Remarks by H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly
29 November 2021
Today, as we mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must do so with a sense of humility.
Peace in the Middle East has remained at the forefront of the global agenda since the foundation of the United Nations, and much of that conversation has revolved around implementing a just settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
It is disappointing that despite the priority accorded to this issue,
the amount of energy expended,
the multiple UN resolutions adopted, and the decades of negotiations, dialogues, and engagements, so little has been accomplished.
And the people of Palestine continue to suffer, alongside their Israeli counterparts.
The vision of a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders, with Palestinians and Israelis living peacefully side-by-side, remains elusive.
Countless General Assembly Resolutions have affirmed the importance of resolving the situation of Palestinian refugees, to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.
However, the Palestinian aspirations for self-determination and sovereignty continue to remain unfulfilled.
Scattered across the Middle East and beyond, Palestinian families, uprooted in 1948, are losing hope of ever returning to their original homes, especially as illegal settlements outside of Israel’s demarcated borders proliferate.
Palestinians in the Gaza strip continue to live in appalling conditions, with limited access to basic amenities and services, including running water, electricity, medicine, and education.
They are trapped inside a cycle of unemployment, limited economic opportunity and poverty – a dynamic that has been severely exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic.
Deprived of statehood, they cannot even advocate on their own behalf as a peer member of the global community.
We must do much better.
We owe it to the people of the region to guarantee them their safety and security.
They deserve better than abject conditions. They deserve to have their aspirations for sovereignty and self-determination recognized and met.
We must continue to support Palestinians and Israelis in resolving the conflict, based on UN resolution 242 and other relevant resolutions, within the parameters of international law and the ongoing Middle East Peace Process.
Throughout the efforts let us never forget the human worth of the suffering inhabitants of this region. We must do all we can to ensure that they live a life of dignity.
I commend the ongoing work by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the Near East.
UNRWA provides vital education, health, and social services, helping to meet the needs of 5.6 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
I also welcome the resumption of crucial funding to UNRWA this year – though I note that it is not yet enough to comprehensively meet needs.
Once again, UNWRA does not have the funds to continue operations until the end of the year. This puts several important areas in jeopardy, including girls’ education, vaccination rollouts, and humanitarian assistance.
I urge the international community to ensure sufficient and reliable financing to ensure that Palestinian refugees receive adequate assistance.
I also urge them to not merely reflect on all the ways that we have failed to do right for the people of Palestine, but to earnestly work towards granting them what they have been yearning for decades: that is statehood, self-determination, respect, and dignity.
As President of the General Assembly, and as someone who has steadfastly called for peace across the Middle East throughout my career, I will continue to advocate on behalf of the Palestinian people.
I will continue to stand up for their rights.
And I will continue to hope for a settlement that will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in harmony with one another.
Let us come together as an international community and finally make that vision a reality.