SECOND COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION TO TRANSFORM TOURISM BODY INTO SPECIALIZED AGENCY OF UNITED NATIONS

7 November 2003
GA/EF/3062

SECOND COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION TO TRANSFORM TOURISM BODY INTO SPECIALIZED AGENCY OF UNITED NATIONS

07/11/2003
Press ReleaseGA/EF/3062

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Committee

29th & 30th Meetings (AM & PM)

SECOND COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION TO TRANSFORM TOURISM BODY

INTO SPECIALIZED AGENCY OF UNITED NATIONS

Delegates Also Take up Permanent Sovereignty

Of Palestinians, Syrians over Natural Resources in Occupied Territories

Describing tourism as an important tool for achieving the Millennium Development Goals of sustainable development and poverty eradication, delegates in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this afternoon approved a draft resolution to transform the World Tourism Organization into a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Italy’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, before that action, said that the integration of the intergovernmental tourism organization would provide the United Nations system with a greater understanding of tourism’s benefits and challenges and a more comprehensive view of its contribution to development.  Driven by private-sector investment, tourism generated much-needed growth and jobs, particularly in developing countries.

Echoing that view, Francesco Frangialli, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, said the international community must step up efforts to help governments, particularly those of developing countries, to define sustainable tourism policies, devise tourism plans and monitor their impact in order to extend its benefits to the poorest sectors of society.  The General Assembly had adopted the tourism body’s Global Code of Ethics and declared 2002 the International Year of Ecotourism, he added.

Noting that tourism was still evolving, under the influence of information and communications technologies, he said that it was not merely a major economic sector, and that its role in environmental protection, in preserving biodiversity, conserving cultural heritage and promoting mutual understanding among peoples, as well as peace among nations, was highly significant.

Earlier, the Committee considered the subject of permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people and the Arab population of the Syrian Golan over their natural resources.

Introducing a report on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan, a representative of the New York Office of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, said that Israel’s continued occupation of those lands, and the Israeli army’s persistent use of arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, as well as the destruction of homes, infrastructure and crops had oppressed the Palestinian people even further.  Without political decisions to lift closures, curfews and other restrictions, that situation would worsen.

The Observer for Palestine called on the international community to compel Israel to respect the right of the Palestinian people to live free from Israeli occupation, subjugation and destruction, and to have permanent sovereignty over their natural resources, as well as their own independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  That was a fundamental prerequisite to ensure a healthy Palestinian economy and society, as a whole.  The United Nations must continue to monitor closely the economic and social situation, in order to effectively end Israel’s illegal actions.

In other business today, the Committee considered the high-level meetings of the Economic and Social Council held in April and July, with delegates noting that they had put economic, social and environmental development in rural areas back on the international agenda.  Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the Ministerial Declaration had provided vital guidance on how rural development could best help to achieve internationally agreed goals.  The Council would be exploring ways to further strengthen its ties with the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization, improve the management of its subsidiary bodies and become more flexible in coordinating its policies.

During a meeting earlier today, the Committee concluded its discussion of the Third United Nations Conference on the least developed countries (LDCs).

The Committee also heard the representative of Morocco introduce a draft resolution on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (document A/C.2/58/L.28).

Also speaking today were representatives of Cambodia, Mali, Zambia, Pakistan, Burundi, Togo, Haiti (on behalf of CARICOM), Maldives, United States, Ethiopia, Sudan, Bhutan, Jamaica (also on behalf of CARICOM), Belarus, San Marino, Andorra, Mexico, Spain, Peru, Russian Federation, Egypt, Yemen, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke.

Others making statements included representatives of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 10 November, to hear a panel discussion on globalization.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to conclude its discussion of least developed countries (LDCs).  It was then expected to take up the Report of the Economic and Social Council.

Before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the role of public administration in the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration (document A/58/152), which reviews international initiatives to improve the public sector capacity of Member States in meeting the Millennium Development Goals and innovative practices contributing directly to those goals.

The report identifies five areas of interventions that are conducive to attaining the Millennium Goals -- decentralization, transparency and accountability; “engaged governance” or mainstreaming citizens’ voices in public policy; applying information and communication technology (ICT); and capacity-building in statistics.

