Séminaire des Nations Unies sur l'assistance au peuple palestinien (Genève, juillet 2003) - Rapport Français
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TO THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
United Nations Office at Geneva
15 and 16 July 2003
A. Organization of the Seminar
3. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was represented by a delegation comprising Mr. Papa Louis Fall (Senegal), Chairman; Mr. Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla (Cuba), Vice-Chairman; Mr. Ravan A.G. Farhâdi (Afghanistan), Vice-Chairman; Mr. Victor Camilleri (Malta), Rapporteur; and Mr. Nasser Al-Kidwa (Palestine).
4. Invitations to participate in the Seminar were extended to Governments, intergovernmental organizations, organizations and agencies of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations. A number of experts were invited to make presentations at the Seminar.
5. The following Governments were represented at the Seminar: Afghanistan, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Viet Nam.
6. The following organizations, agencies and other entities of the United Nations system participated in the Seminar: Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA); Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); International Labour Office (ILO); International Telecommunication Union (ITU); Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (UNSCO); United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat/UNCHS) Office for Europe; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); Universal Postal Union (UPU); and World Health Organization (WHO).
7. The following intergovernmental organizations were represented at the Seminar: African Union (AU), European Union (EU), League of Arab States (LAS), and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
8. The following non-governmental organizations participated as observers in the Seminar: Aide Sanitaire Suisse; Al Mezan Center for Human Rights; American Friends Service Committee; Bat Shalom; Caritas Internationalis; Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding; European Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine; General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church; Gush Shalom; Jerusalem Centre for Women; Palestinian Council for Justice and Peace; Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute; The Palestinian Return Centre; Rebuilding Homes; Sabeel Ecumenical Theology Center; U.S. Institute of Peace; World Alliance of YMCAs; World Council of Churches; World Vision International.
9. The following dignitaries and experts presented papers: Abdelaziz Abu Ghoush, Assistant Secretary-General, Organization of the Islamic Conference; Mohammad Abu Koash, General Delegate of Palestine to Denmark; Donna Baranski-Walker, Campaign Manager at the Global Campaign to Rebuild Palestinian Homes; Judy Barsalou, Director of the Grant Program at the United States Institute of Peace ; Marie-Anne Coninsx, Minister Counsellor and Head of the United Nations section of the European Commission delegation in Geneva; Richard Cook, Director of Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, West Bank office; John Dugard, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; Raja Khalidi, Chief of the Assistance to the Palestinian People Unit at the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, UNCTAD; Ms Ghania Malhis, Director of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute; Mr. Francis Okelo, Deputy Special Coordinator, Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO); Danny Rubinstein, Columnist, Ha’aretz newspaper, Israel; Eli Sagi, Chairman of the Economic Department, Tel Aviv University; David Shearer, Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs in Jerusalem; Mohammad Shtayyeh, Managing Director, Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR); Finn Martin Vallersnes, President of the Committee on Middle East Questions of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Member of the Norwegian Parliament; and Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the Right to Food.
11. At the opening session and during the course of the three panel discussions, the participants addressed the following issues:
(a) The dimensions of the Palestinian economic crisis;
(b) Priorities for humanitarian and economic assistance;
(c) Looking ahead: Coping strategies for the Palestinian economy.
13. In his message the Secretary-General highlighted some positive steps after the Aqaba Summit such as dismantling particular outposts and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from certain positions in the Gaza Strip and Bethlehem. He commended the United States for its essential role in reaching a political solution through the performance of the steps required to implement the Road Map. The Quartet and the international community should hold the parties to their commitments and help them to implement the Road Map until its final goal was reached: a permanent settlement of the conflict, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002), and the realization of the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders. The Quartet, in cooperation with the parties, was working on an effective mechanism for monitoring performance.
14. Despite these positive developments, the Secretary-General emphasized that the Palestinian people were still suffering and living under devastating economic and social conditions. The infrastructure and productive sectors of the Palestinian economy had been virtually destroyed. He said that the humanitarian emergency in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been exacerbated by the tightening of the stifling regime of closures and curfews, as well as by continued settlement activity and the construction of a separation wall. Israel had a right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, but its security should be protected using reasonable means within the boundaries of international law. Now that the implementation of the Road Map was under way, Israel should ease its security measures so as to minimize the suffering of the Palestinians. It should also implement in full all the recommendations of the Bertini report. In parallel, the Palestinian Authority should continue its reforms in a transparent manner in close consultation with the international community and should act decisively to prevent terrorism.
15. The Secretary-General emphasized the need for the international community to continue and increase its support to the Palestinians to halt a downward spiral of social and economic despair, and to help them begin to climb a ladder towards restoration and development. He said that the United Nations, along with international donors and non-governmental organizations, was fully engaged in this effort. He also highlighted the fact that vital assistance to millions of Palestinian refugees through UNRWA was threatened by chronic funding shortages. He called upon donors to contribute generously to the regular programmes as well as to emergency activities. Finally he concluded that only a permanent political settlement, which ended the occupation, could provide a durable solution to the economic and humanitarian problems of the Palestinians. But the resuscitation of the Palestinian economy and the improvement in the daily lives of the Palestinian people were key building blocks of a sustainable peace process. He added that there had never been a more important time for the Palestinian people to see that the international community was supporting their socio-economic recovery and security.
16. Papa Louis Fall, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that the optimism of the presentation of the Road Map and subsequent developments should not prevent the international community from appreciating the enormity and complexity of the tasks facing both the Palestinian people and the donor community. Reversing the humanitarian catastrophe and setting the Palestinian economy on its way to recovery would be very difficult. It would also be impossible without continuing progress in the political area. The determination of the international community in general, the Quartet and the United States Administration in particular, to see this process through was very encouraging.
17. He said that the Palestinians were facing the worst situation on the ground. As a result of the restrictions imposed by Israel, the Palestinian economy had come to a standstill and poverty and malnutrition were at alarming levels. Israel as an occupying Power was responsible under international humanitarian law for the well-being of the population under its occupation. United Nations agencies, in particular UNRWA, and the donor community had been shouldering much of this responsibility.
