Yemen: Cessation of Hostilities, Start of Peace Talks

Human Wrongs Watch

Following “extensive” consultations with Yemeni leaders and regional partners, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen on 23 March 2016 announced that parties to the conflict have agreed to a nation-wide cessation of hostilities beginning at midnight on 10 April, in advance of the upcoming round of peace talks, scheduled on 18 April in Kuwait. 

Girls fetching water in Mawyah district, Taiz. This role often falls on the shoulders of girls and young women, often at the expense of their education. Credit: OCHA

“I have previously emphasized that only a political solution and inclusive peace process will ensure a future of reconciliation and peace in the country,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, at a press briefing in New York.

One year on into the conflict, the UN estimates that tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed or injured, one in 10 are displaced and nearly the entire population is in urgent need of aid.

“The talks aim to reach a comprehensive agreement, which will end the conflict and allow the resumption of inclusive political dialogue in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 2216 (2015) and other relevant UN [Security Council] resolutions,” Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.

“The face-to-face negotiations will provide a mechanism for a return to a peaceful and orderly transition based on the [Gulf Cooperation Council] Initiative and National Dialogue outcomes,” he added.

Five main areas of the peace talks

The envoy further explained that the talks will focus on five main areas; he has asked the parties to present concept papers on each of them by 3 April.

  1. the withdrawal of militias and armed groups
  2. the handover of heavy weapons to the State
  3. interim security arrangements
  4. the restoration of state institutions and the resumption of inclusive political dialogue
  5. the creation of a special committee for prisoners and detainees

To help Yemen preserve economic stability during this crisis, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed has also pursued agreements which seek to preserve the functioning of key state institutions, such as the Central Bank, on which the Yemeni people depend.

“Preserving their functioning helps current service delivery to those who are in dire need, and will also facilitate a more expedient and efficient economic recovery after an agreement,” he noted.

“The upcoming cessation of hostilities must also seek to ensure that the parties allow safe, rapid and unhindered access for humanitarian supplies to all affected governorates, as well as the increased flow of commercial shipments in the coming weeks,” he underscored.

Humanitarian breakthrough

Meanwhile, calling it a “breakthrough,” the UN refugee agency today reported that earlier this week, 13 trucks managed to deliver blankets, mattresses, and other badly needed emergency relief items to Yemen’s Taiz governorate.

It was the first time a convoy from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) made it through all the way from Aden to Taizz, which is located in the highlands of country’s southwest.

Dispatched in coordination with the Government of Yemen’s High Relief Committee, it arrived on Sunday in Mashra’a Wa Hadnan, a district immediately south of the embattled Taizz city centre. Distribution is reportedly starting this week for 500 displaced people, others who have returned to Taiz, plus local families who have been affected by the conflict.

Meanwhile, another 13 trucks are on their way to nearby Sabir Al Mawadim district and will be distributed among another 500 families. In Mashra’a Wa Hadnan, the situation is now calm according to the UN, and some displaced families have been returning to their homes, while fighting persists on the eastern part of Sabir Al Mawadim.

“The two districts host over 7,500 displaced people. It is the first time that assistance has been delivered there using the direct route from Aden,” said UNHCR Representative in Yemen, Johannes van der Klaauw, in a press release.

“The wider governorate of Taizz hosts 555,048 internally displaced people, the biggest concentration in the country and equal to almost a quarter of the 2.4 million total Yemen-wide,” he added. (Source: UN).


‘Terrible year’ in war-torn Yemen leaves majority of country’s people in need of aid

One year on into the conflict in Yemen, tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed or injured, one in 10 are displaced and nearly the entire population is in urgent need of aid, the top United Nations humanitarian official in the country on 22 March 2016 said.

Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in July 2015. Photo: OCHA/ Charlotte Cans

“It has been a terrible year for Yemen, during which a war peppered with airstrikes, shelling and violence had raged on in the already very impoverished country,” Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen told journalists in Geneva.

Shelling of ports and airports, resulting in blockades and congestion, is one of the drivers of the humanitarian crisis, Mr. McGoldrick said, noting that health workers cannot reach patients and some 90 per cent of the food has to be imported.

“The country had had extremely high levels of poverty before the war, and currently, the war has escalated, in an already fragile environment,” said the aid official.

Some 6,400 people have been killed in the past year, half of them civilians, and more than 30,000 are injured, with 2.5 million people displaced, according to figures from the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

In addition, more than 20 million people, or 80 per cent of the population, require some form of aid – about 14 million people in need of food and even more in need of water or sanitation.

The UN has appealed for $1.8 billion for food, water, health care and shelter and protection issues, but only 12 per cent has been funded so far.

Also speaking in Geneva, Bettina Luescher for the World Food Programme (WFP) said that shortages forced the agency to cut rations to 75 per cent of a full ratio so that enough people could eat. She also highlighted the problems with movement and inability of workers to safely reach all the areas in need.

“Yemen should not be forgotten, with all the attention focused on the Syria crisis,” she said.


The city of Sa’ada in Yemen has been heavily hit by airstrikes. Photo: OCHA/Philippe Kropf

UN action on the ground

The UN human rights chief last week condemned the repeated failure of the Coalition to effectively prevent civilian coalition airstrikes after two deadly strikes – just weeks apart – killed nearly 150 people, including children.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said incidents that have hit markets, hospitals, clinics, schools and other civilian structures occur “with unacceptable regularity.”

The National Oncology Centre in Sana’a announced that it was on the brink of shutting down, with more than 100 other hospitals, blood banks and other health facilities impacted by the violence.

There is now a localized ceasefire along the Yemeni border with Saudi Arabia, but the airstrikes continue.

UN spokesperson Farhan Haq in New York today said that UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who leads the political process, has been meeting with the parties to the conflict, but no date has yet been announced for direct talks.

In the meantime, the UN is also preparing for longer-term reconstruction and providing some urgently needed jobs.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is focusing on mine clearance, public service restoration and emergency employment, spokesperson Sarah Bel said. One of the public services being restored is waste collection, part of the cash-for-work schemes under UNDP’s umbrella.

2016 Human Wrongs Watch

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