After four gruelling years of war, conflict, and scarcity, a ceasefire deal finally brings hope to the people of Yemen. This ceasefire deal, now known as the Stockholm Agreement, comes at a time of increased pressure from the international community to put a stop to the brutalities of war, aimed primarily at the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
The war in Yemen is a complicated and alarming conflict, representing multiple proxy wars, as well as growing civil tensions. The conflict rooted in the failure of Yemen to execute a successful political transition following the Arab Spring. The Al-Qaeda, separatist movements, disloyalty, corruption, food security, and rising levels of unemployment, were only a few of the issues that this new government faced. And as a result, the Houthi movement was formed,— a Zaydist group aiming to become the dominant political force in North Yemen and in the national government.
The war that resulted can be argued to be one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time with at least 8.4 million people at risk of starvation and 22.2 million people are in grave need of humanitarian assistance. According to the UN, almost 400 000 children under the age of five in Yemen are dealing with the effects of severe malnutrition. Additionally, the Yemeni health system has all but collapsed. Thus, it is clear that peace is of the utmost importance to pursue for the sake of these civilians.
The ceasefire was called in Hodeidah, the city that has become one of the main centres of the war in Yemen. In Sweden, the Houthis and the Yemeni government agreed that fighting would stop in this zone, and that forces would be withdrawn. This agreement brought hope to citizens such as 31-year-old Akran Ateeq, who stated, “We are happy there will be a halt to the war. We have no jobs and are living on aid. We need help.” UN special envoy Martin Griffiths addressed the Security Council following this agreement, stating, “Our collective achievements this week were a significant step forward”.
However, despite the hope brought forward by this declaration, the road ahead is yet long and daunting. Indeed, as the UAE minister of foreign affairs suggests, “The road ahead remains bumpy but the significant breakthrough will make peace possible”. And as Martin Griffiths added, “What’s in front of us is a daunting task… to turn the tide of war towards peace.” The implementation of this ceasefire will need to be followed with a “robust and competent monitoring regime”, in the words of Griffiths, in order to be successful. Trust levels remain alarmingly low, and the situation in this area is so volatile that it may only take one minor provocation for the conflict to once again be re-ignited.
All in all, the work of the United Nations Security Council and all those present in Stockholm who made this ceasefire possible is to be commended. The Yemen war manifests itself as one of the most violent and alarming humanitarian crises that the world faces today. Although the solution that has been reached is clearly only a small step towards much needed peace, it represents a genuine commitment from both sides to resolve their conflict in a more constructive manner — one that does not affect the citizens they claim to be fighting for in such a detrimental way.
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