In Regional Commissions Dialogue, Senior Official Reports of ‘Worst Economic Downturn in a Century’
Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan, colliding with the impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic, have turned into a crisis within a crisis for the millions of people living there, delegates heard today as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) took up the issue of those lands.
Opening the meeting, Tarik Alami, Director of the Emerging and Conflict-Related Issues Division of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources” (document A/76/94). He noted that Israel continues to consolidate its control over the Occupied Palestinian Territory, hampering development and exacerbating living conditions, despite ongoing hardships due to the COVID‑19 crisis.
Its discriminatory policies and practices include zoning policies preventing construction, excessive use of force, arrest and arbitrary detention of thousands of Palestinians, and documented cases of torture, he said. Noting that Israeli policies have disrupted livelihoods and continue to deprive Palestinians of access to their natural resources, he said that while Israeli settlements have high-quality water, only 10 per cent have access to this vital resource in Gaza. After three years of decline in gross domestic product (GDP), it fell to its lowest level in 2020, with 26 per cent unemployed and 1.4 million in Gaza suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition.
The observer for the State of Palestine said the report presents the cruel reality and continuing injustice that his people have been enduring for more than 54 years of the illegal occupation. The repeated military aggression has undermined all aspects of life for Gaza’s inhabitants, who are dealing with widespread food insecurity, collapse of essential services and a crippled health-care system. Stressing that Israel’s occupation must end, he said urgent and decisive international action should include imposition of an arms embargo on the occupying Power; supporting the International Criminal Court in its examination of the situation; and prosecuting perpetrators of crime through travel bans and the imposition of diplomatic and economic sanctions until the occupying Power abides by the law.
The representative of Syria criticized an Israeli energy plan to construct huge air turbines on agricultural land owned by Syrian citizens, rendering it unfit for use and posing environmental and health problems. Moreover, he said the Israelis are applying pressure to residents of Syrian villages to hand over the deeds to lands that have been in their families for generations. Stressing that all countries should have access to their natural resources, he condemned Israeli practices, including the looting of resources, and called on the Government of Israel to end its occupation of the Syrian Golan.
Echoing many delegations calling for an end to the Israeli occupation and for the independence of Palestine under the two-State solution, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said escalation of tensions must be avoided on Palestinian land. In that regard, there is a need to launch and maintain a ceasefire as agreed upon in May. She called on the international community to exert utmost efforts to relaunch the peace process and commended the regional efforts in that regard.
The representative of Malaysia, recalling that the phrase “leave no one behind” has been used many times by Member States, emphasized that the Palestinian and Syrian populations in the occupied territories should not be left behind. For its part, Malaysia has decided to extend predictable long-term contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
In the morning, speakers from five regional commissions shared with the Committee the latest data from their respective regions and their unique perspectives on how the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities.
The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said that her region has been the developing region most affected by the pandemic, experiencing the worst economic downturn in a century. The crisis has aggravated structural problems and led to low productivity, a drop in employment of 9 per cent and a rise in the informal sector of 68.5 per cent, with women and youth the most affected. In addition, Latin America and the Caribbean is the most indebted region in the developing world, allocating more than half (59 per cent) of its exports of goods and services to the payment of the external debt.
The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said the only way out of the crisis is through vaccines. However, only 9.7 per cent in the continent have been vaccinated. As lockdowns were imposed to safeguard people’s health, Africa suffered economic losses further exacerbating inequalities. The continent was also hit hard by its lack of access to predominantly imported sources of medicine, given the significant presence of underlying health conditions and vulnerabilities among its population. Tourism, one of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, has created significant unemployment and further increased poverty. The huge dip in the services sector, which accounts for 55 per cent of Africa’s GDP and forms a large part of the informal economy, will have huge repercussions on poverty. She expressed hope that, following the vaccination of 60-70 per cent of its population, the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement can be used to help the continent build forward better.
During an ensuing discussion, speakers noted their Governments’ support of the Commissions and posed some questions about how regions can strengthen efforts to reach development goals and reduce poverty.
