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YIF II Begins With Calls for a Lasting and Just Peace in Yemen

اقرأ المحتوى باللغة العربية

The Hague, the Netherlands — The Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies launched its second Yemen International Forum in The Hague on Monday, with an appeal from the opening speakers for participants to use the rare gathering to begin thinking about practical steps toward a sustainable peace as the country stands at a crossroads after eight years of war.

“What is it that we want to do here? We want to collectively create a possible path for a comprehensive, lasting, and unbreakable peace, a peace that, for the first time in Yemen’s history, is focused on justice and the addressing grievances for the victims of this and previous conflicts,” said Chairperson of the Sana’a Center Maged Al-Madhaji in the opening address at the Peace Palace, set up in 1913 to house international courts of arbitration and justice.

Over 250 participants from inside and outside Yemen, including members of the Yemeni government, representatives of the various parties, activists, civil society members, academics, diplomats, and international mediators, have come to discuss the current state of the conflict, after a year of de-escalation that has kindled hopes of peace.

“The history of Yemen is present here,” said Waleed Alhariri, Director of The Yemen International Forum, referencing the 1998 decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that ended a dispute between Yemen and Eritrea over the Greater Hanish island in the Red Sea. “The Yemen International Forum is more than an annual conference,” said Alhariri. “It is a process of ongoing consultations and engagement with various actors and peace practitioners.”

“After so many years of conflict, it may be hard to shift focus and start thinking about how a peaceful society could possibly emerge. But this is exactly what is needed. And this vision needs to emerge from within Yemen, not from elsewhere,” said Paul Huijts, Secretary-General of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

David Gressly, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, said Yemen had inched significantly closer to peace since the first YIF held in Stockholm last year: “That hope runs a little brighter today, though there is no guarantee.”

Although a formal truce brokered by the UN lapsed in October last year, an informal truce has taken hold since then, while talks also began on establishing a formal peace process.

“Many countries have gone through similar transitions from conflict to peace; some succeed, some don’t. Many struggled. I hope and believe Yemen will be that exception,” Gressly said, adding: “I have instructed our country team in Yemen to prepare for peace.”

Ambassadors from the permanent member countries of the UN Security Council as well as representatives of Gulf Cooperation Council countries and other members of the international community will join the discussions at the forum alongside Yemeni political and civil actors.

A host of plenaries, parallel sessions, and workshops will take place over the four days of the conference, from 12-15 June, during which participants will be encouraged to engage in constructive dialogue, exchange ideas, envision future scenarios for the country, and develop practical pathways toward peace in Yemen.

The first plenary session heard warnings of the need to address justice for victims of the war as the basis for a sustainable peace that avoids the risk of a return to conflict.

Amat Al-Salam Al-Hajj, director of the Abductees’ Mothers Association, spoke passionately of the suffering of some 12,000 people seized by warring parties during the war, 8,000 of whom were released after undergoing severe physical and mental harm.

“We as mothers will continue to advocate for and demand justice. There needs to be justice, and we will not remain silent,” Al-Hajj said, eliciting a round of applause from attendees. “Many mothers died before their sons were released. This is the disaster we are facing.”

“I’d like to warn the local, regional, and international community,” she added. “If peace is to be real, comprehensive, and provide security and stability, there must be justice and redress. Otherwise, these victims are a ticking time bomb; the cycle of revenge and violence will continue.”

The YIF 2023 is organized by the Sana’a Center of Strategic Studies, an independent think tank focused on Yemen, with the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the European Union, the Kingdom of Norway, Open Society Foundations, and the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA). The first YIF, held in Stockholm in June 2022, was attended by over 200 Yemeni and international actors invested in the promotion of peace in Yemen.

EU ambassador to Yemen Gabriel Munuera-Viñals told a second plenary session that he believed Yemen would remain an international priority. “As far as the European Union and its member states go, Yemen remains high on the agenda and the readiness is there to continue supporting and doing what we can.”