CONCLUDING DEBATE ON STRENGTHENING COORDINATION OF UN RELIEF ASSISTANCE; ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TWO RELATED DRAFTS WITHOUT VOTE

27 November 2000
GA/9832

CONCLUDING DEBATE ON STRENGTHENING COORDINATION OF UN RELIEF ASSISTANCE; ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TWO RELATED DRAFTS WITHOUT VOTE

27 November 2000


Press Release
GA/9832


CONCLUDING DEBATE ON STRENGTHENING COORDINATION OF UN RELIEF ASSISTANCE; ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TWO RELATED DRAFTS WITHOUT VOTE

20001127

Continuing its debate on strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, the General Assembly this afternoon adopted, without a vote, a resolution on international cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region (Kazakhstan). By the terms of that text, it stressed the need for extra efforts in solving problems with regard to the region and its population.

The Assembly invited the Secretary-General to pursue a consultative process, with the participation of interested States and relevant United Nations agencies, on modalities for mobilizing the necessary support to seek solutions to the problems and needs of the Semipalatinsk region. It also called upon him to continue his efforts to enhance world public awareness of the problems and needs of the Semipalatinsk region.

The Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a resolution on emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and rehabilitation of Tajikistan, by whose terms it stressed that Tajikistan has entered a new phase of post-conflict peace-building, which requires continued international economic assistance. It encouraged Member States and others concerned to continue assistance to alleviate the urgent humanitarian needs and to offer support for the post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction of Tajikistan's economy.

The Assembly would also call upon the Secretary-General to re-evaluate in 2001 all humanitarian assistance activities in Tajikistan, with a view to addressing longer-term developmental issues. It would stress the need to ensure the security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel, and of United Nations and associated personnel, as well as the safety and security of their premises, equipment and supplies.

During today’s debate on strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, the representative of Ukraine said the first obstacle undermining the provision of humanitarian assistance was the lack of resources. While resources for emergency relief were generally abundant, those for long-term efforts tended to dwindle. The effects of emergencies were felt long after those emergencies had taken place. It was, therefore, essential to attract the resources, along with the attention of the international community, for reconstruction and development.

General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9832 72nd Meeting (PM) 27 November 2000

Harnessing of new technologies, such as the Geographical Information System and the Global Positioning System, would help to identify the sites, risks and damage of emergencies. Better use should be made of communication tools to enable immediate dissemination of information and networking of those operating in the humanitarian sector. He shared the concern of others regarding the necessity for transfer of relevant technology to enable the interested nations, in particular, developing countries, to respond more effectively to disasters.

Addressing the agenda item, "Assistance to the Palestinian people", the Observer of Palestine said Israel had bombed a great number of public and private buildings, destroying television and power stations. The Israelis had created an embargo on the movement of peoples, paralyzing the Palestinian economy and uprooting families. At present, approximately 1.3 million Palestinians were living on the poverty line. Moreover, material losses had exceeded $900 million, which was more than all aid from donor countries. There were also enormous losses in the health field. The reason for the crisis was the illegitimate occupation by Israel and the expansion of settlements.

Exercising his right of reply, Israel's representative said the Palestinian territories had benefited economically during periods of calm and peace. However, in choosing to return to violence, the Palestinian people were undoing many improvements that had been gained, and had, in fact, brought the economic calamity upon themselves. Israel was making every effort to minimize any harm to the economic sector. There was a free flow of humanitarian assistance and food to the Palestinian areas. Even shipments from hostile countries had been facilitated through special provisions.

The representatives of Colombia, Egypt, China, Republic of Korea, Papua New Guinea, Argentina and Madagascar spoke as well, as did the Permanent Observers of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Switzerland.

The representative of Israel and the observer of Palestine exercised their right of reply.

The Assembly will meet again tomorrow, Tuesday, 28 November, at 10 a.m. to consider assistance in mine action.