18. He noted that in a most serious challenge to international law, Israeli settlements continued to encroach on Palestinian land through the relentless construction and establishment of outposts, bypass roads and security zones in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Rolling settlements back would be the most effective confidence-building measure. At the same time the unilateral separation measures of erecting a separation wall and accompanying security infrastructure by Israel also showed utter disregard for legitimate Palestinian interests and concerns and undermined the fledgling political process.
19. He said that since its inception, the Palestinian Authority had been operating under conditions of particular adversity and complexity that had deteriorated since the beginning of the intifada. Despite the open Israeli attacks on its institutions and staff, it had succeeded in running its institutions and had even initiated the process of reform. In all these efforts the Palestinian Authority had been fortunate in having the international donor community at its side: Governments, the Bretton Woods institutions and other intergovernmental and civil society organizations. Their invaluable support had allowed the Palestinians not to give up hope and to persevere in spite of the difficulties. The efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General and his Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, as well as those of the United Nations agencies present in the region, especially UNRWA and UNDP, were to be particularly commended in that regard.
20. Mohammad Shtayyeh, Director of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction of the Palestinian Authority, representative of Palestine, stated that the Palestinian economy was in crisis. The small Palestinian economy had lived under the Israeli occupation and had been made complementary and dependent on the Israeli economy. This was a colonial form of dependency that was impeding the development of the economy itself. The economy suffered from closures, curfews, military checkpoints and the lack of movement of people and goods to the extent that per capita income had declined significantly in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The destruction of the infrastructure had also contributed to the collapsing economy. The destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure had been estimated by the World Bank at up to $10 billion in both direct and indirect losses.
21. He explained that this situation, coupled with the retention by Israel of Palestinian revenues, had caused a huge deficit in the Palestinian budget to the extent that the Palestinian Authority could not meet its debts or duties. There had been delays and cancellations of certain strategic projects, for example of the Sea Port, a vital part of future infrastructure. Unemployment was over 50 per cent, and more than 70 per cent of the Palestinian people were living below the poverty line, with many living on direct assistance.
22. He said that the Road Map had yet to be tested, and required certain mechanisms for its implementation to be successful, even though it had been welcomed and accepted by the Palestinian Authority unconditionally. The Palestinian Authority had committed itself to the Road Map, and had already taken action on this front. For example, ongoing reforms of the Palestinian Authority were serious and elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council were under preparation. It was hoped that the vision of President Bush would come to fruition.
23. He expressed his hope that confidence-building measures would be taken by Israel in response to the Road Map. The release of Palestinian prisoners, serious dismantling of settlements, removal of checkpoints, the release of revenues and a halt to the separation wall would be steps towards the achievement of peace. He emphasized that the Road Map needed an economic dimension because without one, it would be very difficult to achieve a demilitarization of the intifada without the Palestinian security apparatus being reconstructed. The Road Map required an international mechanism to monitor both sides implementing their parts, as well as international financial assistance. He hoped that the Quartet would continue to function with the same energy shown over the last two years.
24. Statements were also made by representatives of several Governments, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations entities. The representative of China said that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians had caused great damage to both sides, especially to the side of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian economy was on the verge of collapse, and the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was deteriorating. Building the Palestinian economy as soon as possible was both an urgent need for easing the humanitarian disaster and the prerequisite for further progress in the peace process. The Chinese people and Government were very much concerned about the development of the situation in the Middle East. Since the recent outbreak of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in September 2000, the Chinese Government had provided economic aid to the Palestinian people through various channels and would continue to provide assistance for the reconstruction of the Palestinian economy.
25. The representative of Afghanistan said the statistics of the economic and social situation of the Palestinian people were alarming. The systematic destruction of institutional and physical infrastructures, along with their manpower, had reduced the post-Oslo Palestinian territory to a shambles. Although the international community had tried to respond to the urgent need of the Palestinian people, much of the assistance had gone to meet pressing humanitarian needs. Unfortunately, the world community had witnessed in silence as successive generations of Palestinians had paid the price for a crime they had not committed and of which they today remained the victims. Humanity’s conscience should not and could not any more continue to remain silent to the predicament of a people which had suffered for almost 60 years in order to achieve their legitimate right to live in peace and security alongside other civilized communities.
26. The representative of Iran (Islamic Republic of) said that Israel had been waging a ruthless war against innocent Palestinian civilians. The Palestinian people had been waking up each day to face the outrageous acts perpetrated by the Israeli forces. The Palestinian people should enjoy statehood and they should be able to exercise their right to self-determination. The collective action of the international community should be drawn to help the Palestinian people to reconstruct their economy. The Palestinian economic infrastructure had been destroyed by the Israel aggression. The amount of the economy destroyed by Israel had been estimated to be $13 billion. The Palestinian industrial sector had been seriously damaged, as had the agricultural sector. Israel had no respect for international norms. However, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, with Jerusalem as its capital, remained a legitimate issue.
27. The representative of Egypt expressed his appreciation to all the organizations that had contributed to the reconstruction of the Palestinian economy and the legitimate issue of Palestinians' right to a State, with Jerusalem as its capital. He said that his country would continue its efforts in the peace process and would do all in its capacity to achieve peace. It would also pursue its support for the Palestinian Authority in its reconstruction of the economy. He added that the Israeli occupation was contrary to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and that it was crucial that it should come to an end. He concluded that the peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question was a prerequisite to durable peace in the region.
28. The representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said the situation in the Occupied Territory had been a protracted emergency for over 36 years. There was a need now for concerted action to end the conflict, return to normalcy, and secure a just and lasting peace. A lot could be done, and a good starting point would be to secure a commitment from all parties to the conflict to protect children’s and women’s rights, and to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law. The challenges ahead, how to capture positive developments and to build on them, were difficult for it was hard to instil optimism when the future remained unpredictable. There was a need for evolution into a transition situation which would include capacity-building of governmental structures, as well as rapid restoration of services. A single, integrated and coherent strategic analysis was needed for coordinated transition planning, encompassing continuing humanitarian needs during the scaling-up of recovery, reconstruction, and reintegration efforts, and setting short- to medium-term priorities and targets that articulated well together and laid the foundation for longer-term development.
