44th plenary meeting
Tuesday, 11 November 2008, 10 a.m.
Mr. D’Escoto Brockmann ……………………………………………………
In the absence of the President, Mr. Cujba (Republic of Moldova), Vice-President, took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.
Agenda item 65 (continued)
Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance
(c) Assistance to the Palestinian people
Report of the Secretary-General (A/63/75)
The Acting President: I call on the Permanent Observer of Palestine.
Mr. Mansour (Palestine): We are here today to discuss an issue to which the Palestinian people attach great importance: international assistance. For the Palestinian people, international assistance represents the unwavering commitment of the international community to the Palestinian people and the ultimate realization of their inalienable rights. Over the past six decades, this assistance has been key to the resilience of the Palestinian people and to ensuring that they, the majority of whom are dispossessed refugees, are not forgotten or forsaken despite many years of conflict, turmoil and suffering.
This assistance has time and again served as a reaffirmation of the right of the Palestinian people to live a life of dignity and to build their societal institutions to enable them to survive and withstand the imposed misery of military occupation and prepare for a tomorrow free from its shackles. This assistance is a reflection of a clear political will to stand by international legitimacy and the principles of international law, a commitment for which the Palestinian people will always extend their gratitude and thanks to the international community.
The past eight years have seen mounting burdens on Palestinian society; as well as on international donors; as a direct result of deliberate, systematic and illegal actions and policies by Israel, the occupying Power. These policies and actions have, on numerous occasions, directly targeted donor-funded projects, retarding the path of internationally supported Palestinian development and forcing, on both the Palestinian people and the international donors, an agenda of emergency relief, rather than development and sustainability.
In fact, aggressive Israeli policies against the Palestinian people have imposed a process of “de-development” in the occupied Palestinian territory, including occupied East Jerusalem. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Israel’s continued illegal construction of the wall and settlements and its regime of closures, siege and military checkpoints have been the direct cause of this de-development, as well as of the erosion of productive capacity in the occupied Palestinian territory. In 2004 alone, the projected income loss was $4 billion — an intolerable price to pay for a people living under occupation and struggling to lift themselves out of dependency and hardship.
Despite the best efforts of the Palestinian Authority and the international donor community, recovery from this forced plunge into deep poverty and economic shrinkage has been slow and extremely difficult because neither the painful daily reality of occupation nor its devastating consequences has changed.
International agencies including all United Nations agencies, the Quartet’s Special Envoy, the World Bank and many others widely recognize Israel’s closure policy as the most devastating factor limiting the Palestinian economy. In this regard, Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Works Agency and Project for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, recently said:
The World Bank, in particular, has left no doubt in this respect, concluding that the Palestinian economy would have probably doubled in size between 2000 and 2007 were it not for the restrictions and other punitive measures imposed by Israel, the occupying Power.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also clearly states that:
The facts here are undeniable; so, too, are the looming prospects of unjustified suffering should these circumstances be allowed to persist.
The continuing Israeli military occupation has created two sets of punitive realities for Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. One is in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where access to land, crops and other property has been severely restricted, and the effects of which, experts warn, will be devastating for years to come. According to a report issued by the World Bank in October 2008, entitled “The Economic Effects of Restricted Access to Land in the West Bank”, Israeli restrictions on movement of people and access to natural resources extend much beyond its most obvious manifestations. According to the World Bank, Israel, the occupying Power, physically barred Palestinians from accessing 38 per cent of the land, reserved to serve illegal settlements and punitive closure regime that constrain movement of people and goods within and out of the West Bank. The World Bank then concludes that
In the Gaza Strip, poverty is even deeper, as is the suffering. With 80 per cent of the population living below the poverty line and more than 80 per cent dependent on food aid, Gaza is experiencing a grave humanitarian crisis. This is due to an inhumane and illegal siege that continues to be imposed by Israel, the occupying Power — a siege that has denied more than 1.5 million people their fundamental human rights, including the rights to food, to health care, to livelihood and adequate standard of living, and to live a life of dignity as they are cut off from the most basic requirements of a normal life, including essential humanitarian imports. Nearly all Gaza’s industrial operations have come to a grinding halt, with the number of industrial sector establishments falling from 3,500 at the beginning of 2005 to less than 150 at the end of 2007.
