Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Yemen

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 23, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President. And let me add our voice to those thanking you, Under-Secretary-General Lowcock, for your deeply concerning, sobering, and important briefing today. We are very grateful for the hard work that you do and that your team does on the ground in Yemen every day.

The stories behind the huge numbers of people affected by the crisis have become all too familiar. Babies ravaged by hunger, too weak to cry. Parents choosing between critical medical care for a child or food for their family.

And now, as the Under-Secretary-General argued, continued deterioration and newly acute risk are apparent in every grim update – most recently, in reports of over 20,000 newly displaced in northern Yemen due to fighting there. There are alternatives to this. The suffering of the Yemeni people is not inevitable. But unless the fighting stops and there are immediate efforts to stabilize the Yemeni rial, the suffering of those who are already severely food insecure in Yemen will continue to worsen.

In this regard, no one has worked harder or more tirelessly to bring about a political solution than UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths. He has our full support, and we need him to succeed.

Mr. President, until we achieve a political solution, we implore all parties to take necessary measures to protect civilians and critical civilian infrastructure and to ensure unfettered access for humanitarian goods and personnel and the movement of essential commercial goods.

The parties must adhere to their obligations under international law and recognize that damage to ports and other civilian infrastructure will further drive food insecurity. In this regard, we urge parties to consider all possible measures to further mitigate and reduce unnecessary suffering from this conflict. We thank the United Nations for its efforts to maintain a deconfliction mechanism in this context to allow aid and commercial goods to flow despite the fighting.

Mr. President, we share the Under-Secretary-General’s assessment that humanitarian assistance, especially in the past year, has been critical in staving off the worst outcomes and mitigating Yemeni suffering. The United States is one of the largest donors of humanitarian assistance in Yemen, providing more than $1.2 billion in humanitarian aid since fiscal year 2017, including food, medical care, safe drinking water, shelter, psychosocial support, and supplies to fight the spread of disease. U.S. contributions to UN World Food Program operations have also been vital.

But as the Under-Secretary-General said, we can and must do more. And so we are. In addition to continued humanitarian relief, we are expanding non-humanitarian assistance to address the consequences of conflict, including supporting efforts to enhance the Central Bank of Yemen’s ability to function so that it can begin to address Yemen’s deteriorating economic situation and the currency depreciation that has made it even harder for Yemenis to afford to survive.

We’ll continue those efforts and hope that all parties will also recognize and help respond to the suffering. At the same time, there is simply no alternative to a political solution. The dire situation the Under-Secretary-General described is yet another reminder that this war and the suffering of the Yemeni people can only end at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield.

Thank you.