Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on Yemen
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Yemen, 16 November 2018, New York.
Thank you, Mr. President,
and thank you very much to all our briefers, I really want to echo the point made by my U.K. colleague about what a powerful message you have passed on to us, again, today. I want to thank you and your colleagues working on the ground for the work you are doing and that includes you Ms. Rasha Jarhum, everything you do to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people and to bring an end to this war.
During the most recent Council meeting on Yemen on October 23rd, Mr. Lowcock warned that 14 million people, half the Yemeni population, could risk famine if the military escalation and economic crisis continued. Should we reach that point, he added, most of the innocent civilians losing their lives would be women and children.
Since then, and despite these warnings, the situation has further deteriorated, as we have just heard. The armed conflict has intensified, with a dramatic increase of airstrikes, shelling and attacks, and fighting in residential areas.
I want to express our huge appreciation for the work of all humanitarian agencies operating under these terribly difficult circumstances.
With civilians getting caught in the cross-fire, and with civilian infrastructure coming under attack, there has been scores of civilian causalities. Hundreds of thousands of Yemen’s most vulnerable population are now trapped in active conflict zones. In Hodeida, more than half of those are children. There have also been further disruptions to the lifesaving distribution network of humanitarian and commercial goods.
To the extent there is a certain lull in the attacks, it needs to be sustained. A continued offensive would only prolong the suffering of the Yemeni people and move us further from a negotiated political settlement.
At this moment, we do have a window of opportunity, as we heard. Our focus must be on ending the fighting and getting the parties to the table.
Political consultations led by the Special Envoy are our best chance to reach a turning point in the conflict, to move towards a political solution and to alleviate the suffering. We must urgently focus on this joint objective.
Today, our briefers from the UN have again put the ongoing drama on our desks but also presented us with the immediate steps needed to save lives, improve the humanitarian situation and create the conditions needed for a political solution. As stated before, we fully support the 5 interventions outlined by Mark Lowcock, and for these to be backed up, individually and collectively.
We look forward, and we stand ready to work with everyone to translate that commitment into a Security Council Resolution.
We believe that there is strong unity in the Council around these requests. So now, we need to rally behind first, a cessation of hostilities. As a first step around infrastructure and facilities for humanitarian aid and commercial imports. All parties have the responsibility to protect civilians and civilian objects and to take all feasible steps to avoid and minimize harm, particularly to schools, medical care and humanitarian personnel.
Secondly, for the parties to be called upon to engage in good faith with Martin Griffith’s political consultations. It will be important to ensure the representation and effective participation of women in this process from the start, for all the reasons mentioned by Ms. Jarhum today.
Thirdly, to ensure humanitarian and commercial access: Yemen’s ports and roads must be kept open and safe. All parties are obliged to respect international humanitarian law and ensure humanitarian access.
And fourthly, to pursue confidence building measures, including those relating to: Sanaa airport, the Central Bank and other economic measures, as well as prisoners, and Martin you have out strong support on everything you do also on that score.
The futile war in Yemen has been going on far too long, leading to immense suffering and thousands of dead. Recent developments provide a window of opportunity that must now be seized.
A united and active Security Council can make a difference. Our focus should be on supporting UN efforts to immediately address the dire humanitarian situation and getting the political consultations off to a good start.
I thank you very much.