October/November 1997

Volume XX, Bulletin No. 7

Contents

Page

I.

Recommendations of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights

of the Palestinian People for the General Assembly

1

II.

General Assembly holds resumed emergency special session;

considers report of the Secretary-General; adopts resolution

3

III.

Economic and Social Council adopts two resolutions relating to the question of Palestine

6

IV.

Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the

Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories reports on situation

9

V.

Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for

Palestine Refugees in the Near East reports to the General Assembly

14

VI.

UNRWA Advisory Commission examines Agency’s achievements and other major issues at annual meeting

18

VII.

Council of Ministers of the Organization of African Unity adopts decisions on Palestine and the Middle East

19

This bulletin, and back issues,

can be found in the Lotus Notes-based

United Nations Information System

on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) at:

I.   RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE EXERCISE

   OF THE INALIENABLE RIGHTS OF THE PALESTINIAN

PEOPLE FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The Committee met on 5 November 1997 and adopted its report to the General Assembly at its fifty-second session (see A/52/35 and GA/PAL/767).  At the same meeting, it approved the request of South Africa for full membership in the Committee.  On 28 November, the Committee met and approved four draft resolutions on the question of Palestine (see GA/PAL/769) for submission to the General Assembly.  The Committee deferred to the General Assembly for decision a fifth draft resolution regarding granting rights and privileges enjoyed by Member States to Palestine, except the right to vote or to put forward candidates.  The Committee’s recommendations contained in the report are reproduced below:

 

124. The year 1997 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the occupation of the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem and other Arab territories, by Israel.  The year also marked the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of General Assembly resolution 181 (II), in which the Assembly decided on the partitioning of Palestine and called for the establishment of independent Jewish and Arab States and a special international regime for Jerusalem.  It was also 10 years since the beginning of the intifada, the Palestinian uprising which helped create the conditions for the peace process.  Mindful of these milestones in the history of dispossession and suffering of the Palestinian people, the Committee urges the international community to redouble its efforts in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, the key to a just and lasting peace.

125. The signing of the Declaration of Principles in September 1993 by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization created a dramatic turning point in the search for peace in the Middle East, leading to the emergence of a new reality on the ground, enabling the Palestinian people to take its first steps towards independence and opening new possibilities for cooperation among the peoples of the region.  The Committee considers it essential for the international community to intensify its efforts in support of the historic process of reconciliation between the two sides and for the effective implementation of the agreements reached and for the resumption of all aspects of the negotiations on the agreed basis.

126. The Committee expresses its greatest concern and anguish that the hopes ushered in by initial positive developments were not carried through in the year under review and that the peace process itself appeared increasingly in jeopardy, leading to an alarming exacerbation of tension and violence on the ground, resulting in loss of life on both sides.  The Committee believes that the harsh economic measures taken against the occupied Palestinian territory, including the prolonged blockade, are a form of collective punishment in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the agreements reached, and calls for their end in the interests of restoring mutual confidence and promoting peace.

127. Especially worrisome were actions taken by Israel to strengthen its control over occupied East Jerusalem, such as the opening of a new entrance to the tunnel near Al Aqsa Mosque, the withdrawal of Jerusalem identity cards, the destruction of buildings, and the intensified efforts to establish Jewish settlements in the old city.  The resumption of construction and expansion of settlements throughout the occupied territory, including Jerusalem, and statements made by the Government in that regard caused increasing fears for future prospects of achieving a just peace and the Palestinian right to self-determination.

128. The Committee deplores the decision by the Government of Israel to approve the construction of a new Jewish settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim, south of East Jerusalem, and its decision to begin and proceed with construction in spite of the unanimous expression of opposition by the international community.  The Committee fully supports the recommendations made by the General Assembly in resolutions ES-10/2 and ES-10/3, in particular for the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to consider measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure its respect, in accordance with common article 1.  The Committee will continue to remain engaged in the follow-up to the recommendations of the Assembly and to promote the necessary action.

129. The Committee calls for the reinjection of momentum into the stalled Middle East peace process and for the implementation of the agreements reached between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.  In this regard, it notes with appreciation the increased involvement in efforts to bring about the resumption of the bilateral negotiations by the co-sponsors of the peace process, as well as the European Union.  The Committee is also appreciative of the resilient efforts with which a number of world leaders contributed to the task of restarting the peace process.

130. The Committee reaffirms that the United Nations has a permanent responsibility with respect to the question of Palestine until a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement is reached.  The Committee reiterates that the involvement of the United Nations in the peace process, both as the guardian of international legitimacy and in the mobilization and provision of international assistance, is essential for the successful outcome of the peace efforts.  As the organ of the General Assembly established to deal with the question of Palestine, the Committee believes that its role continues to be useful and necessary during the transitional period and until a satisfactory final settlement is achieved.

131. The Committee reaffirms that such a settlement must be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, the principle of exchange of land for peace and the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights, in particular the right to self-determination.  The Committee also insists that, during the interim period, Israel must recognize and respect its obligations as the occupying Power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

132. While remaining firm on these positions of principle, the Committee has continued to make adjustments in its approach and programme of work, taking into account the new realities, in order to make a concrete contribution to promoting the implementation of the agreements reached and to mobilize international assistance to the Palestinian people.  The Committee invites the General Assembly once again to recognize the importance of its role and to reconfirm its mandate with overwhelming support.

133. The Committee wishes to express its great appreciation to those States that have supported its work and facilitated the organization of events held under the Committee's auspices.  The Committee believes that, in the light of the new situation and the constructive position of the Committee, as reflected in its programme of work, the time has come for all States to recognize the valuable contribution that it can make as a forum for dialogue, analysis, exchange of expertise, mobilization of public opinion and action in support of the peace efforts and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, as well as its socio-economic development.  The Committee considers that a broadening of its membership to include countries that support its objectives but have not hitherto participated in its work, would greatly enhance the contribution of the General Assembly to promoting peace at this important stage.

134. The Committee considers that its programme of seminars in the various regions has played a useful role in informing and mobilizing public opinion, promoting the exchange of experience and expertise among participants from the various regions and Palestinians and Israelis, and in promoting increased involvement by Governments in the search for a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict.  The annual convening of a seminar devoted specifically to issues related to the economic and social challenges facing the Palestinian people during the transitional period has proved very useful and the Committee intends to continue this practice in order to give the international donor community, including United Nations bodies and agencies, the opportunity to exchange views with representatives of the Palestinian Authority and internationally renowned experts on relevant issues.

135. In view of the current serious situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, the Committee intends to encourage renewed, intensified efforts by non-governmental organizations to organize and coordinate sustained campaigns in order to inform public opinion and to promote national and international action in support of United Nations resolutions and the Committee's objectives.  It plans to continue its programme of meetings of non-governmental organizations in the various regions with a view to providing the non-governmental organization constituency with a periodic analysis of political developments, a forum for an exchange of views and experience, as well as for planning and coordinating specific activities of non-governmental organizations.

136. The Committee emphasizes the essential contribution of the Division for Palestinian Rights as a centre for research, monitoring, the preparation of studies and the collection and dissemination of information on all issues related to the question of Palestine. The Committee requests the Division to continue its programme of publications, in consultation with the Committee, and to pay particular attention to finalizing the proposed study on settlements during the coming year.  The Committee notes with appreciation the further progress made by the Division in developing the United Nations computer-based Information System on the Question of Palestine and calls for continuing efforts to include all relevant documentation in the system.

137. Noting further the successful continuation in the Division of the project for the training of staff of the Palestinian Authority in the workings of the United Nations system, the Committee requests the Division to continue this exercise in the future.

