Yemen: Will a resolution be reached following the UNGA?
Following the 2011 uprising against Yemen’s then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, several events occurred that led to the country’s political turmoil
With no resolution in sight for Yemen’s crisis, the UN-backed government aimed to gain further international support during the 71st General Assembly (UNGA) to resolve the conflict, which has claimed thousands of lives and plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi addressed on Tuesday the leaders of 193 countries at the UN headquarters in New York, who are there to tackle global and national issues. Hadi blamed Iran for supporting the Houthis, who are battling the popular resistance and forces loyal to Hadi’s government, which is supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition.
“We find ourselves mixed in this battle, this fight for the country and the legitimacy of the state, to ensure that the country not fall into the hands of Iran, which would like to see the destruction of the country,” Hadi told the UNGA. “You are aware of the human tragedy of our people, and this is due to the blockade imposed by the militias.”
Following the 2011 uprising against Yemen’s then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, several events occurred that led to the country’s political turmoil. As factions fought for control of Yemen, the power vacuum led Houthi militias to take advantage of instability and rising fuel prices to oust Hadi’s government in Sept. 2014.
Hadi and his cabinet fled to Saudi Arabia, which led an Arab coalition against the Houthis in March 2015. After 18 months of fighting, the Houthis and their allies control most of the north - including the capital Sanaa - while forces loyal to Hadi and the popular resistance control the south.
Since the Houthi takeover of Sanaa, the UN has condemned the militia’s actions. The Security Council (UNSC) passed several resolutions, including an asset freeze and travel ban on several Houthi figures. The UN mediated between the warring sides, sponsoring peace talks in April this year.
The second round of talks - chaired by UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed - were mostly based on UNSC Resolution 2216, which requires the Houthis and their allies to withdraw from areas they have occupied since 2014, including Sanaa, and hand over heavy weapons.
However, the three months of UN-brokered talks - which were hosted in Kuwait - failed to make headway, with the Houthis and Hadi’s government both holding firm to their positions.
However, Yemeni analyst Khaled al-Abbadi told Al Arabiya English that he is “optimistic this time around” regarding the UN’s role in helping Yemen reach a resolution, as “the international community has shown that they’re willing to support alternative measures.”
The UN “has shown the Houthi/Saleh militias that they can’t simply stall peace-making endlessly. The international community’s support for relocating the Central Bank is a clear sign of this.” Hadi announced the decision to move the bank’s headquarters from Sanaa to the southern port city of Aden.
The bank has been the last bastion of the impoverished country’s financial system, and is effectively running the economy, say bank officials, diplomats and Yemenis on both sides of the war. The government has accused the Houthis of squandering some $4 billion on the war effort from Central Bank reserves. The Houthis say the funds were used to finance imports of food and medicine.
Middle East-based political and security analyst Miriam Goldman told Al Arabiya English that the UNGA “generally has very little if any power to effect change” regarding Yemen.
“This will remain under the purview of the UNSC, which is the only body that can do anything, and is likely to continue calling for a cessation of hostilities and negotiations through the UN special envoy.”
This week, the envoy described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as “disastrous,” with 21 million Yemenis out of a population of 25 million in need of aid. Food prices have soared, and in places such as the western province of Hudaydah, images of children with severe malnutrition have surfaced, showing them reduced to skin and bone.
International agencies have classified Hudaydah among nine of Yemen’s 22 provinces that are on the brink of famine. The UN says more than half the population is suffering from food insecurity. In response to what the EU describes as “one of the world's largest humanitarian crises,” the European Commission Wednesday said it would give €40 million ($44 million) in life-saving assistance.
“There has been at least some movement on the humanitarian situation during the UNGA,” Goldman said, adding that the EU’s aid pledge was an example of that. The UN says more than 10,000 people have been killed or wounded in the war, and 2.8 million displaced.
Reports of Houthi recruitment of women and children to fight have surfaced in recent weeks. During the UNGA, Hadi said the Houthis had recruited refugee children from Somalia. He called for support from the international community and aid agencies for support, saying the influx of refugees from the nearby Horn of Africa - Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia - comes on top of Yemen’s own internally displaced people.
“Yemen has 1.2 million refugees or illegal migrants. On a monthly basis, there are 14,000 refugees who reach Yemen - about 12,000 from Ethiopia and 2,000 from Somalia,” he said. “The number of new arrivals to Yemen in the first half of this year reached 60,000, as per UN figures.”
This month, Yemen’s Human Rights Minister Ezz Eddin al-Asbahi said the Houthis had recruited as many as 4,800 boys to fight over the past six months. The UN envoy said preparations are ongoing for a meeting on Yemen, scheduled to take place on Sept. 21, on the sidelines of the UNGA
After a meeting with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah at the UNGA, Ismail said there are “diplomatic forays taking place on Yemen, especially after the last Jeddah meeting.”