Hodeidah, Yemen’s most important port city and the centrepiece of last December’s Stockholm de-escalation agreement between Houthi rebels and Yemen’s internationally recognised government, is imploding. On March 1, Houthi mortar rounds killed five children from the same family and destroyed one of the city’s largest factories. This latest round of violence is the clearest indication yet that the Stockholm agreement is failing.
But, it is failing for one very specific reason.
Whether intentionally or not, the UN-brokered deal for Yemen is being actively reconfigured in the Houthis’ favour. This is mainly because the UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, who is under immense pressure to achieve concrete deliverables for peace, has no choice but to accept Houthi demands, lest the deal collapse on his watch. While accommodating the Houthis might save the peace process on paper, it perpetuates a dangerous status quo on the ground, which impacts the humanitarian situation negatively and makes it more difficult for the Yemeni government to fulfil its own obligations. This calls into question whether the UN is capable of holding the Houthis accountable for their end of the bargain.