138. The Committee will continue, especially during the transitional period and until a fair, satisfactory solution is achieved, to strive to achieve maximum effectiveness in the implementation of its mandate and to adjust its work programme in the light of developments in order to continue to contribute, to the extent possible, to the realization of the common United Nations objective of achieving a just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine.

II.   GENERAL ASSEMBLY HOLDS RESUMED EMERGENCY SPECIAL SESSION;

 CONSIDERS REPORT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL; ADOPTS RESOLUTION

At the request of the Chairman of the Arab Group (A/ES-10/17), the Chairman of the Islamic Group of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (A/ES-10/18), the Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries (A/ES-10/19) and the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations (A/ES-10/15), the General Assembly resumed its tenth emergency special session on 13 November 1997.  The Assembly considered the illegal Israeli policies, including Israeli settlements, on the basis of the report of the Secretary General ( (A/ES-10/16-S/1997/798) submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution ES/10-3.  The Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People made a statement (A/ES-10/PV.6), the text of which is reproduced below:

Statement of the Chairman

 (interpretation from French): I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for giving me the floor in my capacity as Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People at this resumed tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly on the question of “Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. We are sure that under your enlightened leadership the work of this important session will be crowned with success.

I would also like to thank the Government of Switzerland for its efforts in response to paragraph 10 of resolution ES-10/3, in which the General Assembly recommended that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention convene a conference to enforce the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure its respect, in accordance with common article 1 of all four Geneva Conventions.

We have noted with interest the views expressed by the many Contracting Parties that have responded to the letter from the Swiss Government, the vast majority of which were in favour of convening such a conference. Some raised the possibility of first seeking to clarify certain legal issues, while others were hesitant, apprehensive that this initiative might jeopardize the peace process.

It is clear from the replies that the international community in general, and the Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in particular, remain gravely concerned about the stalemate in the Middle East peace process, and believe that the precarious situation and denial of justice in the occupied Palestinian territory justify concrete, urgent measures by the community of nations to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinians living under occupation.

Today the General Assembly, which has been seized of this abnormal situation in an emergency special session since last April, must carefully consider this question with a view to recommending collective measures to Member States, in accordance with paragraph 1 of resolution 377 (V), “Uniting for peace”.

It is encouraging that the bilateral talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians on a series of issues resumed on 4 November. For these talks to succeed, we sincerely believe that only the support and commitment of the co-sponsors of the peace process will be likely to re-establish the confidence which is indispensable for advancing the process in the direction desired by the great majority of the peoples of the Middle East and the entire international community.

We have also noted that the Israeli Government has taken certain steps: gradually releasing frozen funds, partially lifting the siege imposed on Palestinian areas, and allowing some Palestinian workers to go to their jobs in Israel.

Although these measures are welcome, they represent in reality only a cautious beginning, which slightly improves the grave situation of the Palestinian population of the occupied territory. These measures can in no way absolve Israel from making fundamental decisions: to freeze the building of settlements and the illegal confiscation of land and to withdraw the occupying forces from the occupied territories. The behaviour of the occupying authorities clearly underlies the serious situation that has been going on since last year, prompting the international community to convene this tenth emergency special session.

As rights continue to be denied and the confiscation and whittling away of Palestinian lands persists, Palestinian hopes of enjoying the true exercise of their rights shrink day by day. And we note also, every day, that international condemnation of these illegal measures has still not prevented the occupying Power from continuing to take illegal measures contrary to the spirit and the letter of the relevant United Nations resolutions.

In contempt of resolutions recently adopted by the General Assembly, during its resumed fifty-first session and this tenth emergency special session, construction of the Har Homa settlement on Jabal Abu Ghneim has gone on. It was learned last week that the first 1,000 apartments will be ready for sale to Jewish settlers in 1998. The total number of apartments under construction is of the order of 6,500.

The expansion of other settlements throughout the occupied territory is also continuing. At the end of October, for example, it was disclosed that 1,500 hectares had been confiscated to enlarge the Maaleh Adumim settlement in the West Bank, which thus would ultimately stretch from the outskirts of Jerusalem almost to the border with Jordan.

In occupied East Jerusalem settlers have taken over additional buildings, and it has been announced that a new gate for traffic will be opened through the Old City and new buildings will be put up in the Jewish quarter. At the same time, Palestinian Jerusalemites are increasingly being deprived of their residence rights, and Palestinian homes in the city are being systematically demolished. Finally, acts of violence are committed daily by armed Jewish settlers and occupying troops against defenceless Palestinians in Al-Khalil (Hebron) and elsewhere in occupied Palestinian territory.

The Palestinian territory has now been occupied for over 30 years, and for more than 30 years the international community has been adopting resolutions in the Security Council and the General Assembly to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Soon it will be 50 years since the General Assembly adopted the resolution partitioning Mandated Palestine into two States, one Jewish, the other Arab, with a special status for Jerusalem.

Throughout all these years, Herculean efforts have been made to achieve a just and lasting peace, which would enable Palestinians and Israelis to live together on an equal footing, in dignity and respecting each other's rights, and in a framework of partnership and cooperation.

By signing the Declaration of Principles in 1993 the parties made a bold move in the direction of peace. They chose the difficult and laborious, but ultimately rewarding, task of working together to resolve their differences and achieve mutual understanding, because the bloodshed and destruction of the past half century had made it clear to them that there was no alternative to putting an end to rancour and laying down their arms.

The attempts at exclusion imposed by force of arms, the deprivations and collective punishment during the occupation, can never lead to peace or bring security. That peace and that security will come only with a cooling of emotions, by calming the hearts and minds of the peoples of the region.

Thus there is a need for the General Assembly to express, today, the position of the international community in a clear fashion in favour of the convening of the conference on measures to enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the occupied Palestinian territory and to adopt measures to promote confidence and reestablish respect for international legality. Only such measures can truly assist in moving the peace process forward.

As Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, I should like to reaffirm here once again that we are determined fully to support the Assembly's decisions and to intensify our efforts to contribute to the advent of a just and lasting peace in the interests of all the peoples of that region, peoples who – I repeat once again – have sent an indispensable message of peace and tolerance to the world.

On the same day, by a vote of 139 in favour to 3 against, with 13 abstentions, the General Assembly adopted a resolution, the text of which is reproduced below:

 

ES-10/4.  Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East

 Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied

 Palestinian Territory

The General Assembly,

Having received the report of the Secretary-General submitted in accordance with paragraph 10 of its resolution ES-10/3 of 15 July 1997,1/

Having received at an earlier date the report of the Secretary-General submitted in accordance with paragraph 9 of its resolution ES-10/2 of 25 April 1997,2/

Determined to uphold the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international humanitarian law and all other instruments of international law, as well as relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions,

Reiterating the demands made in resolutions ES-10/2 and ES-10/3, namely:

(a) The immediate and full cessation of the construction in Jebel Abu Ghneim and of all other Israeli settlement activities, as well as of all illegal measures and actions in Jerusalem;

(b) That Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949,3/ to all the territories occupied since 1967, and that it comply with relevant Security Council resolutions, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;

(c) That Israel, the occupying Power, immediately cease and reverse all actions taken illegally,

(d) That Israel, the occupying Power, make available to Member States the necessary information about goods produced or manufactured in the illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem,

Aware that Israel, the occupying Power, has not heeded any of the above-mentioned demands and that it continues with its illegal actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory,

Having been informed in the report of the Secretary-General 2/ of the responses of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention and of the collective responses transmitted through letters from the President of the Coordinating Bureau of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States and the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, to the note sent by the Government of Switzerland in its capacity as the depository of the Convention,

