27 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/EF/3257

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Second Committee

22nd Meeting (PM)


Assembly’s Economic Committee Is Told of Harsh Conditions Persisting


in Occupied Territories because of Israeli Actions

 


Delegates Urge End of Settlements, Repressive Policies; Israel Says

‘Common Interests’ Dictate Cooperation to Make Progress to Benefit All


Israel’s restriction of Palestinian movement and access to natural resources has deepened the hardship suffered by the Palestinians, Amr Nour, the director of the Regional Commissions New York Office told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this afternoon.  Under consideration by the Committee was the Permanent Sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.


Mr. Nour introduced a note by the Secretary-General on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the Syrian Golan (document A/64/77-E/2009/13), submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2008/31 and General Assembly resolution 63/201.  The report states Israel’s military operation in the Gaza strip, which began in December 2008 and was known as “Operation Cast Lead”, had further worsened the humanitarian crisis in the area.  The report also notes that between January 2008 and 19 January 2009, about 1,766 Palestinians were killed, compared to 396 during the year of 2007.  Of those 1,766 killed, 469 were children, and the vast majority of all victims were killed in the Gaza strip.  Another 7,164 Palestinians were injured during the same period, compared to 1,843 in 2007.  In terms of physical destruction, between February and December 2008, 204 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished and, as a result, more than 400 Palestinians were displaced.  In the West Bank, Israel’s ongoing construction of the barrier had displaced close to 28,000 Palestinians.


He said Palestinian movement also remained severely curtailed by the Israeli Government; almost 75 per cent of the main routes leading into the 18 most populated Palestinian cities and towns in the West bank, and almost half the alternate routes, were either blocked or controlled by an Israeli checkpoint.  As a consequence, an estimated 2,500 pregnant women every year faced trouble in getting to a delivery facility, according to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).


During the military operation in December, 60 per cent of Gaza’s population had no electricity for three weeks and 500,000 Palestinians did not have access to running water.  Furthermore, as a result of the operation and ongoing restrictions, about 95 per cent of industry in Gaza had been suspended and unemployment continued to rise.  More than a third of the Palestinian population faced food insecurity and infant and maternal mortality rates were high.


The permanent observer for Palestine said that access to natural resources was a matter of “the source of life and the future of Palestine and its people” and that Israel, as an occupying power, deliberately choked life out of Palestinian communities.  With regard to water, Israel’s practices and policies had directly contributed to the desertification in Palestine.


While illegal Israeli settlers enjoyed unfettered access to Palestinian water, consuming as much as 300 litres every day, Palestinians were provided only about 70 litres a day, less than the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).  Meanwhile, land confiscation and illegal settlement expansion, and the construction of the wall, had dealt a heavy blow to the agricultural sector, a main component of the Palestinian economy.


With respect to Israel’s military operation that began in December, he said Gaza’s infrastructure had been shattered and, consequently, the provision of basic services to more than 1.5 million people had become almost impossible.  Electricity, sewage and water systems were devastated and, as a result, only 10 per cent of Gaza’s drinking water was now safe for consumption while 80 million litres of untreated and partially treated waste water was discharged into the environment.  In addition, chemical plants in illegal Israeli settlement continued to dump untreated waste and chemical waste onto Palestinian land.


Israel’s representative expressed disappointment that the Committee’s time was diverted to a single item that bore no relation to its agenda.  “Rather than reflecting the realities on the ground, this draft resolution and debate demonstrate a reflexive, predictable group dynamics that was unfortunate in a professional committee such as this one.”  The continuous inclusion on the Second Committee’s agenda of an item that singled out his country for discrimination was a disservice to the many issues genuinely worthy of the Committee’s attention, and a disservice to the cause of peace.


He asserted that Israel and the Palestinians, as neighbours, shared common interests with respect to the use and preservation of natural resources in their region, and that these joint interests dictated close coordination and cooperation. Already, several joint Israeli-Palestinian committees had been created, among them the Joint Water Committee headed by senior water-management officials from both sides.  Related fields of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation included coordination of energy infrastructure and joint agricultural projects advanced through Israel’s international development organization, MASHAV.


