Fourth Committee Approves 8 Draft Resolutions, Draft Decision, Concluding its Work for Main Segment of Seventy-Fourth General Assembly Session

GA/SPD/713
15 November 2019
Seventy-fourth Session, 25th Meeting (AM)

Fourth Committee Approves 8 Draft Resolutions, Draft Decision, Concluding its Work for Main Segment of Seventy-Fourth General Assembly Session

Actions Relate to Israeli Practices in Occupied Arab Lands, United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees in Near East

Completing its work for the main part of the General Assembly’s seventy-fourth session today, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved eight draft resolutions concerning Israeli practices in the occupied Arab territories and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and a draft decision on its work programme for the next session.

At the outset, the Committee approved a draft resolution titled “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/74/L.10) by a recorded vote of 170 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Vanuatu).

By its terms, the General Assembly decides to extend UNRWA’s mandate until 30 June 2023, without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 11 of General Assembly resolution 194 (III).  Further by that text, the Assembly expresses concern regarding the negative implications of the Agency’s severe financial crisis for continued delivery of its core programmes.

Further by that text, the Assembly expresses grave concern about the difficult situation of Palestine refugees under occupation and underlines the importance of assistance and the urgent need for reconstruction.  It calls upon all donors to continue strengthening their efforts to meet UNRWA’s anticipated needs, including for recent emergency, recovery and reconstruction appeals, plans for the Gaza Strip and regional crisis-response plans to address the situation of Palestine refugees in Syria.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine noted that, despite bullying and pressure, the international community defended the Agency and extended its mandate, emphasizing:  “The international community made its statement loud and clear that it will not abandon UNRWA.”

Taking up a draft resolution titled “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/74/L.12), the Committee also approved that text, by a recorded 167 votes in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Vanuatu).

By that text, the General Assembly expresses deep concern about UNRWA’s critical financial situation, caused by its structural underfunding and by rising needs and expenditures resulting from the deterioration of socioeconomic and humanitarian conditions.  It also notes that contributions have not been predictable enough or sufficient to meet growing needs and remedy persistent shortfalls, which were exacerbated by the 2018 suspension of contributions from the Agency’s largest single voluntary donor.

The Assembly commends the Agency, by other terms, for taking measures to address the financial crisis, including by implementing the medium-term strategy for 2016–2021 and various internal measures to contain expenditures, reduce operational and administrative costs, maximize the use of resources and reduce funding shortfalls.  However, it expresses profound concern that, despite such measures, the Agency’s programme budget faces persistent shortfalls that continue to threaten the delivery of core programmes to Palestine refugees.

By further terms, the Assembly expresses its appreciation for the efforts of UNRWA’s Commissioner-General and staff, particularly considering the difficult conditions, instability and crises of the past year.  Moreover, the Assembly expresses its grave concern over attempts to discredit the Agency despite its proven operational capacity and consistent implementation of its mandate.  It also commends the Commissioner-General’s continuing efforts to increase budgetary transparency and efficiency, as reflected in the Agency’s proposed programme budget for 2020.

The Assembly also urges Israel, by other terms, to expeditiously reimburse UNRWA for all transit charges incurred and other financial losses sustained as a result of delays and restrictions on movement and access imposed by that country.  Moreover, it calls upon Israel to cease obstructing the Agency’s movement and access as well as to cease levying taxes, extra fees and charges.

Also today, the Committee narrowly approved a draft resolution titled “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/74/L.14), by a recorded vote of 82 in favour to 11 against, with 78 abstentions.  By its terms, the General Assembly demands that Israel cooperate with the Special Committee and requests that the latter continue to investigate Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially its violations of the Geneva Convention.  Moreover, it requests that the Special Committee continue to investigate the treatment and status of thousands of prisoners and detainees, including children, women and elected representatives, in Israeli prisons and detention centres in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Further by the text, the Assembly requests that the Secretary-General provide the Special Committee with all necessary facilities, including those required for its visits to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Moreover, it requests that he General continue to task the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with assisting the Special Committee in the performance of its tasks.

