|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
319th Meeting (AM)
Palestinian Rights Committee Approves Four Draft Resolutions
on Question of Palestine for Adoption by General Assembly
Committee Also Briefed on Situation in Occupied Palestinian Territory;
United Nations Environmental Assessment of Gaza Strip Following Recent Conflict
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People today recommended adoption by the General Assembly of four draft resolutions concerning its work, the work of the Division for Palestinian Rights and of the Department of Public Information (DPI) regarding the question of Palestine as well as the peaceful settlement of that question.
The Committee was also briefed on events that had taken place since its last meeting on 5 October (see Press Release GA/PAL/1136) and on a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report entitled Environmental assessment of the Gaza Strip: Following the Escalation of Hostilities in December 2008 – January 2009.
By the first of the texts approved by the Committee and forwarded to the Assembly, on “the Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine”, the Assembly, stressing that the illegal Israeli settlement campaign in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, constituted a major obstacle to peace, and expressing deep concern about the continuing Israeli measures of collective punishment, would urge the parties to undertake, with the support of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process, and the international community, the resumption of active and serious bilateral negotiations. In that regard, it would encourage the convening of an international conference in Moscow for the advancement and acceleration of a resumed peace process.
Also by that draft, the Assembly would reiterate its demand for full respect of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) regarding the December 2008–January 2009 events in the Gaza Strip, including its urgent call for a durable and fully respected ceasefire and for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout the Gaza Strip of humanitarian assistance.
The Assembly would call upon the parties to resume and accelerate direct peace negotiations towards the conclusion of a final peaceful settlement on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, especially of the Security Council, the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference, the Quartet-backed Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.
The draft resolution on the “work of the Committee” would have the Assembly request that body to continue its efforts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination, and to continue to review the situation and report to the Assembly, the Security Council or the Secretary-General, as appropriate.
The text would further request the Committee to continue to extend its cooperation and support to Palestinian and other civil society organizations and parliamentarians, and to continue to involve them in its work, in order to mobilize international solidarity and support for the Palestinian people, particularly in light of the current period of humanitarian hardship and financial crisis.
By the terms of a draft resolution on the “Division for Palestinian Rights”, the Assembly, considering that the Division continued to make a useful and constructive contribution to raising international awareness of the question of Palestine, and generating international support for the rights of the Palestinian people and a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, would request the Secretary-General to continue to provide the Division with the necessary resources. The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to ensure the continued cooperation of the Department of Public Information and other units of the Secretariat in enabling the Division to perform its tasks.
According to a draft resolution on “the special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information (DPI)”, the Assembly, considering that the Special Information Programme was very useful in raising the awareness of the international community concerning the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, would request the Department to continue, with the necessary flexibility as might be required by developments, the programme for the biennium 2010-2011.
That programme would include, among other things: the dissemination of information on all the activities of the United Nations system relating to the question of Palestine, as well as on the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Coordinator vis-à-vis the peace process; the organization and promotion of fact-finding news missions for journalists to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel; and continued provision of assistance to the Palestinian people in the field of media development, in particular to strengthen the annual training for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists.
The texts of the four draft resolutions were approved by consensus.
Briefing the Committee on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and political developments since the Committee’s last meeting, the Permanent Observer of the Palestinian Authority, Riyad Mansour, said that on 5 November, the General Assembly had adopted a resolution on the report of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council on the output of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, known as the “Goldstone Report”. That resolution had called for practical implementation of the report’s recommendations and that the document be transmitted to the Security Council, which should act according to its responsibilities. (See Press Release GA/10883.)
He was working with the Government of Switzerland regarding preparations to convene an emergency meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, as called for in the resolution. As for the resolution’s requirement for actions to be taken by the Palestinian side, he assured the Committee that he was talking to the Secretariat in order to ensure that those requirements would be implemented within the required three months.