29. The Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) referred to the annual report by ESCWA which revealed that the occupation by Israel had been detrimental to the economic situation of the Palestinian territory. The Palestinian economy had been seriously damaged by the Israeli practices. A political solution was a prerequisite for economic recovery in the Occupied Territory. She noted that also from a regional perspective the Israeli occupation had been dominating. Everything was on hold until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be solved. The ESCWA region was the only region that had had negative growth in the last decade and where foreign investment had dried and Gross Domestic Product per capita was declining. The conflict had also affected the economic growth of the entire region. The assistance to the Palestinian people would also help the region. She announced that ESCWA was preparing for an Arab-International Forum that aimed at producing a blueprint to what was needed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory for the recovery process. It would bring together regional and international donors as well as intergovernmental organizations and civil society. T he Forum would be a modest effort by ESCWA to set the ground for what was needed in the reconstruction and development of the Occupied Territory.
30. The representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (Habitat) said that the decision by Member States to upgrade Habitat to a full-fledged programme of the United Nations was a clear indication of the seriousness with which the international community regarded the problems caused by rapid urbanization and a clear signal that sustainable urban development and adequate shelter were irrevocable priorities for the world's development. The Occupied Palestinian Territory was faced with the pressing need to respond to both emergency and development challenges in the human settlements area. It was estimated that around 59,000 houses were needed to reduce overcrowding while another 71,000 dwellings required renovation or extension. The housing deficit would take many years to redress unless the recent level of housing construction, averaging less than 10,000 dwellings a year, was substantially raised.
31. The representative of the Russian Federation emphasized that re-establishing peace was essential, if not fundamental, for re-establishing the Palestinian economy. Direct dialogue between all parties should take place, and added that major efforts were being made to that end. Any solution to the conflict should be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) as well as on other international instruments. The United Nations should play an important role in the solution of humanitarian and economic problems in the territories.
32. The representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People, said that there was a great need for humanitarian aid, especially in light of the closure policies and high unemployment rates and in the aftermath of the Israeli incursions into various parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the damage and devastation it had left behind. UNDP assistance was directed towards both the humanitarian and the developmental dimensions. The biggest humanitarian support campaign which UNDP had carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had come as a result of the March and April 2002 incursions when the Israel Defense Forces had reoccupied the entire West Bank, leaving trails of destruction from Qalqilyah in the north to Hebron in the south. UNDP, in collaboration with other agencies and States, had carried out a number of development programmes which were beneficial to the Palestinian people. With sustainable development in mind, UNDP projects involved supporting municipalities and councils, initiating water-related activities, rebuilding infrastructure, assisting local reform by building trust among different parties and carrying out agricultural development projects. With the goals of building capacity and generating employment, the UNDP-forecasted delivery for 2003 was estimated at US$48 million.
33. The representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference said the Seminar had been convened amidst a spark of hope for the peace process, and this had been strengthened by the new Palestinian Government and its attempts to carry out appropriate reforms and to implement the Road Map towards establishing the independent Palestinian State. The Palestinian economy was on the brink of collapse because of harsh Israeli measures, which had led to an exacerbation of the humanitarian crisis, bringing the Palestinian economy to a precarious state. The Palestinian people were still dependent on international aid, and had sustained vast losses due to the situation. The upcoming challenge to the international community did not lie in addressing the urgent needs of Palestinians alone, but in moving forward towards implementing a just peace as stipulated in the Road Map, especially now that all parties had agreed to it.
34. The representative of the League of Arab States said that Israel had been violating all kinds of international instruments and charters. According to the Geneva Convention, occupation used to be considered a temporary phenomenon. But Israel had occupied Palestinian territory on a permanent basis. It had been looting Palestinian resources, and by doing so had been inflicting a great loss on the economy, with the GDP going down. He reaffirmed that the Arab League was for peace, as was the international community. However, the Israeli Prime Minister was playing a hide-and-seek game. As regards the Road Map, the Government of Israel had to accept it sincerely, and should not produce each day new conditions for accepting it. The Prime Minister of Israel did not show good intentions with regard to the Road Map.
35. The representative of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) said with regard to the Palestinian needs in the field of postage, UPU associated itself with the international community and would do its part in reviving the Palestinian economy. It would provide technical assistance to that effect.
II. SUMMARY OF THE PANELS
The dimensions of the Palestinian economic crisis
37. Mohammad Shtayyeh, Director of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction of the Palestinian Authority, said that the Palestinian economy, leadership and people were under total siege. Israel had employed a number of mechanisms of control - in fact, a comprehensive colonization programme over the Palestinian territory - which was continuing despite the Road Map. There was a further fact that added to the misery of the economic crisis and of the Palestinian people in general: the monopolization of the water resources by Israel. There was furthermore a policy of apartheid, which had an utterly traumatic effect on the Palestinian people and economy.
38. He underscored that the structural dimension of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship was clearly unhealthy. The Palestinians were heavily dependent on Israel in many dimensions, not only infrastructural but also with regard to employment. The economy was suffering in several areas, notably the commercial sector, for many reasons. There was no match between purchasing power and actual prices. There was more Palestinian history than geography; and tourism, once an important sector, had also been hit hard. With regard to agriculture, it was impossible to move produce due to the length of time wasted at checkpoints. There had been a total collapse of the private sector activities, which were totally paralysed and could not progress. This was no longer a situation of crisis, but one of collapse, and without the international assistance that had been provided the collapse would have taken place far earlier. The only money that was circulating in the veins of the Palestinian economy came from assistance and aid. He described the gravity of the economic situation by saying that with all that assistance money, the unemployment rate had improved by no more than 6 per cent. The Palestinians were grateful; however, he expressed regrets that development assistance was drying out, to the advantage of immediate humanitarian aid.
