Regional Commissions Lagging Behind in Economic Growth, Employment, Development Speakers Tell Dialogue Session
Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan violates international law and the human rights and living conditions of millions living there, speakers told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today as it took up the issue of those lands.
Opening the afternoon meeting, the Director of the Regional Commissions New York Office introduced 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 of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”. He stated that over the past two years, Israel has seized and applied jurisdiction over the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including a discriminatory dual legal system that ultimately leaves Palestinian homes vulnerable to demolition and their residents to displacement. He stressed that 2018 was the deadliest year for Palestinians since the 2014 conflict.
He also citied reasonable grounds to believe Israeli security forces have committed serious war crimes and crimes against humanity. Almost half of the Palestinian population is identified as in need of aid or protection, with an unemployment rate of 52 per cent among the world’s highest, while 53 per cent of Gazans live below the poverty line and 34 per cent in deep poverty.
The observer for the State of Palestine responded to the report, noting the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) is still using terms and data that give the wrong impression of facts on the ground including language such as “Israeli army” or “security forces”. The criminals who are present in military uniform in Palestine should be called the “Israeli Occupation Army”. Moreover, after more than half a century of occupation, the report cannot rename it and call it “control” or “maintaining security”, when in occupied Jerusalem, Hebron and other places it is brutal suppression. Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, he noted the report shows that Area C of the West Bank, which has the most valuable natural resources, is nearly entirely off-limits to the Palestine’s Government, producers and investors.
The representative of Syria called for a clear statement of the policy of the United Nations on Israel’s occupation of the occupied Syrian Golan. She condemned the continuation of racist and discriminatory Israeli policies against Syrian residents, highlighting ownership deeds over that land and the inhumane conditions endured by those in detention.
The representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, reiterated deep concern over the worsening humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions, particularly in the Gaza Strip. “The consequences of the Israeli occupation are severe, and thus call for serious intervention to protect justice, ensure accountability and avert further Israeli human rights violations,” he said. Saudi Arabia’s delegate expressed support for Palestinian return of refugees and self-determination, adding that Palestine and the occupied Syrian Golan hold a special place in the Arab world. Israel’s policies continue to violate all international norms, instruments and conventions including through torture and lack of medical care.
The representative of Indonesia stated the physical destruction of the Occupied Palestinian Territory significantly damages the Palestinian people’s development prospects, with some 2.5 million — or half the population — in need of aid and protection.
In response, Israel’s delegate pointed to the irony of several nations accusing hers of misconduct while continuing to inflict pain on their own people. She said the report brings nothing new or constructive to the discussion about Israel, Palestine and the Syrian Golan, and also fails to acknowledge that more than 600 rockets were shot from Gaza into Israel over the past few months. She added that the Palestinian Authority rewards each terrorist with over $40,000 per year, squandering millions of dollars that could be used for development.
In the morning, speakers from five regional commissions reported to the Committee that their areas are still lagging perilously behind in trade, economic growth and overall development, with major consequences for their populations.
In a dialogue session, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, said the continent has the world’s largest concentration of poor people and 7 of the 10 most unequal countries in the world. Decreasing commodity prices make it necessary to diversify economies. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals demands that the continent’s 2019 growth rate of 3.4 per cent must triple, but by 2030 Africa is expected to represent about 87 per cent of the global poor.
The Executive Secretary of ESCWA noted “severe challenges” facing the Arab region, including low growth of 3 per cent since 2018 and a shrinking middle class driving high multidimensional poverty. She highlighted the region must create 8 million jobs annually and is falling 5.3 million short, with 85 per cent of youth employed in the low-productivity informal sector.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s Executive Secretary highlighted a decrease in trade, weakening multilateralism and growing inequality, saying “International cooperation is declining just when it becomes more necessary.” She also cited the asymmetrical production of global emissions with Latin America producing less but more vulnerable to its effects. Caribbean cities are mostly coastal, with a concentrated number of people living in areas that are below sea level.
During an ensuing discussion, speakers noted their Governments’ coordination with the Commissions and posed some questions.
Additional presentations were made by the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe.
Also speaking in the morning meeting were representatives of Thailand, Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, Nepal, Mexico, Mongolia, China, Panama, Russian Federation, Uruguay, France, Namibia and Egypt, as well as the European Union.
