Security Council Presidential : February 2013 Monthly Forecast Yemen
Expected Council Action
In February, the Council expects a briefing on Yemen by Jamal Benomar, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the situation in Yemen, as well as by the UK and Morocco on the Council’s 27 January visit to the country. The briefing is likely to be followed by consultations.
A presidential or press statement is a possible outcome.
Key Recent Developments
Since Benomar’s last briefing on 4 December 2012 (S/PV.6878), the Preparatory Committee for the National Dialogue Conference submitted its final report to President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi. While the government has yet to confirm the starting date of the National Dialogue—originally planned for November 2012—some media reports suggest that it will begin in February. The National Dialogue is expected to conduct its work over a period of six months in the lead-up to general elections scheduled for February 2014.
There remain concerns regarding the question of southern separatism and how the issue will be addressed in the National Dialogue. Unrest in the south of the country continues, with hundreds of thousands rallying in support of self-rule for the formerly independent south on 13 January. Some southerners see the National Dialogue as a unique opportunity for redress; however, it remains to be seen how this will play out throughout the political transition.
Following the 19 December 2012 presidential decrees related to the structure and centralisation of the armed forces—including the disbanding of the Republican Guard and the appointment of a new chief of staff at the Central Security Forces, thus removing key remnants loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh—many have applauded Hadi’s boldness in taking a step that some say has the potential to herald a systemic break with the fragmented military of the past. Hadi’s rivals accepted the changes, with the deposed chief of staff (and Saleh’s nephew), Brigadier General Yahya Mohammed Abdullah Saleh describing Hadi’s action as “courageous”.
A conference entitled “Yemen: challenges for the future” was held in London on 11-12 January and provided an opportunity for Yemen’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Planning and International Cooperation as well as the Minister of State for International Development of the UK to raise a range of issues that are expected to emerge during the National Dialogue. The conference also sent a clear message to donors, who pledged almost $8 billion in 2012, to unlock funds to allow the implementation of projects focusing on urgent priorities, including the restoration of basic services and repair of damaged infrastructure.
The security situation in Yemen remains a concern. Many blame Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for a recent series of assassinations, including the drive-by shootings of 40 members of the security forces and four civilians during 2012. On 24 January, the government announced that Said Ali Al-Shihri, AQAP’s deputy commander and former Guantanamo Bay detainee, died recently from wounds received during a drone strike on 28 November in northern Yemen.
Meeting humanitarian needs continues to pose challenges in Yemen. An estimated 107,500 refugees and migrants travelled by boat to Yemen across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa in 2012, the largest such influx since the UN began compiling these statistics in 2006. According to the UN, nearly one million Yemeni children under five are acutely malnourished. Furthermore, almost half of the population lacked sufficient food supplies and more than half had no access to safe water and basic sanitation. On 22 January, the UN appealed to donors to provide $716 million in humanitarian aid, which could potentially tap into those funds pledged by donors in 2012.
The fifth ministerial-level meeting of the Friends of Yemen is to be held on 7 March in London, hosted by the UK and co-chaired by Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
On 27 January, Council members visited Yemen and met with President Hadi, parliamentarians, civil society and Gulf Cooperation Council members. The mission—co-led by the UK and Morocco and composed of all 15 members—represented the first Council visiting mission to Yemen and its first visit to the Middle East in five years. Council members demonstrated their support for Yemen’s stability, warning against spoilers and stressing that the Council stands ready to take measures against those seeking to derail the political transition process.
Human Rights-Related Developments
At a press conference in London on 24 January, the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, announced the launch of an inquiry into the civilian impact of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killing. The inquiry is a response to requests made by several states at the 20thsession of the HRC in June 2012 to carry out an investigation on drone attacks. The rapporteur, assisted by a team of nine experts, will examine 25 cases from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and the State of Palestine with a view to determining whether there is a plausible allegation of unlawful killing that should trigger international law obligations to investigate. Emmerson will report his findings to the General Assembly in October. This announcement comes two days after Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour publicly denounced the use of drones to target AQAP militants, calling for changes in the anti-terrorism strategy to avoid civilian casualties. At least 42 US airstrikes were recorded in Yemen in 2012 by the Long War Journal, a non-profit organisation that tracks American drone attacks.
A key issue for the Council is how it can contribute to ensuring the success of the National Dialogue, the constitution-drafting process and of the work of the electoral commission in preparation for the general elections scheduled for February 2014.
A related issue is the role of former President Saleh in the National Dialogue, in addition to the threat from those seeking to obstruct the political transition process.
Ongoing issues are the security situation, the restructuring of the armed forces and the threat of AQAP, all of which could negatively impact the political transition, as well as the humanitarian and economic situations in the country.
One option is for the Council to issue a presidential or press statement. Such a statement could:
welcome the work of the Preparatory Committee and urge the start of the National Dialogue;
welcome the decrees on the restructuring of the armed forces and call for their implementation in support of the transition process, as well as contributing to the fight against AQAP; and
call for the unlocking of funds pledged in 2012 for humanitarian and infrastructure-related projects.
A less likely option is following through on its threat to consider targeted sanctions against spoilers as warned in resolution 2051 (2012).
Council members are united in their support for President Hadi and the National Dialogue, as demonstrated by their visit to Yemen. They continue to be concerned with potential spoilers, which may prove to be a contentious issue when Council members discuss possible means of curbing those who threaten to impede the political transition process.