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        Economic and Social Council
8 October 2010

Original: English

Substantive session for 2010
General segment

Provisional summary record of the 41st meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Tuesday, 20 July 2010, at 10 a.m.

President: Mr. Soborun (Vice-President) ......................................................... (Mauritius)



Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan*


Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/65/72-E/2010/13)

4. Mr. St. Aimee (Saint Lucia), speaking as Chairman of the Special Committee on Decolonization, acknowledged with appreciation the contribution made by various United Nations specialized agencies and other organizations in rendering assistance to the Non-Self-Governing Territories or providing for the Territories’ participation in their programmes. Such participation was a welcome integration of the Territories into the international development and assistance community.

5. The annual regional seminars convened by the Special Committee had identified a number of socio-economic issues that must be addressed to benefit the Non-Self-Governing Territories. They ranged from the impact of climate change to capacity-building for full self-governance. The Special Committee had requested the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system to intensify their engagement with the Council’s work in the expectation that, through economic and social advancement, the Non-Self-Governing Territories would come closer to achieving full self-government on their way to independence.

6. Mr. Nour (Director, Regional Commissions New York Office), introducing the report of the Secretary-General on regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields (E/2010/15 and Add.1), said that the high-level dialogue held in July 2010 between the Council and the Executive Secretaries of the regional commissions had focused on MDG 3 (Promote gender equality and empower women) in its relationship to the other Millennium Development Goals. The Executive Secretaries had stressed that neither the MDGs nor an economic recovery conducive to development could be achieved without a dramatic improvement in gender equality and the empowerment of women in the regions.

7. Overall, progress on the MDGs was mixed: the results achieved were uneven, both in terms of the individual Goals and in relation to individual countries and regions. Within a single country, there were often striking disparities between urban and rural areas and among different segments of the population. Even prior to the food, fuel and economic crises, progress towards some targets had been lagging in most regions, particularly in maternal health, environmental sustainability and access to sanitation facilities.

8. In anticipation of the upcoming High-level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, Member States must consider ways to redress the shortcomings. Several creative measures that had been adopted to counter the global economic and financial crisis and the effects of climate change could help achieve faster progress towards the achievement of the MDGs, including State intervention to maintain economic stability and to mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable groups through targeted investment in social protection systems. Governments had responded to the crisis by allocating a sizeable share of their fiscal stimuli packages to social investments, including in agricultural and rural development, food-aid programmes and a low-carbon economy. Based on that experience, countries that had not done so could adopt national development plans that increased social inclusion through targeted measures and expenditure on priorities and gaps in areas related to the MDGs.

9. The crisis had demonstrated the value of South-South and regional cooperation as a means for countries to strengthen their resilience and achieve common goals. In response to the crisis, the regions had adopted coordinated measures and strategies, including emergency meetings of finance ministers, expansion of the Chiang Mai Initiative, the European Recovery Plan, the establishment of the Latin American and Caribbean Summit for Integration and Development and the recapitalization of regional and subregional development banks, all of which had been crucial to the prompt recovery from the crisis and illustrated the benefits of greater regional cooperation and coordination. Given the dynamic performance of the emerging economies, South-South cooperation would be all the more important for the achievement of the MDGs. It was also clear that environmentally sustainable growth would be a pathway towards recovery and sustainable development.

10. During the reporting period, the regional commissions had continued to promote coherent inter-agency policy responses through their chairmanship of the Regional Coordination Mechanism. The report explained the distinct functions of the Mechanism and the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) regional teams. The regional commissions were working to establish useful two-way interaction between those mechanisms. Regional issues addressed at meetings of the Regional Coordination Mechanism could inform discussions at UNDG regional team meetings. Work on policy coherence could be conveyed to the teams for their debates on country policies, while elements of regional and subregional programmes could be included in country development assistance frameworks. Conversely, the Mechanism could draw lessons from the national policy experience of regional teams. Such lessons would thus be shared more broadly, leading to stronger policy convergence at the regional level.

11. He then introduced, on behalf of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the note by the Secretary-General on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/65/72-E/2010/13). The report emphasized that the Israeli occupation, including the use of arbitrary detention, disproportionate use of force, property destruction, home demolitions, mobility restrictions, lack of building permits and closure policies, intensified the economic and social hardships of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory.

12. Between February 2009 and February 2010, 85 Palestinians had been killed and 845 injured by Israeli military operations. Israeli authorities had demolished 220 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, resulting in the displacement of over 400 Palestinians. As of February 2010, some 58 per cent of the barrier had been constructed and a further 10 per cent was under construction. If construction proceeded as planned, the barrier would isolate approximately 10 per cent of Palestinian territory, including occupied East Jerusalem and some of the West Bank’s most agriculturally productive land. As of that date, there were also 550 closure obstacles in the West Bank, 80 fewer than in the preceding year, as part of a complex system of restriction of movement.

13. Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip had entered its third year in August 2009. The processing of clearance requests was lengthy and non-transparent. The insufficient and unpredictable supply of fuel to supply Gaza’s sole power plant had exacerbated the chronic electricity shortage, with negative humanitarian implications. The ban on the import of construction materials had prevented the reconstruction of most of the 3,500 homes destroyed and 2,900 homes severely damaged during the Israeli military offensive of December 2008 and January 2009. The blockade had reduced the availability of medicines: as of December 2009, 24 per cent of essential drugs and 18 per cent of essential medical disposables were out of stock in the Gaza Strip.

14. Israeli settlement activity continued in the West Bank, where the number of settlers was estimated at 301,200 in September 2009, a growth rate of almost 5 per cent, considerably higher than the average Israeli population growth rate of 1.8 per cent. By the end of 2008, another 200,000 Israeli settlers lived in 12 settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

15. The Palestinian private sector’s ability to create employment opportunities was declining owing to the partial destruction of Palestinian productive capacity, loss of land and natural resources to settlement and the barrier, as well as restrictions to movement, high political risk and administrative obstacles that undermined investment. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had decreased to 31.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2009, compared with 32.7 per cent a year earlier. Almost 1.6 million people, or 38 per cent of the population, were “food insecure”.

16. The Israeli Government’s annexation of the Syrian Golan continued to affect the lives and human rights of Syrian citizens living there. The Government had continued expanding settlements since 1967 despite repeated United Nations resolutions calling upon it to desist. Israeli measures, including discriminatory water quotas and tariff schemes that favoured Israeli settlers, restricted the access of Syrian citizens to land and water, severely constraining the agricultural activities that constituted their livelihoods.

17. Mr. Hijazi (Observer for Palestine) said that over the previous 43 years Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan had devastated the societies and economies of those territories. The true scale and long-term effects of that devastation were not yet fully known. Israel had systematically targeted the economic and social fabric of the Palestinian people, in violation of its obligations as an occupying Power under international law, as affirmed by the advisory opinion of 9 July 2004 of the International Court of Justice. Israeli policies and practices violated other international agreements as well as Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

18. Israel sought to instil a siege mentality through its system of walls, checkpoints, restrictions and humiliating procedures aimed at oppressing an entire people. That mentality was illustrated by the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip as collective punishment of its civilian population. As a result, 1.5 million people had now endured lives of hunger, dependency, need and helplessness for more than three years. More than 1 million people in Gaza suffered from food insecurity, while the United Nations Children’s Fund had estimated that at least 3,000 children were severely malnourished. The unemployment rate in Gaza had reached over 50 per cent as the industrial and commercial sectors had all but collapsed owing to Israeli measures, including the destruction of industries, businesses and workshops during the military aggression of December 2008 and January 2009. Numerous United Nations reports, including the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, had documented the disastrous social and economic impact on Palestinian society.

19. The unjustified ban on exports had further decimated businesses. Even a traditional employment sector such as fishing had been marginalized by Israeli-imposed limitations on fishing: the International Committee of the Red Cross had indicated that the poverty rate among Gaza’s fishermen had doubled in two years to nearly 90 per cent. Moreover, the severe currency shortage meant that workers were not paid in cash and were thus unable to contribute, however modestly, to the economy.

20. The blockade had put further strain on the health, water and sanitation systems. The health sector was near collapse as equipment fell into disrepair owing to a lack of spare parts, materials and fuel. Only 10 per cent of water was safe for consumption, yet Israel denied entry to the equipment and expertise needed to repair the sewage system. Many medicines classified as essential were unavailable in Gaza, including crucial haemophilia drugs. Schools were underfunded and lacked essential supplies, including paper for students. He wondered how denying paper to a population of mostly school- and college-age young people was conducive to peace and how such an outrage could still continue. It was no surprise that the Israeli measures in Gaza had been characterized as collective punishment, a violation of Israel’s obligations under international law.

21. The network of settlements, walls and checkpoints established by the occupying Power was intended to lay siege to Palestinian cities, sever East Jerusalem from its natural environs and strip it of its Palestinian Arab character. Construction of the wall would result in the de facto annexation of 46 per cent of the West Bank’s aquifers, compounding its chronic water shortage. The punitive permit system employed by Israel in the previous six years had treated Palestinians as strangers in their own land and had devastated the health sector by isolating East Jerusalem, since Jerusalem’s six hospitals were the main providers of specialized health care to Palestinians. Thousands of them were subject to the complicated process of permit requests, with its arbitrary delays and ad hoc suspensions.