In the afternoon meeting also speaking were the observer for the State of Palestine (in his national capacity), as well as representatives of Tunisia, Maldives, Cuba, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, South Africa, Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Namibia and Bahrain.
The Committee is scheduled to meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 4 November, when it will hold a pledging conference.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), opened the dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions, stating that this is a crucial moment for development, with the first cycle of reviews of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development concluded. He cited the regional dimension of the United Nations work as essential to advancing its implementation, as that dimension is a catalyst for action and forger of partnerships.
VERA SONGWE, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), cited the economic history of coal and its eventual taxation proposal by economist Arthur Cecil Pigou as evidence of the evolution of environmental attitudes towards fossil fuels, leading to our current approach to sustainable growth and inclusion. She noted that recent growth had been driven by commodity prices, but a new paradigm involves three pillars: austerity in macrobalances and fiscal discipline; sustainability; and inclusive growth.
Turning to Africa, she stated the continent has the world’s largest concentration of poor people and 7 of the 10 most unequal countries in the world. Decreasing commodity prices requires diversification, and some countries in Africa are growing at a rate of about 5 per cent. She cited the growth of the film industry, with Nigeria’s Nollywood now ranking ahead of Hollywood and behind Bollywood in film production.
Continuing, she said that climate change is a threat to the continent, with Cyclone Idai having cost 1000 lives and over $700 million in damage. She pointed to the emergence of a climate and resource economy vision, with 50 African countries having signed the Paris Agreement. She highlighted that 51 per cent of Africa’s economy is now driven by the service industry. ECA is working on a macroeconometric model and a fiscal policy to finance sustainable development, with Ethiopia and Sudan as pilot cases, and is supporting countries in rethinking their economic and mineral resource development models. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the continent’s expected 2019 growth rate of 3.4 per cent must triple. However, by 2030, Africa is expected to represent about 87 per cent of the global poor.
ARMIDA ALISJAHBANA, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), noted that Asia-Pacific subregions have either progressed, regressed or remained stagnant in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Summarizing, she said economic growth has slowed down, limited progress has been made in reducing inequalities and negative trends have emerged in natural resource management. She also observed that traditional economic and financial policy measures have proven inadequate.
Turning to the 2030 Agenda targets of economic growth, social inclusiveness and natural resources, she said the priority focus areas are population dynamics, poverty and inequality; macroeconomic policy and financing for development; sustainable connectivity; and environment, climate change and disaster risk reduction. Partnerships have been established through South-South cooperation and multi-stakeholder engagement as well as with the private sector.
Addressing population dynamics, poverty and inequality, she observed the need to track and analyse the impact of rapid demographic change on economies and societies as well as to focus on addressing poverty and inequalities through social protection and other policies. On macroeconomic policy and financing for development, she said ESCAP is developing financing strategies to focus areas on domestic resource mobilization, infrastructure financing and capital market development.
Turning to environment, climate change and disaster risk reduction, she highlighted regional cooperation to tackle air pollution as well as to combat sand and dust storms. There is a need to strengthen support to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources and invest in hazard risk reduction, as Asia-Pacific is the most disaster impacted region in the world. It is important to focus on the development of regional and subregional early warning systems and disaster risk reduction strategies.
ALICIA BARCENA, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), noted a turning point in globalization, with less trade, weakening multilateralism and growing inequality. “International cooperation is declining just when it becomes more necessary,” she said. With commodity prices lower, exports are less profitable, while there is a great shift in global wealth harming less developed countries.
On climate change, she cited the asymmetrical production of global emissions with Latin America producing less but more vulnerable to its effects. Caribbean cities are mostly coastal, with high population rates within 5m below sea level. Turning to poverty reduction, she noted its persistence, with the wealthiest quintile accounting for 45 per cent of household income while the poorest accounts for 6 per cent. She said ECLAC is pushing for a new economic model that does not focus solely on per capita gross domestic product (GDP).
She noted some progress on the 2030 Agenda, on infant mortality, protection of marine areas and Internet use, but not in undernourishment, employment and extreme poverty. Growth is needed to reduce poverty, but with strong income distribution. She called for a circular economy with changes in production and consumption patterns, citing the importance of a technological revolution and an “environmental big push” of solutions based on nature and biodiversity and the “blue economy”. She highlighted the need for tax reform, as evasion costs 6.3 per cent of regional GDP.
