Committee also Debates Human Settlements Programme, Focuses on New Urban Agenda
Israel’s continued occupation of the State of Palestine and the Syrian Golan was throwing people into poverty and severely impeding sustainable development, speakers told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) as it debated those territories today.
The State of Palestine’s delegate stressed that 70,000 Palestinians were now refugees after 50 years of Israeli occupation, which had divided their territories into three regions. Adding that Israel controlled more than 61 per cent of the West Bank, driving Palestinians from their land and hindering economic activity, he urged the international community to stop Israeli settlements and boycott their products.
Similarly, Qatar’s representative, speaking for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said Israel had subjected Palestinians to land grab, as well as population displacement, suppressing any resistance. “Fifty years of occupation, oppression, humiliation and the worst kinds of human rights violations is enough, and it is morally, legally and politically unacceptable to allow this to continue,” he said.
Israel was constantly expanding its settlements, more interested in tightening its control over Palestinian land than peace, he continued. Emphasizing that Israel must end its prolonged occupation and comply with international law, he called on concerned Member States to support Palestine’s efforts in gaining its rights.
Tunisia’s representative, speaking for the Arab Group, said Israeli settlers enjoyed a discriminatory policy in land distribution, denying Palestinians the right to build or cultivate. The demolition of homes had continued, significantly undermining the possibility of a two-State solution.
Syria’s delegate said Israeli authorities were imposing discriminatory laws in occupied Syrian Golan and flagrantly challenging United Nations resolutions. They were giving financial enticements to people who settled in the Golan for at least five years, denying Syrians there from the benefits of agriculture.
Israel was dumping waste in the Golan, charging Syrians more for water than Israelis and using their land to build electricity plants, she said. Further, Israel had begun to impose its influence on two valleys contingent to Golan, where it was using terrorist groups to force people off their lands and migrate.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s note on economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/71/86-E/2016/13) was the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Council for Western Asia.
Prior to the discussion, Lithuania’s delegate introduced a draft resolution on cooperative measures to assess and increase awareness of environmental effects related to waste originating from chemical munitions dumped at sea (document A/C.2/71/L.21).
Also speaking in the Palestinian and Golan debate were the representatives of Thailand (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), South Africa (for the African Group), Nicaragua, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Maldives, Iran, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Libya, Namibia, Egypt, Bangladesh and Oman.
Earlier today, the Committee took up its agenda item on the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat), with speakers highlighting the challenges of rapid city growth and stressing the need for international cooperation in implementing the New Urban Agenda on sustainable urbanization.
Singapore’s delegate, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said urban areas accounted for more than half the gross domestic product (GDP) of the region’s nations, with another 54 million people expected in its cities by 2025. An expanding middle class was the result, but South-East Asian cities now faced numerous challenges, including deteriorating living conditions and environmental degradation.
The Association had taken steps to improve water and air quality of water and air through regional and national initiatives, she continued. It was also boosting coordination among relevant sectors to provide access to clean land, as well as green public spaces and promoting cities friendly to children, youth, the elderly and disabled persons.
India’s delegate said the world was now witnessing urbanization — most of it unplanned — at an unprecedented pace. Some 377 million Indians lived in urban areas, accounting for two thirds of the country’s GDP and 90 per cent of Government revenues. India had launched programmes to encourage smart cities, improve urban livelihoods, reinvigorate cities as engines of economic growth and integrate urban and rural settlements.
Presenting the report on implementation of the outcomes of United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and Housing and Sustainable Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (document A/71/347) and note on the coordinated implementation of the Habitat agenda (document A/71/356) was the Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.
Also speaking in the UN-Habitat debate were the representatives of Thailand (for the Group of 77), Jamaica (for the Caribbean Community), Dominican Republic (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Maldives (for the Alliance of Small Island States), Nigeria (for the African Group), Ecuador, Philippines, Guatemala, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Iran, Algeria, Senegal, China, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Brazil, Myanmar, Kenya, Venezuela, El Salvador and Nepal.
Representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also spoke.
Introduction of Reports on UN-Habitat
AISA KIRABO KACYIRA, Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary‑General for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat), presented the report on the implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (document A/71/347) and the note on the coordinated implementation of the Habitat agenda (document A/71/356).
She stated that last week’s United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) had adopted the New Urban Agenda, which was a vital step in taking national and local Governments towards an action-oriented agenda for sustainable urbanization. Outlining UN-Habitat activities, she said the World Urban Campaign, which now consisted of 145 partners, had prepared a document entitled “The city we need 2.0: towards a new urban paradigm”. That document contained principles, drivers of change and solutions for developing cities that were inclusive and equitable, ecological and resilient, economically vibrant, safe and healthy. The Campaign had organized 26 “urban thinkers campuses”, engaging more than 2,000 organizations and close to 8,000 participant from 124 countries on key themes in “the city we need” document. Other activities included World Habitat Day 2015 under the theme “public spaces for all” at United Nations Headquarters, where a high-level discussion was held covering key developments in public space design. World Cities Day 2015 was also held in Milan, Italy under the general theme “better city, better life”. The event was hosted by UN-Habitat, the city of Milan and the Shanghai Municipal Government.
Continuing, she recommended that Member States consider how to provide bridging finance for UN-Habitat to conclude an independent assessment of the agency, stressing the need to bolster its resources by $5 million per financial year for 2016 to 2017. It was also necessary to strengthen the current role of UN-Habitat as the focal point for sustainable urbanization and human settlements issues within the United Nations system and support the strengthening of the Organization’s system-wide coordinated approach to sustainable urbanization and human settlements. The international community should also provide strong political support for the New Urban Agenda to strengthen the contribution of well-planned urbanization to sustainable development.