Reaffirming the permanent responsibility of the United Nations with regard to the question of Palestine until it is solved in all its aspects,

Having received a letter dated 20 August 1997 from the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations,4/ informing about specific cases of assistance by individuals for illegal settlement activities,

Gravely concerned at the continuing deterioration of the Middle East peace process and the lack of implementation of the agreements reached,

Reaffirming that all illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially settlement activities, and the practical results thereof, cannot be recognized irrespective of the passage of time,

Recalling its rejection of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations in accordance with all relevant resolutions and declarations of the United Nations,

1. Condemns the failure of the Government of Israel to comply with the provisions of resolutions ES-10/2 and ES-10/3, in particular the continuation of the building of a new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim to the south of Occupied East Jerusalem;

2. Reiterates its call for the cessation of all forms of assistance and support for illegal Israeli activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, in particular settlement activities;

3. Reiterates its recommendation to the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, 3/ to take measures on a national or regional level, in fulfilment of their obligations under article 1 of the Convention, to ensure respect by Israel, the occupying Power, of the Convention, as well as its recommendation to Member States to actively discourage activities that directly contribute to any construction or development of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, as these activities contravene international law;

4. Reiterates also its recommendation that the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention convene a conference on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure its respect in accordance with common article 1;

5. Recommends to the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as the depository of the Geneva Convention, to undertake the necessary steps, including the convening of a meeting of experts in order to follow up on the above-mentioned recommendation, as soon as possible and with a target date not later than the end of February 1998;

6. Requests the Government of Switzerland to invite the Palestine Liberation Organization to participate in the above-mentioned conference and any preparatory steps for that conference;

7. Calls for reinjecting momentum into the stalled Middle East peace process and for the implementation of the agreements reached between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, as well as for the upholding of the principles of the process, including the exchange of land for peace;

8. Decides that, in case of continuous lack of compliance by Israel, the occupying Power, with the provisions of resolutions ES-10/2 and ES-10/3, it shall reconsider the situation with a view to making further appropriate recommendations to the States Members of the United Nations in accordance with its resolution 377 A (V) of 3 November 1950;

9. Decides to adjourn the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly temporarily and to authorize the President of the most recent General Assembly to resume its meetings upon request from Member States.

7th plenary meeting

13 November 1997

                   

1/ A/ES-10/16-S/1997/798 and Add.1; see Official Records of the Security Council, Fifty-second Year, Supplement for October, November and December 1997, document S/1997/798.

2/ A/ES-10/6-S/1997/494 and Corr.1 and Add.1; see Official Records of the Security Council, Fifty-second Year, Supplement for July, August and September 1997, document S/1997/494.

3/ United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 75, No. 973. in contravention of international law, against Palestinian Jerusalemites;

4/ A/ES-10/14.

III.  ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL ADOPTS TWO RESOLUTIONS

RELATING TO THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE

At its substantive session of 1997, held at Geneva from 30 June to 25 July 1997, the Economic and Social Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (A/52/159-E/1997/69), a note by the Secretary-General containing a report prepared bu the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia on the economic and social repercussions of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian people in the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, occupied since 1967, and on the Arab population of the Syrian Golan (A/52/172-E/1997/71) and the report of the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, held at Amman, Jordan from 20 to 22 May 1997 (A/52/179-E/1997/76, annex).  The Council adopted resolutions on the Israeli occupation and on Palestinian women, reproduced below:

1997/67. Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation

on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the

occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and

of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan

The Economic and Social Council,

Recalling General Assembly resolution 51/190 of 16 December 1996,

Recalling also its resolution 1996/40 of 26 July 1996,

Guided by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, affirming the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, and recalling relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967, 465 (1980) of 1 March 1980 and 497 (1981) of 17 December 1981,

Reaffirming the applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949,1/ to the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967,

Stressing the importance of the revival of the Middle East peace process on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967, 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973 and 425 (1978) of 19 March 1978, and the principle of land for peace as well as the full and timely implementation of the agreements reached between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian people,

Reaffirming the principle of the permanent sovereignty of people under foreign occupation over their natural resources,

Convinced that the Israeli occupation impedes efforts to achieve sustainable development and sound economic environment in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan,

Gravely concerned about the deterioration of the economic and living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan, and the exploitation by Israel, the occupying Power, of their natural resources,

Aware of the important work being done by the United Nations and the specialized agencies in support of the economic and social development of the Palestinian people,

Conscious of the urgent need for the development of the economic and social infrastructure of the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and for the improvement of the living conditions of the Palestinian people as a key element of a lasting peace and stability,

1. Stresses the need to preserve the territorial integrity of all of the occupied Palestinian territory and to guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods in the territory, including the removal of restrictions into and from East Jerusalem, and the freedom of movement to and from the outside world;

2. Stresses further the vital importance of the operation and construction of the Gaza airport, the seaport in Gaza and safe passage to the economic and social development of the Palestinian people;

3. Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to cease its measures against the Palestinian people, in particular, the closure of the occupied Palestinian territory, the enforced isolation of Palestinian towns, the destruction of homes and the isolation of Jerusalem;

4. Reaffirms the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan to all their natural and economic resources, and calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, not to exploit, endanger, or cause loss or depletion of these resources;

5. Also reaffirms that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan are illegal and an obstacle to economic and social development;

6. Stresses the importance of the work of the organizations and agencies of the United Nations, and of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories under the auspices of the Secretary-General;

7. Urges Member States to encourage private foreign investment in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, in infrastructure, job-creation projects and social development, in order to alleviate the hardship of the Palestinian people and improve their living conditions;

8. Requests the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its fifty-third session, through the Economic and Social Council, a report on the implementation of the present resolution and to continue to include, in the report of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, an update on the living conditions of the Palestinian people, in collaboration with relevant organizations and agencies of the United Nations;

9. Decides to include the item henceforth to be entitled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”, in the agenda of its substantive session of 1998.

42nd plenary meeting

25 July 1997

_____________

1/ United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 75, No. 973.

1997/16.  Palestinian women

The Economic and Social Council,

Having considered with appreciation the report of the Secretary-General concerning the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, 1/

Recalling the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, in particular paragraph 260 concerning Palestinian women and children, 2/ and the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women, 3/

Recalling also its resolution 1996/5 and other relevant United Nations resolutions,

Recalling the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women 4/ as it concerns the protection of civilian populations,

Aware of the signing by the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements on 13 September 1993 5/ and of the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip on 28 September 1995, both in Washington, D.C., within the framework of the Middle East peace process,

Concerned about the continuing difficult situation of Palestinian women in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and about the severe consequences of continuous Israeli illegal settlements activities as well

as the harsh economic conditions and other consequences for the situation of Palestinian women and their families, resulting from the frequent closure and isolation of the occupied territory,

1. Stresses its support for the Middle East peace process and the need for full implementation of the agreements already reached between the parties;

2. Reaffirms that the Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance and integration in the development planning of their society;

3. Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, comply fully with the provisions and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 6/ the Regulations annexed to The Hague Convention IV of 18 October 1907 7/ and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, 8/ in order to protect the rights of Palestinian women and their families;

4. Calls upon Israel to facilitate the return of all refugees and displaced Palestinian women and children to their homes and properties in the occupied Palestinian territory, in compliance with the relevant United Nations resolutions;

5. Urges Member States, financial organizations of the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations and other relevant institutions to intensify their efforts to provide financial and technical assistance to Palestinian women for the creation of projects responding to their needs, especially during the transitional period;

6. Requests the Commission on the Status of Women to continue to monitor and take action with regard to the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, in particular paragraph 260 concerning Palestinian women and children, and the Beijing Platform for Action;

7. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to review the situation and to assist Palestinian women by all available means, and to submit to the Commission on the Status of Women at its forty-second session a report on the progress made in the implementation of the present resolution.

