posted on Tue 8 Jan 2019 5:45 PM
Yemen: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (9 January), the Security Council is expected to have a briefing, followed by consultations, on Yemen. Anticipated briefers are Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock. General Patrick Cammaert, the chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) that supervises implementation of the Hodeidah Agreement, may also brief. The Council is expected soon to begin discussions on a draft resolution that would establish a UN mission to support this agreement.

On 21 December 2018, the Security Council adopted resolution 2451, endorsing the agreements reached during last month’s consultations in Sweden between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels. These agreements, which are collectively outlined in what is called the Stockholm Agreement, include an agreement on the city and governorate of Hodeidah and the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Isa; an executive mechanism to implement a prisoner exchange agreement that was reached just prior to the talks; and a statement of understanding on the city of Taiz.

The “Hodeidah Agreement” was the most significant of these, providing for a ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate and the mutual redeployment of forces from Hodeidah city and the three ports that have been under Houthi control. The deal thus averts an offensive by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition against the critical port city, which is considered a lifeline for the supply to Yemen of imports such as food and fuel. The agreement stipulated that the redeployments would occur in two phases over a three-week period, and that local security forces, in accordance with Yemeni law, would provide security for the city and ports. Among other points, resolution 2451 authorised the UN to establish and deploy an advance team for an initial period of 30 days to monitor, support and facilitate the Stockholm Agreement.

Griffiths and Cammaert, if he briefs tomorrow, are likely to provide an overview on progress in implementing the Hodeidah agreement. Cammaert, who was appointed by the Secretary-General to chair the RCC established in the Hodeidah agreement, arrived in Yemen on 22 December with the advance team that totals 16 international monitors. In accordance with resolution 2451, the Council has been receiving weekly reports on the implementation of the resolution. So far, Cammaert has organised two meetings of the RCC, which includes representatives of the Yemeni government and the Houthis. In his reports, the Secretary-General has commended the parties’ good will and cooperation with the chair in starting up and convening the RCC. For an RCC meeting held today, it has been reported in the press that the Houthis did not attend and that Cammaert intends to meet separately with them tomorrow.

The Secretary-General’s reports indicate the challenges facing the agreement’s implementation. The ceasefire went into effect on 18 December, though there have been continued allegations by the parties of violations. In the latest report (4 January), the UN says that, despite the mutual allegations, there has not been reporting to suggest that either party has attempted to make new territorial gains. According to the report, the RCC has not independently assessed the alleged incidents of ceasefire violations. Nor has the RCC been able to confirm redeployments, as it has still been discussing the modalities that would enable both parties and the UN to verify the redeployment of forces.  Without such an arrangement, the Hodeidah deal could be derailed, according to the report.

Other issues flagged in the weekly reporting include delays by the Houthis in providing visas for staff of UN entities. In addition to a role in monitoring the Hodeidah Agreement, the UN is to support the Yemeni port authorities’ management of the ports, and could assist in channelling port revenues to the Hodeidah branch of the Yemeni Central Bank. These functions will be provided by the UN Country Team. The UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) is also deploying personnel to the ports to enhance monitoring of commercial shipments. According to the report, staff of the World Food Programme, which will support the management of the ports, have still not received visas to enable their deployment to conduct an assessment of required WFP support for the ports. Additionally, the Houthis have not yet provided clearances for equipment, including armoured vehicles, communications equipment and personal protective equipment.

The Secretary-General’s 4 January report observes that there is a lack of common interpretation of implementation and sequencing of the Hodeidah agreement, driven by a lack of trust and an apprehension over making concessions outside of a comprehensive political solution. The report also refers to threats made against the RCC and UN personnel. Griffiths and Cammaert could elaborate on these challenges tomorrow.

Griffths is also likely to brief on plans to hold a new round of consultations. In the Stockholm Agreement, the Yemeni government and the Houthis agreed to a next round of consultations during January. According to the Special Envoy when the deal was announced, these consultations would focus on discussing a framework for negotiations. Griffiths went to Sana’a this past weekend, where he met with Houthi leaders, with Cammaert, and with Humanitarian/Resident Coordinator Lise Grande. Today he was planning to meet in Riyadh with Yemeni President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Tomorrow, Griffiths may provide members with more information on these recent meetings, including on progress towards organising a new round of talks.

Lowcock will update the Council on the humanitarian situation in which 20 million people face severe food insecurity, a quarter million of whom are facing catastrophic conditions or starvation. Resolution 2451 called on the Yemeni government and the Houthis to remove bureaucratic impediments to flows of commercial and humanitarian supplies, including fuel, and to ensure effective and sustained functioning of all of Yemen’s ports and onward road access throughout the country. It also called on the parties to work together to strengthen the economy and the Central Bank.

Lowcock may report that there has not been much improvement in the humanitarian situation, despite the Stockholm Agreement. He may stress that the deal offers hope to address the crisis, and that progress in its implementation and in the political process remains critical. Despite an agreement by the RCC to deploy a humanitarian convoy from Hodeidah along the main roadway to Sana’a, the road has not been re-opened. The UN issued a statement on 29 December noting that Cammaert had expressed his disappointment to Houthi representatives over this missed opportunity to build confidence between the parties. An OCHA report yesterday said that commercial food imports in December were the lowest since the start of UNVIM operations in July 2016, though fuel imports increased slightly, to their highest levels since August 2017 (meeting 24 percent of monthly requirements).

Members may welcome progress on the political track over the past month, including the consultations in Sweden, and the RCC’s quick activation. They are likely to emphasise that the parties need to adhere to the agreements, uphold the ceasefire, cooperate with the RCC, and not take actions that could jeopardise the still-fragile processes. They may further stress that the parties engage with the Special Envoy to have a second round of consultations. On the humanitarian situation, members may reiterate that urgent actions remain necessary, including the lifting of bureaucratic impediments.

Tomorrow’s session could be an opportunity to discuss the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a UN mission to monitor the parties’ compliance with the ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate and mutual redeployment of forces. In resolution 2451, the Council requested the Secretary-General to provide proposals on how the UN will support the Stockholm Agreement, which were submitted on 31 December 2018. The Secretary-General has proposed establishing for an initial period of six months a mission consisting of 75 monitors, supported by additional substantive, administrative and security personnel. It would be headed by Cammaert, who would report to the Secretary-General through the Special Envoy’s Office and the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. The proposal notes that the mission would work in close collaboration and coordination with the Office of the Special Envoy, the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and the UN Country Team.

A draft Council response letter was attached to the proposal, taking note of the Secretary-General’s proposal and recommendation.  A silence procedure has continued to be extended for the response letter, which it seems that the Secretariat felt, once transmitted from the Council, could enable it to start accessing funds for the mission. In discussing the letter, some members have expressed the view that it would be important to have a resolution mandating the mission, instead of doing so through an exchange of letters.

The UK is planning to circulate a draft resolution that it has begun discussing among the P3 to establish the mission. The Council will need to approve the monitoring mission by 20 January, before the advance team’s authorisation expires. An amended response to the Secretary-General’s letter, which says that the Council will give consideration to the proposals, is under silence until 5 pm tomorrow.