THANAVON PAMARANON (Thailand), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcomed the New Urban Agenda adopted in Quito, Ecuador. The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) had been a great success, and implementation and ensuring that the follow-up and review mechanism of the Agenda was put in place needed to begin immediately. The Conference reaffirmed Habitat II, including common but differentiated responsibilities; highlighted the role of international cooperation and the commitments of developed countries; noted the unique and emerging urban challenges faced by developing countries, especially those in special situations; and stressed the importance of a strong organizational machinery for implementing the New Urban Agenda.
The Group, she said, looked forward to an evidence-based and independent assessment of UN‑Habitat and the two day high‑level meeting of the General Assembly. It was important to include the review of global progress in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda as part of the integrated and coordinated follow‑up process to the United Nations conferences and summits. The Group would submit a draft proposal under that agenda item in the upcoming days.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development required all countries to harness the positive force of sustainable urbanization. The Association welcomed the New Urban Agenda adopted at Habitat III. Urban areas today accounted for more than half the gross domestic product (GDP) of Southeast Asian nations, and an additional 54 million people were expected to move into ASEAN cities by 2025. Those developments had helped create an expanding middle class, but Southeast Asian cities faced numerous challenges to liveability and environmental sustainability.
The Association had taken steps to ensure that its cities were environmentally sustainable, intensifying efforts to improve the quality of water and air through regional and national initiatives, he continued. The group was enhancing participatory and integrated approaches in urban planning and management; strengthening the capacity of national and local institutions; promoting coordination among relevant sectors to provide access to clean land, green public spaces and clean air, water and sanitation; promoting cities that were friendly to children, youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities; and strengthening policies for the effective management of population growth and rural to urban migration.
E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said an unfortunate feature of rapid urbanization in his region was a housing deficit that had resulted in a large share of the population living in informal settlements, which were vulnerable to and disproportionately affected by landslides, flooding and storm surges. The absence of efficiently functioning land markets, inaccurate property registrations and land disputes had further compounded the problem and slowed the pace of housing construction programmes. A key issue was putting measures in place to protect homes against rising sea levels, given that half the population lived within five kilometres from the coastline. The knock‑on effects for lives could severely and swiftly undermine years of social and economic development.
He supported the attention given in the New Urban Agenda to renewed local-national partnerships, in which stakeholders and local and subnational Governments served as strategic partners of national Governments, based on a strong national system of cities and well‑balanced territorial development to support national development targets. He also supported effected decentralization, which could strengthen urban governance and management. Within that context, the importance of cross sectoral linkages and the need for equitable distribution of resources across the urban rural continuum were of great significance. Critical infrastructure related to transportation, public health, educational facilities, water, sanitation, agriculture, communications and other vital sectors must be prioritized to ensure coherence and coordination in integrated development efforts.
FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that it was imperative to implement the New Urban Agenda. Cities and human settlements needed to be accessible to people of all ages and from all conditions of human and cultural diversity. CELAC member States recognized the critical importance of adequate housing, urban and territorial planning, urban governance, water and sanitation, sustainable mobility and land management.
Cities needed to be resilient in the face of climate change, he continued. It was necessary to significantly reduce the impacts of cities on climate change through the promotion of sustainable consumption and production patterns, while at the same time increasing preventive and reactive measures to foster urban resilience to natural hazards. CELAC also highlighted that the Right to the City was considered in some countries as a guiding concept advocating for a living environment.
MARIYAM MIDHFA NAEEM (Maldives), speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States and associating herself with the Group of 77, said States had committed to many ambitious agendas and frameworks, from the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement to the Sendai Framework. The New Urban Agenda provided a chance for the international community to consider the interlinkages between those issues in the urban-rural context. Small island developing States had diverse types and sizes of urban spaces due to their relatively small size. Urban trend metrics therefore needed to account for settlements with populations under 100,000 to help small island States track progress on urbanization challenges.
The Alliance, she said, welcomed the Habitat III outcome document’s attention to improving connectivity, coastal management, the integration of sustainable consumption and production and the focus on climate change and building resilience. The increase frequency and severity of natural hazards threatened urban environments in small island developing States.
AKINREMI BOLAJI (Nigeria) spoke on behalf of the Africa Group and associated himself with the Group of 77. He said that the Group continued to note the unprecedented increase in urbanization with more than 50 per cent of the world population reportedly living in cities and towns, especially in Asia and Africa. Urban settlements around the world, particularly in Africa, faced many challenges, including the effects of climate change, resource depletion, food insecurity, economic instability, unprecedented levels of unemployment, rising crime and urban and rural poverty. To meet those challenges, the international community needed to consider social and economic inclusion, such as upgrading informal settlements with integrated infrastructures and services that targeted marginalized groups; mobilizing urban financing from local and foreign investors; and improving human capital through equal access to education, health-care services and facilities.
Continuing, he said the Africa Group welcomed the World Cities Report 2016: Urbanization and Development: Emerging Futures prepared by UN-Habitat. The Group was concerned by the report’s assertion that the current urbanization model was unsustainable in many ways and needed to better respond to current global challenges, such as inequality, climate change, informality, insecurity and the unsustainable forms of urban expansion. The Group called for capacity support, especially at the subnational and local government levels, where most of the New Urban Agenda would be carried out. While the focus would continue to be on mobilizing domestic resources, the Africa Group said official development assistance (ODA) played an important role in complementing these resources.
HORACIO SEVILLA BORJA (Ecuador), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, expressed pleasure at the success of the Habitat III Conference in Ecuador. He drew attention to a suggestion made at the meeting that the international community should consider reducing the time between conferences from 20 to 10 years for follow‑up of the New Urban Agenda. He noted that interventions in the Conference’s general debate had emphasized the need for inhabitants of cities to live in a sustainable, just environment. It also emphasized the need to reduce the inequality gap, for regulations preventing land speculation and restraining profits from land speculation or insider trading. The international community must combat illegal sources of wealth that adversely affected the common good. The New Urban Agenda deserved priority in the work of the United Nations, which should join with other stakeholders in implementing it.