General Assembly Plenary - 3 - Press Release GA/9832 72nd Meeting (PM) 27 November 2000

Assembly Work Programme

The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its consideration of strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance.

(For more background information, see Press Release GA/9831 of this morning.)

Statements

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said that the major challenge facing the coordination of humanitarian assistance lay in the integration of assistance into the national rehabilitation programmes that followed conflicts or disasters, as part of long-term strategies to provide sustainable development to affected communities. Humanitarian assistance must be closely integrated with development aid programmes. For countries like Colombia, prone to feeling the effects of natural disasters, technology could help in the early detection of risks and in improved national and regional capacity to deal with emergencies.

His country was going through a conflict waged by violent groups intent on imposing their will by force of arms, thus creating a flow of thousands of displaced Colombians. Colombia voiced its strong condemnation of violent acts committed anywhere in the world to prevent the basic right of any person to benefit from humanitarian assistance. Armed groups that deliberately obstructed food supplies to defenceless populations in conflict zones were violating clear norms of international humanitarian law, and the international community should react against such actions.

His country wished to register its disapproval at seeing the name of a Colombian citizen listed in annex II of the report (A/55/494) among United Nations civilian personnel who had lost their lives while on duty overseas. The participation of that person in a technical cooperation project, run by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Colombia, had ruled out any working relationship with the United Nations or the Government of Columbia, as explicitly laid down in his contract for provision of services. It was incorrect and an act of inattention to list his name among the United Nations victims, or to present the incident as an attack directed against the United Nations organization in Colombia.

VOLODYMYR KROKHMAL (Ukraine) said that the ability to respond to the unprecedented number and size of humanitarian emergencies in recent years had been limited. Those emergencies emphasized the need to increase the capacity of humanitarian agencies, to further strengthen emergency response readiness, and to improve the efficiency and coordination of the international humanitarian assistance. The lessons learned in responding to such emergencies called for closer cooperation among all actors, including governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society. The United Nations had the primary role in the coordination of international humanitarian assistance in crisis prevention and mitigation of consequences.

In responding to conflict situations, increased emphasis should be placed on meeting the needs of displaced persons, he said. The number of persons displaced within their own countries was increasing dramatically. He supported the strengthening of the role of the Emergency Relief Coordinator and increasing the responsibility of the Resident Humanitarian Coordinator. The first obstacle undermining the provision of humanitarian assistance was the lack of resources. While resources for emergency relief were generally abundant, those for long-term efforts tended to dwindle. The effects of emergencies were felt long after those emergencies had taken place. It was, therefore, essential to attract the resources along with the attention of the international community for reconstruction and development, as well as for preventing humanitarian catastrophes.

A major focus of the humanitarian segment of the Economic and Social Council this year was the harnessing of new technology to support national efforts in disaster response. Such innovations as the Geographical Information System and the Global Positioning System would help to identify the sites, risks and damage of emergencies. Better use should be made of communication tools to enable immediate dissemination of information and networking of those operating in the humanitarian sector. He shared the concern of others regarding the necessity for transfer of relevant technology to enable the interested nations, in particular, developing countries, to respond more effectively to disasters.

As a result of the Kosovo conflict, Ukraine was still incurring considerable economic losses associated, above all, with navigation on the Danube. The continued operation of Ukraine’s transport infrastructure on the Danube was directly dependent on the full resumption of navigation. Unfortunately, despite decisions taken by the General Assembly, his country had not received adequate assistance from States and relevant international organizations in its efforts to overcome the negative consequences of recent events in the Balkans.

AHMED H. DARWISH (Egypt) said that violence against humanitarian workers was condemned by international law and by the International Criminal Court. That was a positive way of deterring any person wanting to commit such crimes. He appealed to all parties in conflicts to respect the right of humanitarian workers to carry out their work. He urged that access be provided to the civilian population and to all those who were in need in a sound and legal way, by giving assistance to organizations in charge. Egypt affirmed that humanitarian assistance could in no way harm the territorial integrity of States. However, there was a problem with States that did not have a central government, and he suggested that the General Assembly set guidelines to be followed by the United Nations in such cases.