Additional presentations were made by the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and Coordinator of the Regional Commissions. The Director of the Regional Commissions New York Office moderated the morning’s dialogue.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Lebanon, Morocco, Iraq, Mexico, Costa Rica, United States, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Poland, Dominican Republic, Thailand, European Union, Iran, Guinea (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Libya (for the Group of Arab States), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, South Africa, Bangladesh, Egypt, Maldives, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bahrain.
The Committee is scheduled to meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 19 October, when it will hold its side event on “Energy Transition for Sustainable Development and Climate Action”.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), Chair of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), opened the dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions, under the theme of “Rising global inequalities: turning promises into action”, noting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stresses the importance of the regional and subregional dimensions of sustainable development. In that regard, she said the regional level is vital in dealing with cross-border problems and in paving the ground for concerted action at the global level. Further, it is at the regional level that reconnecting economies, reversing the disruption of trade and transport links, harnessing the potential of digital technologies and addressing transboundary risks offer more immediate benefits.
ROSA MALANGO, Director of the Regional Commissions in the New York Office and moderator this year of the Committee’s annual dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions, said unequal access to vaccines is the starkest illustration of the way in which global inequalities have been exacerbated. Noting that the regional commissions over the past decade have generated a wealth of knowledge on the adverse social, environmental, and economic consequences of inequality, she said it is critical to leverage that extensive body of knowledge and expertise to re-examine prevailing global asymmetries and their impact on equitable, inclusive and sustainable recovery from the COIV‑19 pandemic.
ARMIDA SALSIAH ALISJAHBANA, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), noting that inequalities are everywhere in the region, said her region is not on track to meet any of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, it is making decent progress on Goal 3, on good health and well-being, and on Goal 9, related to industry, innovation and infrastructure. Stressing that Goals 13 and 14 are particularly concerning and signal a code red for humanity, she said the pandemic and climate change have exacerbated inequalities. The region is working to build back better from the crises through regional cooperation, focusing on public health and joint recovery that is inclusive, resilient and sustainable.
She said the region’s six priorities for action include overcoming vaccine inequities, investing in social development, addressing disparities between and among countries, narrowing global asymmetries and the pandemic, advancing inclusive economic policies and scaling up digital technologies for resilient nations. On the region’s cooperation architecture, she noted ESCAP’s inclusive networked and effective platform, which includes various forums to promote sustainable development, as well as partnerships with regional organizations to promote inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery. ESCAP’s various subregional and country-level engagements also further advance its work in support of climate action and disaster-risk resilience, social protection and inclusion, and women’s empowerment.
OLGA ALGAYEROVA, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said the pandemic has impacted growth trajectories, increased inequities and led to higher public debt. Addressing inequalities in general, she noted that low-income households suffer the worst housing conditions and that housing costs are a source of financial stress. The share of the population in the bottom quintile of income distribution spends more than 40 per cent of its disposable income on mortgage and rent, which represents about 100 million people or close to 8 per cent of the population in the ECE region. The increase in housing costs must be addressed, she said, as cities contribute to implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Access to public transport also remains unsatisfactory, she said, adding that her region advocates rebuilding the transport system in a fair and inclusive way, avoiding social disparities and considering the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Disadvantaged groups suffer from unreliable links, she observed, stressing that equity considerations are central to new forms of mobility. Efforts to rebuild transport systems should also consider the need for a just transition towards a green and healthy transport system. She also focused on the importance of improving environmental quality, as climate change has led to water stress, making access to adequate sanitation and clean water uneven.
ALICIA BÁRCENA, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), addressing COVID‑19 vaccine inequity, said her region will be unable to reach its goal of inoculating 70 per cent of the population in 2021. Outlining a plan for self-sufficiency in health, she stressed the need to speed up vaccination processes, facilitate local production and regional chains, strengthen/generate technological and productive capacities, strengthen regional research and development and ensure a large, stable market. Also needed are regional vaccine procurement mechanisms and consortiums for the development and production of vaccines.
Latin America and the Caribbean have been the developing region most affected by the pandemic, she said, experiencing the worst economic downturn in a century. The crisis has aggravated structural problems and led to low productivity, employment has fallen 9 per cent and the informal sector has risen to 68.5 per cent, with women and youth the most affected. The region will grow 5.9 per cent in 2021, sustained by transitory effects on aggregate demand, while a growth of only 2.9 per cent is expected for 2022. The region is suffering the lowest levels of investment in three decades (17.6 per cent), she said, contrasting with the world average of 26.3 per cent. In addition, Latin America and the Caribbean is the most indebted region in the developing world, allocating more than half (59 per cent) of its exports of goods and services to the payment of the external debt.
