SEVENTY-SIXTH SESSION, VIRTUAL MEETINGS (AM & PM)
18 OCTOBER 2021
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.
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).
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.
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.
Document Sources: Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), General Assembly, General Assembly Second Committee (Economic and Financial), Group of 77, United Nations Department of Global Communications
Country: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Israel, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Nicaragua, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, State of Palestine, Syria, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
Subject: Assistance, Economic issues, Golan Heights, Health, Land, Living conditions, Natural resources, Occupation, Peace process, Social issues
Publication Date: 18/10/2021
URL source: https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/gaef3557.doc.htm