Security Council Briefing: Yemen

Statement by H.E. Lise Gregoire-van Haaren,
Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

New York, 21 September 2018

Thank you very much, Madame President.

First, let me thank Under Secretary-General Mark Lowcock for his sobering briefing to us today. And for OCHA’s efforts, and those of the entire humanitarian community in Yemen, in continuing their work, saving lives on a daily basis, under increasingly difficult circumstances.

We supported the urgent request for this briefing today because we have seen the situation in Yemen deteriorate rapidly this week. We appreciate that you were able to accommodate the request for this briefing at such short notice.

The images coming out of Yemen of starving children on hospital beds put the international community to shame. They compel us to speak out and take action.

With the fighting again flaring up around Hudayda, an additional one million already severely food insecure children in Yemen risk falling into famine. Behind these shocking numbers lies the harsh reality of the daily lives of innocent Yemenis in a manmade crisis waged at their expense.

Madame President, I will address three issues today:

  • Firstly, the increase of access constraints around Hudayda;
  • Secondly, the effects of the economy on the humanitarian situation;
  • Thirdly, the protection of civilians.

1. The increase of access constraints around Hudayda

Madame President, we are extremely concerned about the consequences of this week’s clashes around Hudayda for the already strained humanitarian access to the millions of Yemenis in need.

The main road to Sana’a can no longer be used and I am concerned to hear from Mr. Lowcock alternative routes are heavily damaged. Access to the Red Sea Mills Warehouse has been cut off and the port is under threat now more than ever. The incapacitation of Hudayda Port or the disruption of its supply chain to the heavily populated areas behind would provide the tipping point for a full blown famine.

This Council recognized the need to break the vicious cycle between armed conflict and food insecurity when it unanimously adopted resolution 2417, on the 24th of May this year. Now we must take this text to heart, and ensure that we prevent a further deterioration.

I would like to thank Mr. Lowcock for putting three concrete asks on the table to address the situation. In this context we also call on OCHA to keep the Council informed of the food security situation, and present the Council with key asks to address it.

The warring parties and their supporters have a responsibility to keep the port open and fully functional and to ensure that the so desperately needed supplies come in reach of the Yemenis in need all throughout the country. 

2. The effects of the economy on the humanitarian situation

Madame President, my second point concerns another major driver of the increasing food crisis: Yemen’s failing economy.

The recent devaluation of the Yemeni Riyal to its lowest point in history has severely hit the purchasing power of the Yemeni population. Together with rising food prices and the non-payment of public sector salaries for over two years this is proving to be a lethal combination for ordinary Yemenis, also in parts of the country less affected by the fighting.

Experts warn that the economic collapse has the potential to kill even more Yemenis than the violence underlying it. The parties need to come together and address this issue with the utmost urgency. 

3. Protection of civilians

Madame President, this brings me to my third point: we just adopted a Presidential Statement on the protection of civilians. The words in this statement will be meaningless if we do not insist on their full implementation in the crises on the Council’s agenda.

All parties need to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and address its violations. Ending impunity should be a key ingredient of the solution of the conflict in Yemen.

The political transition in Yemen early 2012 was a positive example in the region in many ways. But if it has taught us anything, it is that postponing justice only fosters further conflict and feeds the notion that transgressions don’t have consequences.

Conclusion

Madame President, in conclusion: the drivers of famine in Yemen are manifold. Immediate steps to be taken are clear.

The parties need to respect international humanitarian law, keep the ports open, protect the supply roads and agree once and for all on the modalities for resuming salary payments.

The only thing that can permanently end the suffering of the Yemeni population is a sustainable peaceful political solution to the conflict. We call again on all parties to demonstrate their commitment to peace.

To de-escalate – first and foremost around Hudayda – and to engage without preconditions with the Special Envoy. The children of Yemen deserve protection from violence, from hunger, and from disease. They deserve a future.

Thank you, Madame President.

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