Turning to investment, she focused on the need for beneficial interactions among States for production transformation, technological change, formal employment and endogenous capacity-building. In driving a new pattern of development, ECLAC advocates boosting competitiveness and employment while reducing environmental footprints and socioeconomic as well as gender inequality. In assisting countries to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, she emphasized the need for a new financial architecture to address disparities in access to financing and to tackle tax evasion and illicit funding. There should also be a redistribution of liquidity and reform of the international debt architecture to finance the emergency along with an overhaul of the international tax system to ensure fair taxation of multinationals.
VERA SONGWE, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said the only way out of the crisis is through vaccines. However, only 9.7 per cent [of its eligible population] have been vaccinated. As lockdowns were imposed to safeguard people’s health, Africa suffered economic losses further exacerbating inequalities. The continent was also hit hard by its lack of access to predominantly imported sources of medicine, given the significant presence of underlying health conditions and vulnerabilities among its population. Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 declined by 3.2 per cent, according to ECA estimates. As countries helped their populations respond to the crisis, the fiscal deficit across the continent increased from an average of 4.2 per cent in the previous decade to 7.6 per cent in 2020.
Noting that Africa’s debt-to-GDP ratio is now at 66 per cent, she said poverty and inequality have only worsened. Turning to exports, she said trade for the continent has not recovered like it has on the global scale. Tourism, one of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, has created significant unemployment and further increased poverty. The huge dip in the services sector, which accounts for 55 per cent of Africa’s GDP and forms a large part of the informal economy, will have huge repercussions on poverty, she said. On foreign direct investment (FDI), she said the decrease in such investments are impacted by the ongoing concerns and uncertainty about gas in the global environment. She expressed hope that, following the vaccination of 60‑70 per cent of its population, the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement can be used to help the continent build forward better.
The representative of Lebanon said that as the host country, it appreciates ESCWA for their swift support to its many members after the pandemic and beyond. To help countries implement many structural reforms, he said ESCWA could also keep developing evidence-based assessment tools to help gauge the reforms’ impact on macroeconomic indicators, such as debt sustainability, taxes, exchange rates and inflation. In addition, tools are needed to help mobilize funding to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The representative of Morocco said the regional perspective is a pillar of the Committee, and this meeting is a call for action to address the deepening inequalities between countries. It is the second dialogue during the pandemic. The African countries are very concerned with the continent’s low vaccination rate. The Arab region is also facing challenges in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and faces a low rate of vaccinations. South-South cooperation is highly needed. The role of the economic commissions needs to be preserved and strengthened. She questioned the panel as to what their plans were to promote South-South cooperation and the steps being taken to implement the United Nations strategy on South-South cooperation.
The representative of Iraq recognized ESCWA’s support to their country and needs this support to meet the global goals and achieve the frameworks.
The representative of Mexico said that the economic and social impact of the pandemic would have been greater without ECLAC, which has been instrumental in developing policies for the region’s post-pandemic recovery, especially with respect to vulnerable populations. Noting the need for innovative measures to bridge development gaps, he asked which recommendations would be most effective in building innovative channels for effective multilateralism at the regional level.
The representative of Costa Rica said the pandemic has not only affected countries, but led to individual human suffering, threatening implementation of the 2030 Agenda. He reaffirmed ECLAC’s adherence to multilateralism and solidarity as the way out of the current crisis. Referring to a “valuable document” produced by ECLAC at its last session, he said the document includes actions that could be taken towards implementation of the 2030 Agenda. He said Costa Rica, with ECLAC’s support, has submitted a proposal for a fund to benefit communities in crisis situations.