Egypt had followed the humanitarian segment of the Economic and Social Council. Regarding natural disasters, from which a large part of the world’s population suffered, a consensus had been found there. However, on the question of displaced persons there was a difference of opinion, making it impossible to consider the issue in depth. There had been a Working Group to study the problem, but agreement had not even been reached on the meaning of the term “displaced persons”. The States concerned and the international community had a responsibility to assist those persons. But there had been several illogical requests from industrialized countries on the rights of displaced persons. He reminded the Assembly that several industrialized countries did not give illegal immigrants the rights that their citizens enjoyed and could, therefore, not request that other States give the same rights to displaced persons as to their own citizens.

Regarding the Middle East peace process, he said that the Palestinian people had suffered tragic consequences. Peace must be found according to Security Council resolutions, he said. He urged the international community to convey a clear message to Israel regarding human rights violations and called on the international community to condemn the ongoing military operations.

HUANG XUEQI (China) said that this year had been marked by a continuous growth in both the number and scale of natural disasters and complex emergencies around the world. Natural disasters had wrought devastation in some of the poorest countries, leaving so many people, including refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), struggling in endless misery. In addition, new armed conflicts had broken out, causing an increase of long-standing emergencies. The Government of the People's Republic of China was deeply concerned over the expansion and worsening of those situations. At the same time, he was pleased by the work of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United Nations Interdepartmental Framework for Coordination Team, and the Office of the Regional Coordinator for the United Nations for their great achievements.

His country had always maintained that whatever the United Nations and the international community did must be strictly based on the guiding principles of the United Nations Charter. The principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality must be followed in good faith and the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of countries must be respected. Relevant agencies of the Organization should play a role only within their capacity and scope of responsibility. The People’s Republic of China called for more attention to the important role of science and technology in the mitigation and prevention of disasters. Nevertheless, the international community should give particular priority to helping the disaster-afflicted countries to establish their own early warning, preparedness and disaster relief capacities. On the matter of IDPs, he felt that was an internal affair.

Although his government wished to endorse the recommendation in the Secretary-General’s report that Member States should commit adequate resources to humanitarian operations through multilateral channels, that would not be easy. He called on capable donor countries to increase their contributions. The People’s Republic of China supported the Secretary-General's proposal for encouraging cooperation between intergovernmental bodies and Member States, because cooperation between neighbours and within a region was part of the international effort to provide humanitarian relief. There was an ancient saying in China: a good neighbour was more available than a faraway relative in times of need. In conclusion, he hoped that all sides would be able to draw useful lessons from reviewing work in the humanitarian field in the past year and to strengthen dialogue, exchange and coordination.

SUN JOUNG-YUNG (Republic of Korea) said that, over the past year, the world had witnessed the terrifying results of increases in the number and the scale of natural disasters in regions: two earthquakes in Turkey, the worst flood in the history of Venezuela, a severe drought in the Horn of Africa, and devastating flooding in Madagascar and Mozambique along with a cyclone in Orissa, India. It was imperative that the United Nations should use the heightened national and international awareness of humanitarian principles to sustain the progress that had been made thus far in the development of more holistic and strategic approaches to natural disasters.

Technology could play an important role in reducing the suffering and damage caused by natural disasters and complex emergencies, he said. He suggested that all countries make a strong effort to help each other in areas where technology could be used effectively. Moreover, he urged host governments to help humanitarian personnel use their communications equipment and to exchange data without bureaucratic restrictions. Along with technology, better coordination in all phases from prevention to early warning, disaster preparedness and mitigation, was one of the keys to improving humanitarian and disaster relief assistance. For too long, relief efforts had been divided into time frames -- long-term and short- term -- as well as by function, institution, logistics and even financing. But recent experience in the field had proved that relief efforts could not be neatly separated into tidy packages. Thus, short-term relief assistance and long-term development aid must be combined at the initial stages of humanitarian assistance efforts.