22. While the overall unemployment rate had decreased in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it remained an unsustainable 22 per cent. The rate was highest in the Gaza Strip, where the blockade had reduced employment opportunities. The situation was not much better in the West Bank, however, where the Palestinian Authority was unable to function and international aid was limited. There, almost 80 per cent of Palestinian communities lacked sufficient nutritious food and 84 per cent of families relied on humanitarian assistance to survive. Fifteen per cent of children under 5 suffered from malnutrition and a shocking 44 per cent suffered from diarrhoea, the main cause of death for children under 5 worldwide.

23. All those issues were part of a cynical, systematic policy aimed at forcing hunger, de-development and displacement on an entire people. The rate of displacement had reached an unprecedented level in the current year as Israel escalated its policy of emptying Palestine of its people. There had been a sharp increase in home demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem, where the occupying Power continued to expand its illegal settlements.

24. Palestinians were resilient and remained deeply rooted in their land and committed to their national cause. They would continue to oppose the military occupation and seek to live in dignity, liberty and prosperity with peace and security. Despite the challenges, they would continue their State-building efforts under the comprehensive programme launched in August 2009 by developing and strengthening State institutions and providing the people with basic services.

25. The international community must make efforts to achieve the two-State solution for peace, which would ensure a just and lasting solution to the conflict. The military occupation undermined not only the viability of that solution but also the international system and the laws and principles governing it. Israel must be compelled to cease its illegal policies and practices in order to salvage the prospects for peace and stability and to allow the Palestinian people to realize their national and human potential.

26. Mr. Khan (Indonesia) said that the continued occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories was related to issues of legality, security and politics and had severe economic and social repercussions for the living conditions of the Palestinian people and the Arab population. There was widespread poverty, unemployment and inflation, caused by the global financial crisis, and climate change had made food and energy prices unstable. There was no real hope of the MDGs being achieved by 2015. Moreover, limitations on movement by Israel had affected Palestinians socially, and access to emergency humanitarian assistance was difficult.

27. Indonesia joined the international community in calling upon Israel to respect international law and international humanitarian law to achieve peace in the Middle East. It welcomed the proximity talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives and supported the efforts of the parties. Israel must show its commitment by addressing the greatest obstacle to peace, which was the construction of settlements, particularly in East Jerusalem. It must halt demolitions and evictions and dismantle the settlements already built. It could not expect Palestinians to ignore a policy that was designed to alter the demographic composition and status of Palestinian territory.

28. Indonesia was committed to a viable and democratic Palestine and believed that the way forward was to provide continuous capacity-building assistance to Palestinians. In the context of the initiatives adopted at the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership Ministerial Conference on Capacity-Building for Palestine, held in July 2008, Indonesia and other countries were building capacity in social development, governance, economics, infrastructure and finance.

29. Mr. Zdorov (Observer for Belarus), speaking on regional cooperation, said that the regional commissions should play an important role in helping Member States to mitigate the effects of the global economic crisis. The Economic Commission for Europe was one of the few such structures in his region that was not guided by political motivations. His Government was pleased with the results of the Executive Secretary’s recent visit.

30. He welcomed the Commission’s focus on assisting States with practical efforts to increase competitiveness by developing a business environment that was friendly to innovative businesses with high growth potential, establishing a system to finance innovative work, strengthening energy security, developing transportation links between Europe and Asia, and simplifying trade procedures. The Commission should continue to foster sustainable and even economic development and the integration of regional structures within Europe. It should pay special attention to countries with economies in transition and middle-income countries, with particular focus on the achievement of stable economic development. The Governments of States receiving assistance must, however, play a major role in developing the corresponding programmes.

31. Mr. Valero Briceño (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela) said that, despite calls by world leaders for it to end the blockade of the Gaza Strip and United Nations efforts to restore respect for international law, Israel had prevented humanitarian aid from reaching the Palestinian people, carrying out acts of State terrorism, including its action against the Freedom Flotilla. The Security Council must appoint an independent and impartial commission to determine liability in that case.

32. There must be an end to the Israeli Government’s impunity, which was the main obstacle to a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and violated the principle of the equal sovereignty of Member States and the legitimacy of the United Nations. Above all, that impunity blocked access for Palestinians to their most basic economic and social rights and their inalienable right to self-determination.