The representative of the United States said his country is more committed than ever to the multilateral system and the United Nations. Reaffirming its support for the regional commissions, he said his Government is committed to contributing over 1.1 billion vaccines globally, and to date has shipped over 180 million doses to over 100 countries, donating more vaccines than all other countries combined “for free and with zero strings attached”. Stressing that climate change is an existential threat, he said climate action is also a top priority and, in that regard, he looks forward to ways in which regional commissions can advance climate solutions.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his country supports cooperation with ECE and ESCAP to potentially reduce inequality at the regional level through transport connectivity, eliminating tariff barriers for trade and strengthening economic possibilities.
The representative of Indonesia stressed the need to reduce inequality in ESCAP, especially in the areas of the digital divide and financial inclusiveness. There is also a need to focus on the productive sectors hardest hit by impacts of the pandemic, especially tourism.
The representative of Poland asked how ECE could contribute to enhanced cooperation and bolder leadership in forging regional integration. Turning to the social and economic impacts of the pandemic, she questioned how ECE planned to contribute to reducing endemic poverty.
The representative of Thailand said more analytical support from ESCAP would be helpful as would greater cooperation between the Commission and other regional agencies. Membership in these regional commissions is crucial.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said it is important to strengthen regional cooperation, and the work of the regional economic commissions is very important.
The representative of Iran said the challenges of the pandemic have caused enormous economic destruction for the region. Yet the virus is not the only element. Multilateralism is necessary, and the commissions are an important platform to carry out multilateralism. Iran is working to be more resilient against natural hazards.
Responding to Morocco’s representative, Ms. DASHTI said South-South and triangular cooperation are at the core of the mandate and work of ESCWA. The Commission has participated actively in the development of a system-wide strategy and its action plan and is committed to their implementation. Further, it has designed South-South and triangular cooperation initiatives to support its Member States in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. She described the Commission’s various efforts in that regard, including its establishment of an electronic platform to manage donors’ assistance to the country to make triangular cooperation more efficient and transparent and facilitate Lebanon’s recovery from multiple shocks.
Ms. BÁRCENA, also responding to Morocco’s representative, said ECLAC does have a subsidiary body chaired currently by Costa Rica, noting that the Commission will submit a proposal on 30 November to make that a regional South-South conference. Further, ECLAC has made available to countries a Sustainable Development Goals gateway — a platform for South-South cooperation for all United Nations bodies and funds. The “COVID observatory” which tracks all actions done in the region with respect to health, socioeconomic and gender priorities is being carried out. Detailing its other initiatives, she said the Commission also has a new interface established in 2020 which links statistical information with geospatial information, allowing analysis of social, economic and environmental information emphasizing biodiversity, climate and ecosystems in a geographical way.
Ms. ALGAYEROVA, responding to the representative of the Russian Federation, said ECE and ESCAP have been working closely on connectivity and have been doing so for many years on Euro-Asia transport links. Responding to Poland’s representative, she said social cohesion was already a challenge in the region even before the pandemic. Noting that there are 17 programme countries in the eastern part of the region, she said urban life experiences differ starkly between countries. Two years ago, ECE launched an initiative for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals on the national level, working directly with cities and mayors. Further, she said robust social systems need to be in place to deal with infrastructure, clean air and water, ageing populations and climate change.
Ms. SONGWE said that ECA is working to secure more vaccines for the African continent and is grateful for all vaccine donations. The United States has been very helpful. Transparency on the issue of vaccines is very important. Job creation is another of the Commission’s goals. ECA is working with other regional commissions to procure more vaccines for the continent. Turning to questions on energy issues, she said ECA is asking for a price on carbon. She estimated that developing countries are spending 5-11 per cent of their GDP to create responses to the climate crisis. ECA is asking for special drawing rights to give developing countries more liquidity. It is important to help these countries invest more money, more quickly, into green projects.
Ms. SALSIAH ALISJAHBANA said the pandemic illustrated the importance of strengthening supply chains to ensure a sustainable recovery. ESCAP is developing an energy transition model that includes more renewable energy in the region’s energy mix. It wants to expand the regional power-grid system and is working on cross-border electricity trade. She reiterated that effective collaboration with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and countries throughout the Asia Pacific region is important. ESCAP is dedicated to helping Member States prepare for natural hazards.