36th plenary meeting

21 July 1997

                     

1/ E/CN.6/1997/2, sect. II.A.

2/ Report of the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace, Nairobi, 15-26 July 1985(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.85.IV.10), chap. I, sect A.

3/ Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4-15 September 1995(A/CONF.177/20 and Add.1), chap. I, resolution 1, annex II.

4/ General Assembly resolution 48/104.

5/ A/48/486-S/26560, annex.

6/ General Assembly resolution 217 A (III).

7/ Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Hague Conventions and Declarations of 1899 and 1907 (New York, Oxford University Press, 1915).

8/ United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 75, No. 973.

IV.  SPECIAL COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE ISRAELI PRACTICES AFFECTING

         THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE AND OTHER

ARABS OF THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

 REPORTS ON SITUATION

The twenty-ninth report of the Special Committee (A/52/131/Add.2) was issued on 13 November 1997 and transmitted to the General Assembly by the Secretary-General.  It followed two periodic reports (A/52/131 and Add.1 ), which were transmitted to the Assembly on 19 February and 29 May, respectively.  In accordance with established practice, the consideration of these reports was allocated to the Assembly’s Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), together with related reports of the Secretary-General.

The reports under this item were summarized as follows in a press release issued at United Nations Headquarters (GA/SPD/127):

The reports of the Special Committee on Israeli Practices (A/52/131 and Add. 1 and 2) summarize the information received by the Committee on reported violations.  The Israeli press and Arab-language and English-language newspapers published in the occupied territories were the main sources.  The Special Committee sought the cooperation of the Governments of Egypt, Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as of the Permanent Observer of Palestine at Geneva and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  It also sought the Secretary-General's intervention in securing the cooperation of the Government of Israel.

The Special Committee reports on the general situation in the occupied territories, on Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or civilians, on incidents resulting from the occupation, and on the administration of justice as it applies to the Palestinian and Israeli populations. It also addresses the treatment of civilians, including harassment and physical ill-treatment, collective punishment, and the imposition of curfews and expulsions.  In addition, it reviews measures affecting the fundamental freedoms of movement, education, religion and expression; settler activities that affect the civilian population; the treatment of detainees; questions relating to annexation and settlement; and information concerning the occupied Syrian Golan.

On the treatment of prisoners, the Special Committee cites a report prepared by the Palestinian Authority and the Prisoners' Society, which revealed that 83 Palestinians had died in Israeli jails over the previous 30 years.  It added that 31 Palestinians had died as a result of torture during interrogation, while 15 had been deliberately killed during protests in prison. Another six had died owing to lack of medical care.  On 15 March, the Palestinian Authority's Minister of Information appealed to international legal organizations and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for the immediate release of 250 minors held in Israeli prisons.

A Palestinian prisoner, Riyad Mahmoud Adwan, died on 12 January in Beersheba prison, an isolation facility notorious for its bad detention conditions, the report states.  Mr. Adwan, who had respiratory problems, suffered an attack that resulted in suffocation.  He was not taken immediately to hospital since a transfer requires administrative arrangements.  On 2 February, the Gaza-based A-Damir human rights organization stated that more than 3,000 Palestinians continued to be held in 12 prisons or detention facilities inside Israel.  Of those detainees, 291 were held without trial, 357 were under the age of 18 years, and 480 were either ill or old.  The list also included 69 Israeli Arabs arrested for political reasons.

A report by Defence for Children International charged that 21 Arab boys under the age of 17 years were being held at the Abu Kabir police lock-up in a state of vegetation, the Special Committee states.  The minors had nothing constructive, educational or positive to do, spent all day in bed, and had nobody to talk to.  In addition, their cells were not heated and they were not allowed visits.  The report also states that 5,000 Palestinian male prisoners were still held in Israeli jails, of whom an estimated 600 were detained without trial under administrative detention.

On Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or civilians, the report lists 12 deaths resulting from violent clashes with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), border police or settlers, or in gun battles between soldiers and Palestinian police.  Five other Palestinians were killed in incidents resulting from the occupation – one stepped on a landmine while grazing his sheep; another died of a heart attack when the car taking him to hospital was delayed for half an hour at an IDF roadblock; and three were reportedly suicide bombers who blew themselves up in attempted attacks on Jewish targets.

Other incidents cited in the report include one in which seven Palestinians were wounded, one or two seriously, when an Israeli soldier opened fire at Arab civilians in the Hebron casbah.  The soldier fired some 15 to 20 shots before being wrestled to the ground by an Israeli officer and two fellow soldiers. Amid claims of a conspiracy between the attacker and other soldiers, four of those wounded stated that they were hit by several soldiers, while relatives of the most seriously injured man said he had been shot at by soldiers stationed on a roof. During the attacker's interrogation, he expressed no regrets, saying he wanted to murder many Arabs and damage the peace process.

On the administration of justice, the report states that on 25 March, Sa'id Badarna, who was serving a life sentence plus 15 years for a "terrorist" attack on a bus station in 1995, was jailed for 18 years for killing his cellmate, Naza Abu Zina, whom he suspected of collaborating with the authorities.  Mr. Badarna had beaten Mr. Abu Zina until he confessed, but the beaten man died the following day and Mr. Badarna was charged with murder.  Since he was already serving a maximum sentence, the charge was reduced to manslaughter.  On the other hand, two settlers who had shot and killed a Palestinian in Hebron were released on bail and ordered to stay out of the town for three months.

On the question of harassment and physical ill-treatment, the Special Committee cites an incident in which a 22-year-old Palestinian woman from Tsurif village complained that a border policeman had tried to rape and abuse her while in her home.  The woman, married with three children, charged that two border policemen had entered her home to conduct a search.  They had broken furniture and damaged the house. According to neighbours, one of the policemen had at one point come out of the house and waited outside, leaving the other alone with the woman.  The policeman was suspected of trying to rape the woman and then fleeing with his partner.  A lawyer who lives in the village claimed that the two policemen had harassed, provoked and verbally abused other residents during the day and that, during another house search, had severely beaten two residents.

On 7 April, Israeli border police stationed in Hebron took control of El Yakoubia girls' school when riots intensified in the town centre, the report states. They smashed doors and tables, urinated on the floor and wrote an anti-Arab inscription on the blackboard.  A border police official later arrived to assess the damage and apologized to the school principal.  On 25 April, it was reported that medical sources had confirmed that the type of tear gas used by the Israeli army to disperse crowds in Sureif was on the list of internationally banned weapons.  Basing their report on diagnosis of victims of tear gas inhalation, the sources indicated that exposure to the gas could lead to paralysis of the nervous system and damage to the respiratory system.

The Special Committee also reports that on 23 January, border policemen detained for interrogation several Palestinian labourers who had been restoring Arab-owned homes in an Israeli-controlled area of Hebron.  It says that Palestinians were concerned about growing settler activity around Nablus, the Jordan Valley in the east, Wadi A-Teen in the west, and Kharbatha in the centre, south-west of Ramallah.  A researcher for the group Solidarity International for Human Rights explained that the most recent settler activity was a consequence of the $1 billion that the Government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had allocated for the revival of the settlement movement.

On 10 March, about 100 Palestinians clashed with 150 soldiers in Hebron as Palestinians tried to stop bulldozers from clearing the way for a new road that would connect the Kiryat Arba settlement to the Israeli-controlled part of Hebron, the report states.  Using force against men, women and children, the soldiers injured 12 people with clubs and rifle butts and detained at least five Palestinians.  Palestinians stated that the clashes had erupted when Israeli bulldozers began ploughing through their vineyards and almond and olive groves.  The IDF declared the area a closed military zone.