33. The toll of the genocidal aggression of Israeli warmongers against the Palestinian people was heartbreaking: dead and mutilated civilians, house demolitions, the planned destruction of basic infrastructure and imprisonment behind an inhumane barrier. In the Gaza Strip, especially, the situation was a humanitarian catastrophe: the Palestinians there had little access to basic goods and services, restrictions on fuel imports and a ban on imports of building materials. The lack of building materials had particularly affected the health sector. According to the World Health Organization, almost half of Gaza’s health centres had been damaged or destroyed during the criminal Cast Lead operation.

34. His delegation found it deeply disturbing that, instead of any significant progress towards peace and the sustainable socio-economic development of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan, the genocidal Government of Israel had continued its policy of aggression and harassment.

35. The Venezuelan people and Government demanded an end to the inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip and joined the call for immediate steps to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East and the creation of a free and sovereign Palestinian State.

36. Mr. Benítez Versón (Cuba), speaking on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation, said that Cuba endorsed the comments of the observer for Palestine and hoped that the draft resolution that it had sponsored would be strongly supported by the Council.

37. Referring to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, he said that the continued cooperation and assistance of the specialized bodies and other organizations of the United Nations system was essential to enable the Non-Self-Governing Territories to meet the challenges they faced in planning and achieving sustainable development. Much remained to be done, and it was to be hoped that the organizations of the United Nations system that had not provided information in response to the Secretary-General’s request would put assistance programmes in place without delay.

38. Ms. Davidovich (Israel) said that her delegation was disappointed by the exploitation of the Council for political ends. In the discussions of thematic issues that concerned individuals and societies throughout the world, the only country singled out for discriminatory and biased treatment was Israel.

39. The report before the Council contained misleading and one-sided information and deliberately ignored critical challenges confronting Palestinian society, such as the implications of Hamas terrorist control of Gaza. Despite that reality, the Government of Israel ensured that the Palestinian civilian population of Gaza received adequate humanitarian treatment. A new, joint task force established by Israel and the Palestinian Authority was scheduled to work on coordinated projects in the Gaza Strip, supervised by the international community. A balanced report would have noted such a step.

40. The Palestinian economy in the West Bank continued to grow quickly. The Council should note that that growth had been encouraged by the removal of a significant number of checkpoints, in direct correlation with the improving security situation in the West Bank.

41. The report also failed to mention daily coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in public health, sanitation and the environment. There was cooperation in energy infrastructure and agricultural projects and there were joint forums on issues of women’s empowerment that were pertinent to both Israelis and Palestinians.

42. One-sided reports and resolutions did nothing to build the confidence and culture of understanding that were essential for prosperity as well as for peace and security in the Middle East.

43. Mr. Ja’afari (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) said that the note by the Secretary-General on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/65/72-E/2010/13), which contained a report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, shed light on the economic and social suffering of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory and of the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan. The report clearly reflected the brutality of the Israeli occupation, Israel’s disregard for international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and its commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, for which its leaders should be held accountable and prosecuted. The suffocating economic blockade imposed by the occupying Power on more than 1.5 million Palestinians, in full view of the international community, had led to severe shortages of food, water, fuel and electricity, disrupted health care, impeded reconstruction in the wake of the devastation caused by the Israeli military machine and halted the flow of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. Crimes had been committed not only against Palestinian civilians but also against the international humanitarian workers aboard the Gaza aid flotilla, nine of whom had been murdered as they attempted to deliver humanitarian assistance.

44. Israel also persisted in pursuing policies and practices that tightened restrictions on the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan, denying their rights under international law. Its recent military exercise in that territory had resulted in the destruction of many acres of farmland. The representatives of Israel in international forums should remember that the international community rightly considered Israel to be an illegal occupying Power, which had imposed its laws in the occupied Syrian Golan in flagrant disregard for Security Council resolution 497 (1981).

45. The bill passed by the Israeli Knesset in December 2009 requiring that the implementation of any peace agreement resulting in Israeli withdrawal from occupied East Jerusalem or the occupied Syrian Golan must be approved by 80 per cent of all Israelis in a referendum confirmed that Israel defied the entire world in rejecting peace and that any expressions of a desire for peace on the part of its Government were merely political manoeuvres and ploys.