Permanent Sovereignty of Palestinian People over their Natural Resources
TARIK ALAMI, Director of the Emerging and Conflict-Related Issues Division of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources” (document A/76/94). He noted that Israel continues to consolidate its control over the Occupied Palestinian Territory, hampering development and exacerbating living conditions, despite ongoing hardships due to the COVID‑19 crisis. Its discriminatory policies and practices include zoning policies preventing construction, excessive use of force, arrest and arbitrary detention of thousands of Palestinians, and documented cases of torture.
Israeli policies have disrupted livelihoods and continue to deprive Palestinians of access to their natural resources, he said. While Israeli settlements have high-quality water, only 10 per cent have access to this vital resource in Gaza. Some 2.45 million Palestinians need humanitarian assistance, he said, a need exacerbated by the pandemic and decline of international funding. After three years of GDP decline, it fell to its lowest level in 2020, with 26 per cent unemployed and 1.4 million in Gaza suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition. Adding that the occupation of the Syrian Golan violates international law, he said the population there are suffering from discriminatory policies designed to benefit Israeli settlers.
During the ensuing discussion, the observer of the State of Palestine stressed the importance of the Secretary-General’s report, noting that more dire conditions have been placed on Palestinian shoulders over the past two years. On natural resources, he pointed to limited Palestinian access to the rich minerals of the Dead Sea in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The representative of Guinea, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the pandemic has compounded the dire economic conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. After three years of economic slowdown and decline in GDP per capita, 2020 was one of the worst years for the Palestinian economy since the 2002 recession. The pandemic also exacerbated the critical state of education in the territory and increased the number of children needing assistance.
He said that his bloc deplores the detrimental impact of Israeli settlements on Palestinian and other Arab natural resources, especially the impact of confiscated land and the forced diversion of water resources, including the destruction of orchards and crops and the seizure of water wells by Israeli settlers. It also deplores the continuing de-development of the Gaza Strip and the dire humanitarian crisis. The severed socioeconomic conditions include grave inequalities, widespread poverty and unemployment, frail health systems, lack of water and sanitation, and energy crises facing civilians. He reiterated the call on Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, and immediately and completely cease all policies and measures meant to alter the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Arab States, said the report presents the cruel reality and continuing injustice that his people have been enduring for more than 54 years of the illegal occupation. The repeated military aggression has undermined all aspects of life for Gaza’s 2 million inhabitants who are dealing with widespread food insecurity, collapse of essential services and a crippled health-care system. COVID‑19 has created a crisis within a crisis, compounding the already dire socioeconomic situation of Palestinians.
He said Israel’s systematic operation masks the land exploitation, settlement expansion and persecution. It is imperative to bring Israel’s occupation to an end and enable Palestinians to exercise their inalienable rights. In that regard, urgent and decisive international action should include imposition of an arms embargo on the occupying Power; supporting the International Criminal Court in its examination of the situation; and prosecuting perpetrators of crime through travel bans and the imposition of diplomatic and economic sanctions until the occupying Power abides by the law. He called on all States to extinguish their dealings with the occupying Power in line with the Security Council resolution.
The representative of Libya, speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, pointed to several illegal initiatives that Israel has taken in paving the way for its annexations, highlighting illegal policies and practices, restricted use of roads, widespread discrimination against Palestinians and violations in Jerusalem, which continually attempt to change the legal status quo. Israel has continued to impose on the territories illegal settlement projects, he added, which have led to restricted freedom of movement and systematic killings of civilians, while Israeli soldiers and settlers enjoy impunity. The blockade in Gaza has hampered economic as well as social life and prevented the importation of technology products as well as raw materials needed for industry.
The representative of Qatar, aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the pandemic has exacerbated the dire social and economic conditions faced by the people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. There is widespread food insecurity and high rates of unemployment and poverty. Qatar supports educational projects in the area that help keep children in school. In May 2021, it gave $5 million for reconstruction projects in the West Bank. It has also provided a $40 million cash aid programme to help many families over time. This support is mitigating the human suffering and helping to address immediate and long-term needs.