39. He stated that Palestinians were still coping, mainly due to international assistance, as well as to their resilience to such situations, which had been acquired through their wide experience of such crises. An addition to that misery was the separation wall, especially since it had been constructed in the most fertile areas, thus depriving the Palestinian people even further of a crucial resource. The Palestinian territory had been completely disengaged from trade within the area of the Middle East, and was today heavily dependent on international aid for everything. There was a vital need to help the Palestinian people to rebuild their economy, and to move forward towards peace and prosperity. He reiterated that economic development in the Occupied Territory would be difficult without the achievement of a political solution to the conflict.
40. John Dugard, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said that the wall that was currently being constructed in the West Bank was an obstacle to economic prosperity, and an annexation attempt, which obstructed the prospects of a Palestinian economic recovery. He noted that the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians had always been about land, historically, and that continued today. The Security Council and the General Assembly had many times refused to recognize Israel’s annexations and had declared them unlawful. The wall did not follow the 1967 border between Israel and the Palestinian territory; in fact, it incorporated substantial areas of the West Bank into Israel. Its final direction was not known. He said that the wall, which in some areas extended to about 40 metres in width, incorporated rich Palestinian agricultural land and water resources into Israel, and the process of its construction had caused destruction to vast agricultural areas and the uprooting of olive trees.
41. He opined that the international community had not condemned the wall as illegal because of Israel’s argument that it was building the wall to enhance security, which today provided a justification for anything. Secondly, in the context of implementing the Road Map, it seemed that the Quartet was afraid to say anything that might antagonize Israel, which was already not in favour of the Road Map.
42. He stated that the wall was not a temporary security measure; it was clear that it was intended to be a permanent fixture, with the aim of pushing the border of Israel further into Palestinian territory. It was time for the Quartet to make it clear that the wall could not change the boundaries between the States, and to discourage Israel from its construction. He explained that the Quartet was tolerating a clear seizure of Palestinian territory in order to gain Israeli support for the Road Map, and called it a form of appeasement. It was time to speak about the annexation of Palestinian land, since international law had a term for what was happening, and that was quite simply conquest.
43. Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, reported on his recent mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He said that the right to food was being seriously violated in the Occupied Territory and that many Palestinians were now suffering from chronic malnutrition and a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. The malnutrition of children under the age of five had increased dramatically to 22.5% in 2003, compared to 7.6% in 2000. More than 50% of Palestinians were dependent on food aid. Numerous documents, including the 2003 World Bank report on the situation, indicated the collapse of the Palestinian economy with a fall in Gross National Income of 38% between 1999 and the end of 2002. The numbers of the poor had tripled from 637,000 in September 2000 to nearly 2 million Palestinian people today, which meant that 60% of Palestinians were now struggling to survive below the poverty line of US$2 per day. Only traditional solidarity and international food aid was holding Palestinian society together. The Government of Israel, as the Occupying Power under the Geneva Conventions, had the obligation to assist the occupied population. Under the Conventions, settlements were illegal, civilian economic infrastructure must be protected, and the Occupying Power had no right to seize or destroy land and water resources, except for military purposes. The Government of Israel also had the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food, under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This meant that Israel had to ensure that the Palestinians did not go hungry. Israel must not obstruct the efforts of impartial aid agencies that were trying to offer assistance. Serious violations of all those obligations were occurring a nd were manifested by the prevailing situation of increasing malnutrition, food shortages and displacement from land in the Occupied Territory.
44. He stressed that the growing crisis was the result of different military measures enforced by Israel, including: road closures, permit systems, curfews, checkpoints and the prevention of movement of goods, people and farmers to their fields. The construction of the security fence or separation wall was also confiscating thousands of hectares of Palestinian land and water resources. Such measures, coupled with the unprecedented level of destruction of Palestinian agricultural land, including the cutting down of orchards, had led to the collapse of the Palestinian economy. The Palestinians were being denied physical and economic access to food, to the extent that this amounted to a form of collective punishment, which was illegal under international law. He said that the Road Map process was bringing a very positive hope for the region, but regretted the tardiness in its implementation, and expressed doubts that meaningful results would be achieved while construction of the separation wall continued. He acknowledged that he was the only United Nations Special Rapporteur, so far, granted the opportunity to speak with Israeli officials, but regretted the continuing violations of the right to food. He added that international pressure should be exerted to improve the humanitarian situation and to ensure the full and complete implementation of the Road Map, as a necessary condition for the full realization of the right to food of the Palestinians.
Priorities for humanitarian and economic assistance
46. Abdelaziz Abu Ghoush, Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said that since its inception, the OIC had extended all forms of support to the just struggle of the Palestinian people, and assisted its institutions through several OIC subsidiaries, with the aim of helping them to preserve the historical, religious and individual character of the Palestinian cities, strengthen the Palestinian people’s resistance in the Occupied Territory, and safeguard Muslim and Christian holy shrines and sanctuaries. This was mainly done through the aegis of the Al-Quds Fund, which, since its inception, had had significant success in its projects. The fund aimed at assisting the Palestinian people in the areas of health, education, rehabilitation of and maintaining the Arabic character of Jerusalem. Another similar fund was Beit Mal Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
47. Another fund with the objective of the promotion of the standing of Muslims all over the world, including support to poor Islamic communities, was the Islamic Solidarity Fund. The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) was a further OIC organization which provided grants to non-governmental organizations. Its assistance was provided to projects in specific areas including health, education social welfare, light industries and agriculture. In 2000, in response to a proposal by Saudi Arabia, IDB had started the Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds funds to finance projects that preserved the Arab identity in Jerusalem and those that resisted isolation policies by Israel. The funds helped build homes and the twinning of cities from different Islamic countries with Jerusalem. Certain activities had also been created, such as the creation of stamps featuring Jerusalem. After the sale of these stamps in other Muslim countries, the funds received had been donated to one of the above organizations.
