United Nations Security Council
Topic: Civil War in Yemen
Letter from the Director
Welcome to the All American Invitational! I am Mauricio Garcia Gojon, and I have been involved All American Model UN for three years. Originally I am from Monterrey, Mexico, but I have been boarding for the past four years at the Portsmouth Abbey School where I am a senior today. I’ve been doing Model UN for over 7 years and I’ve travelled with the All-American team to Lisbon, Budapest and Washington D.C. I am very excited to be your chair.
The current civil war in Yemen has been raging since 2015, but it carries the weight of religious divisions from centuries and the political instability that was created after the end of World War I. The conflict has been infamous for its use of indiscriminate airstrikes and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. It has paralized the daily life of innocent Yemeni citizens. It is estimated that the education of more than 1.8 million children has been interrupted.
The conflict has been described as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran for the control of the Gulf of Aden. There are political issues on the line and many lives at stake. This civil war has been previously addressed by the Security Council, but the end is still not in sight.
I am looking forward to a meaningful debate and an accurate representation of all the members of the Security Council. I am hoping to see diplomacy, negotiation and compromise as we set out to solve one of the most challenging paradigms of our time.
Mauricio Garcia Gojon
Committee Instructions and Structure
The Committee will operate as a Model UN crisis committee, with directors accepting personal crisis notes and directives from the beginning of committee. Delegates will be able to request representatives from the crisis staff to answer pressing questions, or act as government officials giving testimony to aid in the committee’s deliberations. For more information on how crisis committees are structured in general, or more questions on this year’s UNSC simulation specifically, please feel free to email your director.
- The situation in Yemen has gone on for so long that it is often passed over when discussing current international issues. Before the United Nations Security Council can proceed into developing long term solutions, decisions must be made on how to secure immediate aid to affected civilians in the area. First and foremost, the UNSC must provide a plan to secure the flow of humanitarian and commercial goods into Yemen’s ports, and distribute those goods throughout the country. The Hodeidah Agreement has held for now, but plans for sustainable peace must be put in place to ensure stability when it expires. Civilians have been the most affected by the fighting in Yemen, with 24.1million people in need according to the UNHCR. The conflict has threatened millions of lives, as 80% of the population requires some form of humanitarian assistance.
- Since the fighting in Yemen began in 2015, the international community has been struggling to find a way to broker a lasting peace in the region. Delegates must find a way to ensure that current international arms embargoes and treaties are properly maintained and enforced, while also developing ways to transfer precedent set in those treaties into long term peace standards. Delegates should take into account the beliefs and demands of all parties involved in the conflict when developing plans to end the fighting for good. Questions should also be asked about the usefulness of current and future peacekeeping missions, and the effectiveness of refugee assistance plans implemented by the United Nations in recent years.
- When discussing the conflict in Yemen, special attention must be paid to the rising tensions in the Gulf of Aden, and the ramifications these tensions have in peacekeeping missions in Yemen. Delegates should understand the different foreign power’s interests in the region, and develop frameworks to avoid further conflict. Delegates should also think about whether or not the UN should intervene to end conflicts in areas such as the Bab al-Mandab Strait.
Religious division in the Middle East has played a huge role in Yemen’s almost 5-year long conflict. To understand the conflict more, one must first understand the roots of the divisions in Islam. Islam is divided into two main sects: Shia and Sunni. This division stems from a thousand year old disagreement on who was the legitimate heir of the Prophet Muhammed and other theological concepts. It is estimated that 65% of Muslims in Yemen are Sunni and 35% are Shia. Prior to unification in 1990, the south of Yemen was a British colony while the north was always controlled by different tribes. The British did nothing to help alleviate tensions between different political and social factions in the north and south of the country, contributing to the situation, the United Nations must deal with today. In 2015, the Houthi Rebels, a Shia group from North Yemen, started an uprising against the government. This conflict has been described as a proxy war between the two main regional powers: Saudi Arabia and Iran. The established government has strong ties to Saudi Arabia and is an important US ally. The Houthi Rebels are backed by Iran and have strong anti-American sentiments. Most of the Shia Muslims in Yemen live in the north, however this is not the main reason why the country broke into civil war. The conflict is also tribal, geographic and political. The Houthi Rebels have cited disagreements on governance and US influence in Yemen.
After the Houthi rebels began their uprising in 2015, the country quickly descended into violence and ruin. In March of 2015, Houthi backed forces entered Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, and swiftly took over key positions within the city and the surrounding rural areas. This was the first true military movement of the war, thrusting Yemen into the world’s spotlight. Shortly after the rebels took control of Taiz, they began their western offensive, marching towards the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, a vital water corridor that facilitates the movement of much of the world’s trade to and from the Arabian Sea. On March 31st 2015, rebels took control of a military base on the coast of the strait, posing a huge risk to maritime traffic, and neighboring countries.
