On Tuesday 28 March, there will be a Backbench Business debate on a motion on the conflict in Yemen in the House of Commons Chamber. Keith Vaz, Mrs Flick Drummond and Alison Thewliss will lead and open the debate.

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Motion to be debated:

That this House notes the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen; and calls upon the Government to take a lead in passing a resolution at the UN Security Council that would give effect to an immediate ceasefire in Yemen.

Since March 2015 a coalition led by Saudi Arabia has intervened on the side of the Yemeni Government against Iranian-backed Houthi rebel forces. In the last few months the Saudis and their allies have managed to push back the Houthis from Aden. However there has been little sign of a decisive shift in the military balance that might presage a coalition victory. Some analysts see the war in Yemen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A debate held on 12 January 2017 focused on the sale and use of arms from the UK to Saudi Arabia. This motion is focused on the humanitarian situation and efforts to pass a resolution at the UN Security Council.

The conflict in Yemen is causing massive suffering to Yemenis. Estimates of deaths range from 7,600 to 10,000.[1] More than 42,000 people have been injured and 3 million displaced, out of a total population of 27 million.[2]

Over the last couple of months, anxieties about famine in Yemen have grown markedly. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in February “Yemen is facing the largest food insecurity emergency in the world, with an estimated 7.3 million people needing help now.” Shortly after, Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator visited Yemen. O’Brien subsequently told the UN Security Council “Yemen is largest humanitarian crisis in the world and the Yemeni people now face the spectre of famine.”

In February the UN launched an international appeal for $2.1bn needed to support 12 million people in Yemen in 2017. However only 6% has been received and O’Brien has called on international donors not to wait until the scheduled ministerial-level pledging meeting on 25 April in Geneva to donate funds. Humanitarian agencies have continued to express concern about access to some parts of the country. There are ongoing concerns about the port of Hodeida’s ability to continue to act as the route through which most emergency aid is delivered.

There has been no progress towards a ceasefire, let alone a political settlement, in the last few months. The ‘Yemen Quartet’ – the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates – met most recently in London on 13 March. UN Security Council Resolution 2216  (2015) called on all parties to refrain from further unilateral actions that could undermine the political transition and called on the Houthis to immediately and unconditionally end the violence. Resolution 2266 (February 2016) called for the full implementation of the political transition. Attempts by the UK Government to adopt a new Resolution on Yemen have so far failed to materialise (Saudi Arabia has opposed the text of the UK draft). The Foreign Office said in January that discussions at the UN Security Council on a draft Resolution are ongoing. The Security Council next discusses Yemen on 29 March 2017 and the UK holds the Presidency this month (March).

[1]     An official with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in mid-January the civilian death toll had reached 10,000, based on information gathered by health facilities. The UN OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin for 18 March 2017 gives a figure of 7,684 killed, based on figures from the WHO.

[2]     UN OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin for Yemen, 18 March 2017

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