Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Meeting on Yemen, New York, 15 April 2019

Mr President

Thank you for convening this meeting on the humanitarian situation in Yemen. We also thank Mr Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Mr Mark Lowcock, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict and Ms Muna Luqman, the Co-founder of the Women Solidarity Network and Chairperson of Yemeni foundation “Food for Humanity”.

Mr President

My delegation would like to address the following three points in our intervention today, namely:

(i) The implementation of the Stockholm agreement;
(ii)The humanitarian situation; and
(iii) The impact of the conflict on women and particularly children in Yemen.

Firstly, regarding the Stockholm agreement, South Africa is encouraged that the agreement continues to hold despite the many challenges that it faces. We urge the parties to fully implement the agreement as it remains the only hope for bringing peace and stability to Yemen.

Regrettably we have noticed recent clashes around Hodeidah, which have been the most intense since the signing of the Stockholm agreement. We call on all the parties to refrain from further escalation.  We also call for the resumption of the prisoner exchange and Statement of Understanding on Taiz, as requested by the Stockholm agreement and as a confidence building measure. It is also vital that all parties redeploy their forces from Hodeidah. This redeployment requires a political solution with compromises by all parties concerned.

We are however encouraged that neither side has sought to seize new territory in Hodeidah so far. We are also encouraged by the positive developments on the ground, including the recent session of Yemen’s House of Representatives, which is the first in over four years that convened more than 130 parliamentarians. 

Mr President

Secondly, regarding the humanitarian situation, it is clear that the humanitarian situation in Yemen remains dire. South Africa continues the call on all the parties to respect International Humanitarian Law and to ensure the safety and security of the humanitarian workers, in order to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. Where there have been reported violations, we call for independent investigations, including by granting access to, and cooperating with, the Group of Eminent Experts in accordance with its mandate.

Furthermore, we call on all parties to the conflict to take tangible steps to address the country’s humanitarian crisis in particular the risk of famine and of another cholera outbreak. We further appeal to the donors to disburse as a matter of urgency pledges made to the Humanitarian Response Plan in order to address the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Mr President

Thirdly, and importantly, on the issue of the safety of women and children, we welcome the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to develop a programme of activities in the next two months for strengthening the protection of children. South Africa is encouraged by this positive step and looks forward to further steps to strengthen child protection. It is also important that this MOU is fully implemented to ensure the safety of children and other vulnerable groups. 

Despite these positive commitments, we are appalled by the reported killing of civilians, including four children on 26 March 2019 by an explosion near two schools in Sana’a and again on 7 April that killed 14 children. Schools should be places of learning and should never be targeted during conflict.

Children are amongst the most vulnerable in our society. Our collective conscience cannot allow us to condone these acts. We must therefore condemn these attacks on children.
Mr President

We call on parties to the conflict to put in place measures to ensure that such incidents are never repeated in future. Furthermore, South Africa calls for the accurate listing of perpetrators in the Annual Secretary General’s Report on Children and Armed Conflict in line with UN practice.

In conclusion, my delegation continues to call for a peaceful solution and Yemeni led solution to the conflict. It is our hope that the somewhat positive momentum gained with the discussions in Stockholm and the signing of the agreement will lead to further progress on the political track.

The differences in Yemen cannot be solved militarily and will only be further exacerbated as this avoidable war continues. The current talks are hampered by continued fighting, which is not conducive to building trust as the first step in creating a negotiated settlement. If the status quo remains the international community would have failed the people and particularly the children of Yemen.

I thank you

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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