According to the report, the Millennium Goals, the challenges of globalization and liberalization, and people’s insistence on more say in public policy are creating impulses for change.  Change is most pronounced in partnerships and participation in policy-making, reorientation of planning methods and procedures to focus on poverty-oriented planning, creating an enabling environment to encourage private-public partnerships in investment and trade, and improved coordination, monitoring and evaluation.

Change needs new tools, techniques and skills, the report states.  Governments must realize that achieving the Millennium Goals will be difficult without major institutional and methodological adjustments.  Human resources must be developed and capacities built up in public institutions.  International agencies and the donor community, including the United Nations, must be fully aware of and committed to those needs.

The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting a report prepared by the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization on the assessment of the results achieved in realizing aims and objectives of the International Year of Ecotourism (2002).  The report (document A/58/96) reviews actions taken by Member States and major international organizations for the Year.

During the Year, the report says, the World Trade Organization (WTO) organized 10 regional conferences on ecotourism and a Web Conference on Sustainable Development of Ecotourism, which drew almost 1,000 people from

88 countries.  The results of those events formed the basis for discussions at the World Ecotourism Summit in Quebec, Canada, the main event marking the Year.  The Summit, which was attended by 1,169 delegates from 132 countries, produced the Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism, a collection of guidelines for the sustainable development of ecotourism.

According to the report, the WTO also took part in various tourism and trade fairs, published pioneer market studies on seven countries, prepared or contributed to several publications on good practices and recommendations for ecotourism, and supported several international, regional and national ecotourism events during 2001 and 2002.

The report also highlights several global ecotourism-linked projects by the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Travel and Tourism Council, the Ecotourism Databank, the Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council and The World Legacy Awards.  In addition, it notes that 47 national and local tourism authorities set up committees to celebrate the Year, and 48 countries were laying down national strategies to develop ecotourism.  Many governments organized ecotourism events, seminars, workshops, exhibitions, sports activities, fairs and conferences in national parks for the Year.  Several also issued publications focusing on ecotourism, and worked to promote ecotourism in the private sector or increase awareness of ecotourism among their own populations or tourists.

Among follow-up activities to the Year, the report notes, the WTO will be issuing a publication on exemplary government practices, collecting and distributing good practices, supporting small and medium-sized ecotourism companies and organizing ecotourism seminars for managers of protected areas.  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will be developing guidelines for ecotourism and sustainable tourism and producing a report on the links between ecotourism and sustainable tourism development, conservation of biodiversity and poverty alleviation called “Mapping Tourism Footprints”.

Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the United Nations Population Award 2003 (document A/58/151), which is awarded annually to individuals or institutions for the most outstanding contribution to increasing awareness of population questions, or finding solutions to them.

The 2003 Award goes to. Werner Fornos (United States) in the individual category and the Family Planning Association of Kenya in the institutional category, the report says.  Mr. Fornos, President of the Population Institute, has increased awareness of world population growth and family planning programmes.  He also initiated the publications Popline and Towards the 21st Century, which are both widely used throughout the world, and has successfully advocated population funding in the United States.  The Family Planning Association of Kenya was selected for its efforts to promote gender equality and eradicate female genital cutting.  The association has grown from a few committed individuals to a staff of over 5,000, and has taken the lead in transforming the Kenya national family planning programme from a Nairobi-led programme into a more community-based programme at the local and regional levels.

Also before the Committee was the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (document A/58/16, chap. II, programme 7) on its forty-third session, which took place from 9 June to 3 July 2003.  The section on “Proposed revisions to the medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005” stresses the need for urgent measures to ensure the implementation of Agenda 21 (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992) and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, 2002).  The Committee further emphasizes the need for adequate support for the Commission on Sustainable Development as a high-level body concerned with sustainable development, considering also its role in implementing Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan.

Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on proposed revisions to the medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005 in the area of economic and social affairs (document A/58/84).  The revisions are to reflect the General Assembly’s review of the outcome of the International Conference on Financing for Development and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.  The revisions aim to support follow-up to, and implementation of, the outcomes of the World Summit, in line with the responsibilities of the Commission on Sustainable Development, and additional mandates emanating from the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.  They would also support a secretariat for United Nations follow-up to agreements and commitments included in the Monterrey Consensus, which emerged from the International Conference on Financing for Development.

The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretariat on the Agreement between the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization (document A/C.2/58/2). 

