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Statement at UNSC Briefing on Yemen

Thank you very much Madam President,
 
I’d like to start by thanking our briefers for their contributions today. It’s always good to see, and hear from, Hans Grundberg as our Special Envoy, thank you for the update. And Ramesh, as always, your message is deeply worrying, we need to hear it but very discouraging and concerning.
 
I wanted to say a special thank you for the impactful words of Ola Al-Aghbary, who joined us this morning. Your clear messages to us, and your daily courage as you illustrated in your remarks, shows exactly why this Council needs to not just hear you, but to listen to you and heed what you said.
 
I’d like to echo the welcomes that others have expressed for the appointment of the new head of UNMHA and the Chair of the RCC, Major General Michael Beary. I have the utmost confidence that when we meet him next month, we will see him assume the role with decades of deep experience behind him as a distinguished Irish peacekeeper and Force Commander. We look forward to seeing him here with us for our Council discussions.
 
Madam President,
 
We are really grateful to the Norwegian Presidency that you have placed such an important theme – Women, Peace & Security – at the heart of our discussion today, and in that, building on the shared commitment that we have to translate Women, Peace & Security into action at the Council, so I’m going to focus my remarks today on Women, Peace & Security in relation to Yemen.
 
I’ll cut to the chase. The persistent exclusion of Yemeni women from the political landscape and peace talks is unjustifiable, in our view. We believe it has proven detrimental to the realisation of peace in Yemen.
 
The women of Yemen have more than demonstrated the crucial role they can play in fostering peace. This includes negotiating local ceasefires and prisoner releases, it includes opening humanitarian access and mediating conflicts over water and land resources. The women of Yemen can be, they are, critical actors in building peace in their own country. And yet, as Ola clearly pointed out to us this morning, they remain the unsung heroines of the day to day struggles on the ground in really challenging circumstances.
 
Despite all of this, not a single woman was included in any delegation in five rounds of prisoner exchange negotiations facilitated by the UN over the past years. This is a rather telling observation, to put it mildly.
 
In a dedicated Arria meeting that Ireland and Mexico co-hosted in March last year, co-sponsored by 12 Council members and with participation of 50 General Assembly delegations from outside this Council, we called on the UN to step up and insist on the participation of women in UN-facilitated talks. It is now past time to deliver, and in the case of Yemen, the cost of not delivering is clear.
 
We very much welcome Special Envoy Grundberg’s commitment to consult with a diverse range of women’s groups. We have heard of course before from women at this table that consultation should not be a substitution for meaningful participation. Yemeni women peacebuilders have rightly made clear that their vital local contribution must be translated into places at the negotiating table. Special Envoy Grundberg, we strongly encourage you and all parties to work to that end. 
 
Madam President,
 
This goal of course will remain elusive as long as significant barriers to women’s participation remain entrenched. Civil society, we know, plays a crucial role in training women mediators in Yemen and their efforts need our ongoing support.
 
Ireland reiterates that an immediate nationwide ceasefire is urgently needed to protect civilians, particularly those in vulnerable situations, including women and girls and the internally displaced.
 
We deplore all incidents of violence in Yemen, including conflict-related sexual violence, against politically active women, women peacebuilders, journalists and human rights defenders. We call on all parties to commit to ending this violence, to lift restrictions on women’s safe and unhindered freedom of movement, and to implement measures to protect women.
 
Ireland welcomed the designation by this Council last February of an individual responsible for the violent repression of women, including through sexual violence and rape. We should stand ready to list additional individuals responsible for such heinous acts. Regrettably, there remains a dearth of accountability, which we fear will be exacerbated by the non-renewal of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts.
 
Madam President,
 
As we have heard today in very stark terms from Ramesh, the grim reality is that Yemeni women and girls are often the last to eat, the last to see a doctor or the last to get out the door to go to school.
 
The dire humanitarian situation not only presents a further obstacle to women’s full participation in political and public life, but it also jeopardizes women’s ability to access essential medical care and to exercise their fundamental rights as active members of their own communities.
 
The destruction of the Yemeni public health system and economy, as well as the shifting frontlines of conflict, mean that pregnant Yemeni women, mothers, and their children are often unable to access lifesaving healthcare when they need it most. I have to say, it was one of the most shocking things to hear today from Ramesh about the maternal deaths in child birth reaching such devastating levels, it’s a shameful realisation for everyone in this room.
 
We reiterate our call for the removal of all restrictions on imports of fuel and food, and support the UN’s proposals to tackle the economic collapse in Yemen. We also strongly condemn any harassment of humanitarian actors, and obstruction of their essential, life-saving work.  We call for the immediate release of the three detained UN workers.
 
Madam President, to conclude,
 
The women of Yemen, like Ola who is with us here today, have shown inspiring courage and perseverance in their pursuit of sustainable peace. They deserve the clear commitment of the parties and the solidarity and support of the international community, including this Council. Their full, equal and meaningful participation at all levels in the political process, a process that will shape the future of their country, is the minimum they should expect. Such a commitment to inclusion could offer new hope that this might just be the year when the long nightmare of conflict finally ends for the Yemeni people, and that Yemeni women and youth will find their place in that longed-for transformation of their country.
 
Thank you, Madam President.

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