to have lost hope that the ongoing UN-brokered talks would ever bring about a way out of the current political crisis. They warned the international community that the danger coming out of Yemen would reach all states overseeing transition if those states "didn't act".

The top official in Marib, the oil rich province expected to witness heavy clashes between local tribesmen and Houthi militias, has vowed to take defense actions if the Houthis invade.

Militants of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula stormed the base of a military brigade in Shabwah and looted materiel, claiming that it did so to thwart a Houthi bid to take over the brigade. The recent security vacuum has also led oil companies in southern and eastern Yemen to stop operations.

In the southern port city of Aden, clashes between militias known as Popular Committees—which are loyal to (former) President Hadi—and Central Security Forces said to be loyal to Ansar Allah erupted overnight, with the militias gaining the upper hand and reportedly taking control of government buildings.

Military and security commanders in the south reportedly addressed the issue. The situation remains volatile as the Houthi group slammed Sunday’s UN Security Council resolution, calling on GCC states and the international community to “respect the Yemeni peoples’ will and sovereignty.”

UN Security Council approves new resolution on Yemen

Yesterday the United Nations Security Council voted to approve Resolution 2140, which you can read in full right here. There's a lot of fairly standard stuff in the resolution about how the UNSC supports Yemen's democratic transition, but the important part starts at paragraph 10, under the heading "Further Measures." Bottom line: after two years of threatening to do so, the UNSC is finally establishing a framework by which to impose sanctions on specific individuals who are obstructing Yemen's political process. In more detail:

11.  Decides that all Member States shall, for an initial period of one year from the date of the adoption of this resolution, freeze without delay all funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their territories, which are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the individuals or entities designated by the Committee established pursuant to paragraph 19 below, or by individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, or by entities owned or controlled by them, and decides further that all Member States shall ensure that any funds, financial assets or economic resources are prevented from being made available by their nationals or by any individuals or entities within their territories, to or for the benefit of the individuals or entities designated by the Committee;

15.  Decides that, for an initial period of one year from the date of the adoption of this resolution, all Member States shall take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into or transit through their territories of individuals designated by the Committee established pursuant to paragraph 19 below, provided that nothing in this paragraph shall oblige a State to refuse its own nationals entry into its territory;

17.  Decides that the provisions of paragraphs 11 and 15 shall apply to individuals or entities designated by the Committee as engaging in or providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen;

“18.  Underscores that such acts as described in paragraph 17 above may include, but are not limited to:

(a)   Obstructing or undermining the successful completion of the political transition, as outlined in the GCC Initiative and Implementation Mechanism Agreement;

(b)   Impeding the implementation of the outcomes of the final report of the comprehensive National Dialogue Conference through violence, or attacks on essential infrastructure; or

(c)   Planning, directing, or committing acts that violate applicable international human rights law or international humanitarian law, or acts that constitute human rights abuses, in Yemen;

Sanctions Committee

“19.  Decides to establish, in accordance with rule 28 of its provisional rules of procedure, a Committee of the Security Council consisting of all the members of the Council (herein “the Committee”), to undertake to following tasks:

(a)   To monitor implementation of the measures imposed in paragraph 11 and 15 above with a view to strengthening, facilitating and improving implementation of these measures by Member States;

(b)   To seek and review information regarding those individuals and entities who may be engaging in the acts described in paragraph 17 and 18 above;

(c)   To designate individuals and entities to be subject to the measures imposed in paragraphs 11 and 15 above;

(d)   To establish such guidelines as may be necessary to facilitate the implementation of the measures imposed above;

(e)   To report within 60 days to the Security Council on its work and thereafter to report as deemed necessary by the Committee;

So basically, 2140 sets up a committee to designate the individual trouble-makers ("spoilers," in political-speak). That committee will also decide the specifics of sanctions to be applied to each spoiler, but in general we're talking about a freeze on all assets belonging to spoilers held in UNSC-member states and a ban on travel to or through UNSC-member states. As for who is going to be targeted by these sanctions, former President Saleh is probably at the top of the list. Foreign diplomats have also in the past suggested that Hirak leader 'Ali Salim al-Beidh be sanctioned. We'll have to wait and see who else makes the cut, but you can find a wide variety of conjectures and conspiracy theories on the subject on social media and in the Yemeni press.

Sanctions are tricky, and they don't usually achieve the desired effect right away. Naturally, Yemeni politicians (including the spoilers) are trying to spin the resolution to their own benefit. They're also probably squirreling away as much cash as they can, and coming up with new ways to make trouble.

You can watch the full UNSC discussion and vote on 2140 here, and watch UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar's statements to the press here.

What do you think about the proposed sanctions regime? Is is a good idea? Will it backfire? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Press review 2/24/2014

Important news on Yemen from the past week: Feb 19- The Safer Exploration and Production Operations Company finished drilling the first of five wells near Al-Jawf. The estimated production capacity will be six million cubic feet of gas per day, providing a boost for the Yemeni economy.

Feb 16- An armed attack on Sana'a Central Prison led to the escape of 29 prisoners. Six soldiers and two passerbys were killed. Three of the escapees were convicted of plotting President Hadi's assignation last July.

The UN Security Council discussed drafting a resolution to place travel bans and freeze assets of Yemenis who attempt to impede the political transition process. Former President Saleh and Vice President Ali Salim Al- Beidh are of particular concern of interfering in reconciliation talks.

Feb 22- A Czech doctor has been kidnapped in Sana'a by armed assailants. This is the third foreigner to be taken this month. Officials believe the doctor was taken by disgruntled tribesmen from Marib.

Protests erupted in Hadhramawt over the central government's plan to split the southern region into two distinct, federal entities. Further, Ali Bawazir, a popular local cleric, was killed and many residents perceive this as the government's inability to establish security in the region.

Feb 24- A British national has been accused of stealing and buying ancient artifacts. Raginder Singh Freddy was arrsed in mid-January when authorities found small statues and stones with the south Arabian alphabet. The general prosecutor wants him to be imprisoned for smuggling the country;s national relics and buying nine other artifacts from Yemenis.

Feb 24-Dr, Hassan Farhan, head of the Central Bureau of Statistics, is organizing a census for next December. Apart from the population, the census will also survey housing and facilities in the country.

Feb 24- Al Qaeda issued a video that documents details surrounding their most important operations carried out in Yemen in recent months. It details from initial preparation until their eventual implementation. The video can be featured on "Branch Net."