The Committee went on to approve — by a recorded 162 votes in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Togo, Vanuatu) — the draft resolution titled “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/74/L.11).

By the terms of that text, the General Assembly reaffirms the right of all persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities to return to their homes or former places of residence.  It further stresses the need for the accelerated return of those displaced, strongly appealing to all Governments, organizations and individuals to contribute generously to the Agency and others in that regard.

The Committee then approved a draft resolution titled “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/74/L.13), by a recorded vote of 162 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Togo, Vanuatu).

By that text, the General Assembly requests that the Secretary-General take all appropriate steps to protect Arab properties, assets and property rights in Israel.  Further, it calls upon Israel to render all facilities and assistance to the Secretary-General in implementation of the resolution.  Moreover, the Assembly urges both the Palestinian and Israeli sides to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues within the framework of final-status peace negotiations.

The Committee went on to approve — by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 15 abstentions — a draft titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/74/L.15).  By its terms, the General Assembly condemns Israel’s settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

It also deplores, by other terms, Israel’s construction and expansion of settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem, including its so-called E-1 plan which aims to connect its illegal settlements and further isolate occupied East Jerusalem.  The Assembly further deplores plans to demolish the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar, in contravention of international law, which would have serious consequences in terms of the displacement of its residents and severely threaten the viability of a two-State solution, given that area’s sensitive location.

Further by that text, the Assembly condemns Israel’s demolition of Palestinian buildings in the neighbourhood of Wadi al-Hummus, in the village of Sur Bahir, south of occupied East Jerusalem.  Moreover, it reiterates its demand for the immediate and complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in all the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, calling in that regard for the full implementation of all relevant resolutions of the Security Council.

By further terms, the Assembly stresses Israel’s responsibility to investigate all acts of settler violence against Palestinian civilians and their properties and to ensure accountability for those actions.  It also calls for accountability in relation to illegal actions perpetrated by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, stressing in that regard the need for the implementation of Security Council resolution 904 (1994).

Taking up a draft titled “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/74/L.16), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 14 abstentions.

By the terms of that draft, the Assembly urges the parties to observe calm and restraint and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, especially in areas of religious and cultural sensitivity, including in East Jerusalem.  It also condemns all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction, and especially any use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians, in violation of international law.  In particular, it condemns violence in the Gaza Strip, including against journalists, medical personnel and humanitarian personnel.

Also by that text, the Assembly demands that Israel cease all measures contravening international law, as well as discriminatory legislation, policies and actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.  They include the killing and injury of civilians, the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of civilians, forced displacement and any obstruction of humanitarian assistance.  The Assembly also urges Member States to continue to provide emergency assistance to the Palestinian people in order to alleviate the financial crisis and the dire socioeconomic and humanitarian situation, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

In other action, the Committee approved — by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 19 abstentions — a draft titled “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/74/L.17), by which the General Assembly calls upon Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions.

It also calls upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and in particular to desist from establishing settlements.  Further, the Assembly calls upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Acting without a vote, the Committee also approved a draft decision on its programme of work for the seventy-fifth session.

In concluding remarks, Committee Chair Mohammed Hussein Bahr Aluloom (Iraq) noted that the Committee approved 35 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions during the session.  It held 25 formal meetings, instead of the usual 28 because of financial constraints, he added.

Delivering statements in explanation of position were representatives of Israel, United States, Finland (for the European Union), Brazil, Syria and Iran.

Representatives of Indonesia, Cuba and Namibia presented the draft resolutions for action.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee first took up a series of draft resolutions (documents A/C.4/74/L.10-L.13) relating to:  “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (L.10); “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (L.11); “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East”(UNRWA, L.12); and “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (L.13).

The representative of Indonesia introduced those drafts, explaining that they reflect necessary updates covering challenges arising from difficult and unstable conditions on the ground and the continuing severe financing shortfalls affecting the Agency.  Urging strong support for a three-year renewal of UNRWA’s mandate, and for the mobilization of all possible efforts to secure more sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for the duration of the mandate.  Detailing the list of drafts and summarizing their contents, he said they reaffirm the international community’s principled support for UNRWA and for Palestine refugees.

