UN envoy says he's reached dead end in Yemen and world body announces his promotion

Martin Griffiths to take over as UN humanitarian chief

There are reports that Martin Griffiths, UN envoy to Yemen, will replace Mark Lowcock as the UN’s humanitarian chief. Reuters
There are reports that Martin Griffiths, UN envoy to Yemen, will replace Mark Lowcock as the UN’s humanitarian chief. Reuters

The UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said on Wednesday that his efforts to end the country’s six-year conflict were not gaining traction. He will leave his post for a promotion in the world body.

Mr Griffiths told the Security Council that the Iran-backed Houthi rebels had continued a “relentless military escalation” in the gas-rich Marib region, despite his efforts to broker a ceasefire deal with Yemen’s internationally recognised government.

The council met as the UN said he would soon replace Mark Lowcock as the its humanitarian chief and emergency relief co-ordinator, after spending three years trying to bridge seemingly insurmountable differences between Yemen’s opposing sides.

The latest peace talks ground to a halt without a truce after Houthi negotiators refused to meet Mr Griffiths in Oman and increased their deadly assault on Marib, the government's last stronghold in northern Yemen.

“I am unfortunately not here today to report that the parties are closing in on a deal,” he told the online UN council meeting.

“I cannot force the parties to negotiate. This is their obligation.”

Mr Griffiths was approached by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to replace Mr Lowcock, who is set to step down after four years on the job.

The UN formally announced the posting, saying he had "extensive leadership experience in humanitarian affairs" in several global hotspots, and knowledge in "conflict resolution, negotiation and mediation".

Mr Griffiths will be the fifth Briton in a row to hold the position.

Diplomats and aid workers told The National he became the consensus choice after other British candidates were rejected by Mr Guterres.

They included Nick Dyer, the UK government’s preferred candidate and a former civil servant at Britain’s Department for International Development, and Caroline Kende-Robb, former head of humanitarian organisation Care International.

The role of humanitarian chief is one of the top-table UN jobs traditionally held by nationals from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, France, China, Russia and the US.

Mr Griffiths was the founding director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, which focuses on peacemaking.

He held that position from 1999 to 2010, and has had posts in the British government, the UN children's fund and Save the Children.

Mr Griffiths also served as the director of UN humanitarian affairs in Geneva, the deputy to the UN emergency relief co-ordinator in New York and the executive director of the European Institute of Peace in Brussels.

The UN’s aid chief is responsible for battling donor fatigue and raising money to fight looming famines in Yemen, South Sudan and north-east Nigeria, deliver aid across Syria, Libya and other war zones, and assist many of the world’s 79.5 million refugees.

Updated: May 13, 2021 09:22 AM

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