OLGA ALGAYEROVA, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), noted the uneven distribution in occurrence and use of natural resources in her region. ECE is also a major producer as well as consumer and has the largest trade flows in the world. It is working to reduce negative environmental and social impacts and supporting the shift to a low carbon economy and climate action. It is promoting sustainable production and consumption as well as the region’s transition to a circular economy and facilitating sustainable resource management.
Turning to integrated planning and intersectoral coordination, she said ECE supports sustainable management and good governance of natural resources, their monitoring, norms and standard setting as well as the development of cross-sectoral practical tools. The main elements of the integrated approach include holistic management, improved material productivity, improved consumption patterns, reduced waste and increased recyclability.
Addressing sustainable forests, she said the ECE region covers 43 per cent of the world’s forests or about 60 per cent of global wood provision. The region is committed to restoring 2.5 million hectares from degraded land to healthy, productive forests in the Caucasus and Central Asia and an additional 24 per cent of forest land in the region. On sustainable transport, she said United Nations vehicle regulations developed at ECE enable more efficient and cleaner fuel technologies, focusing on certification of vehicles and C02 emission/fuel consumption. Turning to consumption, she said food loss accounts for about 14 per cent of that produced, observing that ECE has developed quality standards for the safe and transparent trade of food and agricultural produce.
ROLA DASHTI, Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), addressed the “severe challenges” facing the Arab region, with economies under pressure and high vulnerability to poverty. Low growth of 3 per cent since 2018, a need for 80 million jobs and a shrinking middle class are driving high multidimensional poverty. She noted the region needs to create 8 million jobs annually and is falling 5.3 million short, creating dramatic unemployment, with 85 per cent of youth employed in the low-productivity informal sector.
She pointed to social exclusion, with overstretched social protection systems and social injustice. The unequal distribution of wealth is also causing social friction and resulting in public demonstrations. Turning to sustainable development, she noted the region is highly vulnerable to climate change with impacts on water resources, crops, livestock and heat stress.
She stated it is necessary to rethink the Arab development model, beginning with enhancing human capital and generating decent, productive employment. Socioeconomic inclusion and poverty reduction are needed to lower vulnerability to income poverty, and an increased tax base would generate fiscal and debt sustainability. The goal is to establish peace, stability and sound governance.
Questions and Comments
The representative of Morocco pointed to the importance of growth in reaching development targets but noted that many countries have been unable to eradicate inequalities. Citing Ms. Dashti, she observed that the investments are there but that small and medium economies are still stagnating and failing to grow.
The representative of Thailand said her country values cooperation with ESCAP and has worked with the Commission to further advance sustainability. She asked Ms. Alishjahbana about potential areas for further coordination, especially in achieving an inclusive society and sustainable use of resources.
The representative of Afghanistan asked Ms. Alishjahbana whether ESCAP has any plans or ideas about removing challenges or constraints at the regional level in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
The representative of Timor Leste said that investing in people’s health and education can drive inclusive economic growth. Her country is attempting to diversify its economy, which will ensure sustainability in financing the Sustainable Development Goals.
The representative of Nepal asked the commissions as a whole how often they speak among themselves and exchange views.
The representative of Belarus asked Ms. Barcena if she worked with other commissions or United Nations organizations on problems facing middle-income countries and how they can resolve them.
The representative of Mexico asked Ms. Barcena how ECLAC is working with the operational part of the United Nations development system, including country teams and resident coordinators.
The representative of Mongolia noted that regional integration is a prime goal of her Government, which is cooperating with the United Nations in various areas along these lines.
The representative of the European Union asked about the progress of United Nations development system reform at the regional level, and about expectations in that domain.
The representative of France asked about the analytical capacities of the regional commissions, and if they work with other organizations representing regional partnerships. He asked each of the commission speakers to cite an example of a success story on sustainable development of resources.
The representative of Namibia asked about economic integration of youth and women in Africa.
The representative of Egypt then asked about the challenges in that domain.
Ms. DASHTI noted that the water issue may be a future source of conflict in the region. Her Commission coordinates with other regional commissions and is producing a joint global report on inequalities among the States. She noted ESCWA also collaborates with ECLAC and the regional coordinators.
Responding to the representative of Belarus, Ms. Algayerova said ECE is working on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, as well as on conventions on trade and transport. She also noted it is working hard on implementing the Secretary-General’s five principles of reform.