SAR SAMBATH (Cambodia) said the delicate economies of the LDCs still faced difficulties three decades after they had been recognized by the United Nations.  Those difficulties included the steady decline in official development assistance (ODA), the unsustainable debt burden, increasing marginalization in international trade and the current global economic situation.  The LDCs did not possess the capacity to overcome those problems, and the international community should continue to assist them.

Developing countries must offer their citizens stable economic and social structures conducive to growth and development, he said.  Growth must be broadly based, in order to increase household incomes, enhance food security and provide governments with sufficient revenue to maintain the infrastructure necessary for a stable society.  The international community must help the LDCs to promote social investment, continue education in good governance and set up democratic institutions.

ISSOUF OUMAR MAIGA (Mali) stressed the need for all stakeholders to work harder in speeding-up action programmes to help the LDCs meet the Millennium Development Goals of sustainable development and poverty eradication.  The Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries had coincided with the Malian Government’s preparation of its own strategic poverty-eradication plan, a national framework that also took into account the goals set forth in the Brussels Programme of Action. 

Strengthening access to basic social services and infrastructure in housing, water and sanitation required greater funding and capacity-building, he said.  However, countries were slow to make good on their commitments to provide ODA.  Mali urged all donor countries to step up ODA and voluntary financing, as well as to search seriously for lasting solutions to the lack of market access for developing-country exports and to their heavy external debt loads. 

BERNARD MPUNDU (Zambia) said that a national focal point for the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action had convened several meetings with civil society, the private sector and the UNDP.  Zambia was also implementing a poverty reduction strategy paper and a Transitional National Development Plan, programmes that fully considered the Brussels Programme, with the main objective of reducing poverty. 

While, efforts were being made to mobilize financial resources at the national level, development partners must honour their commitments, he stressed.  As a least developed country, Zambia faced several challenges, including external debt and a consequent lack of financial resources. 

BABAR KHAN GHORI (Pakistan) said urgent action was needed on many fronts to achieve the objectives of the Brussels Programme of Action.  Such action included the improvement of economic and social development indicators for the LDCs and the creation of an international climate enabling them to break the cycle of poverty, hunger and underdevelopment.  All relevant stakeholders must make concerted efforts to shore up ODA, find lasting solutions to the crippling external debt burdens of the LDCs, improve market access for their exports and support domestic policy frameworks.

Trade was critical to boosting economic growth, generating employment and reducing poverty in developing countries, he said, adding that it was the most important source of financing development.  Every extra dollar of exports fed poor families and built a better future for them.  However, the share of the LDCs in international trade had fallen from 3 per cent in the 1960s to 0.4 per cent in 2002.  Improved market access for exports from developing countries was essential for their development.  In that regard, early agreement on the cotton initiative proposed by several African least developed countries should be given top priority.

HARRIS GLECKMAN, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said UNCTAD was engaged in a wide range of technical cooperation and capacity-building activities in the LDCs, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States.  In the field of investment, those countries had benefited from programmes to develop enterprise and technological capabilities, investment policy reviews, investment guides and training activities on bilateral investment negotiations.

As for international trade, he said, UNCTAD had focused on commodity diversification, risk management, trade negotiations and commercial diplomacy, in those countries.  In the field of services, several had received assistance with customs modernization, trade facilitation and transport improvement, human resources and e-commerce.  To prepare for the recent Cancun conference, UNCTAD had provided substantial support to a least developed countries’ trade ministers meeting

MARC NETTURUYE (Burundi) said that while, initiatives by various donors were well-directed, more efforts were needed, particularly in emergency treatment for the LDCs.  Agricultural subsidies penalized small producers in the developing world, and several countries urgently needed their debts cancelled.  In addition, HIV/AIDS was seriously threatening sub-Saharan Africa and the international community must increase its efforts to combat that evil.

SIMWABA AWESSO (Togo) noted that according to the 2002 report of UNCTAD, 307 million people had been living on less than $1 a day at the end of the last decade, and close to 500 million, on less than $2 a day.  That situation was particularly worrisome, since it impeded the ability of the LDCs to implement the Brussels Programme of Action.  In fact, little progress had been made in that regard.

The Secretary-General’s report on the LDCs said that the drop in ODA and the lack of effective debt-relief measures were serious obstacles, he said.  Togo, like other developing countries, was having a tough time pursuing both external debt repayment and socio-economic development.  Despite external debt burdens, it had set up microcredit programmes for marginalized sectors of the population, enabling them to build schools, dispensaries and small businesses.

