posted on Wed 2 Mar 2016 5:01 PM
Briefing and Consultations on Yemen

Tomorrow (3 March), the Security Council will be briefed by OCHA head Stephen O’Brien. This will be followed by consultations, where the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed is expected to brief via video-teleconference from Dubai. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang is also expected to participate in the consultations.

The meeting was added during yesterday’s discussion of the Council’s March programme of work. It seems the idea for the meeting came from Russia, which last month proposed more frequent Council briefings on the humanitarian situation. O’Brien, who last briefed members on 16 February (S/PV.7622), is expected to provide an update on the humanitarian situation. He is likely to note that civilians continue to be victims of attacks and indiscriminate fighting between the parties to the conflict — for example, the airstrike on 27 February on a market that killed at least 30 people in Sana’a. Members may want an update on progress in rolling out the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UN VIM). O’Brien had informed members at his last briefing that the UN VIM had been formally launched, and he was awaiting the appointment of representatives to the UN VIM’s steering committee by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Yemen government.

The Special Envoy, who last briefed the Council on 17 February (S/PV.7625), will provide an update on the political process. Since then, Ould Cheikh Ahmed has been in Washington and Moscow, and recently returned to the region, where he is resuming efforts to get the parties to agree to a cessation of hostilities to accompany a new round of political talks. During his last briefing, the Special Envoy told members that he had yet to receive assurances that if he called for a cessation of hostilities it would be respected, and he is expected to reiterate the obstacles facing the political process.

The update on Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and efforts to advance a political process is expected to be useful in providing information that could be used in shaping a draft resolution on the humanitarian situation. The idea of a humanitarian resolution on Yemen was first raised by New Zealand when Council members discussed the humanitarian situation in consultations on 16 February. It seems that New Zealand asked whether it would be helpful, for the Council to have a separate humanitarian resolution on Yemen at this stage. In general, there has been a sense of frustration among members over the escalation of the war and the deterioration of the humanitarian situation. This has led to a growing sense that the Council should take some action, in spite of the stalled political progress. During the following day’s consultations with Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Spain, following up the discussion started by New Zealand, proposed that the Council consider a new resolution on Yemen humanitarian issues. Spain suggested that the elements of such a resolution could be discussed at the Council breakfast to be hosted by Angola at the start of its March presidency, an idea supported by Angola, New Zealand and Uruguay.

This discussion among Council members took place yesterday, during which it seems a decision was made for the Council to move forward with a draft resolution on the humanitarian situation rather than a presidential statement, which the UK as penholder had suggested. It seems that New Zealand and the UK shared possible draft elements. A key focus of a draft resolution would be improving access and delivery of humanitarian assistance and commercial goods such as food and fuel, the safety of humanitarian personnel, and cooperation with the UN VIM. New Zealand’s proposed elements also include a strong focus on protection of civilians, such as ending indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian objects such as schools and medical facilities, and accountability for violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law in Yemen.

After a number of members expressed their preference that the Council address the dire situation in Yemen with a resolution instead of a presidential statement, the UK agreed to work on a draft that it would try to circulate next week. While there appears to be fairly strong support among members for moving forward with this, it seems that Egypt noted the importance of consulting and engaging with Saudi Arabia.