Fighting throughout the country has continued until present day, but happenings in Aden, one of the most vital cities in Yemen, have been relatively calm after a peace deal was brokered by the Saudi Arabian government.
Past UN Action: Airstrikes, Ceasefires and Collateral Damage
Security Council Resolutions
The latest Security Council Resolution on the situation is Resolution 2481 (2019), which focused on promoting the Hodeidah Agreement and extending the mandate of peacekeeping missions until January of 2020. The creation and implementation of this agreement has been the main focus on the past two years. (2402, 2451, 2452 and 2481) Earlier in the conflict, most resolutions were focused on implementing an arms embargo (2216) and different sanctions to the parties involved (2140 and 2216)
Below you’ll find a list of the most relevant UN resolutions surrounding Yemen:
- Resolution 2014 (2011)
- Resolution 2051 (2012)
- Resolution 2140 (2014)
- Resolution 2174 (2014)
- Resolution 2201 (2015)
- Resolution 2204 (2015)
- Resolution 2216 (2015)
- Resolution 2266 (2016)
- Resolution 2342 (2017)
- Resolution 2402 (2018)
- Resolution 2451 (2018)
- Resolution 2452 (2019)
- Resolution 2481 (2019)
The Hodeidah Agreement
After the civil war started, instability and violence hampered humanitarian efforts in Yemen. The international community determined that the port city of Hodeidah should be under a UN mandate to allow for vital aid to flow into the country. Thanks to a deal brokered by the government of Sweden in December of 2018, a ceasefire has been reached and peacekeeping forces were sent to enforce it. This is agreement is known as the Hodeidah Agreement, the Hudaydah Agreement or the Stockholm Agreement.
Both Saudi and Iranian backed troops are still on the ground in Yemen, and fighting continues to rage on in rural areas throughout the country. However, in cities like Aden, temporary peace deals have been brokered, setting the stage for an attempt at lasting peace. While there have been measures put in place to ensure that humanitarian agencies can provide crucial aid to civilians, it is unclear how long this access will last, or if fighting will begin again. According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), if the international community does not capitalize on the current opportunity to secure a lasting peace, it could cost the international community up to $29b in the next five years. If the fighting continues, it is also likely that Yemen’s extreme risk of famine will continue to grow, launching the region into a hunger crisis that many say it’s not prepared to deal with.
New reports indicate that all involved parties in Yemen are open to negotiations, and that diplomatic conditions are at the best ever to broker a peace accord. The same reports, however, indicate that the Saudi-led ceasefires in the south of Yemen and in cities like Aden are very fragile, and have been put at extreme risk by recent random killing waves targeting government forces.
Lastly, the Gulf of Aden is a highly strategic military and commercial location that has been at risk since the beginning of conflict in Yemen. Every tanker from coming from the Suez Canal must go through the Bab al-Mandab Strait that separates the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden. Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea have control over who can pass through it. Djibouti, which is west of the straight, is the country with the most foreign military bases, including some from China, Japan, France and the United States.
The Gulf of Aden and Yemen are also known for their abundance of oil and other natural resources. Before the Civil War started, the Yemeni government offered 105 concession blocks for the exploration, extraction and production of oil. More than 14 oil companies from different countries owned the concessions of some of these blocks. It is unclear if the international community has a working plan for ensuring peace around the Gulf, and reinstating the concession blocks granted by the Yemeni government.
Questions to Consider
- How can the arms embargo be better enforced?
- What are the goals of the parties involved and how can they be achieved in a peaceful way?
- The conflict has been going for almost five years, how can the UNSC bring it to an end?
- What will happen to the refugees and displaced people from this conflict?
- What should be the role of peacekeeping missions in the situation in Yemen?
- How can the UNSC secure the flow of humanitarian and commercial goods into Yemen?
- What will happen after the Hodeidah Agreement expires?
- In what ways can the UN support and protect innocent civilians caught in the conflict?
- What are the necessary agreements to avoid conflict in the region?
- What are the interests of foreign powers in this region?
- How should the UNSC regulate the operation of foreign military bases and aircraft carriers in the region?
- What actions can the UNSC take to maintain peace at the Bab al-Mandab Strait?
- “The World Factbook: Yemen.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 1 Feb. 2018, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ym.html.
- Wenner, Manfred W., and Robert Burrowes. “Yemen.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 3 Oct. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/place/Yemen.
- Taylor, Adam. “Who Are the Houthis, the Group That Just Toppled Yemens Government?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 2 May 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/01/22/who-are-the-houthis-the-group-that-just-toppled-yemens-government/?noredirect=on.
- “UNMHA, Hudaydah Agreement | Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.” United Nations, United Nations, https://dppa.un.org/en/mission/unmha-hudaydah-agreement.
- Boujrada, Zineb. “This Tiny Country Has the Most Foreign Military Bases.” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 20 Feb. 2018,
- Marzoq. Petroleum Exploration and Production Authority, http://www.pepa.com.ye/Concession/concession.html