RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: Under the patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the Supervisor General of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief), Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, announced today that the 1st Riyadh Humanitarian Forum will take place from 26-27 February 2018 and invites all to participate in this important event.
Dr. Al Rabeeah made the announcement at the Riyadh Intercontinental Hotel during last Sunday’s “High-Level Meeting to Enhance Humanitarian Response in Yemen,” which was sponsored by KSrelief; many dignitaries, leaders of international humanitarian organizations and other interested parties attended the one-day conference.
Dr. Al Rabeeah delivered an opening speech at the meeting, the text of which is below:
“Ladies and Gentlemen and Distinguished Guests,
“It is my pleasure to welcome you all here to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to participate in this important High-Level Meeting to enhance humanitarian response in Yemen. This meeting reinforces the concern of the government and the nation of Saudi Arabia towards our brotherly nation of Yemen. Over the years, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have shared geographical, language, family, and strong economic ties, based upon mutual respect. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is leading the international humanitarian community in support of all the people of Yemen, in all regions irrespective of beliefs and cultural affiliation."
"Over the past two-and-a-half years, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has managed to support Yemen with more than (US$ 8.27) billion. KSrelief has also executed 161 projects in Yemen with 85 United Nations, international, and regional partners, covering food security, nutrition, shelter, health, social support, and other important projects. In addition, KSrelief has given special attention and support to projects focusing on the needs of women and children, executing 68 projects for women and 80 for children.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has responded to the call of the legitimate government of Yemen to reclaim the democracy that was chosen by the people of Yemen, in accordance with UN resolution No. (2216), the GCC Initiative, and the outcome of the Yemen National Dialogue. The aggression from the militant coup is not a new one for the Yemeni people, and the latest onslaught from the militias only emphasizes the Iranian interference in Yemen to create a breeding ground for terrorist groups similar to DAESH and Al-Qaida.
"Your presence and participation here today reinforce our collective efforts to support and promote humanitarian work in Yemen by enhancing and developing the needs-assessment, which is the foundation of all humanitarian work. In addition, we must increase our support to humanitarian organizations working in Yemen in respect to the humanitarian coordination process – to ensure equality, impartiality, and to avoid duplication of efforts. In this regard, KSrelief will be happy to be a host for humanitarian coordination in Yemen in partnership with OCHA.
"KSrelief also emphasizes the importance of monitoring and surveillance to enhance the efficiency of these activities, and to do that we must promote the development of neutral reports that will ensure accuracy and avoid the dissemination of fraudulent and/or misleading information. We are aware that all UN and international resolutions forbid the use of children as child soldiers and human shields. In this regard, Houthi militia groups have committed significant crimes by recruiting more 20,000 Yemeni children for this purpose, according to reports from human rights organizations."
"Therefore, as we all condemn these despicable acts, we must urgently move forward to prevent such actions, and to hold those behind them accountable for violating the rights of these children. KSrelief calls upon you all to participate in KSrelief’s initiative to rehabilitate these children; we are in the process of helping more than 2,000 children in this project, providing psychological, educational, social and family rehabilitation services. We should work together to expand this project to include all children who have had their innocence stolen from them.
"I would like to call on you all to achieve decentralization of humanitarian work by increasing the presence of your offices in different locations in Yemen. We all support the initiative of the UN Envoy to Yemen regarding the Hudaydah seaport and Sana’a airport to increase the efficiency of humanitarian work. To ensure that we can save the lives of the Yemeni people, we must use other available points of access in Yemen. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is pleased to provide access to Jizan seaport, and land access to facilitate delivery of aid and relief. The Kingdom is committed to support and delivery of humanitarian aid to all regions of Yemen. We should also increase focus on projects for women and children.
"It is my honor today to announce the first Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum under the patronage of The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, HM King Salman bin Abdulaziz, to take place on 24 – 26 February 2018. The forum will focus on the development of international humanitarian work, and I would like to take this opportunity today to invite all of you to this very important event.
“Finally, I would like to extend my gratitude and thanks to all of you, especially the Restore Hope Coalition and the High Relief Committee representing the legitimate Yemeni Government, OCHA, USAID, DFID and ECHO and all international and national organizations.
“I also extend my thanks and appreciation to my colleagues for organizing today’s meeting."
The Supervisor General then gave a presentation about the center and its relief and humanitarian projects in Yemen, highlighting the difficulties facing the delivery of aid on the ground. He also presented up-to-date data showing the positive impact of the Kingdom's humanitarian assistance in Yemen.
H.E. Dr. Abdulmalik al-Mekhlafi, Yemen’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke next, saying that he was pleased to attend and participate in this important meeting, which comes at a difficult time for the Yemeni people. He also spoke about some of the challenges to humanitarian work in Yemen, including the illegal actions of Houthi militias which have attacked both the legitimate government and the people of Yemen. He called donors and international organizations to provide additional funding.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and the Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, H.E. Mark Lowcock, expressed his pleasure at participating in this high-level humanitarian meeting. “We are happy, “he said, “about the assistance provided by donor countries, and we are working to improve the health and education situation. We have a common understanding of humanitarian issues in Yemen, looking forward to further coordination with the concerned parties”.