It was reported on 14 March that Palestinian livestock owners living in the Jordan Valley, in the perimeter covering the hilly areas near Tubas, Tamous and Nassiryeh east of Nablus and down to Jericho in the south, had received eviction notices, the Special Committee states.  The measure was perceived as part of an Israeli campaign to clear the area's sparse Arab population and take control of its water sources and plains for settlement expansion.

Also cited is a periodic report by the Peace Now movement covering changes in settlement trends since the Netanyahu Government came to office. Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai had issued construction permits for more than 4,000 housing units in Kiryat Sefer, Maaleh Adumim, the Jordan Valley and Emmanuel.  In addition, 3,000 apartments, the sale of which had been frozen by the Rabin Government, had been placed on the market.  The Peace Now report also indicated a rise in the number of settlers from 137,000 at the beginning of 1996 to 150,000 at the end of that year – a 9.6 per cent increase.  The number of births in settlements over the same period was 4,661.  However, Peace Now considered the most significant change had been the large increase in the budget allocated for settlement.

On the situation in the occupied Syrian Arab Golan, the report cites the French daily newspaper Le Figaro of 18 January, which had quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as ruling out negotiations on the future of the Golan.  In its interview, he is reported as saying that the Golan Heights must remain under Israeli control because of its strategic, historical and economic importance.

   The Committee also had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the applicability of the Geneva Convention (document A/52/551).  It was submitted pursuant to Assembly resolution 51/132 of 13 December 1996, which reaffirmed that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, was applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by it since 1967.  The resolution also demands that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by it since 1967, and that it comply scrupulously with the Convention's provisions.

The Secretary-General's report on Israeli practices (document A/52/552) was submitted pursuant to Assembly resolution 51/134 of 13 December 1996. According to that text, all measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, in violation of the relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention and contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, are illegal and have no validity and that such measures should cease immediately.  It further demands that Israel, the occupying Power, cease all practices and actions which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.

Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/52/550) submitted pursuant to Assembly resolution 51/135 of 13 December 1996.  That resolution called 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 the establishment of settlements.  It further called upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, and to desist from its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.

Pursuant to the Assembly's resolutions on the applicability of the Geneva Convention, on Israeli practices, and on the occupied Syrian Golan, the Secretary-General, on 18 June 1997, addressed notes verbales to the Foreign Minister of Israel, those reports state.  He asked the Minister to inform him of any steps the Israeli Government had taken or envisaged taking towards implementing the relevant provisions of those resolutions.  However, no reply had been received at the time of the preparation of the Secretary-General's reports on those issues.

Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Special Committee on Israeli Practices (document A/52/553). It cites paragraph 8 of Assembly resolution 51/131, which asks the Secretary-General to provide all necessary facilities to the Special Committee.  He was asked to ensure the widest circulation of the reports of the Special Committee and of information on its activities and findings, by all means available, through the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat and, where necessary, to reprint those of its reports that are no longer available.

The Secretary-General states that all necessary facilities were provided to the Special Committee. Arrangements were made for it to meet in February, May/June and August 1997.  Furthermore, it carried out a field mission to Egypt, Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic in May/June 1997.  The Department of Public Information continued to disseminate United Nations information materials, documents and press releases on the activities of the Special Committee and the Commission on Human Rights through the global network of United Nations information centres and services in 69 countries, through 359 depository libraries in 141 countries, and electronically through the Internet. The Department also continued to make information materials available to non-governmental organizations through its resource centres in New York and Geneva.

Below are recommendations of the Special Committee as contained in document A/51/131/Add.2:

VI.  Recommendations

641. The Special Committee expects that its findings will be taken into account when concrete measures are drawn up in order to revive the peace process in the region.  In the meantime, it wishes to recommend once more the implementation of measures that would safeguard the basic human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs in the occupied territories.  The Special Committee reiterates that such measures should include the following:

(a) The full application by Israel of the relevant provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which remains the main international instrument in humanitarian law that applies to the occupied territories, and whose applicability to those territories has repeatedly been reaffirmed by the Security Council, the General Assembly and other relevant organs of the United Nations;

(b) Full compliance with all resolutions pertinent to the question of the occupied territories as adopted by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Commission on Human Rights, as well as other relevant resolutions adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO);

(c)  The full cooperation of the Israeli authorities with representatives of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and full respect by the Israeli authorities of the privileges and immunities that the Agency enjoys as

an international body providing humanitarian services to Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories;

(d) The full cooperation of the Israeli authorities with ICRC in order to protect detained persons, in particular by ensuring full access of representatives of the Committee to such persons;

(e) The full support, by Member States, of the activities of UNRWA and ICRC in the occupied territories in order to enable both organizations to maintain and improve the assistance provided to the refugee population and to detained persons;

(f) The full cooperation of the Israeli authorities with the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories;

(g) Renewed efforts by Member States to convince Israel of the need for increased human rights protection through international monitoring of human rights.  This should include enabling the Special Committee, as the main body established by the General Assembly for the protection of human rights in the occupied territories, to perform its functions more effectively by allowing it to have access to the occupied territories;

(h) Full cooperation by Israel with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as regards the implementation of human rights advisory assistance programmes in the areas falling under the Interim Self-Government Arrangements;

(i) The Special Committee would like to appeal to Israel to act in conformity with the spirit animating the peace process by giving effect to the following concrete measures:

(i) Recognize that present policy regarding settlements in the occupied territories represents the most formidable obstacle to peace and security in the region and, accordingly, halt the establishment of new settlements and the expansion of existing ones and put an end to the ongoing policy of land confiscation and the building of bypass roads; and stop exerting pressure on Arabs in East Jerusalem to sell their houses to members of the Jewish community;

(ii) Refrain from the destruction of property such as the demolition of houses and the uprooting of trees, as well as discriminatory measures concerning the use of water resources;

(iii)  In view of the fact that the forced eviction of Palestinians in the occupied territories is a grave problem, we would recommend the adoption of paragraphs 1 to 4 of Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993/77, which we quote verbatim for convenience:

"The Commission on Human Rights

"…

"1. Affirms that the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing;

"2. Urges Governments to undertake immediate measures, at all levels, aimed at eliminating the practice of forced eviction;

"3. Also urges Governments to confer legal security of tenure on all persons currently threatened with forced eviction and to adopt all necessary measures giving full protection against forced eviction, based upon effective participation, consultation and negotiation with affected persons or groups;

"4. Recommends that all Governments provide immediate restitution, compensation and/or appropriate and sufficient alternative accommodation or land, consistent with their wishes and needs, to persons and communities that have been forcibly evicted, following mutually satisfactory negotiations with the affected persons or groups";

(iv) Put an end to the imposition of closures and curfews for indefensible reasons and merely as measures of collective punishment that have a disastrous effect on the economic and social situation of the population of the occupied territories and hinder the enjoyment of a number of fundamental rights and freedoms such as those of movement, education, religion and expression;

(v) Put an immediate end to interrogation practices amounting to torture and ill-treatment; rapidly and thoroughly investigate the persons identified as responsible for such practices by independent judicial bodies and prosecute them; and review and publish in full the guidelines concerning interrogation procedures so that they are transparent and in keeping with international human rights standards Israel has acceded to;

