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Yemen Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (10 October), the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed and OCHA Operations Director John Ging are expected to brief the Council. Closed consultations will follow the public session.

Council members are not expecting Ould Cheikh Ahmed to have much progress to report on the political front. Since his visit to Sana’a in May, the Special Envoy has been unable to meet with Houthi rebels. He has, however, continued to promote his plan to keep the port of Hodeidah functioning, with revenues earned by the Houthis at the port used to restart the payment of civil servant salaries, and to avert a possible attack by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. The “four-point” proposal, seen as confidence-building measures towards eventually resuming broader political talks between the sides, also seeks an agreement to reopen Sanaa’s airport and reactivate the De-escalation and Coordination Committee to address reported violations of any future ceasefire agreements.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed may note that a meeting with representatives of the Quad (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the US) was held in New York on 22 September during high-level week, and that a ministerial level meeting of the Quint - comprised of the Quad plus Oman--is anticipated to take place this month, possibly in London. Members are likely to be interested in Ould Cheik Ahmed’s expectations for the upcoming Quint meeting. Some may express frustration over the lack of political progress, and seek to explore possibilities for a new approach to his package of confidence building measures. During his briefing, Ould Cheik Ahmed may also report on the emerging rift in the alliance between the Houthis and former president Ali Abudallah Saleh and his supporters, as well as continuing tensions in the south between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council. As he frequently does during his briefings, the Special Envoy may remind members of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) exploitation of the war, and the group’s continuing threat.

Ging will brief on Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, which as a result of the war is the largest in the world, with 20.7 million people requiring humanitarian assistance, approximately 7 million of whom are at risk of famine. The cholera epidemic, which started in April, has now led to over 786,000 suspected infections and over 2,100 deaths, as of 2 October, according to the World Health Organisation.

Ging will likely note that there has been very little progress in fulfilling measures to address the crisis, as called for by the Council in its 15 June presidential statement, such as the installment of new cranes at Hodeidah port. He may reiterate that there do not exist alternatives for replacing Hodeidah’s role in receiving critical imports of food and fuel, especially for northern Yemen, if the port were to stop functioning due to an attack. The humanitarian crisis figured prominently during UN high-level week, with meetings organised on 18 September of the Yemen Donors Coordination Group, on 21 September on the four countries in or at risk of famine, which includes Yemen, during which the Secretary-General participated, and on 22 September during a session co-chaired by the foreign ministers of Sweden and the Netherlands and OCHA Under-Secretary-General Mark Lowock.

Members (some of whom are likely to make public interventions) are expected to reiterate concerns over the humanitarian situation and the parties’ lack of compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. In this regard, some members may refer to the Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution (A/HRC/36/L.8) adopted on 29 September, requesting the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Yemen. The resolution mandates the group to carry out a comprehensive examination of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights and other appropriate and applicable fields of international law committed by all parties to the conflict since September 2014; to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses and, where possible, to identify those responsible; to make general recommendations on improving the respect for and protection and fulfilment of human rights; and to provide guidance on access to justice, accountability, reconciliation and healing, as appropriate. The HRC further requests the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts to present a comprehensive written report to the High Commissioner by the time of the thirty-ninth session of the HRC (which is scheduled for September 2018) to be followed by an interactive dialogue.

The creation of the expert group was a compromise that resulted from intensive negotiations on a Netherlands-led proposal to establish an international commission of inquiry (COI), which the High Commissioner has repeatedly advocated. Such a COI, which could recommend referrals to the International Criminal Court, was resisted by Saudi Arabia, the Arab League and the P3.

Last week also saw the Secretary-General publish his annual report on children and armed conflict that covers the period January - December 2016 (S/S017/821). On Yemen, the report notes that grave violations include the recruitment and use of boys by armed groups, attacks on schools and hospitals, and incidents of denial of humanitarian access. Killing and maiming of children is the most prevalent violation with a verified 1,340 children casualties, for which air strikes were the cause of more than half of child casualties. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition is listed for the first time in the annex of the report, for two violations: killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and/or hospitals. It is placed under a newly-created category in the annex for parties that have put in place measures to improve the protection of children. The report notes Saudi Arabia’s creation of a child protection unit at the coalition headquarters. At a press conference on 6 October, Saudi permanent representative Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi, in the presence of a number of ambassadors of other coalition countries, disputed the accuracy of the report’s figures. Members are expected to discuss the report’s findings at a 31 October open debate on children and armed conflict.

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