48. Finn Martin Vallersnes, President of the Committee on Middle East Questions of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Member of the Norwegian Parliament, said that patience and flexibility were needed in addressing the Palestinian humanitarian needs and the long- and medium-term Palestinian economic development. In order to ensure a comprehensive solution to the crisis it was important to tackle all the components of peace-building at the same time, from economic recovery and humanitarian aid to military and political construction. Quoting a World Bank Assessment of Palestinian economic indicators, Mr. Vallersnes demonstrated the urgent need for and identified the objectives of assistance. The three objectives of assistance were: poverty reduction through social and economic development; development of a Palestinian State and a democratic society; and building foundations for bringing the peace process back on track. He emphasized the importance of building institutions in order to reduce poverty, which required support for education including for girls; basic services for health; and provision of clean water and access to electricity. That required enhancing the environment for the existing institutions, especially the Ministries of Education and Health, in order for them to be able to deliver their mission, something that had been lacking due to the Israeli practices.
49. He also highlighted the need for State-building, the development of a democratic society and the recognition of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the latter being an objective of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. While that support required the financial backing of the international community, it was important that the Palestinian Authority and the PLC had to merit the confidence of the donors by continuing the reforms aimed at reducing corruption, promoting accountability, building a modern civil service and introducing a transparent legal environment. Mr. Vallersnes concluded by stating that assistance could only mitigate the battered economic situation for Palestinians and that without an agreed framework for political progress the lack of economic development would continue in both Israel and the Palestinian Territory. Assistance, however, could lead to a visible improvement in the living conditions of ordinary people, which in turn could lead to motivation and trust in the political solution, and that was the only way to go.
50. Danny Rubinstein, Ha’aretz columnist, said that Israelis and Palestinians were in the worst situation since 1967. There was a time when there had been integration between the Israeli and Palestinian economies. One third of the Palestinian labour force had worked in Israel, and there was freedom of movement. At that time many Palestinians also went to the Arabian Gulf for work, and during the 1970s and 1980s, the Palestinian economy flourished and became independent. But in 1991, the Palestinian workers were out of Israel because of peace talks and at the same time out of the Gulf because of the first Gulf War. After Oslo, economic relations had become worse and a policy of separation had been pursued, with disastrous consequences for the Palestinian economy.
51. He noted that at present, there were more than 300,000 foreign workers in the Israeli labour force from all over the world, while the Palestinians were deprived of the right to enter Israel to work. He asked why Israel should allow foreign workers from distant places to work while neighbouring Palestinians were denied that right. The Palestinian economy needed recovery and the first step should be Israel's admission of Palestinians to go and work in Israel and the promotion of coexistence. Israel should lift all the checkpoints it had imposed to curtail the right to movement of Palestinians, including their right to go to Israel. Such a measure could be a first step towards economic recovery. Dramatic steps and sacrifices should be taken by both sides in order to reverse the situation in the region.
52. Marie-Anne Coninsx, Minister-Counsellor and Head of the United Nations Section of the Delegation of the European Commission to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the European Union (EU) considered the Road Map an important political development that should go hand in hand with the development of the Palestinian economy. She said that the role of the EU with regard to assistance to the Occupied Territory in 2003 was to strike a balance between emergency assistance and support for longer-term efforts for peace and prosperity by the Palestinian Authority.
53. She informed the meeting that the European Community was one of the biggest donors to the Palestinian Authority, and was implementing probably one of the largest assistance programmes in the world. In 2002, assistance of 320 million euros had been extended to the Palestinian people, as compared to the Community’s total assistance budget of 450 million euros. The magnitude of the EU assistance would remain big for 2003. The justification for such assistance was multifold, mainly because of the economic and humanitarian crisis, the need to create good governance and a real partner for peace and because peace could only be ensured if there was economic viability for the people of the region.
54. She expressed the deep concern of the European Commission about the socio-economic impact of the separation wall that was being built in the Occupied Territory. At the European Union summit in Thessaloniki, the EU had called upon Israel to stop the construction of the wall. She said that the EU would continue to extend assistance to UNRWA. The Palestinian Authority would also continue to be helped in areas where support was required, and further support would also continue towards building and reinforcing infrastructure. The EU put emphasis on the banking institutions and supported the private sector and small and medium enterprises. The European Union would continue to support progress towards peace and economic harmony.
55. David Shearer, Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Jerusalem Office, said that his office monitored and advocated for an improvement in the humanitarian situation. It also assisted with the coordination of humanitarian assistance and access of agencies to reach affected populations in Jerusalem and other areas. He asserted that the Palestinian crisis was political, the result of the linkage of security and politics. Israel's response to its security threat was to tighten its grip on the occupation with the imposition of internal and external closures by putting erecting roadblocks and restricting access. There were more than 400 roadblocks in the form of manned checkpoints, ditches and earth mounds. They were the single most important aspect that had hindered the economic situation and prevented the Palestinian populations from reaching schools and hospitals. The number of checkpoints and road blockages had also restricted the flow of humanitarian assistance.
56. He added that the separation wall that was being built by Israel cut into the Palestinian side of the West Bank. The wall also affected around 225,000 people by isolating them from the rest of the population or from their farmland. The measures of isolation of some towns such as Qalquilyah had prevented them from receiving merchandise from other areas. In the past, Israelis used to buy Palestinian products while Palestinians received Israeli goods. At present, that commercial activity had been suspended. There were also a large number of house demolitions, which were estimated, until June 2003, at a rate of 75 a month. With around 8 to 10 people living in each home, that policy had had a severe impact on those families who had lost their homes. The real cost of those measures was the impoverishment of the Palestinian population, which had in turn increased the cost of international assistance. International assistance was unable to cope with the increasing needs of Palestinians. But even a doubling of the level of humanitarian aid would only lower the poverty rate by 7 per cent. The same impact could be delivered in just one year if the internal closures were lifted and trade facilitated. There was therefore a need to highlight the humanitarian consequences of the occupation.
57. Richard Cook, Director of Operations at the West Bank office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said the situation today was worse than any preceding one. There was more despair, more misery, and more frustration and anger than ever before. Within Palestinian society, refugees were the most vulnerable, reliant on such jobs as unskilled labour in Israel, since they did not own land or homes and had no savings. The poverty rate among refugees varied between 50 and 75 per cent of the population, depending on which areas were included. There was a breakdown of the coping mechanisms of the Palestinian people. The refugee camps had seen a certain increase of attention by the Israeli security forces over the last few months, and the critical situation had deteriorated even further. The problems faced today by the refugee population were not just economic, but social, psychological and health-related, among others. People who had previously been self-sufficient could no longer procure even the most basic commodities, and there was a significant rise in malnutrition.