PIERRE-RICHARD CAJUSTE (Haiti), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that the implementation of the Brussels Programme had been slow, and that poverty, malnutrition, high infant mortality and various diseases had continued to thrive in the LDCs and other developing countries.  To spur economic growth in the developing world, developed countries must eliminate tariff barriers, reduce subsidies and increase cooperation with the LDCs.  It was time to move from policy and discussion to deeds.  The fight against terrorism should in no way replace the fight against poverty.  Indeed, the two were linked.  The CARICOM applauded the efforts of those who had implemented aspects of the Brussels Programme and encouraged others to do likewise.

FLORENCE CHENOWETH, Director of the United Nations Liaison Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that last year, the FAO’s 680 field projects had provided $447 million in technical assistance to the LDCs in agriculture, forestry and fishery sections.  Those projects had helped those countries to effectively address extreme poverty, over-dependence on agriculture for gross national income, malnutrition, lack of foreign direct investment, (FDI), in the primary agriculture and rural sectors, and heavy debt loads. 

The FAO’s Special Programme for Food Security was operating in 62 developing countries, including 39 least developed countries, she said.  That programme was one of the FAO’s primary efforts to achieve the millennium target of halving global malnutrition by 2015.  Under its South-South Cooperation scheme, and technical cooperation and development programmes, industrialized nations shared their expertise and experience in agriculture and development with the LDCs. 

MOHAMED LATHEEF (Maldives) said the Brussels Programme was aimed at galvanizing international support to help the LDCs reduce their vulnerabilities, while strengthening their partnerships with development partners through shared responsibilities.  The slow implementation of the Brussels Programme was worrisome.  The loss of another decade for the LDCs must be avoided, as the cost of missed opportunities might be too great.

The loss of aid, concessional capital and technical assistance in several of the LDCs would adversely affect national implementation of the Brussels Programme, he said.  The Maldives had failed to attain the 7 per cent annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP), since adopting the Brussels Programme, and had been unable to increase the ratio of investment to gross domestic product to 25 per cent per annum.  In fact, the gross domestic product had declined from 10.4 per cent in 1997 to 3.5 per cent in 2001.  Although, there had been marked improvement in the GDP growth in 2002, assistance from the international community was vital in achieving the Brussels targets.

ANN CORKERY (United States) said that the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action should reflect the principles of the Monterrey Consensus:  national responsibility, good governance, aid effectiveness and a favourable private investment climate.  The Millennium Challenge Account proposed by United States President George W. Bush would support that process, by increasing development assistance by 50 per cent to countries that had demonstrated good governance.  Initial funding would go to countries with per capita incomes below $1,445.

The involvement of Resident Coordinators and members of United Nations country teams were particularly important to mainstreaming the Brussels Programme into the United Nations system, she said.  Also important was their work with governments to identify key poverty indicators and to monitor and report on them for each country.  Poverty reduction strategy papers, indicators developed for international development goals and multilateral development bank publications of economic and social indicators were the most effective tools to monitor that progress.

AZANAW TADESSE ABREHA (Ethiopia) noted that one of the key provisions of the Brussels Programme was the building of human and institutional capacities.  However, data was lacking to assess progress in that respect.  Another serious problem facing LDCs was the lack of preferential arrangements in trade.  For LDCs to benefit from preferential market access, they needed support in tackling supply constraints.  Ethiopia welcomed the Secretary-General’s suggestions that the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank consider funding diversification programmes by providing grants to their LDC member States.

Providing market access, removing supply-side constraints and building productive capacities were ways of integrating LDCs into the globalizing world, he said.  However, the highly promising debt reduction initiative that the international community had begun in 1996, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, was now under serious challenge, not only because of a lack of funding and non-participation by creditors, but also because of a serious challenge arising from a loss of export earnings among the indebted countries.

OROBOLA FASEHUN, Director of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said the interests of LDCs in social and cultural development were at the top of the organization’s agenda.  Two years ago, it had organized a panel on intellectual property and development at the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, where it had identified five deliverables, including WIPONET, the WIPO Worldwide Academy, collective management of copyright and related rights, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore, and small and medium-sized businesses.

He said that the organization, in cooperation with the World Trade Organization (WTO), had organized a regional workshop on implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreements.  Participants had found the workshop helpful because it helped clarify the obligations of States under the TRIPS agreements, including the Doha Declaration, and on the technical assistance available from the intellectual property body and the WTO.

