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UNITED
NATIONS
A

        General Assembly
Distr.
GENERAL
A/64/15 (Part IV)
TD/B/56/11

23 October 2009

Original: English

Sixty-fourth session



Report of the Trade and Development Board on its fifty-sixty session *


Geneva, 14 to 25 September 2009, and 12 October 2009









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* The present document is an advance version of the report of the Trade and Development Board on its fifty-sixth session, held at the United Nations Office at Geneva from 14 to 25 September 2009, and on 12 October 2009. It will appear in final form, together with the reports of the forty-fifth executive session, the forty-sixth executive session and the forty-seventh executive session of the Board, as Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-fourth Session, Supplement No. 15 (A/64/15).



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I. Action by the Trade and Development Board on substantive items on its agenda

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G. Other action taken by the Board

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Report on UNCTAD’s assistance to the Palestinian people

Also at its 1039th plenary meeting, the Board took note of the report by the UNCTAD secretariat (TD/B/56/3) and the statements made by delegations and decided, in accordance with General Assembly decision 47/445, that the report of the Board on its fifty-sixth session to the General Assembly would include an account of the deliberations under this item.

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II. President’s summary3


A. Opening statements

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5. ... Several delegates expressed disappointment with the lack of resources which had hampered UNCTAD’s activities in its assistance to the Palestinian people.

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3Electronic versions of statements by delegates are available in PDF format on the UNCTAD website in the form and language in which they were received (www.unctad.org/tdb56/statements). Audio files (floor/English) of general statements and statements made at the high-level segment, among others, are also available on the website (www.unctad.org/tdb56/audio).




I. Report on UNCTAD’s assistance to the Palestinian people


77. In addition to 20 statements from delegates, including four groups, there were two keynote speakers: a Palestinian Authority Minister and a Deputy Special Coordinator from the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO). While all speakers commended UNCTAD’s technical assistance to the Palestinian people, one speaker did not agree with the report’s economic analysis. Almost all delegates praised the report and described it as excellent, welcome, logical, realistic, and informative.

78. The Palestinian Authority Minister noted the “great impact” of UNCTAD’s work on Palestinian development and institution-building efforts for statehood, and requested the secretariat’s assistance in obtaining observer and eventually membership status in WTO, as it was considered critical for establishing an enabling investment environment for private sector development. As a refugee “like the majority of Palestinians”, he accepted the “hard compromise” Palestinians made for peace. But he said that Israel maintained its occupation, and kept the Palestinian economy “hostage” to politics and occupation measures, with Gaza continuing to be under a tight siege. Only 34 food items — less than 5 per cent of Gaza’s needs — were being allowed in. The economy could not benefit from the substantial increase in aid in 2008, because the private sector remained hindered by Israeli occupation policies. The Palestinian Authority had implemented reform related to rule of law and governance. The Government’s $800 million stimulus package and substantial international aid had enabled the West Bank to register 7 per cent growth in 2008. However, a genuine improvement in the economic situation required ending Israeli occupation, which he said remained the “cause of all evil”.

79. The UNSCO representative called for negotiations to be resumed, asserting that the goal must be to end the occupation and implement the two-State solution on the basis of the 1967 borders. The Palestinian Prime Minster’s recent announcement of a two-year plan for ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian State represented important progress. Settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, described by the United Nations Secretary-General as illegal, was counterproductive and remained the main obstacle to credible negotiations. The separation barrier, movement restrictions, settlements, loss of Palestinian resources and Gaza siege were said to be the key issues that needed to be addressed. The Palestinians were facing a crisis of human dignity and were denied the rights of self-determination, employment and movement, and were thus rendered increasingly dependent on foreign aid.

80. Most delegates expressed concern about the economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially the attrition of a productive base, food insecurity, trade deficit, dependence on Israel, unemployment and extreme poverty. The reasons for this, they said, were the Israeli occupation measures and closure policy, loss of natural resources, economic and territorial fragmentation, and lack of policy space. Serious concerns were raised about the expansion of settlements, house demolitions and evictions carried out by Israel. Delegates expressed grave concerns about the siege of, and inhuman conditions in, Gaza. Especially alarming were poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, and the dearth and high cost of essential goods. They called for an immediate and unconditional end to the Israeli blockade to allow the flow of aid, goods and people.

81. Speakers called for sustainable improvement in Palestinians’ movement and access and ability to trade with the rest of the world. Two delegates welcomed the recent easing of movement restrictions and the declared Israeli readiness to promote Palestinian economic development, but argued that it should be carried out within the two-State solution. A majority of delegates called for the establishment of a sovereign, independent, viable Palestinian State to achieve a just peace.

82. One delegate stated that the report was distorted, biased, politically motivated, lacked seriousness and professionalism, was one-sided, inaccurate, and did not reflect the reality on the ground. He said the report analysed the Palestinian economy as one piece, while it should have given a divided table for Gaza and the West Bank, where the economic conditions were better. He added that recent security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority had led to recent economic improvement in the West Bank. The offer of in-kind contributions to the Palestinian programme of UNCTAD had been rejected. In that context, he said that he supported the decision adopted two weeks earlier by the Working Party to audit the Palestinian programme in 2011. He indicated that his parents were Holocaust refugees and would never return to Europe or get hold of their properties.

83. A keynote speaker rejected the insertion of the Holocaust into this debate. The Palestinians were not responsible for this horrible event and they should not continue to pay its price, he said. He added that the bleak reality on the ground was due to occupation.

84. Delegates commended the secretariat’s programme of technical assistance in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, noting the substantial achievements under the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) project, investment retention, the establishment of the Palestinian Shippers’ Council and the project on the promotion of regionally integrative pro-poor trade policies. Those achievements responded to critical needs while building the required capacities for the envisioned State of Palestine.

85. Most speakers welcomed the recommendations to intensify efforts to integrate Palestine in WTO, as that would contribute to the establishment of public and private institutions en route to a sovereign State. One delegate welcomed the secretariat’s emergency response package for the rehabilitation of Gaza, while another concurred with the secretariat’s emphasis on linking relief to development.

86. Delegates called upon UNCTAD to intensify its programme of technical assistance to the Palestinian people. Some speakers called on UNCTAD to rethink the existing development paradigms and their applicability to Palestine as a case of development under occupation, and for studying how to enhance the efficacy of aid, which had prevented economic collapse. Another delegate indicated the need for policy briefs on the Palestinian economy to keep member States abreast of developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

87. Most delegates expressed concern over the secretariat’s financial constraints in this area of work, which undermined its ability to fulfil its Accra Accord mandate as spelled out in paragraph 44. They urged donors to intensify their contributions, noting that the shortages had led to delays in the secretariat’s activities under EMPRTEC-Palestine and the Investment Retention Programme.

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