Exercising his right of reply, the permanent observer for Palestine said that the United Nations was widely recognized as the appropriate venue to discuss problems in a civilized manner.  To avoid having the item discussed in the future and to save themselves and other delegates from unnecessary trouble, Israel could take one constructive action: cease its illegal exploitation of Palestinian resources.  The Syrian delegate, who also exercised his right of reply, said that Israel’s statement reflected the “aggressive and criminal mentality of the Israeli occupiers”, which did not allow for criticism.  The agenda item on the economic repercussions of the Israeli occupation would remain an agenda item as long as the occupation continued.


Speaking in the general discussion were the representatives of Sudan (on behalf of the Arab Group), Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Tunisia, Jordan, Nicaragua, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Libya, Qatar and Venezuela.


The Committee then turned to its agenda item on information and communication technologies for development.  DONG WU, Chief, Science and Technology Section, Division on Technology and Logistics, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society outcomes at the regional and international levels (document A/64/64-E/2009/10).  She said in many respects the digital divide continued to narrow, reaching an important milestone in 2008, when more than half the world’s population reached some level of connectivity.  Eighty to ninety per cent of the world’s population lived within range of a cellular network, double the level in 2000.  The number of mobile subscriptions reached 4 billion worldwide by the end of 2008.


The Internet gap between developed and developing countries was also closing, albeit at a slower rate.  At the end of 2008, half the world’s Internet users were in developing countries, especially in Asia.  However, she added, despite positive trends many challenges remained.  Large disparities in penetration and affordability still existed, both across and within countries and regions.  She said there was a need for more effective, up-to-date public policies and regulations.  UNCTAD and the United Nations regional commissions, developing countries and regions had started to create effective laws and institutions for data protection, as part of efforts to prepare cyberlaws and to increase their participation in the Information Society.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday, 28 October) to continue the discussion of information and communication technologies for development.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to consider its agenda item on permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.  It was also to consider on information and communication technologies for development.


Before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s note titled Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/64/77-E/2009/13), which details how Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip, in effect since June 2007, has led to a near collapse of the private sector and shortages of essentials such as food, electricity and fuel in the Gaza Strip.  It charts how Israel’s use of arbitrary detention, disproportionate use of force, house demolitions, severe restrictions of movement and other closure policies continue to intensify Palestinian hardship.


In terms of violence, it states that Palestinian militant attacks, including rocket attacks into Israeli cities, and Israeli military operations continued in 2008, culminating in December with a 22-day operation in the Gaza Strip that killed a reported 1,440 people and injured 5,380 others.  Inter-Palestinian conflict has also led to casualties and disrupted the delivery of essential services to the population, the report states.  Despite such challenges, the Palestinian Authority has made some progress in terms of security, finance, infrastructure, health and education, not least, the report notes, because the Authority was able to fully pay civil servants every month.


The report states that Israeli settlement and outpost expansion, land confiscation and the construction of a barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory, contrary to the Road Map, the Geneva Conventions and other norms of international law, isolate East Jerusalem and severely intrude into the West Bank and curtail economic and social life.  It also notes that the continuing Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan in violation of Security Council resolution 497 (1981), and the restrictions imposed on the Syrian citizens living there, also continue to create economic and social hardship.


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report entitled Progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society outcomes at the regional and international levels (document A/64/64-E/2009/10), which concludes that considerable progress was made in 2008 but also notes constraints and obstacles encountered; one such was the high cost associated with the Geneva meeting, which deterred developing-country stakeholders from participating.


The report states that there is a need to benchmark progress toward attaining the specific targets and goals set out in the Geneva Plan of Action and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, and also recommends that the Commission in its future work focus on some of the risks associated with the emerging information society, including “phishing” and other types of cyber-crime.


In terms of the 2009 World Summit, greater coordination among the leading facilitator agencies and the Commission on Science and Technology for Development is needed to organize events, the report says.


Introduction of Report


AMR NOUR, Director, Regional Commissions New York Office (RCNYO), introduced a note by the Secretary-General on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the Syrian Golan (document A/64/77-E/2009/13).


The report, which was submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2008/31 and General Assembly resolution 63/201, stated that Israel’s occupation continued to deepen hardship suffered by the Palestinian people.  The humanitarian crisis was primarily caused by Israel’s restriction of Palestinian movement and that country’s restriction of Palestinian access to natural resources.  Israel’s military operation in the Gaza strip that culminated in “Operation Cast Lead,” which began in December 2008, further worsened the humanitarian crisis.  Between January 2008 and 19 January 2009, about 1,766 Palestinians were killed, compared to 396 during the year of 2007.  Of those 1,766 killed, 469 were children, and the vast majority of all victims were killed in the Gaza strip.  Another 7,164 Palestinians were injured during the same period, compared to 1,843 in 2007.  In terms of physical destruction, between February and December 2008, 204 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished and, as a result, more than 400 Palestinians were displaced.  In the West Bank, Israel’s ongoing construction of the barrier had displaced close to 28,000 Palestinians.