Responding to the representative of Belarus regarding middle-income countries, Ms. BARCENA said ECLAC is indeed focusing on this topic, identifying traps and gaps these States are facing and advocating for a new approach on access to concessional funding and trade. Adding that measuring links between per capita income and well-being is unproductive, she said it is necessary to work with institutions involved with graduation on this issue. On United Nations reform and the new repositioned development framework, she said the Commission has been inviting resident coordinators to the regional forum for sustainable development every year, as it is a good place for them to engage with Member States in a collective manner.
Ms. ALISHJAHBANA, responding to the representative of Afghanistan on cooperation with other regional mechanisms, said this has occurred and has been successful with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on management of natural resources in cities. On the questions from the Russian Federation and the European Union about regional cooperation going forward, she said the Commission is working to operationalize the Secretary-General’s recommendations and has achieved some progress.
Offering examples on resource management, Ms. SONGWE said the Commission is working on African mining and a different approach to managing natural resources. The Commission is pushing the local context, looking at how to use local suppliers and entrepreneurs to supply the mining industry, as is already happening in countries like Ghana and Guinea.
Also taking part in the dialogue were representatives of China, the Russian Federation and Uruguay.
Sovereignty of Palestinian People over their Natural Resources
AMR NOUR, Director of the Regional Commissions New York Office, introduced the note by the Secretary-General 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 of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/74/88). He said the report was produced by ESCWA.
He stated that over the past two years, Israel has deployed measures to seize and apply jurisdiction over the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The existence of a discriminatory dual legal system means Palestinians have no choice but to build their homes in Area C without legal permits, leaving them vulnerable to demolition and their residents to displacement. He stressed that 2018 was the deadliest year for Palestinians since the 2014 conflict.
He said there are reasonable grounds to believe Israeli security forces have committed serious international war crimes and crimes against humanity. He also expressed concern over the detention and mistreatment of Palestinians, including children. The coercive environment has displaced thousands from Area C and East Jerusalem. He cited Israeli demolition orders affecting 13,000 Palestinian-owned structures, putting one third at risk and endangering 100,000 people. Settlement activities continue in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with the blockade on Gaza having reached critical humanitarian crisis status. In the West Bank, a complex system of physical and administrative obstacles impedes Palestinians from accessing their land or receiving aid. He noted other measures affecting resources, with over one-fifth having no access to water or poor water quality, and that 97 per cent of aquifers in Gaza are unfit for human consumption. Other measures including spraying herbicides in Gaza damage agricultural resources.
Almost half of the Palestinian population is identified as in need of aid or protection, with 2 million inhabitants of Gaza witnessing a declining GDP, he continued. The unemployment rate of 52 per cent is among the world’s highest, while 53 per cent of Gazans live below the poverty line and 34 per cent in deep poverty. He added that one third of the population is food insecure. The health system is on the verge of collapse, and a limited electricity supply jeopardizes the health sector and the lives of patients. Measures to forcibly annex the occupied Syrian Golan are illegal and therefore null and void. He stressed the repercussions of the protracted Israeli occupation are detrimental to the living conditions of Palestinians and Syrians, including discriminatory policies, forcible transfer and collective punishment in violation of international law.
ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, responding to the report, criticized it for failing to link the Sustainable Development Goals with his people’s possibilities of realizing them. Palestine would be capable of meeting all targets if it was not impeded by the occupying Power with its army and criminal Israeli settlers, he said. It is essential that the report link this situation with targets in areas like poverty eradication, health, education, water and infrastructure. He expressed hope that future reports will link the 17 Sustainable Development Goals with Palestine’s inability to realize them in the continued Israeli occupation.
Continuing, he noted that ESCWA is still using terms and data that give the wrong impression of facts on the ground. For example, it uses “Israeli army” or “security forces” in several paragraphs to describe an occupation army, which is misleading and unacceptable. The criminals who are present in military uniform in Palestine should be called the “Israeli Occupation Army”. Also, the report uses numbers when it should use percentages to put the situation in perspective and give a better idea of the picture on the ground. Moreover, after more than half a century of occupation, the report cannot rename it and call it “control” or “maintaining security”, when in occupied Jerusalem, Hebron and other places it is brutal suppression.