(vi) Review the situation of all Palestinian and other Arab prisoners, especially political detainees or persons having committed non-violent crimes, and expedite their release; and refrain from detaining residents of the occupied territories within Israel and improve conditions of detention in conformity with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders on 30 August 1955 and approved by the Economic and Social Council in its resolutions 663 (XXIV) C of 31 July 1957 and 2076 (LXII) of 13 May 1977;

vii) With regard to better protection of the right to life and physical integrity, establish rules of engagement for its security forces that are clear and fully respect human rights standards, and apply open-fire regulations strictly in conformity with the principles of necessity and proportionality; exercise utmost restraint in responding to outbreaks of violence and fully investigate all incidents of shooting; and put an immediate end to the activities of undercover units and, in particular, to extrajudicial and summary executions perpetrated by such units;

(viii) Exercise strict control over any abuses perpetrated by settlers, in particular with regard to their use of arms, and review the policy of arming settlers; prevent acts of violence by settlers and intervene if they are taking place; and carry out full and impartial investigations of acts of violence perpetrated by settlers and bring to justice those who are responsible;

(ix) Enforce the law equitably by ensuring all legal safeguards provided for in universally recognized human rights standards for the Arab population of the occupied territories and the prompt, thorough and impartial administration of justice, with penalties for both Israelis and Arabs commensurate with the gravity of offences committed;

(x) Allow all persons who were deported or expelled from the occupied territories to return and, where applicable, have their properties restituted.

642. The Special Committee believes that the implementation of these recommendations would contribute immensely to the strengthening of the peace process, enabling all the people of the occupied territories and in the region to live in harmony, dignity, peace and security.

V.   COMMISSIONER-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS RELIEF AND WORKS

 AGENCY FOR PALESTINE REFUGEES IN THE NEAR EAST

 REPORTS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

In accordance with past practice, the General Assembly agenda item on Palestine refugees was allocated to the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) of the General Assembly.  On 24 November, the Committee had before it the annual report of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) (A/52/13) and a number of other reports submitted by the Secretary-General.  The reports were summarized as follows in a press release issued at Headquarters (GA/SPD/125):

According to the report of the Commissioner-General of UNRWA (document A/52/13), the past year was a time of considerable challenge and transition for the Agency.  While it was able to maintain basic services for Palestine refugees and contribute to improving socio-economic conditions within refugee communities, the severe financial crisis besetting the Agency continued to permeate every aspect of its work.  That had an increasingly serious negative impact on programmes of assistance to refugees, with potentially dire repercussions.  Managing within the limited resources available and seeking a solution to the continuing financial crisis were major preoccupations of the Agency during the period under review.

The regional environment in which the Agency worked was characterized by a deterioration in the peace process and a marked increase in violence affecting Israel and the occupied territory, the report states.  Agency operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continued to face constraints arising from measures imposed by the Israeli authorities, who invoked security-related considerations. Despite the difficult circumstances, the Agency worked to restore its headquarters to full operating capacity within the area of operations, following completion of the move from Vienna in July 1996, and embarked on a management review aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness.

The report states that through its regular programmes, UNRWA continued to provide education, health care, relief assistance and social services to the 3.4 million Palestine refugees registered with the Agency in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Agency services included elementary and preparatory schooling, vocational and technical training, comprehensive primary health care, assistance relating to hospitalization, environmental health services in refugee camps, relief assistance to particularly needy households, and developmental social services for women, youths and persons with disabilities.

The various tracks of the Middle East peace process were subjected to considerable strain during the reporting period, the report states.  Following the opening by the Government of Israel of an entrance to a tunnel in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, several days of intense clashes erupted between Israeli forces and Palestine police and civilians, in which 70 Palestinians and 16 Israelis were killed.  The unprecedented exchange of fire between Palestinian police and Israeli forces, which contributed to the high casualty rate, led to the declaration of a state of emergency by the Israeli authorities.

Nevertheless, after hostilities had subsided, negotiations resumed between the two sides on the redeployment of Israeli forces in Hebron, the report states.  According to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip of 28 September 1995, those talks had been due to take place in March 1996.  The negotiations culminated in the Hebron Protocol, signed on 15 January 1997, under which the Palestinian Authority was given civil and security responsibilities over 80 per cent of the city, with the Israeli authorities remaining in control of the part of the city in which Israeli settlers resided.

Efforts to move the peace forward were, however, interrupted by the controversy surrounding the start of Israeli construction activity at Jebel Abu Ghneim, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the report states.  By mid-1997, the peace process was widely acknowledged to be in deep crisis, and despite signs of cooperation, the prevailing atmosphere was one of tension and mistrust.

The humanitarian work of UNRWA during the reporting period was overshadowed by concern about its financial situation, which continued to worsen despite vigorous efforts by the Agency to reduce expenditures and seek new sources of funding, the report states. Income continued to fall far short of budgeted needs, necessitating a continuation of previously imposed austerity measures and the introduction of new ones.  The Agency ended 1996 with the fourth consecutive year-end deficit in its approved budget, as well as depleted cash and working capital reserves.  Taking into account the cumulative deficits in certain extrabudgetary accounts, the Agency could also be considered "technically bankrupt".

The report states that the steady increase in the refugee population owing to natural growth, inflation and the public-sector quality of UNRWA services, which were made available to all those who met eligibility requirements, created a dynamic which inexorably increased the cost of providing a given level of services over time.  The cumulative impact of funding shortfalls and austerity measures was illustrated by the 29 per cent drop in average expenditure per refugee over the previous four years – from $110.4 in 1992 to $78.2 in 1996 – not taking account of the effects of inflation.

In view of the worsening conditions in refugee communities, a reduction in Agency services would not be justifiable on humanitarian grounds, let alone in the political context, the report states.  The UNRWA found itself caught between conflicting exigencies.  On the one hand, funds were not forthcoming for it to continue to provide services as in the past. On the other, the needs of the refugees, the delicate situation in the region, and the tradition of the Agency's work over four decades militated against any significant adjustments to its programmes.

In view of the foregoing considerations, it was highly regrettable that, shortly after the period covered by the present report, the Agency's critical financial situation obliged it to introduce a series of measures which represented a direct reduction in Agency services, the report states.  Those measures included an immediate recruitment freeze for some 250 new teacher posts needed Agency-wide to cope with rising enrolments; reducing international posts by 15 per cent; cancelling non-emergency hospitalization services in the last two months of 1997, except for special hardship cases; discontinuing regular budget allocations for university scholarships, shelter rehabilitation and emergency cash assistance; and introducing a temporary general recruitment freeze.  Through the rapid response of donors, it has been possible to revoke some of the announced measures.

The report states that the period under review coincided with the first year of the presence of UNRWA's headquarters in the area of operations.  At the principal headquarters location in Gaza, the initial period after the move was devoted to recruiting local staff to fill vacancies, establishing serviceable communications and computer systems, and restoring offices to full working capacity.  The success of the move yielded tangible benefits in terms of closer contact with field operations, the refugee community, and host authorities and other interlocutors.

In Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, which together hosted 62 per cent of all registered refugees, UNRWA continued to cooperate with the host authorities in providing services, the report states. Attention was focused on the situation of Palestine refugees in Lebanon, who faced deplorable living conditions and were unable to gain full access to the job market or to avail themselves of public health and education facilities.

The report states that the period in question marked the first phase of the management review, undertaken with the aim of making the Agency more efficient and effective in fulfilling its mission in a changing regional and international environment, and within the broader context of United Nations reform.  The diagnostic phase of the review involved the use of three consultancies to review the Agency's organizational structure and functions, business processes and budget management.  Following internal assessment of the consultants' recommendations, proposals were implemented in a number of areas, including budget preparation and administrative and personnel functions.