MARIA ANGELA PONCE (Philippines), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, welcomed the adoption of the New Urban Agenda at the Habitat Conference, where her country had been a co‑facilitator in the negotiations. The Philippines continued to urbanize at a relatively high pace, and cities and urban areas were driving its economy. Urbanization also brought challenges, however: sporadic and unplanned growth had resulted in poor services for managing solid waste, waste water, air quality, transportation and other needs, as well as environmental degradation. Such challenges called for multi‑stakeholder engagement, as well as evaluation mechanisms capable of assisting Governments in meeting the challenges of rapid urbanization and poverty eradication.
ASHISH KUMAR SINHA (India), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the world was witnessing urbanization at an unprecedented pace across continents. People were moving to cities for a variety of reasons, and while urban areas were often centres of growth, much of the urbanization was proceeding in an unplanned manner. The New Urban Agenda was broad in nature, permitting variations for national circumstances. Some 377 million Indians lived in urban areas, accounting for two thirds of India’s GDP and 90 per cent of Government revenues. India had launched programmes to encourage smart cities, improve urban livelihoods, reinvigorate cities as engines of economic growth and integrate urban and rural settlements. Efforts to combat poverty would increasingly be determined by efforts to integrate urban development into socioeconomic planning.
JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE ARENALES (Guatemala), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the international community now had the opportunity to work towards goals in the 2030 Agenda, which would strengthen global political commitments to people and settlements. The New Urban Agenda provided a global strategy for urbanization over the next two decades. He noted that population shifts were part of global economic changes. For decades, they had led to a situation where the urban populations were growing twice as fast as rural ones. The global community could make use of urbanization as an opportunity to redefine development models. Guatemala had put policies in place to reduce inequalities, provide food security and invest in infrastructure, which were geared towards orderly urban growth over the next 50 years.
PAVEL A. FONDUKOV (Russian Federation) welcomed the New Urban Agenda outcome document. Such a positive outcome would not have been possible unless views from a broad range of countries had been taken into account. Implementation was now important. National Governments would now integrate the New Urban Agenda into their national strategies. The Russian Federation’s policy on urban development and housing and services was already consistent with the provisions of the Agenda, and his country was actively working on new approaches to tackling challenges including congestion, concentration of populations and industry, pollution, safe water and sanitation, waste management and disposal, energy, safety and stability. Every country had its own unique experience that could be useful to the world community, and at Habitat III, the Russian Federation had suggested setting up an open catalogue on best practices for urban development.
OBAID SALEM AL ZAABI (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that his country was among the most urbanized nations in the world, and in such an arid environment, resource management was critical. Its cities were consistently ranked among the most liveable in the region for several reasons. First, tolerance was the underpinning engine of sustainable economic growth, and the United Arab Emirates was one of the most diverse societies in the world. Cities needed to be safe for all residents, and it was necessary to stamp out violence and harassment based on cultural, religious or other differences. Second, universal energy access needed to be a fundamental pillar of urban planning. He highlighted the remarkable opportunity afforded by sustainable energy. Third, strategic integrated planning that was multifaceted yet dynamic was of central importance to the State. Lastly, the sharing of ideas and experience across cities, countries and regions was critical to drive innovation and change behaviour.
MUHAMMAD TAKDIR (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said the New Urban Agenda was connected to the 2030 Agenda, Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement. Towns and cities needed to be resilient in the face of sea level rise and natural hazards. More than half of Indonesia’s people lived in urban areas, and the country was promoting green and smart cities that were competitive, technology-based and nurtured innovation. The New Urban Agenda also focused on building stronger partnerships, including South-South collaboration as a complement to North-South collaboration.
EBRAHIM ALIKHANI (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the New Urban Agenda showed the world’s shared concerns on the challenges and opportunities of urbanization. The specific needs, conditions and levels of each country, particularly developing nations, needed to be recognized in implementing the Agenda. The importance of national ownership could not be overemphasized. The right to development was an inalienable and indispensable human right. Iran viewed the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society. Technology transfer, technical assistance and financial resources would play a significant role in implementing the Agenda in the coming years.
MOURAD MEBARKI (Algeria), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the New Urban Agenda would be vital over the next 20 years as it would contribute to creating conditions needed to ensure that all nations could achieve development. It was actually an extension of the 2030 Agenda, reflecting a shared vision on how the international community could benefit from progress made. However, it would need coordination and synergy, at the international, regional and national level, especially with resources and transferring technology. Algeria had been pursuing urban development by ensuring decent housing was available to as many people as possible, and putting an end to slum housing. It had adopted different approaches to funding those projects and had been able to build 60 per cent of the new housing in urban areas and 40 per cent in rural areas.
MAMADOU MBODJ (Senegal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, welcomed the New Urban Agenda and expressed support for the importance and relevance of the mandate. It was necessary to mobilize efforts to implement what had been agreed. Countries were dealing with the terrible consequences of rapid urbanization, often poorly controlled. That had cross-cutting influences and unavoidably had to do with economic development. There was a real opportunity for economic and social development, but it was necessary to note that rapid urban development posed serious problems for many countries. Senegal had reoriented its national development programme. Energy supply needed to be more effective, financial resources had to be mobilized and infrastructure needed to be improved.
CAO ZHIYONG (China) said international cooperation was urgently needed in tackling growing urbanization of the world’s cities. The Habitat III Conference had adopted the New Urban Agenda, which was universal and operational, providing a model to deal with urbanization for the coming two decades. The international community should accelerate efforts to implement the Agenda to resolve the growing human settlement problem. Improving human settlements was especially important in developing countries, which should create conditions for economic and social development. The international community should assist through debt relief and increased market access so those countries could achieve development goals. China had vigorously promoted energy efficiency and reduced emissions, which had led to a significant improvement of human settlements in the country.