AHMED TABOUL(Sudan) said the economic situation in LDCs was still deteriorating and they were faced with decreased ODA, agricultural subsidies in developed countries and lack of market access.  Two years after the adoption of the Brussels Programme, there was no sign that it would suffer a fate different from the two previous ones.  In addition, the glittering slogans of Doha also seemed to be collapsing one after the other.

More than 22 LDCs suffered from armed conflicts, had just exited from conflict or were facing complex disasters and humanitarian emergencies, he said.  Those problems were compounded be an absence of infrastructure, an inability to act against emergencies and a lack of financial resources.  The LDCs needed financial and technical support from their development partners and the international community.  The Sudan hoped that future reports on the Brussels Programme would contain tangible results about its implementation.

TSHERING GYALTSHEN PENJORS (Bhutan) said his country had made progress towards fulfilling the Brussels Programme of Action, by integrating strategies for poverty eradication, good governance, resource mobilization, private sector development and women’s empowerment programmes into the national economic programme.  In the last two decades, Bhutan had enjoyed annual economic growth of 6 per cent on average, per capita income had risen to $700, while literacy and health were improving.

Still, poverty was a serious problem, he said, due to low productivity in agriculture, the mainstay of the country’s economy.  Bhutan faced many structural challenges that made it difficult for products to reach outside markets.  While the primary responsibility of the Brussels Programme of Action lay with the LDCs, the support of the international community was critical to sustaining political and economic reforms.

The Committee then began its discussion of the Report of the Economic and Social Council.

Introductory Statements

PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the high-level segment of the Council’s last substantive session had been instrumental in putting rural development back on the international agenda.  It called for looking at rural development not only from an economic, but also from a social and environmental perspective, in the spirit of the outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits.  The Ministerial Declaration had provided important guidance on how rural development could best help in achieving internationally agreed development goals.

Highlighting the Council’s enhanced role within the United Nations system, he said it would be exploring ways to further strengthen its ties with the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO, so that they could address the whole spectrum of issues in economic and social development and their inter-relationships.  In addition, the Council’s management of its subsidiary bodies should be made more substantive and policy-oriented.  It should also have the necessary flexibility to convene and respond to challenges or situations involving the coordination of policies in various sectors.  That would make its work more relevant to the global economic scene.

FRANCESCO FRANGIALLI, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, said that the International Year of Ecotourism had provided an effective mechanism to encourage greater cooperation among governments, international and regional organizations, the private-sector tourism industry and non-governmental organizations to achieve the aims of Agenda 21 in promoting, through tourism, sustainable development and environmental protection.  The Year made clear that a lack of cooperation could jeopardize the potential benefits of ecotourism while, inflicting serious damage on the natural environment.

He called on the international community to strengthen its efforts to help governments, particularly those of developing countries and LDCs, to define sustainable tourism policies, plan the development and implementation of tourism, monitor its impact, extend its benefits to the poorest sectors of society, and enable exports from LDCs to reach international tourism markets.  The tourism body was committed to reinforcing collaboration with UNEP and other agencies, in favour of sustainable development.

ABDELLAH BENMELLOUK (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed that public administration must be of sufficient quality to achieve developmental objectives.  The “Group of 77” developing countries and China welcomed the report of the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization.

ANTONIO BERNARDINI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that since tourism was one of the main sectors of the services industry, the transformation of the World Tourism Organization into a specialized United Nations agency was a remarkable achievement.  The European Union was already in cooperating with it to end child prostitution, ensure democratization and respect for human rights and technical and statistical methods.

Wisely developed tourism could play a significant role in sustainable development and benefit the poor, he said.  Tourism was driven by private-sector investment and it directly or indirectly generated much-needed sustained economic growth and jobs in developing countries.  Tourism would foster mutual understanding among different cultures and traditions.  However, terrorism or the outbreak of communicable diseases could have a dire effect on economies dependent on tourism for their revenues.  Transforming the World Tourism Organization into a specialized agency would give the United Nations system a greater understanding of tourism’s benefits and challenges and a more comprehensive view of its contribution to development.

STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of CARICOM, said there was no doubt that deliberations in the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council had been useful in identifying crucial policy and operational challenges, now requiring urgent attention.  The Council must now focus on the follow-up to the recommendations made and remain fully engaged in ensuring ongoing efforts to keep the issue of rural development and its links with the achievement of the Millennium Goals at the forefront of the Council’s work.