Finally, he turned to the issue of safety and security of aid workers. They had increasingly found themselves the focus of attacks as they tried courageously to alleviate suffering in conflicts. Since January 1992, 198 United Nations civilian staff had been killed and since November 1994, 240 staff had been kidnapped or held hostage, he said. The international community must no longer tolerate those deplorable developments, and must take immediate action to prevent such humanitarian tragedies. He was supportive of the idea that the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator be strengthened both financially and structurally.

PETER DONIGI (Papua New Guinea) speaking on behalf of the Pacific Forum countries (Australia, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Namon, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu) said that the Pacific sub-region was extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. Those countries that were within the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire" were especially subjected to large earthquakes on a perennial basis. His own country had witnessed such an earthquake two weeks ago, measuring over 7 on the Richter Scale. It was especially important, therefore, that scientific knowledge that had been gained over time, and new technologies for predicting and measuring the causes and effects of natural disasters, be made available to all peoples of the world.

The economies of many small island nations were extremely vulnerable to those natural disasters. It was in that context that the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) had begun work on the development of an environmental vulnerability index. In the field of natural disasters, he continued, the involvement of the private sector could not be excluded. The only qualifier should be that technologies developed must be available at minimal costs to those affected by natural disasters. Last year, it had been agreed that the Central Emergency Revolving Fund and other contingency funds should be enhanced and more actively used for timely response. His country supported a request to the Secretary-General to consider a more active use for that fund.

LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) said the magnitude of natural disasters was subjecting entire populations to emergency humanitarian conditions. Faced with those situations, the United Nations must continue to redouble its efforts to bring help to needy populations. Argentina wished to express its appreciation for the work of OCHA and other agencies and bodies of the United Nations system. His government recognized that coordination among the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council was required to confront the different aspects of the humanitarian question. He regretted that the humanitarian segment of the Economic and Social Council had not been able to arrive at agreed conclusions by consensus.

The conflicts and complex emergency situations of the past decade proved that combat techniques had been extended and incorporated into regular attacks on civilian populations, cutting off food and medicine to those populations and launching deliberate attacks on humanitarian personnel. His country condemned the killings, actions against physical integrity, the sexual assaults, the robberies and all other types of physical and psychological violence suffered by humanitarian personnel in the completion of their tasks. He wished to convey condolences to the families of victims, especially of those who had worked tirelessly to alleviating suffering. They deserved the deepest gratitude, because such persons were examples to the international community. Argentina had called for a debate on the security of United Nations personnel in the Security Council, calling attention to the need for adopting all necessary means for the protection of humanitarian personnel.

His government felt that the responsibility for security and protection of humanitarian personnel fell to the country that had received humanitarian assistance. At the same time, Argentina considered that the guarantee of secure and unrestricted access of humanitarian personnel to conflict zones was essential for bringing assistance to needy civilian populations, including refugees and IDPs. Likewise, he urged that the status and rights of humanitarian personnel be strictly respected, especially in cases of detention, including the provision of medical assistance when necessary. He supported the temporary budgetary measures suggested by the Secretary-General, and pledged to give consideration to further proposals for the establishment of a stable structure to protect humanitarian personnel. In closing, his country urged Member States to ratify the Convention of 1994 and the Rome Statute.

JEAN DELACROIX BAKONIARIVO (Madagascar) said that by resolution 54/96M, adopted last March, the General Assembly had expressed its concern over the considerable damage inflicted by tropical cyclones and floods, which had devastated Madagascar. The Assembly had asked international organizations and Member States to provide urgent aid to relieve the strain placed on his country. It was important, he said, to underline that, during the cyclone season in 2000, three cyclones had hit Madagascar in six weeks. The third cyclone had destroyed 80 per cent of a region that contributed greatly to Madagascar’s economy.

