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        General Assembly
31 October 2000

The meeting was called to order at 3 p.m.

Agenda item 37 (continued)

Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development
and of the special session of the General Assembly in this regard

Report of the Secretary-General (A/55/344)


Mr. Al-Hariri (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): Five years have elapsed since the World Summit for Social Development, which was an important landmark and in which we all expressed our aspirations for a better future in which man would enjoy prosperity and freedom from poverty, disease, want, ignorance and many other problems afflicting various societies and nations. The twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly was held in order to reaffirm those aspirations.


Foreign occupation constitutes a great impediment to social development and social integration. In this respect, I must emphasize that Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Arab Golan has led to the displacement of about half a million Syrian citizens. As a result, they have suffered from poverty and deprivation, and many women have become the breadwinners, since they have lost their male breadwinners.

In spite of the many efforts to ensure a minimum standard of living, there is a need for more resources and for a greater expansion of services, since the State is obliged annually to shoulder many burdens due to the Israeli occupation that dominates the wealth and resources of the Golan and strives to loot these resources. Israel tries to build and expand settlements with a view to changing the demographic character of my country. This has a negative effect on Syria’s economic and social development programmes.

The international community is called upon today more than ever before to pressure Israel to comply with the resolutions of international legitimacy and to end its hateful occupation of the Syrian Arab Golan and the other occupied Arab territories, in order to ensure peace, security and stability in the region, to promote social development and to enable refugees to return to their homeland and thus provide a favourable environment for sustainable social development.

The President returned to the Chair.

We all look forward to a world in which relations are based on mutual understanding and equality, a world in which man can really enjoy prosperity and happiness, free of poverty and injustice, a world devoid of hegemony, imperialism and foreign occupation. To achieve this, we have to increase international cooperation and implement the commitments undertaken by the international community in Copenhagen and reaffirmed in Geneva this year.


Mrs. Barghouti (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic): It gives me pleasure to speak, on behalf of my delegation, on agenda item 37, “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the special session of the General Assembly in this regard”. This is a very important issue to which we all must pay particular attention, and on which we must ensure proper follow-up. Today, the world faces strategic and existential problems, and collective international efforts are needed to find appropriate solutions.

The World Summit for Social Development, held at Copenhagen in 1995, addressed issues that are central to people’s lives, in particular the eradication of poverty, the elimination of unemployment, the promotion of social integration, the promotion of and respect for human rights, and the creation of a suitable environment for social development with a view to the establishment of a better society marked by justice, democracy and well-being.

The twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly was held in June to assess achievements and obstacles and to ensure that the best possible action was taken to implement the objectives of the Summit. Developments following the Copenhagen Summit have shown that the situation in the world did not improve in accordance with the expectations expressed at the Summit.

Most of the objectives of the Copenhagen Programme for Action have still not been implemented. Statistics show that poverty has quintupled since the Summit, that unemployment has dramatically increased and that social integration has suffered a setback in many countries because of the increased incidence of armed violence, foreign occupation and nationalistic, ethnic and religious strife, as well as the marginalization or complete absence of democracy.

My country, occupied Palestine, is in a grave situation and is experiencing, on a daily basis, deterioration in all areas, particularly in the economic and social fields. In addition to their daily suffering as a result of continuing Israeli occupation and the oppressive practices and policies of Israel, the Palestinian people have been facing since 28 September 2000 a tragic situation threatening their lives, their entity and their economic and social institutions. Israel, the occupying Power, is waging a bloody war of oppression, using every deadly weapon against Palestinian civilians throughout occupied Palestine, including Jerusalem. This barbaric aggression, which has been taking place since 28 September, has resulted in the martyrdom of more than 140 people and has injured more than 3,500, many of whom are still in critical condition, in addition to causing great material and moral loss.

