The Case for More Inclusive – and More Effective – Peacemaking in Yemen

Authored by: International Crisis Group

Categories: Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Peace Support Operations, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation, Economic Participation, Mass Atrocities, Peacemaking, Political Transitions, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), UN Resolutions
Country: Yemen
Region: Middle East and North Africa
Year: 2021
Citation: "The Case for More Inclusive – and More Effective – Peacemaking in Yemen." International Crisis Group. March 2021.

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Executive Summary

U.S. President Joe Biden’s election has given UN-led efforts to end the Yemen war a shot in the arm. Biden has cast Yemen as a pillar of his administration’s Middle East policy, throwing Washington’s weight behind stalled UN efforts to broker a ceasefire and reboot national-level political talks. The war stands at a critical juncture: Huthi rebels are at the gates of Marib, the last northern stronghold of forces allied with the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Preventing a battle for Marib city urgently requires a nationwide ceasefire. Whether reinvigorated U.S. diplomacy can convince the parties to stop fighting remains to be seen. But whatever happens in Marib, Washington and the UN need to rethink the international approach to ending the war, in particular the knotty question of who should participate in a nationwide ceasefire and national-level political talks. To improve prospects for both a truce and an eventual settlement, the UN should create space not just for a broader array of armed and political factions, but also for women and civil society groups who have made their mark in local peacebuilding.

For talks to be credible and stand a greater chance of success, they need to include a wider range of participants. If more Yemeni parties with consequential constituencies, including political parties and civil society groups, are directly involved in talks, it will encourage both the Huthis and the government to start making deals with local friends and foes to improve their overall negotiating power. Under pressure from Saudi Arabia, the government has begun heading in this direction by bringing the STC into the cabinet in December. But it needs to go farther. Importantly, including influential local peacebuilders, women in particular, will help generate much-needed local buy-in for the national-level process.

For this reason, the UN envoy should ask the UN Security Council to explicitly support a call to introduce a quota for women’s participation and for more groups to be included in direct talks through a broader interpretation of Resolution 2216, regardless of the outcome in Marib. One way of doing so, whether or not a ceasefire takes hold, would be to institute a parallel process that provides a direct link between women and civil society actors and UN-led political deliberations. At a minimum, the UN should articulate how and when it will make the process more inclusive. The UN should also explain what mechanisms it would put in place to protect the rights of women and other politically marginalised groups both now and in a post-conflict Yemen. From their side, women and civil society groups, as well as political parties and sub-national groups such as tribes and local authorities, that feel they have been left out of UN-led peacebuilding efforts should seize the moment to press for their meaningful inclusion. Without that, prospects for the eventual success of any deal would be much reduced.