Palestinian movement also remained severely curtailed by the Israeli Government; almost 75 per cent of the main routes leading into the 18 most populated Palestinian cities and towns in the West bank, and almost half the alternate routes, were either blocked or controlled by an Israeli checkpoint.  As a consequence, an estimated 2,500 pregnant women every year faced trouble in getting to a delivery facility, according to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).


During the military operation in December, 60 per cent of Gaza’s population had no electricity for three weeks and 500,000 Palestinians did not have access to running water.  Furthermore, as a result of the operation and ongoing restrictions, about 95 per cent of industry in Gaza had been suspended and unemployment continued to rise.  More than a third of the Palestinian population faced food insecurity and infant and maternal mortality rates were high.


Discussion


The representative of the Permanent Observer for Palestine thanked Mr. Nour for his report, but said he would have preferred that the Executive Secretary of ESCWA would have been present in the meeting, to give the subject the importance it deserved.  Turning to the report, he said it should be accurate in recording aggression against the occupied Arab territories.  It did not mention specific action taken by Israel, such as phosphorous bombs, which were illegal.  The report concentrated on the weapons used by Palestinians, while avoiding Israel’s action.  Its aim should be to be balanced, particularly when discussing a people living under military occupation.  But it failed to do that and to reflect the percentages of Palestinian victims of Israel’s aggression in the last eight years.


In a similar vein, Syria ’s representative lamented that the Executive Secretary was not present in the meeting.  He expressed hope that the language in the report would be improved in the future to reflect the aggression of the Israelis against the Palestinian and Syrian people.  He asked why the report’s conclusions did not include recommendations that could be implemented and could contribute to implementation of the General Assembly resolutions usually adopted within the framework of the agenda item.


In response, Mr. NOUR said he would convey those comments to the ESCWA Executive Secretary.  Regarding recommendations, he said no such request had been made in the past for the report to include recommendations, but he would convey that concern to the Executive Secretary.


Statements


AMAR DAOUD (Sudan), speaking for the Group of Arab States, said the report pointed to Israel’s continued occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Syrian Golan, the suffering of the people living there and Israeli practices that violated all human rights and humanitarian law and hundreds of United Nations resolutions.  The report, however, did not mention that from December 2008 to January, Israel launched a 22-day military aggression on Gaza by air and sea, which caused the death of 1,444 Palestinian civilians, mainly women and children and left 880 Palestinians injured.  Israel’s barbaric attacks destroyed thousands of homes and hit 52 installations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and it bombarded UNRWA’s main centre with phosphorous.  The United Nations fact-finding mission to Gaza observed that food and water facilities were also damaged. 


Israel’s bombardment damaged Gaza’s telecommunications infrastructure and water supply, he said.  Israel’s closure of Gaza was the main reason for poverty and a dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.  It prevented the Palestinian people from enjoying their natural resources.  Israel had imposed movement restrictions on the Palestinians and commercial trade since 2007, causing a shortage of water, electricity and other necessary supplies and cutting access for vital humanitarian aid agencies.  Israel had dumped all kinds of waste in the Palestinian and Syrian territories, endangering the health of their inhabitants.  Israel had confiscated more than 38 per cent of the West Bank’s land to expand and build new Israeli settlements, and it had confiscated land and destroyed Palestinian holy sites in Jerusalem. 


Furthermore, it continued to build illegal settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan and to occupy agricultural land owned by the Syrians, he said.  That was in clear violation of Assembly resolutions, including the resolution that accepted the 9 July 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which ruled that Israel’s building of a separation barrier violated international law.


He said the report noted that Israel extracted water resources from Palestinian lands for its own use, and then sold the rest at exorbitant prices to the Palestinians; Israel continued to confiscate Palestinian land and uproot trees.  The Palestinian people were deprived of the more basic rights guaranteed in all international norms and regulations.  The international community must force Israel to respect its obligations under international law as soon as possible in line with Assembly resolutions.