The situation I have just outlined has far-reaching consequences extending beyond daily misery and reaching well into the future of our children. According to the United Nations Development Programme, in 2007 more than 53.7 per cent of Palestinian families lived below the national poverty line — more than double the number in 1998. UNICEF reveals that, in the occupied Palestinian territory, nearly half the children aged 6 to 36 months and 40 per cent of expecting mothers suffer from anaemia.
A joint survey by the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East shows that, despite humanitarian aid, food insecurity is on the rise and now affects 38 per cent of the Palestinian population in the occupied Palestinian territory. These alarming figures are expected to rise if the current conditions continue.
Over the past few years, international aid to the Palestinian people has increased significantly, and we are grateful for that. Yet, this increase has had little effect on the grim reality on the ground. Unfortunately, this is not surprising, given what we have discussed for so long, as the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate because of the Israelis’ systematic illegal policies. No amount of international aid can compensate for the astonishing losses. Instead, this increased aid is channelled to meet the rising emergency needs brought about by these policies. This is counterproductive, as the much-appreciated and much-needed international aid should be serving the important goal of building the Palestinian State towards the realization of the two-State solution. But, according to the World Bank, under the current circumstances and with the increased campaign of aggressive Israeli measure, this aid “has succeeded in doing little more than slowing down the deterioration of the economy, despite ever larger volumes”. This picture needs to change dramatically.
Despite the difficulties I have just outlined, the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to lifting the Palestinian people from deep poverty and misery is unwavering; so, too, has been the commitment of principled members of the international donor community. In December 2007, the Palestinian Authority presented its three-year reform and development plan. In response to this serious commitment, the international donor community pledged at the Paris Conference $7.7 billion over the subsequent three years. One year on, despite initial shortcomings in meeting pledge commitments, the pledged assistance has been committed and dispensed this year as planned. Naturally, this has greatly contributed to the fiscal stability of the Palestinian Authority, allowing it to plan and execute projects of crucial importance to restoring stability and security to Palestinian cities, as well as providing the necessary environment for economic development and investment.
If empowered and not continuously repressed by the occupying Power, Palestinians can achieve these goals and more because the Palestinian people have the power and potential to achieve results. Let us not forget that, in 1999, the Palestinian Authority, despite all the restrictions of existing under occupation, ran a surplus. We can do so again.
When discussing international assistance to the Palestinian people, we must be very aware of two important points: the goal that is driving this assistance and the need to create the necessary conditions to ensure that this assistance achieves its intended goal. That is why we continue to call on the international community to intensify its efforts to bring an end to all of the illegal Israeli practices I have outlined in order to ensure that aid is directed to development instead of emergency relief.
The past series of meetings of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for the Coordination of International Assistance to Palestinians, as well as donor conferences and political conferences, including the Annapolis Conference, have clearly called for the lifting of restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinian economic activities to allow for donor assistance to be effective and for the private sector to recover. Moreover, the World Bank and the United Nations have stated very clearly that there has been little or no progress with regard to easing Israeli restrictions on daily life in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, not least in connection with the intensification of illegal Israeli settlement activities.
The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, Mr. Richard Falk, states in his report:
Now the question is: What will the international community do about such irresponsible policies, which have reversed all the progress we have achieved together? No economy can actually succeed with the presence of any one of the many restrictions that the Palestinian economy faces. That is why determined steps should be taken to curb Israel’s intransigence and flagrant disregard for international law and all agreements and commitments. We must not allow for the situation to continue whereby international aid is now being spent to pay for repairing the colossal damage caused by Israel’s illegal actions. Instead, the occupying Power must be compelled to recognize that such actions come at a price. Only then would these illegal actions stop and could we once again embark on the important effort of making a difference in the lives of the Palestinian people, providing them with hope for a better tomorrow and convincing them that our efforts for development and economic stability are not hostage to Israeli measures and that, rather, they are concrete steps that will lift them from the misery of poverty under occupation to the hope of prosperity in freedom.