The representative of Cuba then introduced drafts relating to the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, saying they address Israel’s perpetuation of serious and systematic violations of international law.  Noting that such violations have intensified during the reporting period, thereby deepening the crisis, she said the violations have diminished the hopes and belief of the Palestinian people, emphasizing the imperative and urgent need for international action.  The draft resolutions are consistent with international law and call upon Israel to respect its legal obligations, she said, adding that they also call for international action to ensure that respect.

The representative of Namibia then introduced two drafts — “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/74/L.14) and “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/74/L. L.15).  He said they reiterate long-standing calls for Israel’s compliance with the Charter of the United Nations, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the human rights covenants and all relevant United Nations resolutions.  They also demand an end to human rights violations, urge immediate efforts to reverse the negative trends on the ground and to stop the deterioration of the situation, he added, outlining the salient points of each draft.  Concerning the latter text, he pointed out that the 2019 version has been strengthened by merging key elements from the one approved in previous sessions, on “Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other occupied Arab territories”.

The representative of Cuba then introduced and summarized the contents of two draft resolutions — “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/74/L.16) and “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/74/L.17).

The Committee then moved to take action on the four UNRWA-related drafts.

The representative of Israel, making a general statement, said the drafts have a vision that ignores the fact that the situation requires two perspectives.  Emphasizing that Israel’s aspirations and concerns should also be heard, he asked whether it is acceptable to add the term “Temple Mount” to the text.  He also questioned the renewal of UNRWA’s mandate despite the current scandal.  The drafts reinforce the sense within Israel that the General Assembly cannot serve a constructive role in resolving the conflict, he said, explaining that for those reasons, his delegation will vote against the draft resolutions under consideration.

The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, said her delegation opposes the introduction of anti-Israel texts.  Such a one-sided approach undermines trust between the parties, she observed, noting that Member States disproportionately single out Israel through the drafts.  That dynamic is unacceptable, she said, pointing that the texts say nothing about terrorist acts against civilians nor mention Hamas.  The United States, therefore, will vote against the draft resolutions.  Noting that the draft “Assistance to Palestine Refugees” calls for renewing UNRWA’s mandate, she described the Agency’s fundamental model as unsustainable, saying Palestinians deserve better.  Member States must press the United Nations on malfeasance and prevent waste, fraud and abuse going forward, she emphasized, going on to state that the draft resolutions distract from the peace process, which will only be served when bias against Israel within the United Nations ends.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/74/L.10) by a recorded vote of 170 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Vanuatu).

It went on to approve — by a recorded 162 votes in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Togo, Vanuatu) — the draft resolution “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/74/L.11).

By a recorded vote of 167 in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Vanuatu), the Committee approved the draft resolution “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/74/L.12).

The Committee then approved the draft resolution “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/74/L.13), by a recorded vote of 162 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Togo, Vanuatu).

The Committee then took up a series of draft resolutions related to the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (documents A/C.4/73/L.14-L.17).

The representative of Finland, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc has not expressed a legal qualification with regard to the term “forced displacement” appearing in a number of texts under that item.  Moreover, their use of the term “Palestine” cannot be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine.  One of the drafts also refers to the holy sites in Jerusalem, he recalled, expressing concern about worrying developments and recurrent violent clashes at the Temple Mount/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.  Emphasizing the special significance of the holy sites, he called for upholding the status quo that was in place in 1967, in accordance with previous understandings and with Jordan’s special role.  He observed, however, that the revision made less than 24 hours before the vote, is unfortunate and creates unnecessary ambiguity.  As such, he said, the European Union understands the use of the word “obligation” as referring to the importance of respecting the historic status quo and stresses the need for language that reflects respect for religious and cultural sensitivities.  Future choice of language may affect the European Union’s collective support for this draft resolution according to the established voting pattern, he cautioned.