46. By adopting resolutions on the economic and social repercussions of foreign occupation on the living conditions of occupied peoples, the Council sent a clear message to the entire world and to future generations that the policy of occupying foreign territories was inhuman and violated all international and humanitarian laws. His delegation was baffled by the position of some States, which paid lip service to human rights but, when negotiating draft resolutions on the humanitarian, economic and social repercussions of foreign occupation, strongly opposed references to the suffering and rights of people living under such occupation, particularly when Israel was the occupying Power. Even if the Council was unable to implement its resolutions regarding the Israeli occupation of Arab territories owing to the imbalance in political power structures, that did not detract from the weight and importance of such resolutions. The Council had a moral responsibility towards people living under foreign occupation, which Council members should not seek to evade.

47. His delegation hoped that the Council would adopt by consensus the draft resolution that was to be submitted under the agenda item, in order to demonstrate that it totally rejected the occupation of Arab territories, as a matter of principle and pursuant to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and also to reaffirm the many previous Council resolutions adopted on the same issue, which was of crucial importance for international peace and security.

48. Mr. Tsymbaliuk (Ukraine) said that Ukraine had been severely affected by the financial crisis and the accompanying economic slowdown, as exemplified by a decline in gross domestic product of approximately 15 per cent in 2009. His delegation hoped that the existing level of economic cooperation among the region’s Governments and assistance from international and regional financial institutions would enable Ukraine to overcome the consequences of the crisis and restore economic growth. The outlook for 2010 was largely positive given the renewed support it was receiving from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the assistance from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank.

49. His country was reducing the Government budget deficit in line with the requirements of IMF and other international financial institutions. Social spending had generally remained level or increased and significant funds had been committed to rescue the banking sector.

50. His delegation agreed that it was premature to withdraw fiscal stimuli, despite increasing debt levels, and that the financial systems in emerging economies remained partially impaired and urgently needed to recapitalize and deleverage. However, further expansion of the industrial sector and institutional reform would be necessary for restoring robust economic growth in the medium term. Ukraine’s economic recovery would be moderate owing to reduced consumer spending, high unemployment and dependence on global economic developments and foreign financial inflows. His Government hoped that the economy would return to its 2008 income levels by 2012.

51. Given the high correlation between progress in achieving the MDGs and national income growth, the economic crisis was likely to set back progress by four years for a large number of the targets. However, the Government was implementing anti-crisis measures, supporting the real sector of the economy, striving to save Government budget funds and cooperating in programmes and projects of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) aimed at enabling it to achieve economic growth of 4.6 percent in 2010 and even higher levels in the period 2011-2015. His delegation was convinced that Ukraine and other countries in the ECE region would be able to make significant progress towards achieving the MDGs by 2015.

52. Mr. Rajabi (Islamic Republic of Iran) reiterated his delegation’s firm view that the Israeli regime’s practices were affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories. Ending the more than six decades of occupation and providing the conditions necessary for the Palestinian people to freely exercise their right to self-determination should therefore be given the highest priority.

53. The Israeli regime had turned a deaf ear to numerous calls by the international community to cease what amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. He recalled the barbaric attack in 2009 by the Israeli regime against the people of Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, during which thousands of besieged innocent Palestinians, including women and children, had been killed or maimed, and civilian infrastructure and facilities, along with the UNRWA compound, had been wilfully and systematically targeted.

54. While his delegation condemned the gross violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, it believed that it was incumbent upon the international community to counter such illegal and inhuman practices, which were clearly contrary to international law. Indeed, there needed to be a greater emphasis on practical steps to enforce human rights standards and norms in the occupied territories.

55. Mr. Hijazi (Observer for Palestine), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the debate on the current agenda item was repeated annually only because of Israel’s belligerence and its continued occupation of Palestinian territory. By discussing and taking action on that agenda item, the international community reaffirmed its commitment to international law and sent a clear message to the Palestinian people that the international community stood with them to uphold their right to a life of dignity and prosperity in which their economic and social rights were protected.

56. It was an insult to the international community for the representative of Israel to state that discussion under the agenda item was political and one-sided, since the international community had repeatedly tried to uphold international law and the principles for which the United Nations stood. It was also misleading for her to suggest that the occupying Power was keen to facilitate the entry of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, bearing in mind that Israel had maintained its blockade of the Gaza Strip for almost three years, denying people food, medical supplies, petrol, building materials and other goods. It should be recalled that Israel, as the occupying Power, was required under international law to facilitate the entry of humanitarian assistance to the occupied Palestinian territory.

57. The Israeli-Palestinian cooperation referred to by the representative of Israel would be positive if Israel were to demonstrate genuine goodwill by ceasing its systematic aggression, its illegal exploitation of Palestinian resources and destruction of livelihoods, its building of illegal settlements and demolition of Palestinian homes, especially in East Jerusalem, and its construction of illegal walls and if it were to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip.


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