Israel is waging a fierce, bloody war against Palestinian civilians merely because they are demonstrating and protesting against the oppression, the occupation and flagrant acts of aggression directed at the holy sites, the attempts to judaize the city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif, the severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of persons and goods, the closure of international crossing points and the besieging of many towns, villages and other places. Given this painful situation and the difficult and complicated political and economic environment for the Palestinian people, with its negative social effects, almost one quarter of the Palestinian people are living below the poverty line, and employment is higher than 12 per cent. Furthermore, economic growth indicators are weak because there is no investment owing to the lack of security, the struggling peace process and economic dependence on the Israeli economy.

All these factors have cast a heavy shadow on the development process in Palestine and hindered the effective implementation of all the economic and social policies and other legislation drafted by the Palestinian National Authority. By continuing to occupy Palestinian land, Israel is hampering social integration among the Palestinian people through its policy of creating bantustan-like areas, of isolation and of continuing to build and expand illegitimate colonial settlements. Furthermore, Israel rejects the right of Palestinian refugees to return and the right to compensation in accordance with General Assembly resolutions, in particular resolution 194 (III), and it refuses to allow the return of displaced persons.

We believe that there can be no real development under occupation. The key condition for genuine social development in Palestine is the exercise by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights, including their right to self-determination, the establishment of their own independent State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, the return of refugees and the implementation of all relevant international legally-binding resolutions. Greater support is also required from the international community for the Palestinian people in their just struggle; and the United Nations must continue to shoulder its responsibilities in full until peace, security, freedom and justice are obtained for the Palestinians and all peoples of the region.


Mr. Shacham (Israel): I wish at the outset to express the regret of my delegation that the debate on an issue of such importance as social development is again being used as a platform from which to level accusations against another Member State. It is most unfortunate that certain speakers, including the Palestinian observer, have chosen to politicize this issue, an action which will only distract our attention and our energy from achieving our common development goals.

In addressing social development, this Organization has taken upon itself a moral obligation to protect the weakest of society, especially the children, from exploitation and cruelty. For years, Palestinian children have been raised on hatred. They have been taught in their textbooks that Jews are demonic and Israelis are the everlasting enemy. They have been surrounded by messages from their authority figures praising the death of a martyr and idolizing any violent confrontation with the Israeli enemy. They have been sent to summer camps which teach them how to shoot rifles, build firebombs, attack soldiers and murder Jews. They have been deprived of an education as Palestinian schools have gone on strike in solidarity with the struggle against Israel, a strike which has left the children with nowhere to go but the streets and the riots. To add to this despicable exploitation of the child, Palestinian gunmen have taken cover behind these youths, opening deadly fire on Israeli soldiers and then cynically claiming Israeli brutality as the children are caught in the inevitable crossfire.

Israel also deeply regrets the suffering which has come to Palestinian society as a result of their leadership’s decision to pursue violence rather than negotiation. We have repeatedly made clear that our objective is a negotiated peace settlement that will bring calm and security to all peoples of the region. The peace process has already brought tangible economic and social benefits to the territories under the administration of the Palestinian Authority. This has been especially true during the periods of relative calm. In 1998, the gross domestic product of these areas grew by a whopping 8 per cent. In 1999, Palestinian unemployment decreased by 13 per cent, much of that due to the improved Israeli-Palestinian neighbourly relations, which permitted the daily entry of tens of thousands of Palestinians into Israel, where they were employed in a variety of sectors.

I will spare this Assembly a long list of statistics which confirm the positive economic developments that have occurred as a result of peace and cooperation. Suffice it to mention that a number of United Nations reports, including the latest report from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the report of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the territories, point to the tangible rewards that the peace process has brought to the Palestinian people.

I wish to stress that these positive developments are a direct result of the peace process and the period of relative calm which preceded this latest Palestinian violence. In choosing to resort to violence, the Palestinians, as a matter of course, undo much of the economic gains that have been achieved. By seeking to achieve their goals by force rather than by negotiation, the Palestinians are bringing economic calamity upon themselves by their own hand. Perhaps this time, the Palestinian leadership will finally learn that violence does not pay.