Delivering a statement in his national capacity, Mr. SHAWESH expressed concern that the Palestinian people were being left behind because of Israeli policy, “as is evident from the many reports issued by the United Nations over the years”. In particular, the lack of access to water is a problem, driving 22 per cent of his people to buy water from Israel while it “steals water from the West Bank” to resell to Palestinians at a huge price. The region receives less than 50 litres of water per day per person, meaning over 40 per cent of West Bank residents are in distress. He noted that Israel also prevents Palestinians from achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (quality education) in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, stating that some 40 schools have been destroyed, and that daily harassment is perpetrated by occupation forces and settlers. Nearly 100,000 children suffer from diseases in Gaza, he added.
Mr. SHAWESH, now speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted the ESCWA report stresses that the illegal Israeli settlement expansion, involving expropriation, evictions and demolitions, together with a planning and zoning regime, impedes the development, employment and livelihoods of the Palestinians. The report also shows the protracted Israeli occupation of the Palestine territory and the Syrian Golan continue to negatively impact the living conditions of the Palestinian and Syrian populations. Area C of the West Bank, which has the most valuable natural resources, is nearly entirely off-limits to the Government of Palestine, producers and investors, he said. The Group is very concerned with the application of two different legal systems in the same territory on the sole basis of nationality or origin. This is an inherently discriminatory practice which violates the principle of equality before the law. The economy of occupied Palestine and the occupied Syrian Golan cannot be sustainably developed while living under the current situation. The Group reiterates that the implementation and the follow-up of the 2030 Agenda must address the severe difficulties facing countries and peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation. The follow-up must remove the obstacles to the peoples’ full realization of their right to self-determination and development.
AHMED BIN SAIF AL-KUWARI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), reiterated the group’s deep concern over the worsening humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Echoing warnings about declining donor support, rising unemployment rates, deepening poverty and the escalating environmental toll of the occupation, he said the situation is particularly grim and difficult in the Gaza Strip. “The consequences of the Israeli occupation are severe, and thus call for serious intervention to protect justice, ensure accountability and avert further Israeli human rights violations,” he said. Spotlighting illegal settlement activities as a foremost concern, he said they prove Israel is more interested in entrenching its colonial regime over Palestinian land than achieving just and peaceful security. The international community must demand that the occupying Power cease such actions and be held accountable should it fail to comply with its obligations, he stressed, adding that the ESCWA report confirms the detrimental impact of the protracted occupation on the living conditions of Palestinians and Syrians. The only way to end their suffering is to compel Israel to end its prolonged occupation and comply with international law and all relevant resolutions, he said.
TAREK LADEB (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, expressed concern over the statistics in the report, with Israel’s measures constituting violations and practices designed to annex the occupied Syrian Golan. The situation in the West Bank constitutes a standard of human rights much lower than international law. He noted victims of Israeli settlers’ actions cannot appeal for any legal recourse. Citing detention of Palestinians without accusation, he stated 800 children have been detained and subjected to Israeli military justice. He affirmed that the report proves amply that the Geneva Convention is violated by the United States, compelling the Security Council to issue resolutions to meet its commitments and bring Israel to justice. He called for solidarity from the international community in subjecting Israel to international law.
AHMED SALMAN ZAKI (Maldives) said that, since 2009, more than 5,000 Palestinian homes were demolished by Israeli authorities, impacting hundreds of thousands of people. Israeli constraints on the delivery of construction materials to Gaza and a lack of funding have hampered the reconstruction of homes severely damaged or destroyed by that country’s military operations. Gaza now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and its economy contracted by 6.5 per cent in 2018. The massive increase in Palestinian casualties has been one of the key factors in the area’s deteriorating humanitarian situation in 2018. All this has made the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals nearly impossible for the State of Palestine, unless drastic steps are taken. The Maldives calls on the United Nations and the wider international community to take concrete steps to halt this negative trajectory of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said. The Maldives will continue to advocate for full Palestinian statehood and the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination. Adherence to international law is imperative to ensure peace for the Palestinian and Syrian people living under occupation.
BIANA LEYVA (Cuba), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is a sovereign right for all including those under occupation. She stated the Israeli occupation is a violation of international law. She cited the illegal expansion of settlements. Her Government affirmed its condemnation of the occupation and Israeli war crimes and rejected the unilateral action by the United States in moving its embassy to Jerusalem in violation of international law.