Mr. ABDULWAHAB (Bahrain), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that his country had many achievements to its credit in urbanization, having adopted the concept of lasting cities from an ecological point of view. Bahrain had a young population, and had endeavoured to meet the needs of its substantial age 15-30 population. It had instituted national programmes to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and promote urban development, and had prepared a study on habitat policies in cooperation with the United Nations.
GEBEYEHU GANGA GAYITO (Ethiopia) said a central pillar of urban development was the fulfilment of the fundamental right to housing. The Ethiopian Government had been implementing the Integrated Housing Development Programme since 2008 at the federal, regional and city levels to address the housing problem. More than 250,000 houses had been built and 200,000 had been transferred to urban residents, including low income earners. The Programme had reduced the housing problem and also created job opportunities, especially for women and youth, encouraged savings and reduced slums. It had also improved construction sector capacity. As for urban unemployment, the Government had been implementing an entrepreneurship strategy that continued to enhance development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises by creating an enabling business environment. By providing training, credit services and production and sales places, administrations at all levels were encouraging job creation through entrepreneurship.
PHILIP FOX-DRUMMOND GOUGH (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said cities were arguably the greatest invention of mankind and spurred innovation and entrepreneurship. Brazil supported the right to the city. Cities, however, also concentrated and amplified environmental, economic and social challenges, and by 2030 the United Nations estimated that the world’s slum population would reach 2 billion. The New Urban Agenda was a step in the right direction, and made notable reference to topics absent at Habitat I and II, such as promoting a balance between compact cities and urban expansion; the need to upgrade slums without tearing the social fabric apart; and the importance of promoting road safety.
EI EI KHIN AYE (Myanmar), said her State was the largest Southeast Asian country in terms of square kilometres and population, as of 2014. It had 51.48 million citizens and an average population growth rate of 1.3 per cent and 70.4 per cent of its people lived in rural areas while the remaining 29.6 per cent lived in urban areas. To address the challenges of maintaining an equitable balance between the rural and urban in a predominantly agricultural country, the Government had renewed its focus on urban development and housing. It had focused on housing for low-income groups, poverty reduction in rural and urban areas, empowerment of local governments and decentralization, urban-rural links and rural road connections for growth and trade. Its National Urban Policy was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016. In January, Myanmar had adopted a new National Land Use Policy, which served as the base of its new National Land Law. The Law unified the diverse land laws throughout the country. In addition, the Myanmar Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (2016-2030) aimed to build resilience to the increased risks of natural rapid and slow on-set disasters for all township and city dwellers.
ANTHONY ANDANJE (Kenya) said the Habitat III outcome document laid out a firm foundation to promote inclusive cities and a human settlements’ development agenda. He was convinced that the New Urban Agenda incorporated the means for effective implementation of those goals, but emphasized that it also required financial and non-financial resources. The share of Kenyans living in urban areas would rise from 37 per cent today to above 50 per cent by 2030. Those urban centres were drivers of economic growth, and would require increased investment in infrastructure and services. In view of its new status as a middle-income country, it expected to face challenges in accessing funding from international financial sources, which were declining. He appealed for upscaling of international cooperation to enhance the capacity of countries. Kenya also reiterated its call for strengthening UN-Habitat.
ALESSANDRO PINTO DAMIANI (Venezuela), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the New Urban Agenda could only be implemented if the international community worked together. Settlements, habitats, housing, poverty, conflicts and climate change were all pending global issues which had to be addressed. Venezuela had made enormous efforts to address urbanization, beginning in 2011 with a major housing initiative. It had tackled housing at the national level, based on the right to land, providing funding for several housing projects. To date, some 1.1 million houses had been built, with a view to achieving the country’s goal of 3 million by 2019. It had taken a district approach, seeking to improve housing and infrastructure in poorer areas. He stressed the importance of international cooperation, underscoring the need for developed countries to live up to commitments made, especially for funding and the transfer of technology.
HECTOR JAIME CALDERON (El Salvador), associating with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the New Urban Agenda was a major step forward for achieving sustainable development. His State was committed to implementing the Agenda within the context of democracy, and stressed the importance of inclusive participation, particularly by minorities and vulnerable groups. El Salvador had acknowledged the right to housing and was now moving ahead with the right to the city. It was necessary to have international cooperation as a main pillar for ensuring implementation of the agreements reached, and he called on the whole of the international community to strengthen support for developing countries as they sought to implement their national plans. UN-Habitat had a key role to play.
LOK BAHADUR POUDEL CHHETRI (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the priority needed to be implementing the New Urban Agenda in an effective manner to create just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements. Nepal was urbanizing rapidly, following a global trend. The country had taken up massive reconstruction plans following the devastating 2015 earthquake. As a landlocked least developed country emerging from conflict and natural hazards, Nepal’s development costs were at least 20 per cent higher than non-landlocked developing countries, while problems such as poverty, investment gaps, low or no access to technology, weak capacity, narrow base of economy and the impacts of climate change and hazards continue to remain challenges. Nepal looked forward to implementing the New Urban Agenda in partnership with the international community.
ASHRAF EL NOUR, Permanent Observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the New Urban Agenda presented a local plan for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals as well as climate change, disaster risk reduction and financing for development agendas. It also stressed the need to ensure full respect for human rights and humane treatment of all migrants, including internally displaced persons and refugees. To build on those commitments, the international community must strengthen synergies between international migration and development at the global, regional, national, subnational and local levels. It must ensure that all stakeholders could contribute to policies promoting safe, orderly and regular migration through planned and well-managed migration policies. In implementing the Agenda, local leaders and community actors must work closely with Governments and a broad range of partners. Cities were uniquely placed to distil ongoing initiatives, programmes and services available to migrants being offered by various actors on all fronts.
