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What to Expect from the UN’s New Special Envoy for Yemen

What to Expect from the UN’s New Special Envoy for Yemen

Sunday, 8 August, 2021 - 09:15
Children look out from a bridge in Sanaa, Yemen (AFP)

When asked about what to anticipate from the newly appointed UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg, former Yemeni diplomat Mustapha Noman told Asharq Al-Awsat that the new representative needs to “convince Yemenis of how imperative it is to end the war.”

Putting the same question to other Yemeni politicians and analysts, they listed several recommendations that included not repeating the same mistakes made by former UN special envoys for Yemen and protecting UN Security Council resolution 2216.

Al-Baraa Shaiban, a political analyst and member of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference, explained that the envoy’s role, in general, remains limited and largely depends on whether Yemeni forces are ready to head towards peace.

“The envoy should focus on restoring state institutions, such as supporting the role of the central bank inside Aden,” said Shaiban, adding that Grundberg must also pay attention to advancing opportunities in Yemen, even if they were a part of a long-term plan.

Yemeni political analyst Riyad Al-Dabai recommended the envoy gets out of the mistakes made by his predecessors, especially Martin Griffiths.

According to Al-Dabai, Griffiths’ blunders fostered a grudge among Yemenis and cost them their confidence in the UN.

For her part, Rasha Jarhum, director of the Peace Track Initiative, voiced disappointment over the UN opting for a male foreign diplomat to fill in the post.

While Jarhum expressed utmost respect to Grundberg as a career diplomat, she said that selecting a representative with an Arab background could have been better in terms of the envoy having an in-depth understanding of the situation in Yemen.

“With all due respect to the person of the new envoy, but I really hoped the UN would appoint an Arab figure because they would be closer to understanding the Yemeni situation,” Jarhum told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Nevertheless, Jarhum said that when it comes to Yemen, she “believes that Sweden is seriously backing the peace process, evident by its hosting of the Stockholm negotiations.”

Grundberg is a Swedish diplomat that will replace Martin Griffiths, a Briton who served as the UN’s Special Envoy for Yemen since 2018.

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