Security Council Briefing: Yemen

Statement by Karel J.G. van Oosterom,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations in New York

New York, 16 November 2018

Thank you, Mr. President.

We thank Mr Griffiths, Mr Lowcock, Mr Beasley and Ms Jarhum for their briefings.

They presented us with a grave description of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Their strong words underline the urgent need for action and decision making.

Together we have to reach a peaceful and sustainable political solution to the current situation.

Today, I would like to highlight three aspects:

  • Conflict and hunger,
  • The responsibility of the international community, and
  • The urgent need for a political solution.

1. Conflict and hunger

Mr. President, we see a vicious cycle between Conflict and Hunger in armed conflicts around the world. Last May, this Council unanimously adopted a resolution that called on all of us to break that cycle.

The end of extreme hunger in Yemen ultimately depends on our collective political will.

Mr. President, the situation in Yemen is compounded further by interference with UN depots, continued airstrikes and shelling. These have also led to damage to critical civilian infrastructure and to water, sanitation and health facilities.

In general, depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival, indeed, starving them intentionally, as a method of warfare, is under no circumstances permissible; it may even constitute a war crime.

Mr. President, there is hope the recent escalation around Hodeidah will be halted. Still, the one-year-long partial blockade continues to create essential shortages.

In the event of further escalation, the port of Hodeidah, the lifeline for millions of Yemeni, might become inaccessible to any ship carrying essential commodities that are vital to a population in need.

On many occasions we have also expressed our concern over Houthi missiles toward civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.

2. The responsibility of the international community

Mr. President, that brings me to my second point, the responsibility of the international community. As the Secretary-General has said: it is time to act. The international community must protect civilians in times of conflict.

The most effective way is that the Council fully supports the 5 asks from OCHA, let me reiterate them:

  1. As a first step towards full cessation of hostilities, a humanitarian cease-fire. The only way to prevent mass starvation.
  2. Second, protection of the supply of food and essential goods across the country. All routes need to be opened for these goods.
  3. Third, a larger and faster injection of foreign exchange into the economy through the Central Bank. We welcome the recent injection.
  4. Fourth, increased funding for the humanitarian operation. The Netherlands is doing its share.
  5. And fifth, full engagement with the Special Envoy to end the conflict.

Mr. President, it is the responsibility of this Council to take a firm stance against the persistent violations of international humanitarian law we see on a daily basis in Yemen. And we need to stand up for the brave humanitarian personnel: they should never be the target of attacks.

It is essential that humanitarian access is not being politicized by the parties to the conflict. This also goes for allowing the UN to collect objective data, in order to draw up reliable needs assessments based on the real needs.

Mr. President, the international community will continue to raise its voice against impunity. Perpetrators must and will be held accountable, not only to provide justice for victims in the future, but also to deter offences in the present.

We are grateful for the ongoing work of the Group of Eminent Experts of the Human Rights Council and the UN-Panel of Experts on Sanctions.

3. The urgent need for a political solution

Mr. President, my third and final point, the political solution. To respond to OCHA’s fifth ask I can say that, both through the EU and nationally, we fully support the tireless efforts of Mr Griffiths to strive for a sustainable political solution; we are at your disposal.

Those countries with influence over the parties to the conflict should use their position to help create the conditions conducive to consultations. And in the inclusive process also local grievances in Yemen need to be further addressed.

Mr. President, the briefing by Ms Jarhum underlined both the effect the conflict has on women and the determination of women to contribute in a meaningful way to peace and a better Yemen. We have resolution 1325 to guide us here.

I call on the parties to include women in their delegations; I welcome that Mr Griffiths has already entered into sessions with a number of women.

Conclusion

In conclusion Mr. President, in view of the millions of Yemeni people on the brink of starvation: we call on all parties to work together to make humanitarian access possible and to now achieve a humanitarian ceasefire so people in need can be reached. We need to urgently support the five asks of OCHA.

And following the advice of the Group of Eminent Experts of the Human Rights Council, we also call upon the international community, including the states of the League of Arab States, to stop delivering arms to this theatre of war and its main combatants.

It is now time to immediately focus on fighting the famine, and find a political solution for this terrible conflict. We owe it to the people of Yemen.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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