VINICIUS PINHEIRO, International Labour Organization (ILO), welcomed adoption of the New Urban Agenda, stressing the need to look at concrete policies and actions that combined housing, development of human settlements and decent work. The international community should promote respect for labour standards in procedures for public procurement contracts and other elements of the implementation of the Agenda. It should promote implementation of the ILO recommendation concerning transition from informal to formal economies. It was also important to ensure compliance with adequate occupational safety and health standards. In addition, the international community should promote the creation of green jobs as part of cities’ efforts to act on climate change and transition to more resource efficient and low-carbon patterns. Finally, it should promote social dialogue at the local level, engaging workers and enterprises together with local authorities to discuss labour-related challenges and plan solutions.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania), introduced a draft resolution on Cooperative measures to assess and increase awareness of environmental effects related to waste originating from chemical munitions dumped at sea (document A/C.2/71/L.21). The text was sponsored by all member States of the European Union. It encouraged continuing outreach efforts to increase awareness of the issue, called for voluntary sharing of information, and invited Member States in a position to do so to consider providing assistance and share relevant expertise. The document also asked the Secretary‑General to submit recommendations for identifying appropriate intergovernmental bodies within the United Nations system for further consideration and implementation of the cooperative measures envisaged in the resolution.
Introduction of Report on Palestinian Sovereignty
RIMA KHALAF, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Council for Western Asia (ESCWA), presented the Secretary‑General’s note on economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/71/86-E/2016/13). She said the note covered the period ending March 2016 and was based on data from credible sources, including the United Nations, World Bank and Israeli non‑governmental organizations. It stated that Israeli occupation in Palestine had continued to violate international humanitarian and human rights laws. Half a century of occupation had undermined Palestinian dignity and increased frustrations, which in some situations had led to violence. Israeli policies provided Palestinians inequitable access to water and land. Israeli settlers were rarely held accountable when they caused damage to Palestinian property and religious sites. Unable to obtain Israeli construction permits, Palestinians had been forced to build houses without them and were then subject to forced evacuation.
Israel had discriminatory policies against Palestinians living in Jerusalem, making it difficult for them to find employment and often forcing them to leave the city, she said. Palestinians had continued to suffer from the excessive use of force and lack of protection against Israeli settler attacks. There were reports of possibly unlawful and extrajudicial killings of innocent people posing no danger to life. Detention of Palestinians was often coupled with violations of their rights and international humanitarian law. Reports of medical negligence in detention had continued to emerge. In the West Bank, Palestinians had continued to be displaced, mainly due to home takeovers, harassment and violence. Israel’s illegal presence in the Occupied Territory violated international humanitarian law and the Palestinian’s right to self‑determination. On the Left Bank, Israeli policies had left Palestinians little access to water. The cumulative impact of almost 50 years of occupation and long‑standing Israeli restrictions had stifled economic activity and resulted in an aid‑dependent economy. That was indicated by the 26 per cent unemployment rate and 1.6 million people currently facing severe food insecurity, which was particularly alarming in Gaza.
The representative of the State of Palestine welcomed the note. However, he said that the words “Israeli Security Forces and Army” were used in paragraphs 6, 16 and 19. That term was not correct, and should read “Israeli Occupying Forces” instead, as the whole world knew that that was an Occupying Power. He then showed the Committee a photo of a child he said had been killed by the Israeli Army, and noted that more such images could be found on the Internet.
He stated that the use of the term “illegal armed Israeli settlers” in the report was problematic. All settlers, without exception, practiced violence, and that phrase could suggest that there were illegally and legally armed settlers. “Armed settlers” would be better, he said, noting that the Arabic translation of the document was different.
Paragraph 17 had referenced Palestinians “allegedly” taking violent action against Israelis, and that was totally unacceptable, he continued. “Who has decided that they are carrying arms against Israel?” he said. “Those who have decided to do so are the Israeli Occupying Forces.”
In Paragraph 40, the use of the expression “significant procedural and legal steps,” was totally misplaced, he said. Those steps and procedures were normal so long as they were legal and taken under the Israeli law, and that was the law of the Israeli occupation.
Paragraph 50 had mentioned the Dawabsha family, but he said it failed to mention the Israeli criminal settlers who had committed the crime and did not mention that Israel admitted knowing who the killers were but could not arrest them.
Paragraph 82 had spoken about non‑admissibility of Palestinians to make use of maritime wealth, he said. It was very important to refer to that. Also, the Palestinian wealth at the Mediterranean did not stop at the oil wealth. In Western Ramallah, there were four Palestinian oil wells used by Israel. “Next time, we expect the report should clarify this point,” he said.
He also provided some general remarks on what he hoped to see in upcoming reports. The note had not mentioned the livelihood gaps between Israelis and Palestinians by comparing per capita incomes, and the resulting effects on the purchasing power parity of Palestinians. Also, it failed to mention statements of the Israelis against the Palestinians, and how they were “always propagating for the non‑acceptance of the two‑State solution,” he said.
The note also did not mention repeated attacks and administrative detention of journalists, he said. The next report, he said, needed to draw a panoramic picture of Palestinian tourism in Bethlehem, East Jerusalem and other areas that Palestinians were original owners of and did not benefit from tourism revenues today. It was also necessary to connect to the Palestinian right to achieve sustainable development. Furthermore, there were “a lot of racist laws passed by the Knesset recently with adverse socioeconomic effects on Palestinians,” he said.