Development cannot coexist with oppression and hegemony, whose worst manifestation is foreign occupation and its oppressive practices. We need to uphold our commitment to spare no effort in ensuring that children and civilian populations under foreign occupation are given every assistance and protection so that their lives can return to normal and they can be empowered to look forward and work towards a better future.
Palestine should not be the exception. Hence, we expect the full due support of the international community in order to uphold the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, which the world has come to realize and agree is a prerequisite not only for peace, but for development and for getting back on track.
I conclude by offering special and sincere thanks on behalf of the Palestinian people to all United Nations agencies for their commitment to the welfare and rights of the Palestinian people. On this day, on which our people are commemorating the passing of a great Palestinian leader, President Yasser Arafat, who dedicated his life to the realization of the inalienable rights and national aspirations of the Palestinian people, we express our gratitude for the international community’s unwavering support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people on all fronts. Our appreciation is also extended to Member States whose assistance and support has enabled the Palestinian people to persevere and be steadfast despite overwhelming challenges and the brutal injustices imposed upon them. We hope that, together, we can soon ensure that this assistance is once again directed at sustainable development and State-building for the resilient people of Palestine.
Mr. Al-Jarman (United Arab Emirates) (spoke in Arabic ): …
The United Arab Emirates attaches particular importance to supporting and assisting the Palestinian people and their Government during the humanitarian crisis caused by the cruel, aggressive policies of the Israeli occupying forces. My country holds a firm and principled position in its support of the legitimate and inalienable political rights of the Palestinian people and supports the Palestinian National Authority. We have translated this political and moral position into action, with continuous material and economic support that has included emergency humanitarian, development and technical assistance.
Our assistance to the Palestinians from 1994 to mid-2008 is estimated at $4.2 billion, including our pledge at the Paris Donor Conference of $300 million to rebuild Palestinian refugee camps in Syria and for housing projects in Gaza, Jenin and the West Bank as well as our pledge in Vienna to contribute to the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon. In September of this year, the head of State of the United Arab Emirates ordered the disbursal of $5 million as urgent assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to help meet the needs of refugees in the camps.
Mr. Tommo Monthe (Cameroon), Vice-President, took the Chair.
In this regard, we stress the urgency of compelling Israel, the occupying Power, to immediately stop its aggression, lift its restrictions and blockade against the Palestinians, comply with resolutions of international legitimacy and resume peace negotiations on the basis of relevant international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.
We further urge donor countries to strengthen their assistance to the Palestinian people and Government in order to ease their suffering until the end of the Israeli occupation of their land and the establishment of an independent State of Palestine with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, and to continue financial support for the regular and emergency activities of UNRWA so that it can fulfil its commitments to the Palestinian refugees.
Mr. Tarragô (Brazil): …
My country is greatly concerned at the humanitarian situation in Palestine. The international community must step up its efforts to address it. Brazil made pledges at the Stockholm Conference in 2006 and at the donor conference held in Paris in December 2007. We also intend to provide technical cooperation in the development of public policies on food security and in the areas of health, sports and elections. In 2007, Brazil received a group of 117 Palestinian refugees.
Mr. Al-Salem (Kuwait) (spoke in Arabic ): …
It is incumbent on all of us to respect the commitments of the international community to saving the Palestinian people from suffering. In this context, I wish to commend the rapid emergency interventions on the part of the United Nations, its specialized agencies and non-government organizations aimed at providing support for the basic needs as well the economic and development needs of the Palestinians.
Here, I wish to refer to the continued assistance that Kuwait provides to the Palestinian people in all its forms, whether it is given directly to the Palestinian Authority or through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East.
On a related topic, we read with great interest the report of the Secretary-General concerning assistance to the Palestinian people. Based on this report, Kuwait demands that Israel cease all of its inhuman practices against the Palestinian people and we emphasize the need to promptly lift the harsh restrictions imposed on cross-border transportation and pedestrian crossings in Gaza and the West Bank. Additionally, all settlement activities must end and the building of the separation wall stopped, since such practices have led to a steep deterioration in the economy and have hindered the delivery of urgent international humanitarian aid as well as the basic materials necessary for development.
The meeting rose at 1 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.