|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
333rd Meeting (AM)
Palestinian Rights Committee Approves Agenda for 28-29 June Brussels Meeting
Aimed at Advancing Palestinian Statehood, Middle East Peace Process
Chair Describes Recent Developments, Outcome of Helsinki Meeting;
Reports Presented on West Bank, Gaza Unemployment, Assistance Delivery Challenges
The Palestinian Rights Committee this morning approved the agenda of its upcoming Brussels meeting on advancing the Middle East peace process, as it also heard reports on previous international meetings, as well as on unemployment and access restrictions in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The theme of the Brussels meeting, scheduled for 28 and 29 June, was “The role of Europe in advancing Palestinian statehood and achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians”, according to Abdou Salam Diallo of Senegal, Chairman of the Committee, the official title of which is the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
He said that the meeting would take stock of 20 years of European efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, as well as current efforts to resume direct negotiations towards a two-State solution. The meeting would also look at alternatives to the negotiating process, he added, including achieving a two-State solution through multilateral mechanisms.
Presenting his report on the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People held in Helsinki on 28 and 29 April, under the theme of “Mobilizing international efforts in support of the Palestinian Government’s State-building programme”, Mr. Diallo welcomed what he called a good turnout, with the participation of 30 Governments, Palestine, three intergovernmental organizations, six United Nations entities and others.
Recounting other recent developments, Mr. Diallo highlighted the 21 April debate of the Security Council on the Middle East, the 27 April reconciliation agreement between Palestinian factions, the visit of humanitarian chief Valerie Amos to the West Bank, and the 19 May Robert Serry briefing to the Council, among other events.
In diplomatic developments, he highlighted the speech of United States President Barack Obama endorsing a two-State solution based on the 1967 borders with land swaps, the 20 May Quartet statement supporting that statement, the 23 May Council of European Union statement calling for immediate resumption of negotiations and other statements from Europe and the Non-Aligned Movement in support of progress towards independent Palestinian statehood.
Hassan Ferdous, Acting Chief of the Palestine, Decolonization and Human Rights Section of the Department of Public Information, briefed the Committee on preparations for the 2011 International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East to be held on 12 and 13 July in Budapest, Hungary, which will explore the role of culture in promoting the peace agenda, among other aims. Among other activities of his department, he said that the exhibit on the Question of Palestine was currently being updated and made more user-friendly and would be formally re-launched in November. In addition, he noted that 10 Palestinian journalists, involved in multimedia, would benefit from this year’s training programme.
Richard Cook, Director, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Representative Office in New York, introduced his Agency’s report on unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, available on its website. He said that the situation in Gaza remained dire due to the blockade, with unemployment hitting 45.2 per cent, real wages continuing to decline and refugees significantly more affected than non-refugees.
Without access to jobs, Gaza’s residents remained heavily dependent on aid, he said. This year, $300 million had been requested, but $165 million was still needed to maintain services at 2010 levels. While UNRWA appealed for an end to the blockade as the solution for economic problems in Gaza, it also called on donors to make up for that shortfall.
According to the UNRWA report, the West Bank also had a deteriorating employment picture, with growth mainly in the public sector, contrary to media reports of a burgeoning economy. Real value of wages had also declined. He spoke of the damaging effect of continued restrictions to movement and land use on the economy, on the psychological health of children and on UNRWA’s work. He added that recent crises in Syria and Lebanon also had an impact in those areas. Finally, he warned of the deleterious effects of predicted UNRWA funding shortfalls on the situation in the region, with greater gaps foreseen if salary increases for some 30,000 national workers were required.
Introducing the report on the effects of access restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza on aid agencies was Hiba Qaraman of Save the Children United Kingdom, representing the 84 organizations of the Association of International Development Agencies. Denial of access permits, work visas, project permits in Area C of the West Bank and permits for movement cost association members some $4.5 million per year, she said, and undermined the quality and sustainability of programmes. Restrictions had also made it impossible to reach the most vulnerable communities.
In light of the humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, the organization called for respect for all basic rights of Palestinians and the granting of unhindered access for humanitarian and development agencies throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.
Responding to those reports, the First Counsellor of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine said that they showed the reality in Gaza and the West Bank caused by the blockade in Gaza and continued restrictions and housing demolitions in the West Bank. She shared the concerns of the speakers and expressed hope for a generous response to the crises that were ongoing and emerging in the region. Both reports confirmed that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was unsustainable and untenable and that the international community must take action to redress it. Indonesia’s representative asked for more details on the issues raised.
Finally, the representative of the Observer Mission of Palestine and the representatives of Malta and Mali paid tribute to Yuri Gourov, Director of the Palestinian Rights Division, and Cheryl Simon, Senior Meetings Servicing Assistant in the Division, who will retire in the course of this month.
The Committee will meet again at a time and place to be announced.
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