I would like to thank Martin Griffiths and Mark Lowcock for their briefings, and for their strenuous efforts over the last few years. Since it is Martin Griffiths’ last briefing, let me think him whole-heartedly for an impressive job done under extremely difficult circumstances and welcome you to your position in OCHA.
A warm and special welcome also to Najiba Al-Najar for joining us today and for sharing your important perspectives. You demonstrate how ensuring meaningful participation of women and civil society groups is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.
We stand at a crossroads. Negotiations on the four-point plan have been going on for more than a year. And regrettably, the Houthis have signaled that they would like to limit the deal to humanitarian measures namely: opening the airport in Sana’a, and the port of Hudaydah before any negotiations on the ceasefire.
But we would stress that a nationwide ceasefire is indeed a humanitarian measure. This is a man-made crisis, caused by the armed conflict.
According to The World Food Programme, 400 000 children in Yemen under the age of five are likely to die of starvation in 2021. An unthinkable tragedy.
The Houthis will carry a very heavy responsibility if they continue to ignore parties that are ready for peace, and reject a nationwide ceasefire deal. This opportunity might not come again.
We call on all parties to engage in unconditional talks to end the suffering of the Yemeni people.
We all heard from Najiba the importance of the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women. Norway will continue to- as we have several times in this Council- advocate for an inclusive political process.
Women and civil society groups in Yemen have considerable experience in: brokering local truces, reopening roads, and freeing prisoners. Yet, they still face significant barriers to meaningful engagement in peace and security processes- and are subject to harassment and intimidation. We must empower those most affected by conflict to be at the center of shaping solutions.
Participation should not be limited to those who resort to violence. There are other groups with important influence in Yemen- including political parties, tribes, and local authorities. Negotiations will also need to address the root causes of conflict. The process must be Yemeni-owned and Yemeni-led- and regional actors must play an important role.
With this in mind, we are deeply concerned by signs of increasing unrest and destabilisation in the South. We urge regional actors with influence over the parties to use it towards a solution.
Regarding the SAFER oil tanker and the growing Houthi demands. It is clearly unrealistic to repair the ship and make it operational again, due to its dilapidated condition. Even if the UN were to repair the ship, it would first have to be inspected to assess the needs and condition, and then come to a mutual agreement.
We as Council members should call on the Houthi leaders to act responsibly, and reach an agreement. It is unacceptable to put the blame on the UN. Given the urgency of the matter, the UN needs to focus on suitable contingency planning, and other possible solutions as soon as possible.
Alarmingly, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. The number of COVID-19 deaths are clearly underreported; and more vaccines are urgently needed in the North. And the shortage of fuel continues to impact the situation.
Reports of serious violations of humanitarian law, particularly in Marib, also continue. We are appalled particularly by reports that the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is openly taking place. Norway would welcome a detailed analysis on this in the Secretary-General’s report on Children and armed conflict.
Also, and echoing others, we are deeply concerned by the reports of recent attacks in Marib, causing civilian casualties, including children.
As I noted earlier, we stand at a crossroads for the people of Yemen. And we have heard those calling for peace. We call and hope this Council will also add its voice.