TAREQ MOHAMMAD ISLAM (Bangladesh), aligning himself with the Group of 77, noted that social and economic conditions continue to deteriorate in the Palestinian territories due to Israel’s almost five-decade occupation. Discriminatory laws, restrictions on movement and lack of access to resources and trade have resulted in economic growth of just 0.9 per cent as well as deteriorating investment, infrastructure, living standards and labour markets. He expressed concern that poverty remains pervasive in the occupied territory and Gaza, where 53 per cent of people live below the national poverty line and 1.56 million Palestinians remain food insecure. There are serious challenges accessing public health services, energy, water and sanitation in the occupied territories. Palestinian agricultural land, health, animals and biodiversity have been damaged by Israeli authorities and settlers, including the illegal transfer of hazardous waste.
ROUA SHURBAJI (Syria), aligning herself with the Group of 77, stressed that oversight of the economic and social repercussions experienced by her country’s people require a systematic methodology and called for a clear statement of the policy of the United Nations on the Israeli occupation of the occupied Syrian Golan. She noted Israel’s Government was confiscating land under the pretext of building wind farms, a continuation of racist and discriminatory policies against Syrian residents. She also cited the issuance of Israeli ownership deeds over land in the occupied Syrian Golan and the inhumane conditions endured by those in detention including “the Mandela of Syria”. She stated Syrian adherence to their identity and land is worthy of United Nations resolutions.
ABDULLAH AL MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), said his country supports Palestinian rights, including those pertaining to the return of refugees and self-determination, adding that Palestine and the occupied Syrian Golan occupy a special place in the Arab world. The international community has agreed that sustainable development cannot be achieved unless it is comprehensive and just. However, Israel’s policies continue to violate all international norms, instruments and conventions, riding roughshod over that country’s commitments as an occupying Power. Israel’s use of land and water have led to the displacement of people and its restrictions on movement to deteriorating social and economic conditions. It has also used excessive force indiscriminately against women and children, including through torture and lack of medical care.
ANDREANO ERWIN (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country stands by the people of Palestine. Citing the multi-layered impacts of the occupation — including preventing development, sparking humanitarian crises and rendering the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals impossible — he voiced concern that the occupying Power has systematically ignored international calls to end the illegal occupation. Meanwhile, the physical destruction of the Occupied Palestinian Territory significantly damages the Palestinian people’s development prospects, with some 2.5 million — or half the population — in need of aid and protection. Underlining the need to concretely address the shortfalls in support to the Government of Palestine and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he said Indonesia has increased its contribution to the latter by $1 million. It has also conducted nearly 200 capacity-building programmes for the State of Palestine in such areas as agriculture, entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, education and information and communications technology (ICT), he said.
LOLWAH ALDOSARI (Kuwait), aligning herself with the Group of 77, OIC and the Arab Group, cited “grave violations by the Israeli occupying Power” which contravene international law and preclude the socioeconomic development of Palestinians and those in the occupied Syrian Golan. She noted a special rapporteur had determined that 96 per cent of Palestinian aquifers are no longer suitable for human consumption, the result of excessive practices under Israel’s occupation. She condemned Israeli practices and reaffirmed total support of the Palestinian and Syrian people of reclaiming their rights.
FIRAS AL-HAMMADANY (Iraq), aligning himself with the Group of 77, OIC and the Arab Group, said the practices of the occupying Power violate international law and constitute military occupation. That occupation also complicates the socioeconomic reality and drives the deterioration of living conditions, including of water and all other resources. He stated those people should be compensated for any such losses or deterioration. While Member States are trying to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for their people, those in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and occupied Syrian Golan are far below that threshold and precluded from reaching them.
AYSHA ALMENHALI (United Arab Emirates), aligning herself with the Group of 77, emphasized the right of the Palestinian people to their inalienable rights, including those pertaining to natural resources. Israel should desist from all illegal practises in Palestinian and other Arab territories as well as restrictions on their freedom of movement. Such violations are obstacles to development, exacerbating a difficult situation, denying Palestinians their economic lives and increasing their suffering. Adding that her country has pledged $50 million in 2019 to provide basic services to over 5.5 million Palestinian refugees, she said it will continue providing support in efforts to realize peace and stability as well as prosperity in the entire region.
