United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

15 May 1998


                                                         Original: English
General Assembly
Fifty-third session

       Request for the inclusion of an item in the provisional agenda
                      of the fifty-third session

                            Bethlehem 2000

       Letter dated 15 May 1998 from the Permanent Representatives of
    Afghanistan, Cuba, Malta and Senegal to the United Nations addressed
                       to the Secretary-General

            As members of the Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the
Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and in response to a decision
taken by the Committee at its 237th meeting, on 16 April 1998, we have the
honour to request the inclusion of an item entitled "Bethlehem 2000" in the
agenda of the fifty-third session of the General Assembly, in accordance with
rule 13 of the rules of procedure.

            Attached please find an explanatory memorandum describing the
importance of this commemoration for all humankind and the need for the United
Nations to address this issue in a comprehensive manner through its General
Assembly. In view of the special significance of the proposed item, which is
of relevance to many different aspects of the work of the Assembly, we also
have the honour to request that the item be considered directly in plenary
meeting, without referral to a Main Committee.

                         (Signed) Ravan Farha^di
     Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations

                    (Signed) Bruno Rodri'guez Parrilla
         Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations

                          (Signed) George Saliba
         Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations

                         (Signed) Ibra Degue`ne Ka
        Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations


                          Explanatory memorandum

                              Bethlehem 2000

            Bethlehem, Palestine, is one of the most historic and religiously
significant sites on earth. In the year 2000, the past and the future will
meet in Bethlehem in a global vision of hope and peace for all peoples. On
that occasion, the world will celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of the
birth of Jesus Christ and the onset of the new millennium.

            This event is of monumental importance not only for Palestinian
people and for the region, but also for the believers of the world and for the
international community as a whole. The occasion's worldwide significance also
reflects a multidimensional character as it comprises a significant religious,
historical and cultural dimension, as well as a contemporary dimension,
marking the end of the second millennium and the beginning of the third
millennium for humankind.

            As members of the Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the
Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, we fully support the decision of
the Palestinian National Authority to honour this legacy and to celebrate the
two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ and the dawning of the
new millennium, by launching the Bethlehem 2000 Project. It is envisaged that
the commemoration, which will be a vast and multi-faceted undertaking, will
begin at Christmas 1999 and conclude at Easter 2001. A High Committee
for the Bethlehem 2000 Project has been established, headed by President
Yasser Arafat, with many religious authorities, individuals and institutions
from around the world directly engaged in the planning and preparation.

            A major step towards increasing the engagement and participation
of the international community in the project is the Bethlehem 2000
Participants Conference, held at Brussels on 11 and 12 May 1998. The
Conference was convened by the Bethlehem 2000 Project, in association with the
European Commission, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
and the World Bank. The Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the
Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also attended this important
event. The Conference provided an opportunity for decision makers from
Governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, the
international financial community, religious and cultural institutions and the
media to contribute towards the success of the Bethlehem 2000 Project through
financial contributions, investment, expertise and promotion of international

            It is expected that approximately 2 million visitors will visit
Bethlehem to celebrate the historic occasion that will be upon us with the
dawning of the year 2000. To meet this huge undertaking, the Bethlehem 2000
Project envisages the following six programme components:

         Events: Religious, cultural and artistic celebrations, on both the
national and the international level;

         Infrastructure: Plans to rehabilitate and upgrade the infrastructure
network, including water, electricity, sewage and sanitation, and traffic and

         Services: Plans to rehabilitate and upgrade basic services, including
social and cultural, health and medical, police and security, emergency and
civil defence, and traffic control and logistics services;

         Cultural heritage: Plans to preserve and display the rich Palestinian
past and history through a variety of exhibits, displays and events;

         Tourism development: Plans to provide all necessary tourism services;

         Private sector development: Encouragement of international investors
to join with local investors and developers to provide accommodation, food,
entertainment and information services.

            Bethlehem 2000 will be an historical and momentous international
event, requiring a high degree of engagement by the international community in
organizing and preparing for the occasion, including financial and technical
contributions to the preparations and actual participation in the
commemorative events and activities.

            As indicated above, some United Nations bodies and
intergovernmental organizations have already begun contributing to the
project. However, it is essential that the United Nations as a whole should
display explicit interest in and support for this historical occasion, drawing
the attention of the peoples of the world to its importance and assisting
in making the event a moment for hope, peace, coexistence and prosperity for
all humankind.

            In view of all of the above, the Committee on the Exercise of the
Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People has decided to authorize its
Chairman and the members of its Bureau to request the inclusion of a new item,
entitled "Bethlehem 2000", in the provisional agenda of the fifty-third
session of the General Assembly. It is the strong hope of the Committee that a
constructive debate will take place in the interest of the specified
objectives and that wide consultation will pave the way for the unanimous
adoption of a General Assembly resolution in this regard.



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Date last posted: 10 January 2000 10:05:30
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