During the period under review, UNRWA's contacts with the League of Arab States were intensified and their relationship in support of the Agency's humanitarian activities strengthened, the report states. The Agency participated in a number of high-level meetings with the League.  It appreciated the League's strong support for the continuation of UNRWA's humanitarian services and for its appeals for increased contributions to the Agency by Arab League member States and others.

The outlook for the Palestine refugees and UNRWA at mid-1997 was not encouraging, the report states.  Frustration and despair within the refugee community, still awaiting a solution to their plight after nearly five decades, were intensified by the poor living conditions and restricted opportunities which so many continued to face.

An addendum to the Commissioner-General's report reviews the Agency's financial situation in 1996 and 1997, and budget estimates for 1998-1999.  It states that UNRWA is in a very precarious financial situation. Over the years, the Agency has used its capital to cover annual deficits.  That was no longer possible.

Despite significant reductions in expenditure compared with its approved budget for the biennium 1996-1997, the Agency is facing a deficit in its regular activities of some $20 million for the biennium, the report states.  The main reason for this deficit is that cash contributions to the Agency are not enough to cover the cash expenditures for its regular programmes.

The report states that the budget for UNRWA is based on its mandate.  The Agency's activities focus on support to more than 3.4 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  It is currently running three substantive programmes providing direct services to Palestine refugees on the fields of education, health care, and relief and social services.

The preparation of the Agency's 1998-1999 budget has been undertaken against a background of increasing needs by the Palestine refugees, the report states.  It is based on the level and quality of services that have become the norm for UNRWA, in particular as a result of the fact that the international community over decades has financed services at those standards.  At the same time, the very severe financial situation in which the Agency finds itself has had a significant influence on the setting of budget targets.  In general, no new services have been introduced.

The education programme is the Agency's largest, the report states.  It has a total budget of $325.3 million for the biennium 1998-1999, compared with $326.2 million for 1996-1997.  The health programme is the Agency's second largest programme, with a total budget of $126.4 million, representing 18.8 per cent of the Agency's expenditures and employing 15 per cent of its staff. The proposed budget for relief services is $70.3 million and the proposed budget for social services is $6.1 million.

The report also reviews the budgets proposed for the Agency's operational and common services.  The budget proposed for operational services is $45.5 million and for common services it is $88.2 million.

Included in the Agency's budget is a provision for termination indemnities for 22,000 area staff, the report states.  That provision was requested by the Agency's major donors and host Governments in March 1995. However, it has not been financially possible for the Agency to provide for this during the biennium 1996-1997.

 

Also before the Committee was the report of the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA (document A/52/578), which met on 12 September and 14 October 1997 to consider recent developments in the Agency's financial situation.  It states that the Agency ended its 1996 financial year with a shortfall of $26.7 million, based on total expenditures of $343.3 million and total income of $316.6 million.

In view of that dire situation, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA convened an extraordinary meeting of major donors and host governments at Amman in September 1996, at which the nature and magnitude of the crisis was explained and a special appeal was issued, the report states. Donors responded generously, announcing additional pledges of $14.3 million, including $12.4 million towards the 1996 regular budget.  Through additional contributions, the Agency was able to avoid insolvency.

The measures taken by the Agency to get through 1996 included the maintenance of previously imposed austerity measures and the introduction of new ones, the report states.  As a result, some activities provided for in the budget approved by the General Assembly for the 1996-1997 biennium were not fully implemented, thus negatively affecting the quality of its humanitarian programmes.  In February 1997, the Commissioner-General introduced another round of austerity measures amounting to some $18.7 million a year.  The Working Group stresses the responsibility of the international community to ensure the maintenance of UNRWA's services at acceptable levels.

The Working Group welcomes UNRWA's continuing efforts to implement management reform, the report states.  Those include prioritizing activities, taking into account the needs of the refugees and re-examining the way its services are delivered to ensure maximum cost-effectiveness. The Working Group commends the Commissioner-General and his staff for their tireless efforts to maintain the Agency's basic operations despite the constraints on the availability of resources.  It urges those Governments that have not yet contributed to UNRWA to do so and urges those Governments that have so far made only relatively small contributions to contribute more.

Reports of the Secretary-General

The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities (document A/52/423).  The report was submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 51/126 of 13 December 1996, by which, among other things, the Assembly reaffirmed 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 in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

The report also states that the Secretary-General has obtained from the Commissioner-General of UNRWA the information available to him on the return of refugees registered with the Agency.  As indicated in previous reports on the subject, the Agency is not involved in any arrangements for the return of refugees nor is it involved in any arrangements for the return of displaced persons who are not registered as refugees.

The report further states that the Agency would not necessarily be aware of the return of any registered refugees who did not request the provision of services. So far as is known to the Agency, between 1 July 1996 and 30 June 1997, 841 refugees registered with UNRWA returned to the West Bank and 352 to the Gaza Strip.  However, some of them might not themselves have been displaced in 1967, but might be members of the family of a displaced registered refugee whom they accompanied.

Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on Palestine refugees' properties and their revenues (document A/52/372).  The report is submitted in pursuance of Assembly resolution 51/129 of 13 December 1996, by which the Assembly reaffirmed that the Palestine Arab refugees were entitled to their property and to the income derived therefrom, in conformity with the principles of justice and equity.  The resolution also urged the Palestinian and Israeli sides, as agreed between them, to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees' properties and their revenues in the framework of the final status negotiations of the Middle East peace process.

The reports on displaced persons and of refugees' properties indicate that the Secretary-General, on 7 May, addressed notes verbales to the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations requesting information on any action Israel had taken or envisaged taking in implementation of the relevant resolutions.

In the response by Israel to those requests, its Permanent Representative replied that resolutions regarding UNRWA remained rife with political issues irrelevant to the work for which the Agency was responsible and thus remained detached from the new reality in the area.

"The agreements between Israel and the Palestinians mark significant progress in the framework of the peace process", he writes.  "Israel believes that this process is the only way to achieve historic reconciliation and lasting peace between the two sides.  However, for this process to succeed, it is imperative that both sides abide by their commitments made under the agreements signed by them.  Israel calls upon the Palestinian side to live up to its commitments and resume its participation in the negotiations on all outstanding interim matters and on permanent status issues.

"Israel believes that UNRWA can play an important role in promoting the social and economic advancement foreseen in the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, within the limits of its humanitarian mandate, and accordingly looks forward to continuing the cooperation and good working relationship with UNRWA."

The note verbale also states that Israel considers it essential that the General Assembly consolidate its resolutions regarding UNRWA into one resolution directly related to the Agency's humanitarian tasks.

The report of the Secretary-General on offers by Member States of grants and scholarships for higher education, including vocational training, for Palestine refugees (document A/52/415) states that the Government of Japan awarded 10 fellowships through UNRWA in 1996/97.  The Government of Switzerland contributed $1,463,581 between 1989 and 1995, as well as $240,000 in 1996, to the UNRWA university scholarships programme for secondary school graduates.

The report further states that during the biennium 1996-1997, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granted 71 scholarships in favour of Palestinian students.  The World Health Organization (WHO) provided and processed 32 fellowships/study tours for qualified Palestinian candidates in various specializations, with a commutative total of 54 months of study.

The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on a University of Jerusalem "Al-Quds" for Palestine refugees (document A/52/503), concerning his efforts to prepare a functional feasibility study on establishing the proposed university.

At the Secretary-General's request, the Rector of the United Nations University made available a highly qualified expert, Mihaly Simai, to assist in the preparation of the study, the report states.  The expert was to visit the area and meet with the competent Israeli officials, bearing in mind that Israel exercises effective authority in the area concerned.  The Secretary-General requested that the Government of Israel facilitate the visit of the expert, which would take place at a mutually convenient date.

