U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen
March 24, 2022
Thank you so much Laila and thank you to the Peace Track Initiative for inviting me again this year to speak to such a distinguished group. It really is an honor and a pleasure to be with all of you, such a distinguished group. Many of you I’ve had the pleasure to meet, at least virtually. Of course, it’s always nice to serve on a panel with Ambassador Peter Derrek Hof. I really appreciate the effort he has made and his government on the Safer tanker issue. The way that he highlighted that, we’re very much joining forces. We are 100 percent on board with prioritizing this issue, in addition to everything else that’s going on. But we can’t forget the threat that this poses. And to meet Ambassador Sahar Ghanem, also a great pleasure, very important. I thank you for your remarks.
From the U.S. point of view, I can’t associate any more than what’s been said about the importance of women’s meaningful participation in peace efforts. It has to be a priority and I think when we talk about efforts to address the immediate needs and priorities of those most impacted by the conflict. But again, the point not solely as victims, but as participants. But there are heavy burdens placed on women and other members of other marginalized groups. We in the United States are very committed to a durable and inclusive resolution of the conflict, that ends this war in Yemen, improves Yemeni lives, and creates a space for diverse Yemenis to collectively determine their own future. This is a top U.S. foreign policy priority. And I think that we can help do this by leveraging our diplomatic strength and our energy and our regional efforts and regional relationships to support the UN led process. And in doing so, to promote justice and accountability in Yemen.
My mandate, as outlined by the President, is twofold: to help advance a durable and inclusive resolution and to help advance immediate efforts to mitigate the humanitarian crisis. Last week, as you know, there was a donor event. The United States announced nearly $585 million for the humanitarian crisis. It’s our largest single contribution to date, bringing the total amount of U.S. contributions to almost $4.5 billion. It sounds like a lot but it’s not enough. And I know how we were all disappointed and I think frustrated by the pledge at that event. I want you to know that we don’t regard that as the final answer. When I traveled to the Gulf next week, we’ll be taking up this issue. There has to be humanitarian assistance. It has to be robust. And we for one do not want to see the Yemeni people let down, given all the stress that they’re under from the fighting, from the destruction
of infrastructure, and all the problems, the dislocation and displacement that go on with that. So, we will continue approaching donors and trying to press as much as we can for continued support.
Also, on the economic side because I think we all know how much there are economic factors separate from the humanitarian factors that are drivers of this conflict and continue to prolong this war that I think are most unfortunate. We we’re working to mitigate the economic crisis through technical support, advocacy for critical economic reforms, support for livelihoods and jobs, and pressure on the parties to cease actions that exacerbate economic stability.
I do have to say that we also, I must reiterate our commitment to the safety for those who serve the US government. To that end we demand the Houthis release the detained U.S. and UN locally employed staff in Sana’a who have been held incommunicado for much too long, for many, many months.
With regards to the peace efforts, we’re deeply concerned that the military escalation we have seen since the beginning of the year will jeopardize these efforts. We condemn attacks by all parties that lead to escalation in Yemen and extend the conflict. Recent Houthi losses in Yemen should indicate to them and all the parties that there is no military solution. Earlier this week, the UN Special Envoy announced he is working on a possible truce during the holy month of Ramadan. The United Staes fully supports a truce in Yemen. We also welcome the launch of UN consultations and UN Special Envoy’s Grundberg’s efforts to craft a new, more inclusive, and comprehensive peace process. We call on all parties to seize this new opportunity for peace. The power to do so is in their hands. The conflict is, at heart, a Yemeni-Yemeni conflict, and a Yemeni solution is needed. But a durable solution also requires removing any undue foreign influence from Yemen, whether from Yemen’s neighbors or Iran. It must also lay the foundation for more productive relations between Yemen its neighbors, including economic cooperation.
It’s deplorable, ladies and gentlemen, that civilians continue to bear the brunt of Yemen’s conflict. And that women and girls are impacted most acutely. Women in Yemen already face some of the greatest inequalities aground the world. After more than seven years of conflict, an estimated 6.1 million women in Yemen are in urgent need of protection services. 73 percent of the over four million internally displaced people are women and children. And approximately 30 percent of displaced households are now headed by women, compared to nine percent before
the escalation of the conflict in 2017. We’ve also seen worrying rates, rises in rates of gender-based violence, as much as 50 percent.
Women must play a vital role alongside men in resolving the conflict. As we have heard from others and know well from other conflicts around the world, when women participate in peace processes, the resulting agreement is more widely responsive, more durable, and more effectively implemented. By including women civil society leaders and members of marginalized communities we can help ensure that diverse perspectives and priorities across the country are represented and meaningfully incorporated into any peace agreement to improve the lives of all Yemenis and not just the warring parties.
Just like Peter, I had the chance to visit Yemen in the last two weeks. I can tell you there’s nothing better for an envoy to Yemen to spend time in Yemen. It’s so heartening, and heartbreaking at the same time, to see conditions in Yemen. But I had the opportunity to speak with an advocate from Hadramout, who described the ways that rural Yemeni women have been disempowered over the course of the conflict. She spoke powerfully about the need for real empowerment of Yemeni women. To empower them to speak for themselves, about their needs and to ensure that all women have the resources and the services they need to thrive. We applaud the efforts of the Peace Track Initiative and specifically the Peace Roadmap to amplify the voices of Yemen women leaders. It remains critical that we keep women’s participation and inclusion at the top of the international community’s agenda.
Finally, the United States is committed to leveraging the strength of Yemeni voices advocating for peace, to leveraging the international consensus for a true ceasefire and a political solution, and leveraging the momentum around a more inclusive UN peace process to help advance a just and durable solution to the Yemen conflict. Yemen deserves and Yemenis deserve a more peaceful, prosperous country in which they can live in safety and dignity. Thank you very much, shukran jazelan.