AMMAR HIJAZI (Permanent Observer Mission for Palestine) said this was a matter of “the source of life and the future of Palestine and its people” and that Israel, as an occupying power, deliberately choked life out of Palestinian communities.  With regard to water, Israel’s practices and policies had directly contributed to the desertification in Palestine.


While illegal Israeli settlers enjoyed unfettered access to Palestinian water, consuming as much as 300 litres every day, Palestinians were provided only about 70 litres a day, less than the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).  Through this “discrimination and theft,” he said, Israel had created a situation in which 9,000 illegal settlers in the Jordan Valley consumed as much water as one third of the 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.


Meanwhile, he went on, land confiscation and settlement expansion, as well as the construction of the wall, had dealt a heavy blow to the agricultural sector, a main component of the Palestinian economy.  Furthermore, as evidenced by a recent report by Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) (document A/64/77–E/2009/13), Israel had been stealing land from the Palestinians by illegally exploiting the West Bank quarries, a practice that had caused pollution and heightened asthma levels, especially among children.  In violation of numerous international resolutions, Israel had also continued its illegal settlements.


With respect to Israel’s military operation that began in December, Gaza’s infrastructure had been shattered and, consequently, the provision of basic services to more than 1.5 million people had become almost impossible.  Electricity, sewage and water systems were devastated and, as a result, only 10 per cent of Gaza’s drinking water was now safe for consumption while 80 million litres of untreated and partially treated waste water was discharged into the environment.  In addition, chemical plants in illegal Israeli settlement continued to dump untreated waste and chemical waste onto Palestinian land.  “This is undoubtedly a test of our resilience as an oppressed people and, equally, a test of international credibility,” Mr. Hijazi said.


TARIQ ALFAYEZ ( Saudi Arabia) said the gravity of the situation in the Middle East was indicated in the continuing Israeli occupation of Arab territories.  The occupation had transformed the entire region into multiple points of violence and disorder, as a result of the ongoing humanitarian suffering of the Palestinian people.  This was accompanied with despair because of arbitrary detention, the use of excessive force, the demolition of Palestine homes, and the expulsion of residents from their homes, among other severe restrictions and economic blockade imposed by the Israeli authorities.  All this was in addition to the expansion of Israeli settlements and the establishment of new ones, land confiscation, the depletion of water resources and pollution of the environment in occupied Palestinian Territory, and Syrian Golan Heights.


He believed the only solution to the dangerous Arab-Israeli conflicts, which he said, had continued to overshadow all other issues in the region for the past six decades, lay in achieving an Arab-Israeli peace, and pressuring the Israeli side to comply with international resolutions.  There was no other regional crisis similar to the one in the Middle East from the perspective of its impact on the rest of the region’s issues and international peace and security.  Failure to find a comprehensive and just solution to the conflict would exacerbate the increasing suffering of the Palestinian people; such an eventuality would impede all efforts for development, modernization and reform in the region.  Reaffirming continued Arab commitment to a just and comprehensive peace based on international legitimacy, he declared that the continuing Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Arab territories rendered the negotiations meaningless, and made it difficult for Saudi Arabia to convince its peoples of the feasibility and possibility of achieving peace.


HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip continued to create hardships for the Palestinian people such as widespread poverty and unemployment.  In all international forums, be the Economic and Social Council, the United Nations General Assembly or the Security Council, obstacles had been erected to prevent the Palestinian people from achieving economic progress.


The greatest challenge -- and one that had to be dealt with without delay –- was the ongoing growth of settlements, which were designed to alter the demographic composition, physical character and status of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and which were blatant violations of international law.  Settlements, he said, were the “greatest obstacle to the establishment of a physically viable, sovereign and independent Palestinian state, and thus the achievement of peace.”  Indonesia welcomed the United Nations decision to alleviate the situation but the need was more than short-term relief; rather, he said, there was a “clear and compelling need for the occupation to end.”