Despite the vulnerability of the economic situation, the government had managed to deploy the necessary efforts to relieve the suffering of the cyclone victims and undertake urgent reconstruction work. Nevertheless, taking into account the high levels of funding needed for rehabilitation, those efforts would have been insufficient without the assistance of the international community, which constituted a precious tool for surmounting the humanitarian and material consequences of natural disasters. He thanked all States, United Nations organs, international financial institutions and NGOs, which had lent their assistance to his government’s reconstruction efforts. His government was convinced that international solidarity would prove to be the most efficient means of facing up to the unpredictable nature of natural disasters.

MARWAN A. JILANI, Observer for Palestine, said there had been aggression against the occupied territories for the past two months. Israel had bombed a great number of public and private buildings, destroying television and power stations. When the Israelis created an embargo on the movement of peoples, it paralysed the Palestinian economy, uprooting families as well. That strict blockade led to such a drop in production that today production stood at less than 20 per cent of the previous figure. At present, approximately 1.3 million Palestinians were living on the poverty line. Moreover, material losses had exceeded $900 million, which was more than all aid from donor countries. The United Nations Special Coordinator had pointed to the use by Israel of heavy weaponry, including rocketry, in its attacks on the Palestinian people. In addition, Israeli settlers had destroyed private Palestinian trucks.

There were enormous losses in the health field, creating a great burden that had to be shouldered. Fortunately, Arab States had provided medical assistance in receiving injured Palestinians. He urged United Nations agencies to recognize the urgent need to provide aid. Palestine felt that the reason for the crisis was the illegitimate occupation by Israel and the expansion of settlements; he also called attention to the profanation of Muslim holy sites. The establishment of peace and security required a withdrawal from East Jerusalem; without that there would never be progress in the peace process. In conclusion, he reaffirmed the role of the United Nations in promoting a just and comprehensive peace in the area.

ASTRID N. HEIBERG of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said that, unless carefully designed, coordination in the form of centralizing bodies could actually be counterproductive to locally based action and responsibility, upon which the Red Cross and Red Crescent networking was based. Coordination done wrongly could create new layers of bureaucracy where there was a need to reduce existing bureaucracies. That being said, all players in the humanitarian, political and development spheres must manage crisis in a comprehensive manner, taking due account of the respective responsibilities, mandates and spheres of competence of each party. Last year, the call for improved coordination and better quality assistance came through strongly at the twenty-seventh International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, she said. The Plan of Action adopted at that Conference included a commitment from the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement to improve cooperation and coordination in international activities, both internally and with States, the United Nations system and other actors, based upon a Code of Conduct. The Plan of Action also included support from both States and the Movement in efforts to develop minimum practical standards for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

While much had been done to achieve better quality and coordination, there was a lack of a systematic legal framework for disaster response. Some elements of such a framework already existed, including United Nations resolutions, conventions and customary law. That constituted the beginning of what she liked to refer to as an “International Disaster Response Law”. The humanitarian community was rightly concerned with the plight of the internally displaced -- including not only those displaced by armed conflict, but also those displaced by natural and human-made disasters, by side effects of development projects, and those forced by fear or helplessness to move into already overcrowded cities. If appropriately supported, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies were well placed to assist. They could provide preparedness and early warning in the first phase, response in the first emergency phase, supplementing actions and mandates of other organizations in the care and maintenance phase and in the solution phase, and not least, in the final integration phase.

She was, nevertheless, worried by the almost exclusive focus on the situation of international staff of international organizations. There was no excuse for ignoring the situation of locally recruited staff, volunteers and staff of counterpart organizations at the national level. Those humanitarian workers suffered many more casualties than did the internationals, and with more severe consequences for their families and dependants. Moreover, they were often facing danger as a direct consequence of international actions, policies and statements -- matters over which they had little influence.