The representative of Syria, aligning himself with the Group of 77, said Israel carries out illegal practices and contradicts relevant Assembly resolutions. He criticized an Israeli energy plan to construct huge air turbines that is seizing agricultural land owned by Syrian citizens. There are environmental and health problems related to this project. It undermines the resources of the Occupied Syrian Golan. There are discriminatory policies against Syrians in the Occupied Syrian Golan. The Israelis are applying pressure to residents of Syrian villages to hand over the deeds to their lands, lands that have been in their families for generations. Syria condemns Israeli practices that include the looting of resources. All countries should have access to their natural resources. He called on the Israeli Government to end its occupation of the Syrian Golan.
The representative of Malaysia, aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the report provides harrowing updates on human rights violations. During the reporting period, Israeli authorities demolished 1,015 Palestinian-owned structures, including 223 homes. Since 2016, international donors have requested that Israeli authorities return more than 210 seized humanitarian aid structures to Palestinian beneficiaries. So far, none have been recovered. Regarding social and economic conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, about 2.45 million Palestinians will require humanitarian assistance. About 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza and another 560,000 in the West Bank suffer from food insecurity. It is estimated that more than 1.6 million Palestinians are suffering from insufficient access to water, sanitation and hygiene services. The phrase “leave no on behind” has been used many times during the seventy-sixth session as Member States call upon each other to achieve the global goals, he said. Malaysia stresses that the Palestinian and Syrian populations in the occupied territories should not be left behind. For its part, Malaysia has decided to extend predictable long-term contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In addition to its previous financial contributions, Malaysia has allocated $1 million for the 2021‑2025 period. It will also contribute $1.2 million to rebuild the Al-Rimal Clinic in Gaza, which had a COVID‑19 testing laboratory, but was destroyed by Israeli attacks in May 2021.
The representative of Iraq, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Arab States, said the policies of the occupying Power are discriminatory and run counter to international law. Noting the alarming security situation, he said the United Nations report documents the worsening impact of the occupation on the Palestinian land, notably violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. All those policies and practices are discriminatory whether in Palestine or in the Occupied Syrian Golan. Noting that the Palestinian people have been suffering for a long time, he called on the international community to alleviate their suffering.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, noting that escalation of tensions must be avoided on Palestinian land, said there is a need to launch and maintain a ceasefire as agreed upon in May. It is necessary to stop all unlawful and illegal practices in Palestine, which constitute violations of international law and Security Council resolutions. She called on the international community to exert utmost efforts to relaunch the peace process and commended the regional efforts in that regard. Stressing that the only solution is the two-State solution that establishes an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, she reaffirmed commitment to work with regional and international partners to end the conflict in the Middle East.
The representative of Saudi Arabia stressed that full sovereignty over a land’s natural resources is a fundamental right for all residing on the planet but noted that Palestine continues to be denied this. Israel disregards all relevant international resolutions and insists time and time again on violating rights in the occupied territories, including the Occupied Syrian Golan. Justice is only possible if all actors participate in it, he said, emphasizing that the international community must live up to its responsibility to defend and protect Palestine. Adding that temporary solutions fail to work for nations in the region, he called on Israel to live up to international principles, ensuring Palestinian and Syrian rights. Israel must demonstrate its true commitment to peace, in deeds rather than words, he said, if real stability is to be achieved in the Middle East.
The representative of Cuba said it is the sovereign right of every country to maintain their own human and natural resources. Cuba said the reports show the persistent policies and practices of Israel are a violation of human rights and international and humanitarian law. These practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan negatively impact the lives of the people. If there is no substantial change, it would be difficult for these areas to achieve the global goals. Cuba condemns the illegal practices and violations of human rights and systemic war crimes. Cuba supports the demands of the Syrian Government and the restitution of Syrian Golan and all occupied territories to their rightful people.
The representative of South Africa noted her country’s commitment to refocusing the international agenda on Palestine and the Middle East peace process. Underscoring that security and stability in the Middle East is being undermined by the continued occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territories and the aggressive actions of the Israeli regime, she called on the Security Council to fulfil due responsibility. The protracted occupation of the Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan has had a detrimental effect on the lives of the Palestinian and Syrian populations, as well as on social and economic development in the occupied territories, she stressed, highlighting that inequalities regarding poverty, economic opportunities, unemployment, social services, weak health systems, freedom of movement, and education, amongst others, have been exacerbated by COVID‑19. Concluding, she called for continued and increased support for the critical work of UNRWA.
