Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Yemen

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Deputy U.S. Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, NY
October 17, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President.

And thank you, Special Envoy Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General Lowcock, for your briefings.

The United States remains committed to the people of Yemen as they continue to endure one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. We are concerned by recent reports of widespread and acute food insecurity in the country.  It’s unacceptable that 17 million people – more people than the combined populations of three members of this Council – are in need of immediate food assistance. Of course, the situation would be much worse without international assistance. Significant portions of that assistance have come from the World Food Program, to which the U.S. is the largest donor. We are thankful that WFP has extended its beneficiary reach from roughly seven million to more than 12 million individuals per month in 2019. These efforts have saved millions of lives.

We also know that sustenance is not enough, which is why the United States continues to support the health and economic welfare of the Yemeni population. We recently announced an award of more than $14 million dollars to strengthen health systems in Yemen that will reduce maternal, neonatal, and child mortality over the next three years. Additionally, we have made a $25 million contribution to support UNICEF’s emergency cash-transfer program, helping millions access goods and services on the local economy. These contributions are just two smaller pieces of more than $2.2 billion dollars in U.S. humanitarian assistance to Yemen since 2015.

While we are proud to be one of the largest humanitarian donors to Yemen, the needs are too vast for any one country to meet. We are grateful to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and others who recently disbursed critical funds toward humanitarian programming in Yemen. The UN must be able to conduct its work helping suffering Yemenis. These much-needed funds will allow it to do so more effectively.

As Under-Secretary-General Lowcock said, the only way to end the suffering in Yemen, is to stop the war. In that regard, it’s critical that we not lose sight of the goal of reaching a political solution in Yemen.

We continue to support the work of UNMHA, and we’re committed to the full implementation of the Hudaydah Agreement. But this cannot come at the expense of progress on a broader political solution. The time has come to pursue both concurrently.

We understand that the Republic of Yemen Government and the Southern Transitional Council have made important progress toward reaching an agreement, and we appreciate Saudi Arabia’s efforts to facilitate this dialogue.

We also welcome the Houthis’ September 20th announcement that they will suspend missile attacks against Saudi Arabia. It’s our hope that this will serve as a stepping stone to UN-led efforts toward a comprehensive political settlement.

We continue to call on all parties to exercise restraint, respect government institutions underpinning economic stability, refrain from imposing bureaucratic impediments on humanitarian response, and allow humanitarian aid workers unhindered access to civilians affected by the unrest.

We hope these concrete actions will lead to further de-escalation through Yemen, and we hope they will help Special Envoy Griffiths and his team galvanize the political process. Too many people have suffered from this conflict for far too long. Now is the time for concrete action.

I thank you.