GEORGES PACLISANU, Permanent Observer of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), welcomed the opportunity to share his views on the subject of humanitarian coordination, although he could not but observe that the situation with regard to victims of armed conflicts had not only remained unchanged but had even worsened. The ICRC spoke out against the continuing suffering inflicted on civilians, including women and children, in flagrant violation of the most basic principles of international humanitarian law. It took note that, in many conflicts today, civilians were increasingly being targeted, killed, wounded, uprooted, separated from their families, denied basic resources, and were seeing their survival and dignity threatened. Furthermore, humanitarian action had become dangerous to carry out in many contexts.

His organization believed that the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian assistance in emergency situations was of paramount importance, both in order to better respond to the needs of the victims and to render the deployment of humanitarian action safer. In that context, the ICRC reiterated that political action had to be kept distinct from humanitarian operations. An emergency situation warranted two types of responses: one was the search for a stable political settlement; the other was the alleviation of the humanitarian consequences of the conflict. Recognizing the need to strengthen humanitarian coordination, the ICRC Movement had undertaken steps, through the Seville Agreement, to harmonize coordination with the Movement.

He said the ICRC was fully committed to achieving the greatest possible complementarity with other humanitarian actors, substantially contributing in the various meetings of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to the discussions on thematic and operational issues, and sharing relevant information and experiences. In parallel, the ICRC pursued a sustained bilateral dialogue with United Nations agencies and bodies, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as with concerned NGOs. On the whole, the fundamental objective of the dialogue was to examine and agree upon modalities in order to better coordinate humanitarian activities in the field. In closing, he said the ICRC wished to emphasize that appropriate and enhanced coordination was more necessary than ever to tackle the complexity and the dimensions of humanitarian needs in present-day emergency situations.

PIERRE HELG, Observer for Switzerland, said that the international community had a duty to protect and assist people in distress, whether they were victims of armed conflict or of natural disasters. That collective responsibility must be based on the principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality, he said. It was essential that all countries, from the North and South, spoke in one voice to defend those principles, without which there could be no improvement in humanitarian assistance. The physical elimination of men and women committed to the humanitarian cause was of particular concern, he said. The country within which such actions were perpetrated held the main responsibility, particularly when it concerned action by armed groups against innocent individuals. However, the international community, and in particular the United Nations, also shared part of the responsibility for the people they employed. It was vital that the United Nations provide added measures to guarantee the safety of its personnel.

The most recent meeting of the Economic and Social Council had demonstrated that there were real difficulties in the field of humanitarian action. However, the Economic and Social Council remained an important forum for dialogue and needed to be reinforced. He stressed that even though the Brahimi report focused on peacekeeping operations, it was important to remember that such operations were played out in territories where there was usually already a development or humanitarian assistance presence. It was therefore important to analyse the level of interaction between the two in political, military and humanitarian activities. He noted with satisfaction that OCHA intended to focus particular attention on those questions.

Switzerland was following the internal reforms of OCHA with interest. The process must not interfere with the stability of the Organization. He noted moves to introduce a common doctrine, to be applied in New York as well as in Geneva and in the field. Switzerland supported that initiative, and was convinced that the success of reforms largely depended on the success of that action.

Action on Drafts

The Assembly adopted without a vote draft resolution A/55/L.16, on international cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote draft resolution A/55/L.14, on emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and rehabilitation of Tajikistan.

Since the publication of the above draft text, the following countries had become co-sponsors: Croatia, Morocco and Slovenia.

Rights of Reply

CHAIM SHACHAM (Israel), exercising his right of reply, said it was a shame that the current debate on humanitarian assistance, enjoying universal support, had been abused to launch accusations. It was unfortunate that the Palestinian observer delegation had chosen to politicize the issue and distract the Assembly from achieving the improvement of the well-being of the Palestinian people. The Israeli objective was a negotiated peace settlement that would bring calm to the region, and Israel had made unprecedented compromises. Those compromises had been met by a rejection of peace and a return to the violence and terrorism renounced in 1993.