ELYES LAKHAL ( Tunisia) said he supported the just cause of the Palestinian people to recover all of its legitimate and inalienable rights, and for them to create a secure State on their own land.  He supported the return of all the occupied territories, including the occupied Syrian Golan.  The report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) showed the various challenges Palestinians faced to productive work.  The international community was duty-bound to help those people.  The constraints placed by the Israeli authorities on Palestinian population movements through more than 260 checkpoints and barriers were a major obstacle and illustrated just how much citizens were suffering in their daily lives.  The ESCWA report had underscored the socio-economic suffering of the Palestinian and Syrian population caused by the occupation.  The United Nations report had stressed that the drop in Gaza’s gross domestic product (GDP) and the near doubling of its inflation rate between the summer of 2007 and the summer of 2008 had caused a steep increase in the unemployment.


He said 80 per cent of Gaza families and 40 per cent of West Bank families lived below the poverty line.  Food insecurity was widespread, according to reports of the World Food Programme (WFP).  The situation had worsened in Gaza since Israel’s invasion in December and January.  The report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had underscored the scale of destruction caused by attacks on energy, food, water supply and transport infrastructure.


The international community must look at reconstruction, particularly as it concerned emergency funds for 2009, he said.  It must work to stop the increase in settlements and similar Israel action, and work to create a productive basis so that the people under occupation no longer depended on international aid.  An independent Palestinian State must be created and the Palestinian and Syrian people should be compensated for the losses they had suffered for far too long.


KHALID SHAWABKAH ( Jordan) said Israel’s continued construction of the barrier, by the annexation of large areas of Palestinian land and population transfer, constituted a problem that could have grave consequences.  Israel prevented the freedom of movement of the Palestinian population and goods, a restriction that cut across several sectors of the Palestinian economy.  Israel’s settlement policy, meanwhile, violated international law and reduced the prospect of peace.


There were now 200,000 Israeli settlers in occupied East Jerusalem and the Israeli Government had plans to build more units, he said.  Not only did the Israeli settlements displace Palestinians and violate international law but they also had a detrimental effect on the environment as many settlers disposed of untreated waste water on Palestinian land, polluting the ground water and water resources.  With regard to the economic effects, unemployment had spiralled and poverty had acutely worsened, prompting Palestinians to sell their assets.


He said the Jordanian delegation called on Israel to put an end to actions that worsened the economic and humanitarian situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as in the occupied Syrian Golan.  The international community for its part should shoulder its responsibility and continue to support humanitarian efforts to reduce the social and economic hardship for the Palestinian people.


CLAUDIA LOZA ( Nicaragua) said more than 60 years of Palestinian resistance, two years of a criminal economic blockade and Israel’s recent military invasion had turned Gaza into a 365-kilometre concentration camp.  Israel was using 80 per cent of the ground water resources in the Gaza and limited the Palestinian population to only 20 per cent of the water.  Israel’s 450,000 illegal settlers consumed the same or more water than 2.3 million Palestinians, who already had extremely difficult access to water because of the separation wall.  That barrier forced children to walk more than one hour and a half to reach schools that were now in ruins.  The daily strangulation of the Palestinian economy, particularly the Gaza Strip, affected all aspects of daily life in Gaza, ranging from the illegal occupation of land and natural resources to the denial of the right to free movement, and the destruction of daily infrastructure. 


Gaza’s population, she said, could not develop economically and socially if its primary concern was to survive daily bombings by the Israeli army.  The separation wall was a mass crime against innocent people.  There was no point in talking about sustainable development and economic growth in Gaza when its people had no control over their land or natural resources, and could not provide their citizens with basic health, education and water rights.


She reaffirmed the legitimacy of the Palestinian people’s struggle against occupation and their right to an independent, sovereign homeland.  To achieve Palestine’s sustainable economic development, the first task was to comply with resolutions that condemned and obliged Israel to recognize the self-determination and sovereignty of Palestine and to permit Palestinians to return to their historic homeland.  She stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemned Israel’s violation of United Nations resolutions.


SALEM AL DHANHANI (United Arab Emirates) said Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian lands in Gaza and the West Bank since 1967 and policies of oppression, closure and siege imposed on the Arab population, was the cause of the sharp rise in poverty where 80 per cent of families in Gaza and 45 per cent in the West Bank were living under the poverty line. Unemployment reached 50 per cent and the percentage of people without food security reached 56 per cent in Gaza. Such conditions posed many serious health risks, especially for children and women of child bearing age.  The levels and quality of education were deteriorating, and threats of psychological problems among children and young adults, were rising. 