The note had also remained silent on the socioeconomic dimensions of the blockade, he stated. Palestine had three totally separated zones, and it was nearly impossible to connect any of those areas, which was an economic catastrophe. Moreover, the report was silent on the incapability of Palestinians to engage in free trade with the countries of the world, which caused economic burdens. Palestinians had no control over their borders, which had repercussions on trade, and the next report needed to reflect that. Finally, the document had not mentioned that Israeli settlements were used as tax havens for Israeli businessmen.
In response, Ms. KHALAF said that many of those remarks were accurate and would be taken into account. She noted that the 8,500 word count limit on reports did not allow it to cover each and every type of suffering of the Palestinian people. The document report referred to quotes from other sources that used “Israeli security forces”, but the Secretariat would consider the wording. On the issue of settlers, the United Nations position was that all Israeli settlement activity was illegal, and “illegal Israeli settlers” should not be used to imply that any Israeli settlers’ presence was legal. Nonetheless, the report used the term as it appeared in the Economic and Social Council resolution. The communicative economic cost of the occupation was outside the scope of the report, but ESCWA was putting together an analytical framework to measure that. For 50 years, Israel had been allowed to continue its occupation, and its settlements, which were recognized by no other nation, had expanded. Israel had violated the United Nations Charter, Security Council resolutions and international law without being held accountable.
The representative of the State of Palestine said United Nations documents were unreliable, as they took the part of Palestine against Israel, even if they claimed to be objective. One reason for that was that Israel did not allow the representatives of the United Nations or other organizations into the occupied territories. Israel carried out diplomatic terrorism, claiming that all of them were anti‑Semites. Some 70,000 Palestinians were now refugees after 50 years of occupation. Israel had established a system of apartheid and had divided Palestinian territories into three regions. Israel controlled more than 61 per cent of the West Bank and prevented Palestinians from carrying out economic activities. The international community condemned that behaviour but he questioned what it should do in that case to uphold the United Nations Charter. Settlement activity and occupation in Palestine was a war crime. Settlers were accomplices in that crime. The international community must prevent or stop support for Israeli settlements. It must boycott settlements and their products. It must not accept the situation or Israeli diplomatic representation.
THANAVON PAMARANON (Thailand), speaking for the Group of 77, expressed concern over the persistent Israeli practices and policies that affected the social and economic conditions of the Palestinian people. The Group stressed its unwavering and unequivocal support for the economic development efforts and aspirations of the Palestinian people, including in East Jerusalem, as well as those of the Syrian people in the occupied Syrian Golan, and underscored that the agenda item in question was relevant to the Second Committee.
She noted the effects of the occupation on the Palestinian people, including high rates of unemployment and rampant poverty levels; destruction of homes and properties; obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects; and damages to the electric grid. It was necessary, in fulfilling the 2030 Agenda, not to forget people living under colonial and foreign occupation and to strive to remove the obstacles to their full realization of the right of self‑determination.
LAWRENCE XOLANI MALAWANE (South Africa), speaking for the African Group, said that it was clear from the Secretary‑General’s report that the Israeli occupation and its practices had obstructed Palestinian social and economic development and at times also reversed it. In a world that was supposed to be shaped by the mantra of “leaving no one behind”, where did the international community place people living under foreign occupation, he asked.
The Secretary‑General’s note, he continued, had pointed out the lack of services for Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem; the destruction of homes and livelihoods; and forced evictions and settler violence. Furthermore, 2.3 million Palestinians would need some type of humanitarian assistance in 2016. The Palestinian economy and private sector existed under prolonged occupation as long‑standing Israeli restrictions had severely impacted movements, access and trade. A total of 1.6 million Palestinians suffered from marginal or moderate food insecurity, he said, adding that the occupation had also had a detrimental impact on their mental health.
AHMED ALKUWARI (Qatar), speaking for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the Secretary‑General’s note indicated that the Palestinian people were enduring a human rights crisis. “Yes, Mr. President, 50 years of occupation, oppression, humiliation and the worst kinds of human rights violations is enough, and it is morally, legally and politically unacceptable to allow this to continue”, he said.
The document, he continued, had outlined the three-tiered strategy that Israel had systematically carried out against the Palestinian people: population displacement, land grab and suppression of any form of resistance. A day had not passed in which the occupying Power, Israel, had not expanded its settlements. The Israeli Government was more interested in consolidating its control over Palestinian land than achieving peace, he said, adding that it must end its prolonged occupation and comply with international law. The OIC appealed for the continued support of all concerned member States and the United Nations to the Palestinian people in their efforts to achieve their rights.
RAMZI LOUATI (Tunisia), speaking for the Arab Group and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the note provided a realistic and accurate documentation of the violations by Israel targeted at the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territory and the Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan. The report emphasized that the occupying Power used discriminatory policies that were a grave violation of international humanitarian law, using excessive violence and force that led to death and injury of civilians. The Israeli atrocities had led to the killing of 212 Palestinians in the period covered by the report, including 40 children and the injury of more than 16,000 Palestinians. Israel also imposed restrictions on movement of people and goods.
The settlers also enjoyed a discriminatory policy that served them in the distribution of land which violated the Palestinian right to build and use their land, which had negative socioeconomic conditions, he said. The demolition of homes continued. Those practices undermined significantly the possibility of a two-State solution. The Arab Group called for intensified efforts by Member States and the United Nations to support the Palestinian people and relieve them of the violations by Israel and to protect the rights of the Arab population in the Syrian Golan and end the occupation. Ending settlement expansion was a sine qua non for a peaceful settlement that guaranteed Palestinian rights to a viable, independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital.
PATRICIA BAJAÑA (Nicaragua), said the Palestinian Authority had no control over its land, water or other natural resources, and could not supply their people with even minimal living conditions. Stressing the urgent need to implement the 2030 Agenda, she said Palestinians also deserved to achieve those objectives. For more than five decades, the Palestinians had suffered occupation and had been denied the right to development. She expressed concern that the situation in the occupied territories was getting worse. The international community must bring about the sustainable development of occupied people and must make it possible for refugees to return to territories that historically belonged to them.
