posted on Fri 12 Jul 2019 10:38 AM
Yemen: Council to Renew Mandate of UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement

On Monday (15 July), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution to extend for six months the mandate of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA). Reaching agreement on the mandate renewal appeared straightforward. On 5 July, the UK, the penholder on Yemen, circulated to Council members a draft text which contained only a few, primarily technical, changes to resolution 2452 that established the mission. After no comments were submitted, the draft resolution was placed under silence procedure until the morning of 10 July, which it passed. The draft resolution is now in blue.

As indicated by the mission’s full name, UNMHA was established to support last December’s Hodeidah agreement for a ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate, and the redeployment of Houthi rebel and Yemeni government forces from the port city of Hodeidah and nearby smaller ports of Saleef and Ras Issa. The deal was part of the broader Stockholm Agreement that also included a prisoner exchange mechanism and a statement of understanding on the city of Taiz, neither of which has advanced significantly. The Hodeidah agreement helped to avert a major battle for the Houthi-held city and ports that could have cut off access through what is traditionally Yemen’s most important entry point for imports, including food and fuel, and would thus worsen the humanitarian crisis.

The draft resolution retains UNMHA’s four-point mandate to:

  • lead and support the functioning of the Redeployment Coordination Committee to oversee the governorate-wide ceasefire, redeployment of forces and mine action operations. (This committee, also known as the RCC and set up by the Hodeidah agreement, is chaired by the head of UNMHA,General Michael Lollesgaard, and made up of representatives of the Yemeni government and Houthis.);
  • monitor the compliance of the parties to the ceasefire and the mutual redeployment of forces;
  • work with the parties so that the security of the city and ports is assured by local security forces in accordance with Yemeni law; and
  • facilitate and coordinate UN support to assist the parties to fully implement the Hodeidah agreement.

Last month, the Secretary-General submitted a review of UNMHA in a letter to Council members. The review documents difficulties in setting up the mission, such as the operating environment in Hodeidah and the Houthi authorities’ slow approval of visas for mission personnel and clearances for equipment, such that UNMHA “has only just maintained its initial operational capacity to deliver on its mandate”. UNMHA, in accordance with the Secretary-General’s 31 December 2018 proposal to create the mission, is to comprise up to 75 monitors, as well as other support personnel. The draft resolution requests that the Secretary-General fully deploy the mission expeditiously, the term “fully” inserted into the text in what seems to be an implicit reference to the delays faced in UNMHA’s start-up.

The review further covers the challenges of translating the broad framework provided by the Hodeidah agreement into actionable plans for its implementation, which has required ongoing negotiations between the parties overseen by the RCC chair and UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths. This includes the need to reach agreement on the local security forces that will secure the city and ports before starting the redeployment of military forces from Hodeidah city. It cautions that even after reaching agreement on outstanding issues, full implementation, including clearing military manifestations and mines, will entail a lengthy commitment.

Despite the difficulties, UNMHA is described as having had a calming and moderating impact and actively playing a role in preventing an escalation in hostilities through its liaison role. It has also served as a liaison between humanitarian actors and the parties’ military leadership in Hodeidah. UNMHA “serves as a credible and effective conflict prevention tool at a critical entry point for humanitarian assistance in Yemen and an impartial arbiter of conditions on the ground”, according to the review.

The review found that the mission’s mandate continues to be achievable and appropriate. The composition and operational aspects of UNMHA were also assessed as remaining valid, while requiring significant flexibility in their application. In keeping with a recommendation from the review, the draft resolution requests that a further review of UNMHA be provided within three months. This is to make sure that UNMHA remains appropriately configured and tasked and allow the Council to make changes to its mandate if the situation evolves.