As for the operational activities segment, he said that rich and wide-ranging discussions on all their aspects had exposed several areas of weakness. The major concern remained the ongoing decline in contributions to the regular resources of United Nations funds and programmes.  For the United Nations to play an effective role in development, adequate and predictable funding was needed.

VLADIMIR PAVLOVICH (Belarus) said considerable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals could be achieved through closer links between the Economic and Social Council, relevant specialized agencies, regional commissions, the Bretton Woods institutions and inter-agency bodies.  Belarus supported the Council’s decision to focus its upcoming substantive session on resource mobilization and poverty-reduction programmes for LDCs.

He said that proposals to hold high-level meetings of the operational activities segment one year and of the humanitarian affairs segment the following year, and to split the Council’s substantive session into two parts should be considered in close connection with consultations to revitalize the General Assembly.  During the recent plenary meetings on United Nations reform, many similar proposals had been announced with regard to structural changes in regular General Assembly sessions and could do significant harm to the reform process.  That should be taken into account.

JELENA PIA-COMELLA (Andorra) said her country had participated in the negotiations to make the World Trade Organization a specialized agency of the United Nations system, and was very pleased that the General Assembly had, in fact, approved the upgrading.  Andorra was also pleased that the Economic and Social Council had recommended approval of the text in the General Assembly during its fifty-eighth session.

FRANCISCO MADRID (Mexico) said tourism had the potential to help with the enormous challenges facing humankind.  It could help fight poverty, generate wealth, and preserve natural resources and cultural heritage.  It could also contribute to peace-building the world over.  Day after day, international travellers were spending major sums of money on the tourism industry.  If tourism were a country, it would be among the world’s 15 greatest producers.

AGUSTIN NUNEZ (Spain) said his country’s experience in recent decades had shown the value of tourism as a tool for economic and social development.  Spain attached great importance to the conversion of the World Tourism Organization into a specialized agency of the United Nations system.  Fears over terrorism and the spread of communicable diseases had impeded tourism, and it was important for all Member States to work together towards achieving tourism goals.  There was also a need to address tourism’s impact on the environment and migratory flows.

JOSE ANTONIO DOIG (Peru) expressed satisfaction with the transformation of the World Tourism Organization into a specialized United Nations agency, and welcomed the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report on ecotourism.  It was important to pay special attention to tourism, which had the potential to create employment and conserve the environment.  Promoting tourist activities was a means of contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

EVGENY STANISLAVOV (Russian Federation) expressed support for the decision to make the World Tourism Organization a specialized agency of the United Nations system, saying it reaffirmed the important contributions of world tourism to sustainable development.  It was hoped that the General Assembly, would, in fact, adopt the draft Agreement, between the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization and give priority to the tourism body’s need to change its acronym, so as to avoid confusion with the World Trade Organization.

When the Committee met this afternoon, it took up the subject of permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and of the Arab population in the Syrian Golan over their natural resources.

Introduction of Report

SULAFA AL-BASSAM, Chief of the New York Office of the Economic Commission for Western Asia, introduced a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (document A/C.1/58/L.58/75-E/2003/21) on the 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.

She said that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory continued to aggravate the living conditions of Palestinians, and that the Israeli army persistently used excessive force, including arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, demolition of houses and the destruction of infrastructure and crops.  Moreover, Israel continued to impose severe mobility restrictions and closure policies that further oppressed the Palestinian people.  Quoting the August 2002 statement by the Secretary-General’s Personal Humanitarian Envoy, she said the crisis would continue to worsen unless political decisions were taken to lift the closures, curfews and other restrictions on the civilian population.

According to the report, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory continues to seriously hamper all aspects of Palestinian life, and is a principle cause of conflict between the two peoples.  The Israeli army continues its attacks, killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as the confiscation and bulldozing of productive Palestinian agricultural lands.

All told, the Israeli army has displaced 70,000 Palestinians and destroyed well over 1,275 Palestinian homes from late 2000 to 2002, private assets worth $233 million, Palestinian Authority assets worth $82 million and non-governmental and social service assets worth $56 million.  Moreover, the army has destroyed Palestinian water and electricity generation facilities, waste disposal stations and road networks, and confiscated equipment and machinery, generating $360 million in losses in April 2002.  As a result of the occupation, the Palestinian economy continues to accumulate losses equal to half of its annual gross domestic product.  Unemployment has risen threefold, and more than two thirds of the Palestinian population now live in poverty.  Palestinian children are increasingly exposed to violence and malnutrition, while medical services, public health, as well as educational services and performance, have fallen to sub-standard levels.