“The issue of Jerusalem is still extremely explosive,” he said. Recently, he had introduced to the Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Decolonization) families who had been expelled from their homes and been replaced by settlers, a practice which was only one example of Israel’s behaviour. The Executive Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference had recently held a ministerial emergency meeting on the issue, and he hoped the issue would be considered by the Security Council. If the Israeli side did not stop its current activities there, Mr. Mansour warned: “we could go into the quagmire of a bloody confrontation in East Jerusalem.”
The statements and actions of United States President Barack Obama, including his statement that Israel had to stop all settlement activities, including regular growth, had raised the hope that Washington would deal differently with the Israeli Government. Since the failure of reaching a peace treaty in 2008, Israeli settlement activities had increased seventeen-fold. The Palestinian leadership had clearly stated that in order to participate in negotiations, obstacles that had led to the 2008 failure, particularly all settlement activities, had to be removed. Unfortunately, the United States administration had recently changed its position.
Mr. Mansour said that another obstacle to negotiations was that the Israel did not want to start where earlier negotiations had stopped, bunt wanted to go back to square one. Among other things, they did not want to negotiate the sharing of Jerusalem as capital of two independent States. As a result of those negative developments, President Mahmoud Abbas had indicated that he would not be a candidate to run for the post of President of the Palestinian Authority at the next elections. That statement had been interpreted by many as frustration with the peace process. In order to change his mind, the attitude of key players had to change.
Muralee Thummarukudy, Programme Officer in the Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Geneva, presented a UNEP study entitled Environmental Assessment of the Gaza Strip: Following the Escalation of Hostilities in December 2008 – January 2009. The survey examined the huge amount of demolition debris created as a result of the conflict, including the huge quantities of asbestos. It also considered the issue of sewage and how the conflict impacted on its storage and disposal.
He said during the conflict, more that 2,000 buildings had been damaged or demolished, although people were still living inside some of them. Disposing of the solid waste from demolished buildings and completing the demolition of damaged buildings in a safe manner were major challenges. Because of damage to one of the sewage plants, some 100,000 tonnes of raw sewage had flowed into an adjacent farmland, rendering the land unusable. There were also a number of bomb craters.
In addition, Mr. Thummarukudy said hazardous waste had been produced due to the impact of the demolitions, with asbestos presenting the most serious challenge, he said. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had created a separate landfill to deal with asbestos and other demolition debris. UNEP was of the view that all demolished buildings should be considered and treated as contaminated.
The report concluded that the events had created issues that were technically manageable if the needed funding was made available. The real challenge, however, had to do with the ground water, of which only 10 per cent could be used. He said the people in the Gaza Strip had no choice but find their own solutions, and some of those solutions would not be the healthiest. Moreover, unless urgent action was taken to address the ground water situation, there could be a collapse. That major finding was not necessarily a direct result of the events in the Gaza Strip but had been marginally impacted by it.
Updating the Committee on events since its last meeting on 6 October, its Chairman, Paul Badji (Senegal), said that on 14 October, an open debate had been held in the Security Council, during which he had expressed the Committee’s particular concern about the situation in Jerusalem and had encouraged the Council to consider seriously the recommendations contained in the Goldstone Report. On 28 and 29 October, the Yasser Arafat Foundation, together with a Moroccan partner, had organized the Jerusalem International Forum in Rabat, to which he had sent a message on behalf of the Committee.
Chairman Badji added that on 4 and 5 November, the General Assembly had considered the Report of the Human Rights Council, including the Goldstone Report. The Committee supported the report’s pre-eminent recommendation to Israel and the Palestinians to conduct impartial investigations and prosecute those found responsible.
He announced that the special meeting of the Committee to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People would take place on Monday, 30 November. That day would include the opening of an exhibit on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) entitled “The United Nations and the Palestine Refugees – 60 Year Later”, followed by a concert by the Maqamat orchestra of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah.
The representative of Indonesia made a short statement regarding the appointment of his country’s Permanent Representative Marty M. Natalegawa as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will meet again at a time and date to be announced.
* *** *