The representative of Brazil said his delegation supports a two-State solution and recognizes that the expansion of settlements represents an obstacle to the peace process.  However, Brazil cannot support the draft “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” and will therefore abstain, he said.  Nevertheless, Brazil is in favour of streamlining the proposals on the Syrian Golan within the General Assembly and encourages the integration of the relevant texts, he added.  Reaffirming Brazil’s position that seizing territory by force is illegal, he underscored the understanding that the Fourth Geneva Convention is applicable to the occupied territories, while emphasizing nevertheless that the text before the Committee is unbalanced, calls attention only to Israel and fails to address all the relevant factors.

Taking up the draft “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/74/L.14), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 82 in favour to 11 against, with 78 abstentions.

It went on to approve — by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 15 abstentions — the draft “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/74/L.15).

The Committee then took up the draft “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/74/L.16), approving it by a recorded 154 votes in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 14 abstentions.

It then approved — by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 19 abstentions — the draft “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/74/L.17).

The representative of Syria, speaking in explanation of position, recalled that more than 50 General Assembly sessions have witnessed a majority vote by Member States on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, condemning Israel’s policies and calling upon that country to cease actions that violate international law.  Israel denies that there is an occupation on the ground at all, he added, while pointing out that each year, Member States convey a legal and political message to Israel that it must end its occupation and settlement activities.  Describing the United States as Israel’s major military and political partner, he said it has protected that country from accountability over decades.  The passive vote by the United States conveys the message that the role it pretended to play as a sponsor of the Middle East peace process has ended, he emphasized.  As a member of the Security Council, the United States could have formed a legitimate coalition to move the peace process forward instead of sponsoring terrorism, aggression and the looting of Syrian oil, he said, stressing that the occupied Syrian Golan will return to Syria through peace or war.

The representative of Iran said that by approving the draft resolutions, the Committee expressed strong support for the Palestinian people.  Recalling that the question of Palestine has been at the core of the problems in the Middle East over the past seven decades, he said atrocities by the Israeli regime have shocked the world, suggesting that Israel now tries to hide its actions behind other countries while diverting attention from its land-grabbing agenda.  Despite the approval of numerous resolutions, Israel’s non-compliance has prevented the international community from reaching a just solution to the conflict, he said.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that as a result of aggression against his people on their Independence Day, eight members of a single family were killed by Israel in a barbaric act on 14 November.  Expressing gratitude to all those who have condemned that action, he called for those responsible to be brought to justice and demanded a halt to the aggression.  He went on to note that a historic number of countries co-sponsored the UNRWA-related drafts before the Committee during the present session.  As such, the text calling for the renewal of UNRWA’s mandate received 170 votes ‑ nine more than the last time the mandate was renewed ‑ he said, pointing out that only two countries voted against renewal.  Despite bullying and pressure, the international community defended UNRWA and extended its mandate, he added, declaring:  “The international community made its statement loud and clear that it will not abandon UNRWA.”  Expressing gratitude for the service of the Agency’s 30,000 employees, he reiterated his delegations thanks to the former Commissioner-General, describing him as principled and a target of certain parties.

In its final action, the Committee approved, without a vote, the draft decision “Proposed programme of work and timetable of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) for the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.4/74/L.9).

Concluding Remarks

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), Chair of the Fourth Committee, noted that it approved 35 draft resolutions and three draft decisions on a wide range of agenda items during the session, having held 25 formal meetings instead of the usual 28 due to financial constraints.  Welcoming the presence of senior officials during the session, including the President of the General Assembly and various heads of department, he noted that Member States were represented by permanent representatives and high-level officials from their respective capitals.  He went on to recall that during the decolonization debate, 130 individuals and organizations addressed the Committee as petitioners from several Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Additionally, 41 statements delivered during the Committee’s consideration of information-related questions demonstrated the interest of Member States in the work of the Department of Global Communications, he noted.  He went on to announce that the Committee will meet in 2020 to take up the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and to elect its Bureau for the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session.

For information media. Not an official record.