Similarly, the report says primary and secondary-level schooling, higher education and medical services are insufficient for the Arab population in the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.  Israel has expanded its 37 settlements and brought in more settlers during the June 2002 to May 2003 review period.  The occupation means heavy taxes, fixed low prices imposed on mainstay agricultural products, restricted access to water and unemployment opportunities, as compared with the settlers, and arbitrary arrests and detentions.  Israeli authorities have depleted the Golan environment by uprooting trees, burning forests and dumping untreated chemical waste from factories in the Israeli settlements.

Statements

MOHAMED ELFARNAWANY (Egypt) said Israelis remained unconvinced that the Middle East conflict could only be resolved by peace and the establishment of a Palestinian State.  Instead, the Palestinian economy was enduring terrific economic losses, high unemployment, poverty, and deteriorating levels of education and health.  The Israeli occupation was a violation of Palestinian territorial integrity and an exploitation of its natural resources.  Israel had now begun to build a wall, which would lead to even worse consequences for the Palestinian people.

Questioning how the international community could close its eyes to Israel’s continued aggression, he emphasized that Palestine must overcome poverty and attain prosperity for its people.  Israel’s aggression was a continued violation of Palestinian, as well as Syrian Golan economic and political rights.  It was time for the international community to show its respect for the rights of the Palestinian and Syrian people, and for the Israeli Government to end its occupation.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, Observer for Palestine, said the report before the Committee was an important review of the dire situation of the Palestinian people, on all levels.  The realization, by the Palestinians of their inalienable rights, including their right to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources, was the cornerstone for the creation of an independent Palestine and a fundamental prerequisite of the Palestinian economy and society, as a whole.  The Secretary-General’s report reflected the Palestinians’ worsening economic and social situation and the seriously detrimental effects of Israel’s occupation. 

The United Nations must continue to monitor the economic and social situation closely, to effectively end illegal Israeli actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, she emphasized.  Israel must respect its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law.  Serious attention must be paid to that issue and the international community must take urgent measures to halt Israel’s destruction of natural resources in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, as well as the Palestinian economy.  The Palestinian people had the right to live free from Israeli occupation, subjugation and destruction, and with permanent sovereignty over their natural resources and their own independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

AHMED AL-HADDAD (Yemen) said that Palestinian suffering had reached an unimaginable level, due to the Israeli occupation.  The practices of the Israeli army totally ignored United Nations resolutions, which had reiterated time and time again the inalienable rights of the Palestinians.  Israeli occupation had continued to affect the lives of women, children, and youth, while Israeli settlements hampered economic and social development, as well as community growth.  Israel continued to expand its settlements and build new ones in violation of international law.  The settlements divided Palestinian land into separate territories, fragmenting the population.  Some 66 per cent of Palestinians lived below the poverty line, mostly in the Gaza Strip.

MOHAMMED AL-MEHAIRBI (United Arab Emirates) said the expansion of Israeli settlements and the destruction of natural resources and infrastructure in Palestinian and Syrian Golan territory in the last two years had devastated the lives of Palestinians and Syrians in those areas.  In the last three years, Israel had destroyed more than 2,000 homes, tens of thousand of hectares of agricultural land, almost half a million olive and fruit trees, water wells and agricultural facilities, to make way for illegal settlements and bypasses.  That had displaced thousands of Arabs, left thousands unemployed, and severely weakened the region’s environment, biodiversity and ecology.  As a result of closure policies and mobility restrictions, the Palestinian economy had contracted by 50 per cent; unemployment had risen to 50 per cent and poverty to 66.5 per cent. 

It was time to end the tragedies of the Palestinians and Arabs in the occupied territories, he said.  The United Arab Emirates called on the international community to compel Israel to cease hostilities immediately, withdraw from all territories occupied since 1967, end construction of its separation wall, end the exploitation of natural and economic resources, and apply the principle of land for peace, as indicated in the Middle East Road Map, which provided for the creation of the State of Palestine by 2005. 

