|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General Stresses Need to Strengthen Institutions, Improve
NAIROBI, 1 July — The United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People opened in Nairobi today, under the theme “Fostering Active International Solidarity with the Palestinians: Solidifying the Economic Underpinnings of an Independent State”.
Organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the two-day Seminar is held in accordance with General Assembly resolutions 68/12 and 68/13 of 26 November 2013. Its purpose is to review the impact of the ongoing Israeli occupation, including the recent escalation on the ground, and the socioeconomic situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Gaza Strip.
In addition, the Seminar will examine the Palestinian National Development Plan for 2014-2016 and explore long-term strategies for economic development and growth, as well as opportunities in the wake of the State of Palestine’s accession to 20 international treaties and conventions. Finally, it will address new paradigms for the mobilization of international assistance.
Speaking during the opening were Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi; Martin Kimani, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations Office at Nairobi; Abdou Salam Diallo (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); and Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations.
The Director General delivered a message from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, thanking the Committee “for keeping the international community’s attention focused on this important subject”. He also welcomed the formation of the Palestinian National Consensus Government a month ago, on the basis of assurances by President Mahmoud Abbas that it would abide by commitments made by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on recognition of Israel, non-violence and adherence to previous agreements.
“I condemn in the strongest terms the murder of the three Israeli teenagers abducted on 12 June in the West Bank,” Secretary-General Ban declared. “There can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians. I sincerely hope that Israeli and Palestinian authorities will work together to bring the perpetrators swiftly to justice, and I extend my deepest sympathy to the families of the victims. I call on all parties to abide by their obligations under international law and to refrain from any actions that could further escalate this highly tense situation.”
He said he was also concerned about persisting negative trends in the West Bank, including the recent killings of Palestinians, and the negative impact on the civilian population of Israel’s ongoing operations, its continuing settlement activity and the demolition of Palestinian homes and property. He also condemned indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and called on all parties to avoid any loss of civilian life. He reiterated calls for immediate steps to improve conditions and ensure a full opening of crossings into Gaza.
The Secretary-General concluded by referring to the persistent dire economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza, emphasizing: “Strengthening Palestinian institutions and improving governance is key to stimulating investment and development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Going forward, it will be important to shore up support for the Palestinian National Development Plan 2014‑16.”
Mr. Kimani noted in his opening remarks that the Seminar was one of the events to mark the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The theme “clearly reflects the challenges faced by the Palestinians today”, he said, adding that “the socioeconomic and humanitarian impact of the Israel occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continues to elicit great concern”. He said: “The International community must also urge Israel to lift the heavy restrictions imposed on Palestinians in accessing their own natural resources, such as their land, water, minerals and natural gas reserves. These are among the factors of production that will allow local businesses to thrive and promote entrepreneurship in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
While Kenya’s financial resources were limited, efforts were under way to develop closer collaboration with the Palestinian people through bilateral agreements on education, trade, culture, youth, sports and tourism, he said. That should contribute to an overall improvement in the quality of life in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation that both Kenyans and Palestinians aspired to share. “ Kenya’s policy regarding the political solution continues to encourage a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute,” he said. “To that end, Kenya supported the application for membership of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations and continues to support the Palestinian cause and desire for an independent State of Palestine.”
Mr. Diallo recalled 29 November 2012, the day when the General Assembly had voted decisively to grant non-member observer State status to the State of Palestine through resolution 67/19. He expressed support for the formation of the Government of National Consensus, “made up of independent technocrats, to help steer the Palestinian people towards elections in the coming months”. He appealed to the donor community to focus on Palestine despite the emergence of new financial demands, and to “continue to respond generously to the needs outlined by the State of Palestine in its new National Development Plan”. By convening the Seminar, the Committee was striving to focus the international debate on the need to break the vicious cycle of occupation, which cost the Palestinian economy some $7 billion a year.
He went on to say that the international donor community had become the lifeline of the nascent State of Palestine, and needed to ensure that its investment would not be wasted. Both political and financial assistance were needed immediately for the Palestinian people at the present critical time. A new push was required to launch meaningful international engagement with the parties to restart direct negotiations. International support was also needed to bolster lasting reconciliation, strengthen Palestinian institutions and end the blockade of Gaza. Those were all mutually reinforcing goals that would require a large investment by the Palestinian people, the State of Palestine and the broader international community.
Mr. Kituyi cited UNCTAD’s contribution to activities for the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, pointing out that it had been one of the very first United Nations agencies to dedicate a programme to the economic development and welfare of the Palestinian people. It had started that effort in the early 1980s by establishing the Assistance to the Palestinian People Unit. “Our support to the Palestinian people extends to cover all areas of UNCTAD competencies, which include finance and development strategies, foreign direct investment, trade facilitation and logistics, enterprise development, and competition policy.” He added: “UNCTAD will continue to provide any support to the Palestinian people to build the capacities required for the efficient management of their economy and their search for economic prosperity.”
Mr. Mansour stressed that, while a State for the Palestinian people existed, their land was under occupation and the people’s objective was now to put an end to that state of affairs. Meeting in Africa was significant because the continent was a significant player in determining justice for the Palestinian people. Africans were very trusted partners since they knew from experience what it meant to live under colonialism, as well as foreign occupation and domination. After recounting the events leading up to the stalemate in the recent negotiations, he asked: “How can you succeed in the objective of ending the occupation and allowing independence for the State of Palestine when the Israeli occupying authorities intensify their settlement activities by 123 per cent?”
All those events, including the killing of innocent people, continued to create a negative atmosphere for peace negotiation, he continued, denying any involvement by the various Palestinian factions in the killing of three teenage Israeli settlers. The murders did not justify collective punishment of the Palestinian people, which included restrictions on access to holy sites, even during the current month of Ramadan, he stressed. Calling on the international community to let Israel know that there would be consequences if it continued its illegal actions, he said the State of Palestine was losing between $7 billion and $9 billion annually to Israel under the illegal occupation. The solution was to make the occupation more costly so that the Israelis would see that it was in their best interest to negotiate in good faith.
Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Indonesia, Malaysia and Senegal to the United Nations Office at Nairobi, as well the Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States.
The Seminar will resume on 2 July 2014.
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