Mr. AXIOMA (Indonesia), underscoring that the 2030 Agenda emphasized no one should be left behind, but the Palestinian people could not be put on a trajectory for sustainable development under the occupying Power’s policies. The occupying Power had ignored a volume of calls by the international community to stop illegal activities, including settlement expansion and forced diversion of water resources. That was a political, not a technical, problem, and, therefore, a political solution was needed. All efforts needed to be exerted to achieve the two‑State solution. He voiced support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s call to make 2017 the year to end the Israeli occupation. His country continued to contribute constructively to Palestinian development, including through capacity‑building programmes for Palestinians in cooperation with non‑governmental organizations.
Mrs. SHURBAJI (Syria), said the Israeli occupying authorities were still imposing discriminatory laws in occupied Syrian Golan, which were flagrant challenges to United Nations resolutions. Those authorities were giving financial enticements to people who settled in the Golan for at least five years. Israeli applied discriminatory and racist policies, denying Syrians in the Golan from the benefits of agriculture. The Israeli authorities had appropriated land from Syrians and deprived them from marketing their good in their motherland. Furthermore, Israel was dumping waste in the Syrian Golan, which was having bad effects on local health. Syrians were paying much more than Israelis for water and their land was being used to build electricity plants and extract wealth from Golan. Israel had begun to impose its influence and power on two valleys contingent to Golan. Terrorist groups working for Israeli forces were also aiming to evacuate those valleys by attempting to talk the Syrian people there out of their lands.
KHALID HULAYYIIL M. ALOTAIBI (Saudi Arabia), said that an economic siege had been imposed in Palestine, particularly on humanitarian agencies. Unemployment and poverty had increased and productivity had decreased. Since the beginning of the occupation, his country had always supported the rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to create an independent, sovereign Palestinian State. The Jewish people had no right to the mosque, which was a Palestinian, Muslim property. Any references to the Torah in such places were based on historic tales preached by the occupiers of Palestine. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had affirmed that. He also denounced attacks on churches by Jewish settlers. Resolving the Palestinian issue was one of his country’s priorities, he said, calling for a peace agreement in the region that involved the withdrawal of Israelis from the occupied Palestinian territories and those territories occupied since 1967. Moreover, Palestinians were deprived of tourism revenue due to Israeli procedures, and it was important that the next report mention that fact.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), said Israel’s use of force did not give that country the right to Palestine’s natural resources. Through its continuing colonization, Israel was imposing daily obstacles to Palestinian lives, forcing the economy into decline and impoverishment. It was having a direct effect on sustainable economic development in the occupied territories. It had also caused displacement among Palestinian people and a 28.5 per cent rate of unemployment, which was especially prevalent among young people. Some 2.1 million people were suffering from moderate food insecurity. The occupation was having negative consequences on Palestinian health, as delivery of medical supplies was limited by conflict. There had also been an increase in infant mortality, especially in Gaza. Israel’s plundering of natural resources was harmful to agriculture, flora and fauna.
Ms. HUMA (Maldives), said that time and time again, the Second Committee had reaffirmed that there could not be any development without peace, and no peace without development. Referring to the Secretary‑General’s report, she said that segregation and discrimination against the Palestinian people remained rampant in the allocation of water, provision of access to land and movement and access to legal systems. Those conditions could not be improved without Israel’s adherence to the principles of inadmissibility of acquiring land by force and non‑discrimination. She reiterated her strong support for the rights of Palestine, including the need for a two‑State solution. Remaining firm in her condemnation of the illegal actions and human rights violations by Israel, she called for an end to the “shameful occupation” that continued to exist seven decades after the international community reaffirmed its belief in the principle of self‑determination
EBRAHIM ALIKHANI (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the Palestinian people would never enjoy the achievements of the Sustainable Development Agenda while they did not have sovereignty over their natural resources. Gaza’s socioeconomic conditions had worsened and its infant mortality rate had increased for the first time in fifty years. The policies and actions imposed by Israel had hindered the movement, trade and productive activities of the Palestinian people. In addition, Israel continued to confiscate and expropriate Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Those measures appeared to be linked to the illegal expansion of settlements, the construction of the wall in the West Bank and the establishment of bypass roads mainly for the sole use of settlers. He urged the United Nations to strengthen its assistance programmes to mitigate the suffering faced by the Palestinians and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.
ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica), stressing the importance of creating the conditions that would guarantee peace, said that there could be no sustainable peace without sustainable development and vice versa. The Secretary‑General’s report revealed the exclusionary policies practiced against the people of Palestine. He appealed to both parties to resume negotiations and create solutions that would benefit their overall populations. Given that a year had passed since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, it was necessary to work hard to ensure Palestinians’ access to basic health services, quality education, empowerment of women, sanitation and sustainable sources of energy. Inequalities must be reduced and respect for human rights must become a reality in Palestine.
RAJA REZA BIN RAJA ZAIB SHAH (Malaysia), associating himself with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said his country had been at the lead in the Security Council as it drew attention to illegal Israeli settlement expansion, which continued unabated even with the international community’s overwhelming criticism. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number of Palestinian structures destroyed or confiscated since the beginning of 2016 totalled 769, up 45 per cent compared to all of 2015. The repressive policies were aimed at stifling the natural growth of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, preventing Palestinians from moving there and pressuring Palestinians to leave. The catastrophic effect of the home demolitions and settlers’ violence had particularly impacted Palestinian children, both physically and psychologically. The United Nations system must strengthen its assistance programmes to mitigate the suffering faced by the Palestinians and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan. He called on the international community to ensure the relevant United Nations agencies, such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), were provided with adequate and reliable funding and financial resources.