The Palestinian territories had benefited economically during periods of calm and peace, when Israel had been able to permit the daily entry of more than 100,000 Palestinians working in a variety of sectors. A number of United Nations reports stated that there had been tangible rewards for the Palestinian people through the peace process. However, in choosing to return to violence, the Palestinian people were undoing many improvements that had been gained and had, in fact, brought the economic calamity upon themselves. Israel was making every effort to minimize any harm to the economic sector. There was a free flow of humanitarian assistance and food to the Palestinian areas, with over 100 shipments of aid since the outbreak of the violence. Assistance had more than quadrupled since last year, he said.

Israel had established special transports to accelerate the transfer of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian authorities. Even shipments from hostile countries had been facilitated through special provisions. It was true that there was a problem in the transport of fuel. Israeli fuel tanker trucks could no longer travel safely in Gaza and the West Bank. Fuel had to be transferred to Palestinian trucks at checkpoints. There were no restriction or prevention of the transport of fuel, but there was a shortage of Palestinian trucks. It was unacceptable that the Palestinians had refused to consider the peace overtures Israel had made at Camp David -- and then turned around and blamed Israel for their economic predicament.

Mr. JILANI, Observer of Palestine, exercising his right of reply, said he had not wanted to answer the lengthy statement of Israel. He asked how donor countries could fulfil their commitments as long as there was violence and the use of heavy weapons. The report of the Special Coordinator of the United Nations had emphasized the destruction of infrastructure, including destruction of public and private buildings, in addition to the embargo that prevented the Palestinians and their products from moving between Palestinian territories and the rest of the world. The villages within the territories were also isolated from each other, as roads had been destroyed by Israel. There was a global blockade of the territories. The reports of the Special Coordinator and other reports emphasized that one result of the encirclement was that wounded could not be moved from one region to another. Some had died because of that restriction.

Today, for the first time, Israel had allowed fuel to be delivered to Gaza. The Gaza Strip had been cut off for more than two weeks. According to reports, people living there were near famine. How could one fail to speak of Israeli procedures at a time when Israel had damaged assets of the Palestinian Authority and thus affected the income of Palestinian producers. Israel must recognize that the illegal military occupation was the crux of the crisis. As soon as that illegal occupation ended, the region would be able to speak of improvement in the living conditions of its population and of improvement in regional cooperation.

Addressing the situation in Gaza, he said there were 5,000 Israeli settlers illegally installed there, who had about 40 per cent of the land in Gaza. The strip was poor and did not have sufficient water. The fact that 5,000 Israeli settlers had 42 per cent, when more than a million individuals lived in the rest of the Gaza Strip in difficult conditions, provided evidence of the nature of the new system of apartheid followed by Israel in the occupied territories. The crux of the crisis was the existence of the occupation, he reiterated.

In exercise of his second right of reply, MR. SHACHAM (Israel) said he felt that the self-evident logic of cause and effect had escaped the Palestinian Observer. There was an obvious effect of violence, which was the consequent negative impact on the Palestinian economy. Israel believed the obvious solution was negotiation and dialogue. Furthermore, the permanent disposition of the settlements was part and parcel of negotiations, he continued. When Palestinian violence ended, negotiations could resume again. In closing, Israel called on Palestine to remember the words of an ancient proverb: “One who lives in a glass house should not throw stones.”

Mr. JILANI (Palestine), exercising his second right of reply, said that the most atrocious form of violence and aggression was the occupation by force of a territory, and the imposition of military occupation on an entire people. The territories referred to by the Israeli delegate were not territories of conflict, but occupied territories. Israel was the only State singled out as an occupying power. The territory was not disputed, he said, by international law or by the Security Council’s definition. Those were occupied territories, and Israel must abandon its logic of displacing the genuinely disputed post-1947 territories to those occupied after 1967.

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For information media. Not an official record.