Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on Yemen
National statement delivered by Ambassador Carl Skau on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Yemen, 17 April 2018, New York.
Thank you Mr President,
And I would like to begin by welcoming the Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, to the Council for the first time in his new role. And let me thank you for your very clear briefing this morning. We share your deep concern about the risks for escalation but we also see the opportunities that you outlined. As you pointed to, the stakes are high in Yemen whether regards to the humanitarian situation, the regional stability or the spread of terrorism, and I would like to encourage you to continue to reach out to those strong women that you refer too, it is clear to us that women's active participation in the peace process will be decisive. I also wish to thank Under-Secretary-General Lowcock for his briefing today as well as for his efforts to address the humanitarian situation in Yemen and ensure that it remains high on our and the international community's agenda.
I will focus on two points in my intervention. Firstly, the political situation and the need to strongly support the resumption of a UN-led political process, and secondly, the humanitarian situation and the need to implement the March Presidential Statement.
First on the political situation, the appointment of the Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, offers an opportunity to relaunch the political process in Yemen. It is essential that the Council now unites in giving the Special Envoy our strong support and that we stay focused on making use of this opportunity. The members of this Council, and regional actors, must now use all of their influence to ensure that all the parties engage with the Special Envoy and the UN-led process in good faith and without preconditions.
We encourage the parties to now move forward quickly on confidence building measures such as those related to Sanaa airport and the release of prisoners. It also seems clear that the southern question will need to be addressed in these discussions.
Mr. Griffiths, you have been off to a very good start to your challenging task, we are encouraged by your early visit to Yemen and the region and fully support the efforts to pursue broad consultations with an inclusive approach. Full and unhindered access to all relevant parties in Yemen is critical.
Now moving to the humanitarian situation, on March 15 this Council unanimously agreed a statement recognising the vast humanitarian needs and the immediate steps that must be taken to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people. These steps were based on the parties' obligations to respect international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law.
But regrettably, implementation of this strong and clear statement from the Council is clearly lacking.
• Restrictions, delays and uncertainty at ports such as Hodeida and Saleef hinder humanitarian and commercial imports.
• Delays and obstacles to the UNVIM clearance process for vessels continue and have a deterrent effect on private shipping companies.
• Even when supplies do reach the country, access within the country remains a serious challenge, due to the many bureaucratic impediments and checkpoints.
• And to date, no humanitarian evacuations, even for emergency treatment, have been allowed through Sanaa airport.
• Strikes on civilians and civilian infrastructure continue from all sides.
• We have seen renewed missile attacks from Houthi-held territory targeting Saudi Arabia, which our Foreign Minister has strongly condemned.
• Clearly, the violations of International Humanitarian Law continue. And accountability for such violations remain.
It is time to move from words to action on Yemen; time for the Council to demand that its decisions are implemented in full. It is time to actively and urgently engage the parties, to ensure that the Council's will is heeded.
Sweden's Special Envoy for Yemen, Ambassador Peter Semneby, visited Sanaa and Aden in late March. While there, he met with representatives of the Yemeni Government, the Houthis, the General People's Congress (GPC) and the Southern Transitional Council. He also met with the international, regional and local civil society organisations as well as internally displaced persons and other victims of the conflict.
During his visit, the Ambassador urged the parties to engage with the UN-led process and to respect international humanitarian law, including protecting civilians and eliminating all obstacles to humanitarian assistance. We can say that the Presidential Statement provided by this Council, is a good basis for such discussions and should be used by all members of this Council.
Despite the many and well-known challenges, in his meetings, the parties show the same signs of an increased willingness to engage in the UN-led process that Mr. Martin refer to earlier today. We must really use this momentum.
As one of the co-hosts of the high-level pledging event for Yemen in Geneva on 03 April, we wish to join USG Lowcock in thanking all those donors who participated, resulting in pledges of over two billion US dollars to the UN humanitarian response plan. The pledges made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will contribute significantly to the implementation of the UN emergency response plan. We now call on all donors to make their disbursements as soon as possible.
The panel discussion on humanitarian access that formed part of this conference, demonstrated with clarity how difficult it is for UN Agencies and other humanitarian actors to operate in Yemen. And it is clear that without addressing this fundamental issue the funds raised will not be able to reach those in need as effectively as they should.
In conclusion, the presidential statement by this Council on 15 March was our strongest yet on the humanitarian situation in Yemen. It reflected the urgency on the ground. But over one month later this urgency remains. We must make every effort to ensure implementation, while, at the same time supporting the Special Envoy. The desperate situation in Yemen demands greater attention by the international community, and this Council should further step-up its efforts in the coming weeks and months to provide united support.
I thank you.