58. He emphasized that UNRWA was more under demand than ever before, but did not have the funds to fulfil the needs of the Palestinian refugees, and did not have even the minimum amount of funds to provide for their basic needs. The consequences of this lack of funds would be devastating, since refugees would be left without the barest minimum. This situation could also lead to a disruption of education provided to thousands of children. The psychological well-being of refugees, especially children, was also at stake. There were disturbing signs of trauma that led to anti-social behavior, speech impediments and bed-wetting. The true psychological effects of the crisis might not show their real magnitude yet. He stressed that both regular and urgent UNRWA programmes must continue. UNRWA had had to cut down on some of its work because there were insufficient funds to meet the increasing needs of the increasing refugee population. If funds were not received, medical services, disability programmes and other services would be affected. Last year alone 80,000 teachers’ days had been lost. He ended by saying that UNRWA was affected not only by a lack of funding, but also by denial of access for its employees and services as well as by a lack of security for its staff.
59. Donna Baranski-Walker, Campaign Manager of the Global Campaign to Rebuild Palestinian Homes, said she represented those who opposed the bulldozing of the Palestinian houses by Israeli forces. Her campaign had rebuilt demolished houses through funds raised in the United States and elsewhere. The rebuilding campaign had been extended to other parts of the world, particularly in Europe, so that people could contribute to the project. She said that since 1967 over 10,000 Palestinian homes had been demolished, 3000 of them in the past two years. Demolition wiped out a family's life savings, created refugees, and destabilized communities. Rebuilding re-established each family's sense of security, strengthened community ties, and validated international law. According to Israeli sources, only 5 per cent of houses demolished by Israel were punishment measures, while the rest were for lack of a permit. The decision to destroy Palestinians’ houses for "lack of a permit" was purely an "administrative ethnic-cleansing". Military demolition of homes and damage to schools in refugee camps as well as in towns under Palestinian administration had also been taking place.
60. She told the meeting that the Global Campaign to Rebuild Palestinian Homes had been faced with the problem of repeated demolitions of houses. In one area where 17 houses had been destroyed in one day, the Global Campaign had been faced with the decision of which family to build a house for. A house built for one family had even been destroyed on several occasions. The organization had, however, continued to build houses for Palestinian families despite the threat to demolish them again and again by Israeli forces. The policy of demolishing houses had inflicted a great loss of resources and property. Because no one could prosecute the loss of a home in a court of international law, the Global Campaign appealed to the court of public opinion.
Looking ahead: Coping strategies for the Palestinian economy
62. Ghania Malhis, Director of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute, presenting a paper entitled “The Palestinian Perspective of the Economic Recovery”, said that the Seminar was being held at a juncture in history that forecast transformation of global magnitude. History foretold that humans yearned for basic values, and would not spare their lives to achieve them, and that peace founded on military superiority and arrogance was an illusion. This explained why the Palestinian people had been able to survive despite all attempts to annihilate, transfer and negate them. It was true that global transformation, together with the Palestinians’ ability to accept sacrifices to establish statehood, along with international consensus, provided an appropriate opportunity to resolve the conflict. However, the presence of that opportunity did not guarantee success. There were grave risks that could, as in the past, destroy that opportunity, unless lessons were learned from past experience and the same mistakes were avoided.
63. She continued to discuss, using economic indicators, the economic aspects that had led to the failure of the Oslo accords and accelerated the collapse of the peace process. She said that the economic performance after the Oslo accords had deteriorated compared to the previous period. The indicators showed a sharp decrease in the productive sector’s contribution to GDP and employment during the interim period; the continued dependency of the Palestinian economy on Israel; the deterioration in the export-import ratio and the increased Palestinian trade dependency on Israel; an increased Palestinian dependency on external sources for public revenues, and high reliance on Israel for their collection and a growing increase in the Palestinian public current expenditures, mainly on wages and salaries. These economic facts had led to a deteriorating Palestinian economy during the transitional period and should be avoided and taken into consideration in future economic negotiations.
64. It was obvious that no peace agreement could survive unless it served the interests of the parties involved, and that any agreement that failed to inspire the hope of a better future was doomed. While the Oslo Accords had brought to the Israeli economy unprecedented growth in all fields at the macro and micro levels, the seven years of limited Palestinian autonomy had not brought about any improvement, and conditions had in fact deteriorated steadily. The only practical way to solve the economic crisis and promote economic recovery was not an economic strategy, but a political process that would end the Israeli occupation of 1967, ensure the return of refugees to their homes and land, remove the Israeli settlements and their effects including the apartheid wall, lead to the recognition of the Palestinians’ rights to sovereignty over their land and resources, free the Palestinian economy from its colonial dependency on the Israeli economy, and provide the possibility for a peaceful and cooperative relationship based on mutual interests between Israel and Palestine. She emphasized that if the Road Map was to succeed, it had to benefit from past experience and avoid any policies and practices that had created a vicious circle of escalation and counter-escalation by both sides. In order to revive the peace process, the international community had the great responsibility of forcing Israel to adhere to international law, end the occupation, and implement United Nations resolutions to resolve the conflict.
65. Mohammad Abu Koash, General Delegate of Palestine to Denmark, presenting a paper entitled “ Palestinian-Israeli negotiations: dependence or independence”, said that while the economic issues under the Oslo Accords had been given little attention, the Israeli-Palestinian Economic Agreement that had been concluded in Paris in 1994 had coerced the Palestinians into adopting the same Israeli import policy including customs, purchase tax, value-added tax, standards, and rules of origin. The Paris negotiations had ended with the Israeli side as the decision maker and the Palestinian side as an observer. The Palestinians had been coerced into accepting the dictated deal, sacrificing economic rights for more freedom. It had now become evident that Israel was seeking demographic separation from the Palestinians while keeping them economically dependent on Israel, captives to the Israeli market. Since 1967, Israel had been dominating the Palestinian market and minimizing its trade with other countries, thus making Palestine at times the second largest importer of Israeli goods after the USA. But the closure policy was a double-edged sword; losses were being inflicted on both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The Palestinians could prevent the access of Israeli products and boycott Israeli products; and the Israeli economy could be deprived of Palestinian labour and cheap Palestinian agricultural products.