The representative of Bangladesh said that in 2020 close to 2 million Palestinians suffered from hunger and more than 1.6 million are suffering due to lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene services. The Palestinian people have inalienable rights over their natural resources and the right to self-determination. Noting that ending the occupation is essential to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, he called on the international community to put an end to the occupation of Israel in Palestine. “If we fail to do so, then the promise to leave no one behind will remain a mere slogan,” he said in closing.
The representative of Indonesia underscored that almost 2 million people are suffering from food insecurity and a million from lack of access to clean water in Gaza. The international community should continue supplying food and basic services to the Occupied Territories, with the assistance of United Nations agencies. In addition, access to COVID‑19 vaccines must be granted, as timely inoculations are in the interest of the entire region. Emphasizing the importance of strengthening the capacity of the Palestinian people, he said his country has provided $2.3 million to support Palestine’s pandemic response and boost its health services. An end to occupation and oppression must come to Palestine, he said, if it is to succeed in achieving the 2030 Agenda.
The representative of Egypt, aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the Israeli occupation hinders the people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory from accessing their natural resources. The situation in the Occupied Syrian Golan is similar. In addition, the blockade of the Gaza Strip is creating additional suffering for the Palestinian people. The Israeli practices in the territories hinder the use of a two-State solution and run counter to relevant Security Council resolutions. Egypt urges the international community, particularly the donor countries, to continue support for Palestine, through UNRWA and other organizations. Egypt also urges the international community to find a permanent solution for Palestine based on the 1967 borders and a two-State solution.
The representative of the Maldives said the situation of Palestine has been particularly dire over the past year, as COVID‑19-related devastation becomes unprecedented. Israel has intensified ongoing and deliberate expansion of illegal settlements, destruction of Palestinian homes and restrictions on movement within the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In the last reporting period, Israeli forces killed 21 Palestinians and injured another 1,662, many of whom were children. But Israel continues to operate without accountability for its actions. Moreover, Syrian residents in the occupied Syrian Golan continue to face infringements on their rights due to discriminatory land and housing policies, making it virtually impossible for them to obtain building permits. This has also hampered the expansion of Syrian villages, leading to overcrowding and to a multitude of social problems. The Maldives continues to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and advocates for their full statehood and right to self-determination.
The representative of Venezuela said the occupying Power continues to apply cruel measures against the Palestinian people, including restriction of movement and access to religious sites, as well as construction of illegal settlements and excessive use of force. Noting that the effects of Israel’s occupation are complicated even more by COVID‑19, she said their actions are violations of the social, economic, cultural, civil, land and political rights of the Palestinian people and called on all States to prohibit such violations of international law.
The representative of Nicaragua said Israel’s destruction of property and infrastructure as well as its illegal expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory could severely oppose its development trajectory. All players must use the tools of dialogue and negotiation in achieving lasting peace and security as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. She urged the international community to increase its efforts to alleviate hardship in the territories and restore peace and security for the Palestinian people.
The representative of Iran, associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan continues to deteriorate due to Israel’s prolonged military occupation as well as its illegal policies and practices. These unlawful practices include continued violence, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment, destruction and confiscation of property and infrastructure, illegal settlement activities, coercive population displacement, the killing of civilians and deprivation of access to natural resources. As such, it is almost impossible for the Palestinian people to achieve any Sustainable Development Goals. The illegal blockade undermines the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinians. The pandemic and its economic fallout have compounded the social and economic repercussions of the occupation, resulting in more adverse living conditions for Palestinians. In addition, the Israeli regime has occupied the Syrian Golan over the past several decades and has illegally exploited the land, water and natural resources there. Stressing that the Golan is an integral part of Syria, he condemned in the strongest possible terms all measures taken by the illegitimate occupying regime to undermine that country’s territorial integrity.
The representative of Bahrain said the report shows how the pandemic has affected the economy of Palestine. The last year was the worst after three years of slowing economic conditions. Peace is a strategic option to achieve a comprehensive peace in the region. Tolerance should be the norm to combat violence and hatred. It is necessary to secure a comprehensive and just solution for the Palestinian people. A just solution would include an independent State along the lines of the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Maintaining the rights of the Palestinian people and their land and resources is very important.