2010-2019 | Famine | Yemen

The UK blocks a U.N. initiative to avert famine in Yemen

A protester breaks the silence on the UK’s complicity in war crimes in Yemen.  © Alisdare Hickson – CC BY-SA 2.0 – via Flickr.

14 June 2018

On 14 June 2018, in a closed session of the UN security council, the United Kingdom joined the United States and France in making it clear it would veto any attempt to halt the military assault on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, launched two days earlier by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.  However international humanitarian organizations warned that unless conflict was avoided, a devastating famine, which had already made 22 million reliant on food aid, was likely to worsen, with catastrophic consequences for the country’s population.

Meanwhile the Royal Saudi Air Force, which was almost entirely supplied and equipped by the United States and Britain, bombed the road linking the port with Yemen’s capital Sanaa. Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, no radical leftist, was scathing in his criticism of the United Kingdom’s position, arguing that we were not behaving as an honest broker at the United Nations, but siding with Saudi Arabia because of big business interests.2  The historian Mark Curtis put it more bluntly, tweeting that the ‘UK has been apologising for mass murder in Yemen at UN for 3 years.’1

Critics and aid organizations were not encouraged by the explanation of the United Kingdom’s position by its UN ambassador, Karen Pierce. She explained: ‘We make our own decisions in the security council and we make them on the basis of the British national interest including wider issues of security.’3 The United Nations had issued a public statement, a week earlier saying that it was expecting up to 250,000 civilian fatalities if the assault was allowed to continue but this appeared to weigh less than Britain’s national interests, a polite way of describing corporate interests, which were far more dependent on the friendship with the Saudi and Gulf dictatorships.4


  1. Patrick Wintour, ‘UN Rejects Plan to Demand Immediate Ceasefire in Yemen Port,’  The Guardian online, 15 June 2018, accessed at url https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/15/un-rejects-plan-to-demand-immediate-ceasefire-saudi-uae-coalition-in-yemen-port
  2. https://twitter.com/markcurtis30/status/1007991827830657024
  3. Karen Pierce cited in Josie Ensor, ‘UK Opposes Immediate Ceasefire in Yemen Port of Hodeidah as Coalition Forces Close in,’ The Daily Telegraph online, 15 June 2018, accessed online at url https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/15/uk-opposes-immediate-ceasefire-yemen-port-hodeidah-un-coalition/?WT.mc_id=tmg_share_tw
  4. Patrick Wintour, ‘Aid groups in Yemen warned attack could endanger all supplies.’ The Guardian online, 10 June 2018, accessed at url https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/10/aid-groups-in-yemen-warned-attack-could-endanger-all-supplies

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