66. Mr. Abu Koash considered the insistence of Israel on subordinating the Palestinian economy, including its market, even by coercion, as unwise and harmful since it bred opposition to economic cooperation. Economic cooperation would flourish with economic independence, to the advantage of Israel. He considered it unlikely that the future negotiations would show any change on the Israeli side. The Palestinians had to prepare and assert their wish for economic independence, and in case they decided to copy the Israeli laws and tax system they should do so willingly without outside pressure. Palestinians should also mobilize international opinion, including that of donor countries. In accordance with the Road Map, an independent Palestinian State with permanent borders would be created in 2005. Until this had been achieved, no effective independent economic policy could be pursued. It was therefore advisable to defer any economic negotiations until that question has been settled, to avoid trading economic issues for political gains, as had happened in the Paris economic negotiations. He concluded by adding that the private sector, which was the main vehicle of the Palestinian economy, had been gravely affected by Israeli trade and other economic practices. The Palestinian Authority should therefore enhance the role of the private sector and give it top priority in future negotiations with Israel.
67. Eli Sagi, Head of the Department of Economics and Management at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, said that past failures should not impede the prospect of looking ahead for success, for without an end goal, there was no path for the interim period. When looking into the long term, there were some effects of the current crisis that would have bearing. Some of the problems suffered by the Palestinian people were remediable - for example a destroyed house could be rebuilt - but others were not, such as the deterioration in health and holes in education. He said that an important issue was how to shape the economic relationship in the long term. The choice fluctuated between economic separation versus integration in the context of a two-State solution with a potential independent State for the Palestinians. He asked what role the Israeli economy should play in Palestinian development, and noted that the question could only be resolved in the context of an integrated economy. Palestinian-Israeli economic relations had passed through an array of different degrees of economic integration and separation, which were fundamental indicators of the differences between the two economies. There were three fundamental factors to be borne in mind when analysing the relations between the two economies: the size differential of the economies, the economic development gap (GDP), and the proximity between the two economies, which was by far the most important and relevant factor. Other facts to be seriously considered were the expected increase in the supply of workers in Israel, the presence of non-Palestinian foreign workers and the separation wall that was being built.
68. He said that a prerequisite for Israeli long-term sustainable growth was a prosperous and peaceful Palestinian neighbour, since that would enhance geopolitical stability in the region and lead to efficient utilization of Israeli resources through integration in the global economy, thus securing its ability to obtain long-term sustainable growth. However, the dilemma on both sides was how to compromise. For the Palestinians, it was a question of sovereignty versus prosperity, and for Israel it was one of security versus prosperity. However, integration should take place on a parity level, so that each side would have to compromise, since that was the way forward. He stressed that there was a labour market challenge in Israel as well as for the Palestinians. By 2020, the Palestinian economy would not have had enough time to create 1 million new jobs for the increasing Palestinian labour force. The solution would be the more attractive Israeli labour market, especially in view of the disparity in wages. But Israel already had 400,000 non-Palestinian workers who were less desirable than the Palestinian workers, since the latter would finish their work and go to their homes while the other workers stayed in Israel. He suggested that there should be no quota on Palestinian workers; they should all be granted work permits. He added that while Israeli labour laws should apply to all foreign workers, Israel should eliminate practices favouring non-Palestinian foreign labour and impose surcharges on them to compensate for the negative externalities caused by their employment.
69. Raja Khalidi, Chief of the Unit of Assistance to the Palestinian People of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, presenting a paper under the title “The Palestinian war-torn economy: from relief to development”, said that the asymmetric Israeli-Palestinian economic relationship, both under occupation and as enshrined in the Paris Protocol, had circumscribed and effectively stunted the prospects for sustained development of the Palestinian economy. In the transition from a war-torn economy to a successful developing economy, humanitarian and relief assistance should no longer be addressed in isolation from development assistance. Similarly, efforts should be geared to the formation of the vision, policies and institutions for an independent, democratic and viable State of Palestine, as called for in the Road Map
70. He underscored the recommendation of the 2002 UNCTAD report on assistance to the Palestinian people, that the PA supported by the international community should seek to link emergency relief assistance to long-term development objectives. In that respect, the private sector had an important role to play, in its capacity as the main source of new investments, jobs, and income. However, thus far, private sector development had been receiving little attention from the donor community, ranking last in terms of commitments and disbursements. He acknowledged that the policy issues involved were complex and wide-ranging. Foremost was the development of a sectoral/industrial policy to guide the rehabilitation and development of the enterprise sector and to supplement it with the appropriate labour upgrading, investment incentives and institutional infrastructure programs. Within this context the PA needed to develop its new trade and labour policies. Of equal importance was the necessity of paying close attention to the quality and composition of growth, and not only to its rate; to the expansion of the export base to generate foreign exchange; to the strengthening of market support institutions, especially those targeting small and medium Enterprises and to the development of schemes for financing those enterprises. That required clearly identified sectoral priorities and objectives, the rehabilitation of PA institutions, and concerted action by the different actors involved, including the private sector, non-governmental organizations, donors and the international development agencies.
71. Judy Barsalou, Director of the Grant Programme at the United States Institute of Peace, said that the foreign donor community had responded in significant ways to the needs of the Palestinian people since the Oslo process had begun. While that response had not always been as fast or complete as Palestinians might have desired, foreign aid had been relatively effective in building up the capacities of the Palestinian Authority and in meeting the basic humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people who continued to live under Israeli occupation. Foreign aid, however, could only go so far. So long as the occupation continued and the Israeli policy of closure continued to cripple the Palestinian economy, foreign aid could not achieve the long-term development goals that remained the priority of Palestinians and the donor community.