On 10 October, the Permanent Representative of Israel informed the Secretary-General that Israel had voted consistently against the Assembly's resolution on the proposed university, and its position remained unchanged, the report states.  "It is clear that the sponsors of this resolution seek to exploit the field of higher education for political purposes totally extraneous to genuine academic pursuits", he writes.  Accordingly, Israel considers that the proposed visit "would serve no useful purpose".

In view of that position by Israel, it has not been possible to complete the functional feasibility study on the proposed university as planned.

The report of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, contained in a note by the Secretary-General (document A/52/311), states that the Commission has nothing new to report since the submission of its report of 1 October 1996 (document A/51/439, annex).  The Commission had earlier reported that it had been unable to find means of achieving progress in implementing a 1948 General Assembly resolution, in which the Assembly called for Palestine refugees to be given the choice between peaceful repatriation and compensation. The circumstances that had limited its possibilities of action had remained essentially unchanged.

VI.   UNRWA ADVISORY COMMISSION EXAMINES AGENCY’S ACHIEVEMENTS

AND OTHER MAJOR ISSUES AT ANNUAL MEETING

The following press release was issued by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (PAL/1848):

Gaza, 16 October (UNRWA) — The Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), meeting in Amman this week, emphasized the need to put UNRWA on a sound financial footing, and agreed that, to the extent possible, any action which would negatively affect the well-being of the Palestine refugees should be avoided.

    

The 10-member Commission was meeting to consider the draft annual report of the UNRWA Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen, and the Agency's proposed budget for the biennium 1998-1999, both of which are to be submitted to the General Assembly at its current session.

    

The members of the Commission are Belgium, Egypt, France, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America.  The Palestine Liberation Organization attends as an observer.

The Advisory Commission expressed great appreciation for UNRWA's programmes of assistance for more than 3.4 million Palestine refugees, and to the host Governments for the services provided by them to the refugee community.

The Commission considered as exceedingly grave the Agency's worsening financial situation and the consequent austerity measures which had affected the quality and level of some services to refugees.  Referring to the constraints on Agency operations as described in the draft annual report, the Commission called upon the Israeli authorities to do their part to ensure that they proceeded unhampered.

"The year under review has seen a drop in the quality and level of services the Agency has been able to provide", UNRWA Commissioner-General Hansen told Commission members.  "This is of concern, despite the positive and constructive dialogue that has been maintained between UNRWA, host authorities, and donors.  We have to maintain services to the refugees, and identify ways of sustaining such services so long as UNRWA is required."

Commission members noted the importance of UNRWA and the role it plays in regional stability at a time of challenge.  Donor representatives reconfirmed the centrality of the refugee issue in the peace process and called UNRWA's services essential.  They congratulated the Agency on its excellent record in providing services despite funding shortfalls.

    

Host government representatives praised the warm and cooperative relationship between the Agency and their respective Governments. They stressed the impor-tance of maintaining UNRWA services at their present level and cautioned that any cuts in the Agency’s basic services in the future could have a destabilizing effect.

The Chairman of the Advisory Commission, Ethem Tokdemir, Consul-General of Turkey in Jerusalem, stated in an official letter to the Commissioner-General on behalf of the Commission that the successful functioning of the Agency was considered vital, with the refugees facing severe socio-economic hardship and uncertainty about the future in view of the difficulties inherent in the Middle East peace process.

The representative of France announced an additional contribution of 1.5 million francs to UNRWA's regular budget for 1997.

VII.  COUNCIL OF MINISTERS OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY

     ADOPTS DECISIONS ON PALESTINE AND THE MIDDLE EAST

The Council of Ministers of the Organization of African Unity held its sixty-sixth ordinary session at Harare from 28 to 31 May 1997.  The following are excerpts from the decisions adopted at that session (A/52/465):

CM/Dec.359 (LXVI) – Report of the Secretary-General on the question of Palestine (document CM/2005 (LXVI)

The Council of Ministers:

(a) Reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to exercise their inalienable national rights, their right to return to their homeland, including their homes and property, self-determination and the establishment of an independent State on their national soil with East Jerusalem as its capital in accordance with the principles and resolutions of the United Nations;

(b) Expresses its deep concern and condemns Israel's violation of the principles of peace and peaceful coexistence and its disregard for the principles on which the peace process is based;

(c) Calls upon Israel to immediately stop the practice of confiscating Palestinian lands, especially those in East Jerusalem and its environs and the expansion of settlements in violation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 465 (1980) and 478 (1980), which threatens to undermine the peace process;

(d) Emphasizes the need to implement resolution ES-10/2 of 25 April 1997, adopted by the General Assembly at its emergency special session on the status of Jerusalem and the need for Israel to end its illegal measures in the other occupied Palestinian territories;

(e) Calls upon Israel to immediately halt the construction work being carried out in Jabal Abu Ghneim and urges the countries that sponsor the peace process, the parties concerned and the international community at large to suspend all forms of assistance and support to the illegal activities being undertaken in occupied Palestinian territories;

(f) Emphasizes the need to preserve the territorial integrity of occupied Palestinian lands, ensure the freedom of movement of persons and communities within the region and remove restrictions on entry to East Jerusalem and freedom of movement within the Palestinian territories in general;

(g) Emphasizes the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in accordance with the principles of human rights and international legitimate resolutions, especially United Nations General Assembly resolution 194 (III) and the Security Council resolution 237 (1967);

(h) Calls for the freezing of relations with Israel at their present level due to the gravity and urgency of the situation;

(i) Further calls for the initiation of all possible measures to ensure Israel's adherence to the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference and the principle of land for peace and its full implementation of all the agreements and commitment entered into by the parties concerned during the peace talks;

(j) Reaffirms the urgent need to make Israel respect the principles of international humanitarian law, as stipulated in the Fourth Geneva Convention, of 12 August 1949, in the Palestinian territories which it has been occupying since 1967, including Jerusalem;

(k) Reaffirms that adherence to agreements and international law is a sine qua non for the maintenance of international peace and security, calls for the strict implementation of the peace agreements and urges the countries that sponsor the peace process, the parties concerned and the international community as a whole to deploy all possible efforts to revamp the peace process and ensure its success.

CM/Dec.360 (LXVI) – Report of the Secretarv-General on the situation in the Middle East (document CM/2006 (LXVI))

The Council of Ministers:

(a) Recalls all the relevant resolutions adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government and the Council of Ministers on the situation in the Middle East;

(b) Reaffirms that the question of Palestine is at the core of the struggle in the Middle East and that there can be no just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East unless Israel withdraws from all occupied Palestinian and Arab lands, including East Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan and Southern Lebanon, and unless the Palestinian people are allowed to exercise their inalienable national rights in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, especially resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 425 (1978), 465 (1980) and 478 (1980), based on the principle of land for peace;

(c) Calls for the initiation of all possible measures to ensure Israel's adherence to the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference and the principle of land for peace and its full implementation of all the agreements and commitments entered into by the parties on all tracks during the peace talks;

(d) Urges the United Nations General Assembly and the international community to ensure complete Israeli compliance with United Nations and International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions on the use of nuclear installations only for peaceful purposes, to force Israel to allow international inspection of its nuclear installations and to draw the attention of the Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency to the actual and potential threat posed by radiation leakage from the Dimona reactors in the absence of international inspection;

(e) Reaffirms its support for the proposal of H.E. President Hosni Mubarak to declare the Middle East a region free of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction;

(f) Urges all States of the region that have not yet signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, to desist from manufacturing, producing, testing or possessing nuclear weapons; to sign the treaty, and to place their nuclear installations under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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