The complexities of the years-long war in Yemen “multiply as the conflict drags on”, the country’s new UN envoy told the Security Council on Friday, adding that he was “under no illusions about the difficulty of the task” at hand.
“Enabling a resumption of a peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition process that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people, as mandated by this Council, will not be easy. There are no quick wins”, Special Envoy Hans Grundberg said in his inaugural briefing.
He painted a grim picture of six years of unabated armed conflict during which thousands of civilians have been killed, displaced, and impoverished as gender-based violence has surged significantly.
“From unrelenting violence to fuel and electricity shortages to surging food prices, every detail of daily life in Yemen is somehow tied to difficult political questions that demand a comprehensive resolution” he stated.
State institutions have split apart, he continued, hobbling the economy and leaving citizens and businesses to “navigate dizzying and often contradictory administrative requirements” and “economic warfare…is sowing devastating long-term consequences”.
“Yemenis all over the country live with severe limitations on their freedom of movement and of the movement of essential goods due to ongoing fighting, checkpoints, road, port and airport restrictions.”
The epicentre of the military confrontation has shifted, with regular violent flare-ups in the southern governates, accompanied by a deterioration in the economy and local services, said the senior official.
“The impact of the conflict on the diverse range of grievances and demands in the southern governorates cannot be ignored”, he added. “Peace in Yemen will not be sustained in the long term if southern voices do not play a part in shaping it responsibly”.
Moreover, the conflict is spilling across borders, threatening regional security and international waterways, including targeting civilians and infrastructure inside of Saudi Arabia.
“The fighting must stop, the violence has to come to an end”, he underscored. “A peaceful and stable Yemen is essential for the stability of the entire region”.
As the UN encourages an inclusive approach, Mr. Grundberg shared with ambassadors his intentions to identify what has worked and what hasn’t in previous diplomatic efforts, and listen to as many Yemeni men and women as possible.
“The way forward must be guided by the aspirations of the Yemeni people”, he stressed.
While acknowledging that “we are clearly a long way off” from a sustainable peace that protects civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, the Special Envoy vowed to “spare no efforts” in trying to bring together actors across conflict lines, from all political perspectives, and all parts of the country, to find common ground and resolve differences peacefully.
“We all have a shared responsibility in our different capacities for ending the conflict in Yemen”, he attested.
On the agenda
Mr. Grundberg informed the Council of his upcoming travels to Riyadh to meet with President Hadi and members of the internationally-recognized Government as well as with Ansar Allah (Houthi) leaders, political actors throughout Yemen and regional leaders in Riyadh, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Tehran and Cairo.
“My office and I stand ready to spend as much time in Yemen and with Yemenis as possible”, he said, adding that each month he would “reflect frankly and openly on these discussions” while briefing the Ambassadors and seek their “tangible and coordinated support” to take his mandate forward.
UN deputy humanitarian chief Ghada Eltahir Mudawi highlighted the overlooked – if not completely ignored – rights of Yemeni women and girls.
“Across the country, gender-based violence is rampant. Early marriage and pregnancy, including child mothers are commonplace. Women and girls are often the last to eat, see a doctor or go to school”, she said.
And despite their “extraordinary resilience”, millions are being forced deeper into desperation.
At the same time, civil society representative Entesar Al-Qadhi, Executive Director of Marib Girls Foundation for Development, called on the new Special Envoy to ensure that the peace process includes the “full and equal participation” of diverse women throughout the country.