It should also be stressed that the current violence comes on the heels of the Camp David summit, at which the Government of Israel displayed an unprecedented willingness to compromise for the sake of peace. Had an agreement been concluded at that time, not only would the present situation have been avoided, but the Palestinian people would have reaped even greater economic rewards than those of the past several years. It is unacceptable that, after refusing to even consider Israel’s peace overtures, the Palestinians now seek to blame Israel for their current economic predicament.

I say again: we do not intend to hurt the Palestinian economy or to inflict unnecessary suffering on the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, however, the current situation requires us to safeguard both our population and theirs. It is our sincerest hope that there will be a return to calm and stability in the region that will permit us to return to the path of cooperation with our Palestinian neighbours.

Mrs. Barghouti (Palestine): I did not wish to take the floor at this very late hour, but I have to make some clarification in response to the Israeli allegations about the improvement of the Palestinian situation.

The Israeli delegation wants to convince us that there is such a thing as a good occupation, a benign occupation. I just want to say that there is no benign occupation. Occupation is the most devastating factor in the economic and social situation of the Palestinian people.

As for the other remarks that he made about the children and their not going to school, I just want to say that it is a fact that the entire occupied territory, including Jerusalem, is under siege and occupation. Israeli policies and practices are the main factor preventing our children from going to school. All the cities and villages are under total Israeli siege and closed off to all movement, be it of people or goods.

On the other issue of the peace process, everybody knows — and I would just remind the Israeli representative — that the Government of Israel would stop the negotiations. They have said that there is a time-out to consider and re-evaluate the peace process. Our delegation and our Government are committed to the peace process and we will make every effort to have a successful peace process.

Mr. Al-Hariri (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): My delegation wishes to reply to the statement made by the Israeli representative that some delegations have attempted to politicize the issue. Let me just recall that, at the Copenhagen Summit and at the twenty-fourth special session, there was a clear reference to the fact that foreign occupation is one of the foremost obstacles to social development.

My delegation, in referring to the issue, stated — and this is a well-known position of my country — that Israeli occupation of the Syrian Arab Golan has caused the displacement of more than 500,000 Syrians. Many of them have been collectively displaced; their homes were demolished and they were deprived of the use of their land, their rights and their resources. Many citizens were displaced from the Golan, which places further burdens on the State, burdens that affect social development. This was also taken up by the report of the special session and the Copenhagen Summit.

If that speaker ignores the fact that this is the core of the issue, then that is another matter. As for the other points he made regarding the situation in the region, all can watch on their television screens how the Israeli forces of occupation are demolishing homes, uprooting trees, killing children, laying siege to Palestinians and their towns — collective terrorism unseen in history.

We had hoped to hear a commitment to international resolutions of legitimacy and to resolutions adopted by this Organization every year.

However, Israeli defiance and arrogance — their rejection of international legitimacy and the resolutions of this Organization — are obvious. The international community must respond to this challenge that must be brought to an end. International legitimacy must prevail. Commitment to United Nations resolutions is a sine qua non for anyone wishing to sit in this international forum and be part of the international community.

The President: I call on the representative of Israel, who wishes to speak in exercise of the right of reply.

Mr. Shacham (Israel): It appears that perhaps the natural logic of cause and effect continues to escape our Palestinian neighbours. Almost every speaker in today’s debate has stressed the obvious negative impact of violence and conflict on social development. The case of the Palestinian decision to resort to violence and its negative impact on the Palestinian economy and society is no exception. The obvious solution is a negotiation rather than a confrontation. And when the confrontation ends, negotiation can again begin.

It would serve us all well to remember and to remind those that perhaps have forgotten the words of the ancient proverb: “He who lives in a glass house should perhaps not throw stones”.

The President: I should like to inform members that a draft resolution on this item will be submitted at the later date.

Programme of work

The President: Before giving the floor to the next speaker, I would like to inform Members that the General Assembly will take up agenda item 19 tomorrow afternoon concerning the admission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to membership of the United Nations. In this connection, a draft resolution under this item will be issued tomorrow as document A/55/L.23.

The meeting rose at 8.35 p.m.

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