Despite General Assembly and Security Council resolutions demanding that Israel demolish the separating wall, and stop the construction of illegal settlements on the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967, Israel continued its unlawful expansionist policies, persisting in building the wall and continuing the illegal settlements.  He reaffirmed his country’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and their government, and also its support of Syria’s right to recover the occupied Golan.


He stressed the necessity of implementing the recommendations in the Goldstone report and other international reports on the events that took place in Gaza, and called for the application of international humanitarian law and international justice on those responsible for the war crimes committed against civilians in Gaza.  He further called on the international community and the relevant financial institutions to provide the necessary assistance to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people so the could meet their basic living needs and rebuild their economic and social institutions which were destroyed by Israeli military, until a permanent, just and comprehensive settlement was achieved.


OSAMA ALI (Syria) said Israel continued to violate United Nations resolutions, and that the report before the Committee shed light on the suffering faced by the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as the Syrians in occupied Syrian Golan.  By presenting facts and evidence, the report clearly proved that Israeli military leaders committed war crimes and engaged in collective punishment against Palestinians and that they should be put on trail immediately. 


Israel’s aggression had also been evident in connection with the December 2008 war against the people of the besieged Gaza Strip, in which the Israeli army had committed serious violations of international law, as proven by the United Nations fact-finding mission, headed by Judge Goldstone.  In occupied Syrian Golan, Israel continued its choking policies and practices against the Syrians, depriving them of basic rights.  Israeli land mines in Syrian Golan also constituted a grave threat -– 202 people had already been killed by mines, he said, adding that Israel had been using the natural resources of Golan, and had been damaging the environment by dredging agricultural land, uprooting trees and dumping nuclear waste in the area.


URI RESNICK ( Israel) said he was disappointed that the Committee’s valuable time was being diverted by a single item that bore no relation to the important matters that genuinely formed the committee’s substantive agenda.  He said Israelis and the Palestinians, as neighbours, shared common interests with respect to the utilization and safeguarding of natural resources in their region.  Perhaps in more than any other field, their joint interests dictated close coordination and cooperation.


He referred to “numerous joint Israeli-Palestinian committees” which regularly convened.  Among them was the Joint Water Committee headed by senior water management officials from both sides.  Related fields of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation included coordination in the establishment of energy infrastructure and joint agricultural projects advanced through Israel’s international development organization, MASHAV.  In light of that, he expressed his disappointment, saying that “rather than reflecting the realities on the ground, this draft resolution and debate demonstrate a reflexive, predictable group dynamics that was unfortunate in a professional committee such as this one”.  He added that the continuous inclusion on the Second Committee’s agenda of an item that singled out only his country for discriminatory treatment did a disservice to the many issues genuinely worthy of the Committee’s attention.  It also did a disservice to the cause of peace.


ALI AL-BADI ( Qatar) said the Israeli occupation and restrictions of movement were the main hindrances to economic and social development in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the occupied Syrian Golan.  Meanwhile, settlements and the erection of the separation wall constituted a violation of Palestinian rights and a flagrant violation of international resolutions.  With respect to Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip that began in December 2008, he noted that more than 1,400 Palestinians had been killed and more than 5,000 others injured.


Israel had created an unprecedented economic crisis by closing the Gaza Strip off from the world, completely devastating the public sector and creating huge hikes in poverty and unemployment rates.  The confiscation of a large number of land plots meant that hundreds of Palestinians had to be resettled.  During its campaign in the Gaza strip, the Israeli military had completely destroyed 3,000 buildings, including some occupied by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); it had used bombs containing white phosphorous.


JULIO ESCALONA ( Venezuela) said Israel’s unilateral action impaired the sovereignty of the Palestinian people and undermined their legitimate right to control over their natural resources, and subsequently over food, water, employment and other basic needs.  The end of that situation was a precondition to achieving peace and justice in the Middle East.  The Assembly and the Security Council had adopted many resolutions asserting that Israel’s policies and practices in the Palestinian and other territories occupied since 1967 had no legal validity and they were a serious obstacle to a just, comprehensive, lasting peace in the Middle East.  Israel violated the Geneva Conventions and some two dozen Assembly resolutions. 


He said the Assembly’s resolution on the subject urged Israel not to exploit, damage, deplete or jeopardize the resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Syrian Golan.  It also urged Israel to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to demand compensation for depletion of their natural resources as a consequence of Israel’s illegal measures and called on it to meet its obligations stated in the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of 9 July 2004.  Furthermore, it called on Israel to meet its obligations under international humanitarian law with respect to altering the nature and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and urged Israel to stop its illegal actions, including the dumping of waste in Palestinian areas.  The international community could not stand by as Israel continued its arbitrary actions and illegal and systematic violation of human rights.