HANIZAH MOHD IZZUDDIN (Malaysia), associating herself with the Group of 77, said Israel continues to act in violation of international treaties and United Nations resolutions by using excessive force and violence against Palestinians. Also citing the destruction and confiscation of property and resulting population displacement and movement restriction, she called on Member States to press Israel to cease all illegal settlement activities and illegal demolitions. Noting that Palestinians suffer from lack of access and poor water quality as well as inadequate sanitation due to “the Israeli regime’s” depletion of their natural resources, she said such discriminatory policies curtail the Palestinians’ capacity to farm and cultivate lands. Meanwhile, she warned that shortfalls in donor support to UNRWA will have additional negative economic, social and humanitarian consequences, and reiterated that the occupied Syrian Golan must be returned to Syria.
XOLISA MABHONGO (South Africa), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, expressed concern over the findings in the report about the detrimental effects of occupation on sustainable development in the Palestinian territory and the Golan Heights, focusing in particular on the negative impacts on the social and economic welfare and the future of youths. Adding that persistent lack of funding facing UNRWA has aggravated what he called the already calamitous situation in the region, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s appeal for a guarantee of vital support for the rights of Palestinian refugees and for the maintenance of an adequate level of financing for UNRWA. He pledged that his country will continue to campaign for an end to the Israeli occupation and for the independence of Palestine under the two-State solution. Conditions of peace and security must be created now to foster hope for a future free of conflict, he said.
SHEYAM ELGARF (Egypt), aligning herself with the Group of 77, OIC and the Arab Group, said decades of suffering by the Palestinian people have been documented and confirmed by numerous United Nations entities. Her Government affirmed that without a lasting solution to the problems in the Middle East there will be no peace or stability. Israeli settlements, confiscation of land and the Gaza blockade threaten the chances of a two-State solution, he said, calling for greater support for UNRWA.
SERHAD VARLI (Turkey) said it is worrisome that the sustained expansion of illegal settlements and Israeli restrictions prevent sustainable development in the region and lead to humanitarian crises. Statistics show that 53 per cent of Gazans lived below the poverty line in 2017, compared with 38.8 per cent in 2011. Turkey will continue its contribution to the sustainable development of the Palestinian economy. Its development assistance to the State of Palestine since 2014 has reached nearly $200 million and it provided $10 million in direct budget assistance to it from 2018 to 2019. Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories continues to block efforts towards permanent peace. Earlier this year, one Member State recognized Israeli “sovereignty” over the Golan Heights. As Turkey declared at that time, this decision is null and void. It is in contravention of Council resolution 497 (1981) and violates international law. If poverty is to be eradicated by 2030, the international community must help the Palestinian people access their natural resources, establish strong institutions and implement economic and social development programmes.
MOHAMED ELMAGHUR (Libya) said Palestinian economic and social indices suggest that the territory is impeded in realizing sustainable development. Unless restrictions placed on Palestine by the occupying Power are lifted and the people gain access to their natural resources, its people will be unable to enjoy the fruits of sustainable development. He expressed concern about such occupation practises as detention, the arrest of women and children and denial of medical care, which are flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention and international law.
WADE HENCKERT (Namibia) noted that Palestinian access to natural resources are still being denied, resulting in a dire humanitarian, economic and social situation in the Gaza Strip. He expressed particular concern about the state of the health system, which remains on the brink of collapse. In July, 44 per cent of essential medicines in Gaza were completely depleted and 26 per cent of essential medical disposable had less than a month’s supply remaining. Stressing the urgency to solve the ongoing fiscal crisis faced by the Palestinian Authority, he said continuation of the crisis is impacting an already fragile Palestinian economy, threatening to destabilize an already volatile situation.
MOHAMED ISA ALBUFLASA (Bahrain) said the destructive practises of the Israeli occupation harm those communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem and are in flagrant violation of human rights and international law. He stated his Government’s firm position in support of United Nations peace efforts to implement a political solution, giving the Palestinian people sovereignty over their resources and establishing a two-State solution with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
ANAT FISHER-TSIN (Israel) pointed to the irony of several nations accusing her nation of misconduct, while continuing to inflict pain on their own people. She said the report brings nothing new or constructive to the discussion about Israel, Palestine and the Syrian Golan, but rather it hides facts on the ground through omissions. It fails to mention that casualties have erroneously been considered civilians in conflicts with Israel, when most of them were Hamas terrorists. It also strikingly fails to report that more than 600 rockets were shot from Gaza into Israel over the past few months. Adding that the Palestinian Authority rewards each terrorist with over $40,000 per year, squandering millions of dollars that could be used for development, she said it is easier to blame Israel for Palestine’s social and economic repercussions.