Then H.E. Christos Stylianides, Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Management Commissioner, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, delivered a speech which he began by thanking the center for the invitation. He said that the situation in Yemen is very difficult, pointing out that the European Union is following up the humanitarian situation and looking forward to cooperating more in the challenges facing the Yemeni government.
General Major Abdullah Alhbabi, Chief of Military Civilian Operations, stressed that this meeting was a service to humanity in a complex environment in which militias reached the levels of violating international law. He indicated that no country in the world provided as much assistance to Yemen as Saudi Arabia, which helps in all sectors, impartially providing aid to all in need; KSrelief also facilitates humanitarian groups in obtaining the necessary permits to bring aid into Yemen.
General Major Alhbabi continued that “the Kingdom is threatened and targeted by Houthi militias. The militias also threatened children – removing them from their homes and using them in the conflict with the support of Iran." He stressed that the Coalition seeks to create a conducive environment to deliver aid and to overcome difficulties, a noble mission which will encourage a lasting solution and peace.
The meeting concluded agreement between the attendees to enhance humanitarian work in Yemen by establishing UN offices in all areas of Yemen, and by working impartially. Also, it was agreed that the legitimate Yemeni government should have the ability to obtain financial income from the resources of Yemen. The meeting stressed the importance of using all available safe land and sea crossings. Support was also given to an initiative from the UN Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, in the port of in Al Hudaydah. The initiative calls for accountability from all parties who impede the entry of humanitarian aid into the country. The meeting also emphasized the importance of assessing humanitarian needs, the importance of supporting monitoring and follow-up projects, and the need for coordination in humanitarian work.
In the second session of the meeting, the Yemeni Minister of Local Administration and the Chairman of the Supreme Committee for Relief in Yemen, H.E. Abdul Raqeeb Fatah said that "the situation in Taiz needs to be clarified. There is systematic killing and failure in the work of UN organizations such as UNICEF and WHO."
"There are 700,000 displaced persons from Taiz. 95% of schools, and institutes were closed, as well as 95% of hospitals which are 406 hospitals. Unemployment percentage reached 90%. The population has relied on solar energy instead of electricity," he said.
He attributed the outbreak of cholera in Yemen to the accumulation of garbage, and to the Houthis not paying the salaries of sanitation workers in the cities controlled by the militias. The Minister called for the decentralization of humanitarian work, for working impartially, and for not allowing criminals to be treated equally with victims. He said 581 billion Yemeni riyals are controlled by the Houthi militias, which means that the legitimate government cannot fulfil its financial obligations.
HE Sultan Mohammed Al Shamsi, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for International Development Affairs, called for supporting the initiative of the UN Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed through political dialogue between all parties, and asked everyone to take responsibility, to cooperate to reach the desired goals and to provide necessary support for humanitarian work in Yemen.
H.E. Kelly T. Clements, Deputy Commissioner at UNHCR, clarified that there are 280,000 Yemeni refugees mostly women and children from Sanaa. She said that there are refugees trying to return home, but that they are facing many difficulties, and that they need shelter and protection. She noted that huge network of human smugglers is taking advantage of this situation.
Assistant Executive Director WFP, H.E. Elisabeth Rasmusson, said that “Yemen is in our hearts and minds.” She talked about the forms of human degradation occurring in Yemen, including cholera outbreaks, child malnutrition, high rates of famine and the problem of displaced persons. She stressed the importance of coordination between various humanitarian organizations, which is a key element in improving standards of living and providing food security, health services and other basic needs. She added that coordination requires partnership and funding.
H.E. Dr. Ky Luu, Chief Operating Officer IMC noted that the bureaucratic procedures hamper humanitarian work in Yemen. He also noted the efforts of IMC to reduce the cases of cholera in Yemen.
H.E. Tom Staal from USAID said that “75% of Yemeni people need assistance. Thus, we must ensure the access of humanitarian assistance and goods." He noted that the United States has faced numerous humanitarian problems in Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and the Rohingya refugee crisis. He pointed out that in the past, 80% of aid went to victims of natural disasters, while now 80% of aid is directed to victims of human conflict.
At the end of the meeting, the participants concluded the sessions with these results: delegation of a team to support needs and response process through verification of actual needs by comparing needs reports from various sources on the Yemeni crisis. They also assigned a team to mobilize technical and financial support to provide the necessary support to humanitarian organizations and humanitarian projects in Yemen.
The participants adopted five geographic regions in response to the humanitarian needs in Yemen, which would redistribute humanitarian aid in a fairly to all Yemenis. They are Aden Relief and Management Center covering Aden, Lahij, Dhale, Abyan, Taiz and Ibb. Hadramawt Relief Center covering Hadramawt, Shabwah, Socotra, and Al Mahrah. Ma'rib Relief Center covering Ma'rib, Al Jawf, Al Bayda, and Dhamar. Al Hudaydah Relief Center covering Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, Raymah, and Al Mahwit. Sanaa Relief Center covering Sanaa, Sada'a and 'Amran.
The participants called for supporting the initiative of the UN Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, concerning Al Hudaydah port and Sanaa airport. They also stressed on using the rest of the ports in Yemen and the port of Jizan of Saudi Arabia, as well as area land crossings, to facilitate the movement of humanitarian assistance.
The participants also urged more international humanitarian organizations to participate in Yemen humanitarian work, and to be present in all areas of Yemen without exception.