72. She noted that support for recurrent expenditures and emergency assistance had especially increased in the years since the al-Aqsa intifada began. That period had been marked by even more stringent closures preventing the freedom of movement of goods and people, by the physical destruction of substantial portions of the infrastructure built during the Oslo period, and by a rising humanitarian crisis. These had made donors recognize the necessity of continuing to provide emergency support for recurrent expenditures and humanitarian aid. The large number of donors providing aid to the Palestinian people and government institutions had imposed the necessity for greater consultation and coordination among the donors than was usually the case. She identified a number of tensions that had existed between the international donor community, the Palestinians and the Israeli Government in relation to the provision of foreign aid since the beginning of the Oslo period. Perhaps the greatest tension had stemmed from the desire by donors to invest in long-term infrastructure and development projects, versus the obvious need to provide for recurrent expenditures and humanitarian assistance as the occupation had continued. Even under the best of circumstances, she said, aid was only a partial answer. There was no substitute for political stability and control that should be in place in order to build economic self-sufficiency and end dependency on foreign aid.
73. Francis Okelo, Deputy Special Coordinator at the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), said that there was a sign of optimism in the Middle East situation due to the presence of a widely accepted peace plan. Unlike the Oslo Accords, the Road Map provided a time limit for its implementation. Both sides had accepted the peace initiative. The major actors in the region, Egypt and Jordan, were actively involved in the process as was the United Nations Secretary-General. The Palestinians were fully determined to achieve statehood. He acknowledged that the implementation of the Road Map was not without difficulties as there had been renewed acts of violence from both sides. The international community, particularly the Security Council, had condemned violence and had affirmed that it was in no way a means to achieve peace.
74. He emphasized that in order for the Road Map to succeed, the discrepancies on the ground should be resolved. The serious economic damage might be a major problem that the Road Map could face. Many families were affected by the economic downfall; and the rate of unemployment was higher than ever. The Palestinian Prime Minister was doing all he could to redress the economic situation that had been affecting the whole population. But he needed the cooperation of the international community in the economic sphere. Donors had pledged $ 1.27 billion towards the recovery of the Palestinian economy, but the disbursement rate had been decreasing. The financial assistance to the Palestinian economy should be increased. The assistance for food needs had also been limited to $100 million, most of which came from the World Food Programme. Further financial support should be given in four important areas: support to the budget of the Palestinian Authority; job creation through the reconstruction of infrastructure; private sector compensation for lost sources of income such as agricultural land; and support for food needs. He concluded by saying that the Road Map was not a perfect document but the best available. One needed to proceed with prudence in the interest of peace and justice, which could not be delayed.
76. The Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations stated that the Seminar had been important and useful and it was hoped that it would help to focus even more attention on the important issue of the prerequisites of the Palestinian economic recovery. Once more it had become obvious that the Palestinian economy had been the subject of extensive destruction that took it almost to the point of standstill. The living conditions of the Palestinian people had deteriorated almost to the point of threatening the very fabric of Palestinian society, and all this was due basically to two measures committed by the occupying Power: first were the internal and external restrictions, the outright prevention of the freedom of movement of the Palestinian people; and second, the effective and extremely vast destruction not only of homes but also of agricultural land and economic and industrial facilities.
77. He stressed that what was needed now was to intensify at several levels the assistance to improve the humanitarian situation, basically to overcome the short- and long-term impact of all that had happened recently, including health and educational conditions. In that regard, the international community had to study seriously the issue of reparations. What was also needed was continuous support to the Palestinian Authority, including the budgetary allocation, as well as intensified efforts with regard to a more long-term development programme, which was the key to re-establishing the Palestinian world. But finally, there was a need to start looking seriously into reshaping and establishing a healthy economic relationship in the future between Israel and a Palestinian State. There was belief that the basic nature of the problem had been identified as a political one, and that no real progress was expected in the field of economics without achieving political progress. The source of all ills remained the occupation, which had been transformed into a colonial phenomenon. The first step towards peace could only be the full cessation of Israel's expansionist designs and its concomitant actions.
78. He said that the Palestinians had continued to implement their reform programme, both before and after the presentation of the Road Map, and had done so in all spheres of government. Israeli attempts to interfere in internal affairs were absolutely unacceptable, and were seen by Palestinians as threatening and undermining national integrity, as well as political and national rights. He stressed that the Palestinian leadership condemned suicide attacks and terrorist acts against civilians. However, those acts were not to be compared with Israel’s violations of international law, with its bloody suppression of the Palestinian people. The transfer of 400,000 settlers into the Occupied Palestinian Territory was the biggest crime in contemporary history. However, there was hope that there would be a real beginning in the implementation of the Road Map in the near future on the Israeli side, and the Palestinians remained ready to implement their obligations both under the Road Map and under the provisions of international law and international humanitarian law. He ended his statement by saying that the Palestinian people looked forward to receiving help from the international community and the United Nations.
79. In his concluding remarks, the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said that now, more than ever, the Palestinian people were in urgent need of the assistance of the international community. The Seminar had taken place at a critical moment when Israel and the Palestinians were showing signs of agreement on strengthening the political process and returning to the negotiating table; however, that should not blind anyone to the gravity of the socio-economic situation and the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The economy and infrastructure had been hard hit by almost three years of violence and destruction that had resulted in record unemployment, poverty, malnutrition and dismal living conditions, an environment which could not be conducive to the pursuit of peace. In that regard, the assistance and support of the international community in meeting the challenging humanitarian and economic needs of the Palestinian people were urgently needed.
80. He recalled that over the two days of the Seminar the experts had provided an overview of the economic and social crisis in the Occupied Territory, including Jerusalem. They had discussed ways of redressing the situation by focusing on priority areas for assistance. Ways and means of achieving economic recovery had been carefully examined. The exchange of views and ideas had been most insightful and productive, and there was no doubt that the deliberations had contained promising ideas that could be effective in mitigating current difficulties.