Right of Reply


In exercising his right of reply, the permanent observer for Palestine, said that by maintaining the occupation while claiming immunity from international law, Israel leaders tried to “have their cake, and eat it, too.”   Responding to an Israeli claim that this was the wrong forum in which to have the discussion, the observer said the United Nations was widely recognized as the venue in which to discuss problems in a civilized manner.  “If that’s not an appropriate venue, what is?” he asked.  To avoid having the item discussed in the future, and to save themselves as well as the other delegates from unnecessary trouble, Israel could take one constructive action: cease its illegal exploitation of Palestinian resources.  Israel had made a mockery of the international system and he would continue to bring up this item, within this Committee and in all other United Nations bodies, until Israel ended its occupation.


The Syrian delegate, exercising his right of reply, said the statement by the Israeli delegate reflected the “aggressive and criminal mentality of the Israeli occupiers”, which did not allow for criticism.  But the agenda item on the economic repercussions of the Israeli occupation would remain an agenda item until the occupation ended.


the findings made by the European Union Commission, because in keeping with the conclusions and findings made by that mission, the main finding quite unambiguously indicated who bore full responsibility for the tragedy that had occurred, and indicated how to prevent recurrence of such criminal acts in the future. The findings of the Commission, referred to by the representative of Georgia, indicated that the start of the events in the Caucasus in August 2008 had been the commencement of the military operations, the order for which had been given by Georgian authorities, and as a result of those military operations, Russian peacekeepers and “peaceful civilians” of South Ossetia had died.


He also pointed out “a very noteworthy finding of the Commission”, according to which, the actions of Russia might be warranted by the United Nations Charter, especially Article 51, on the right of members to undertake individual or collective self-defence. He added that he did not think the current meeting was the best forum to discuss the events, as “everyone wanted to draw their own conclusions”. However,the main finding of the report on the Georgian military aggression against peaceful South Ossetia and the complete illegitimacy of this action by Georgia was “quite obvious”.


In a further intervention, the representative of Georgia said that he “quite agreed” that those who wanted to understand in detail what had happened could do so by reading the fact-finding mission’s report, as “one must only read through it again to understand what happened”.


The Committee then turned to its agenda item on information and communication technologies for development.


Introduction of Report


DONG WU, Chief, Science and Technology Section, Division on Technology and Logistics, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society outcomes at the regional and international levels (document A/64/64-E/2009/10).  She said that in many respects the digital divide continued to narrow, reaching an important milestone in 2008, when more than half the world’s population reached some level of “connectivity.”


She said 80 to 90 per cent of the world’s population lived within range of a cellular network, twice as many as in 2000.  The number of mobile subscriptions reached 4 billion worldwide by the end of 2008.  The Internet gap between developed and developing countries was also closing, albeit at a closer rate.  At the end of 2008, half the world’s Internet users were in developing countries, especially in Asia.  Regionally, Africa and the Middle East were experiencing the fastest mobile and Internet growth. 


Despite positive trends, many challenges remained.  Large disparities in penetration and affordability still existed, both across and within countries and regions.  The broadband divide was a particular challenge that continued to widen.  Users in developing countries risked being discouraged by slow connections and the inability to use applications that would otherwise improve efficiency and enhance productivity.  Data privacy was also an issue of concern.  Data leaks and cyber crime could cause significant harm to the general public.  Because of a lack of privacy laws that meet standards set by their trading partners in developed countries, developing nations may not fully benefit from e-commerce opportunities in the context of international trade.


There was a need for more effective, up-to-date public policies and regulations, she said.  UNCTAD and the United Nations regional commissions, developing countries and regions had started to create effective laws and institutions for data protection, as part of efforts to prepare cyber laws and to increase their participation in the Information Society.  To form an all-inclusive information society, it was necessary to address universal information and communication technology access in urban and rural areas.  That would considerably increase the potential contribution of information and communications technology toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. 


Responding to a question from Tunisia’s representative during the discussion segment, she pointed to training projects in 2008 in Tunisia on such issues as cyber security that gave specialists from African countries a chance to upgrade skills.


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For information media • not an official record