Mr. SLAIMAN (Iraq), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report mentioned the growing repercussions of the Israeli occupation, and covered the ongoing practices of the Israeli authorities that led to the decline of the Palestinian people’s socioeconomic conditions. The wall was without question an infringement of international law, depriving Palestinian people of access to their resources and freedom of mobility. The blockade of Gaza was also unjust. The attempt to change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem violated Security Council resolutions. It was imperative that the United Nations work in solidarity to end the occupation, as such behaviour would ultimately stifle any possibility of peace. The 2030 Agenda’s goals might be unreachable by the Palestinian people, due to the violations practiced by the Israeli occupation, which had gone too far in its violations due to the impunity it was afforded. He also voiced support for the call by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for 2017 to be the year to end the Israeli occupation.
SULTAN ALI AL HEMRANI (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that despite numerous General Assembly and Security Council resolutions demanding that Israel halt construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian territory, that country had not only not responded, but had increased the expansion of those activities. It had also continued its illegal expansion in the Syrian Golan. The establishment of the separation wall had led to the confiscation and razing of Palestinian land, the destruction of water sources, and the parting of Palestinian residents from their places of work. He voiced his renewed support of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights for access to their natural resources, self‑determination, and the establishment of their independent State according to 1967 borders. Furthermore, he emphasized the need to intensify international efforts to achieve a lasting resolution to the situation in the Middle East, which guaranteed the end of the Israeli occupation of all occupied Arab territories, including the Golan Heights.
NOUR ALJAZI (Jordan), associating herself with the Group of 77, the OIC, and the Arab Group, said that for more than forty‑nine years, the Israeli occupation had deprived Palestinians of their human right to development by following policies such as settlement expansion, the apartheid wall, confiscation of land, control of natural resources and the blockade of Gaza. That had adversely affected development indicators in Palestinian territories, causing its economies to suffer due to poverty, unemployment, and lack of food security. The reports issued by the United Nations and other international organizations also showed that the mobility restrictions applied by the Israeli occupation were increasing the economic hardships of the Palestinian people. Other discriminatory policies included inequity in the distribution of water, adversely affecting the development of the Palestinian economy and preventing them from exploiting their own natural resources. The expansionary policies and practices of the Israeli occupation were not just a flagrant violation of international human rights laws, but also the right to development.
OMAR A. A. ANNAKOU (Libya), aligning himself with the Arab Group, said that the report clearly documented Israeli policies that were undermining the Palestinian people’s right to development. Homes and water infrastructure had been demolished in the West Bank, and the occupying army was dumping waste in agricultural land, thereby rendering it useless. Large numbers of people remained displaced in the Gaza Strip and without access to water and power. With 2 million people living in Gaza, the Strip was one of the most densely populated places in the world. It was incumbent upon the international community to wonder if the Palestinians could achieve any of the goals in the 2030 Agenda under such cruel circumstances. In the Syrian Golan, the occupying Power continued building settlements and the confiscation of agricultural land continued unabated. Such practices were a violation of all international instruments, including the Geneva Convention of 1949.
LINDA SCOTT (Namibia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, called on the Israeli Government to immediately desist from the construction of settlements and the wall. She also urged the Israeli Government to comply with its legal obligations, as per the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice that had been rendered 12 years ago, and cease destruction of Palestinian homes and properties. As reported, the illegal settlement programme included restrictions on the movement of people and goods and the systematic erosion and destruction of the area’s productivity base. The loss and reduction of land, water and other natural resources were some of the main factors which kept the Occupied Territory’s economy from thriving. That was compounded by the separation of the Palestinian market from international markets, the blockade of Gaza, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and the construction of the separation wall on Palestinian land. All of those factors impeded the development of the Palestine economy. It was unacceptable that the Palestinian economy heavily relied on international assistance; too many barriers were blocking normal economic activity. Statehood and independence were the national, inalienable and legal rights of all people, including Palestinians.
MOHAMED OMAR GAD (Egypt), associating himself with the Group of 77, the OIC, the African Group, and the Arab Group, said the report provided a glimpse of the bitter realities the Palestinians faced in the occupied territories. All aspirations everywhere in the world hinged on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and all international instruments adopted, including Habitat III represented a world that was far from the reality faced by the Palestinians and those in the occupied Syrian Golan. The obstacles imposed by the occupying Power on building and construction, in addition to policies of demolishing homes, led to an impoverished Palestinian people. After five decades of Israeli occupation, one out of every two Palestinians required some form of humanitarian assistance. The private sector’s activity was impeded and the Palestinian economy was extremely vulnerable. The illegal wall constructed in the West Bank was also a great obstacle to the movement of Palestinians. Such conditions were unsustainable. To implement the 2030 Agenda and truly leave no one behind, it was necessary to end the occupation.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating with the Group of 77 and the OIC, said that the socioeconomic and humanitarian devastation sown by the occupation for nearly five decades had gravely affected the living conditions of the Palestinian people. Destruction of homes and properties, and the endangerment and depletion of Palestinian natural resources had compounded the poverty and underdevelopment. There were also obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, such as a desalination facility and sewage treatment plant in Gaza. Calling on the international community to address those developmental issues, he added that the Palestinian and Syrian people would not enjoy the benefits of sustainable development until they had sovereign control over their natural resources.
KHALID SAEED MOHAMED AL SHUAIBI (Oman), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Group of 77, condemned the demolition of homes and the military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Such blatant violations of human rights affected the sustainable development of the populations living under Israel’s military occupation. Further, the occupying Power was also pursuing discriminatory practices such as excessive use of force. Reiterating the importance of Palestinian sovereignty and allowing them to take control of their living conditions and resources, he called on the international community to take all necessary measures to force Israel to respect international law and United Nations resolutions and immediately cease all practices that undermined the development of the Palestinian people.