ABDUL RAHMAN HASAN YUSUF HASHEM (Bahrain) said the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land had led to grave consequences, affecting all walks of life.  Many United Nations resolutions had condemned Israeli settlements as illegal, with their restrictions on economic and community growth in Palestine.  Israeli settlements also adversely affected the Palestinian economy, leading to high unemployment, low prices for agricultural produce, and the absence of health and social security.  Israel had persisted in constructing a racist separation wall, isolating 27 cities and towns with more than 95,000 citizens from the West Bank, which would threaten water resources and destroy arable land. 

SHAHID HUSAIN, Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the Secretary-General’s report described a grim scenario in the occupied Palestinian territory, where unemployment continued to rise and per capita gross domestic product continued its progressive decline, down 24 per cent in 2002.  The report also underscored the occupation’s damaging effect on Palestinian women; restrictions imposed on Palestinian men had left them to shoulder extra responsibilities while their socio-economic conditions worsened.  Regarding Israeli incursions, he said 10,000 Palestinians had been arrested, of which

4,000 remained in detention, including 38 women and 280 children.  Israel’s construction of a separation wall was devouring Palestinian territory and creating unjust realities, with respect to the borders of the Palestine State.  That further hindered any confidence-building measures in pursuit of the Road Map.  The wall was unacceptable and its construction should end, he added. 

SUMAIRA MALIK (Pakistan) said the illegal occupation of Palestine had not only hampered economic growth, but had also had a deep psychological impact on the social lives of the Palestinian people.  During two years, the Israeli occupation forces had killed 2,520 Palestinians, forcibly evicted 70,000 from their homes and demolished 1,275 homes.  The deterioration in the security situation had led to an increasing sense of hopelessness.  Continued growth in settlements and confiscation of land and properties had led to the confiscation of more than

70 per cent of the West Bank and one third of the Gaza Strip.  Settlements continued to pose a serious threat to the environment, water and natural resources.

The occupation and increasing violence had also had a devastating impact on Palestinian health and education, she said.  The lack of economic activity had resulted in a deterioration in living conditions, with almost 67 per cent of the Palestinian people living below the poverty line and a majority of the workforce unemployed.  The population in the Occupied Syrian Golan was facing similar conditions.

She said there could be no lasting peace in the Middle East without the attainment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including a return of all occupied territories to the control of the Palestinian Authority and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with holy Jerusalem, as its capital.  It was hoped that the faithful implementation of the Road Map and resumption of dialogue between the two parties would lay the foundations for a permanent peace.  A lasting settlement of the Middle East question must, by definition, also include the restoration of the Syrian Golan.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

ABDELLAH BENMELLOUK (Morocco), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (document A/C.2/58/L.28).  He said the draft reaffirmed the usefulness of United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in light of the increasing importance of training in the United Nations system, and the needs of Member States in that field.  The text also urged States to consider resuming contributions to the Institute, in view of its successful restructuring and revitalization.

Action on Draft Resolution

The Committee then adopted a draft resolution (document A/C.2/58/L.29) approving a draft agreement to transform the World Tourism Organization, an intergovernmental body, into a specialized agency of the United Nations.  The text of the agreement, contained in an annex to the draft resolution, includes sections on recognition of the tourism body, as a specialized agency; coordination and cooperation; recommendations of the United Nations; assistance to the United Nations; relations with the International Court of Justice; technical assistance; personnel arrangements; and budgetary and financial matters.

FRANCESCO FRANGIALLI, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, noted the upsurge in tourism over the past 30 years, saying that under the influence of information and communications technologies, it was still evolving, with such emerging new operators as virtual travel agencies and budget airlines.  Tourism had spread all over the world, with expenditures of $474 billion in 2002.  Overcoming difficulties, wars, terrorism, natural disasters and epidemics, travel and leisure had become essential features of the times.

Carried along by that powerful stream, the organization had modernized and seen its membership rise to the current 143, he said.  At the same time, its cooperation with the United Nations had grown ever closer.  The General Assembly had adopted its Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, and declared 2002 the International Year of Ecotourism.

Tourism was not merely a major economic sector and one of the mainstays of international trade, he said.  Its role in environmental protection, in preserving biodiversity, in conserving cultural heritage, in promoting mutual understanding among peoples, and peace among nations, was highly significant.  The richness and complexity of tourism called for coordinated efforts, by all institutions that dealt with tourism at the international level.

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For information media. Not an official record.