Near-verbatim transcript of press stakeout by UN SG António Guterres, together with the FM of Sweden, Margot Wallström, and the FM of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter, following the High-Level Pledging Event for Yemen, 25 April 2017

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Near-verbatim transcript of the press stakeout by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, together with the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Margot Wallström, and the Foreign Minister of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter, following the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

Secretary-General: On behalf of the broad humanitarian community and, I believe also, on behalf of the people of Yemen, I want to express our deep gratitude to all those who today have contributed with their generosity and their solidarity to make this first-ever humanitarian pledging conference for Yemen a remarkable success.

As you know, we have asked for 2.1 billion dollars to respond to the humanitarian needs of Yemen till the end of 2017. In the pledging conference, we have been able to achieve more than half of that amount. The fact that we are only in April represents a very intelligent signal that indeed, we will be able to achieve our target by the end of the year.

And that was only possible thanks to the very clear generosity and solidarity of many Member States and also different organizations of the civil society that made pledges today. We have reached 1.1 billion dollars in this pledging conference.

Now, what absolutely matters is the possibility to make sure that the amount that was raised is effectively translated into support for the people of Yemen. And that is why, [as I said] in the closing session, we basically now need three things: access, access, and access, to make sure that there is an unhindered access for all humanitarian actors to reach all the people in need, everybody in need and everywhere inside Yemen; and that international humanitarian law is fully respected by the parties to the conflict; and that all the necessary infrastructure to import and distribute goods is available and operational.

But, obviously, there is no humanitarian solution for the crisis in Yemen; the solution is political. And, so, our appeal today is for all diplomatic efforts to be made in order for a cessation of hostilities to be possible, and sooner rather than later for that to lead to a true political process and reconciliation, allowing for Yemeni people to be masters of [their] destiny.

To all of you for your presence at this session and for your coverage of this event, I express my very deep gratitude.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, you insist on a political solution for Yemen. Can you elaborate on the challenges and obstacles facing your Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed with the parties to the conflict?

Secretary-General: I say that, as in many other conflicts, the key for recognition of the need for a political solution is when the parties to the conflict realize that there is no military solution. It is a war in which nobody is winning and in which everybody is losing. And I hope that this will be recognized sooner rather than later, and that it will allow for effective peace talks to take place and to be successful.

Question: You asked for access. Did you get any specific commitment from any of the warring parties in Geneva today to allow that access, at least to the UN and other humanitarian organizations?

Secretary-General: Yo creo que hay un diálogo permanente con todos los interventores en este conflicto, para garantizar el acceso. Hay siempre obstáculos al acceso, obstáculos que [proceden] de la inseguridad, de las operaciones militares, y muchas veces también de los problemas burocráticos. Pero creo que en el diálogo que estamos manteniendo con todos los actores, hay una comprensión que independientemente del conflicto es necesario garantizar el acceso a todos los que sufren una de las situaciones más dramáticas del punto de vista humanitario de la historia moderna.

Question: A question also related to the political process. You mentioned two tracks. Actually, did you meet the representatives of the parties or their allies today? And could you observe that they feel pressured by this kind of event in order to move forward to allow access, or to move in the direction of the cessation of hostilities moving forward to a political process?

Secretary-General: I think there has been a lot of pressure. We have had several attempts to start a political process; we have had several cessations of hostilities that were declared, but until now to no effect. That is why it is so important to start again and that is why it is so important to keep the pressure, to maintain the objectives of raising awareness everywhere, and to make sure that the parties to the conflict understand what I said only a few minutes ago, that this is a war in which everybody is losing.

Question: A number of big non-UN agencies here have suggested before this conference that one way to alleviate suffering is for major donor countries to stop selling weapons to the warring parties involved in the Yemen conflict. Do you have a view on that?

Secretary-General: Well, one thing is clear: the day in which there are no weapons sold to any warring parties anywhere in the world, it would be very difficult for war to take place.

Question: If we see the glass half full, don’t you think, since Yemen is called a forgotten crisis, that donor countries don’t take the crisis seriously enough? What does this mean for the people of Yemen?

Secretary-General: I don’t think it is half full because now we are at the beginning of the process. I have now a ten-year experience of pledging conferences, and usually pledging conferences reach less than half of the amount requested; usually one third of the amount requested. That means that there is a remarkable solidarity with Yemeni people. And the Yemeni conflict is a rather remote one, if you compare it to the Syrian conflict, which is in the media every day. People feel that there is a very real link with our global security because of all the connection of that conflict and the global threat of terrorism. If one takes into account that Yemen is a relatively forgotten crisis compared with others, I think that this pledging conference represents a remarkable recognition by the international community of the need to support Yemeni people.

Geneva, 25 April 2017