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Séminaire de l’ONU sur l’assistance au peuple palestinien (Amman, 19-20 février) - Plénière III, séance de clôture - Communiqué de presse (20 février 2008) Français
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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
20 February 2008

General Assembly
GA/PAL/1078

        Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


BUILDING PALESTINIAN STATE IS NO LONGER DREAM, BUT STRATEGIC VIABLE OBJECTIVE,

JORDAN’S AMBASSADOR SAYS AS SEMINAR CONCLUDES
 
Observer for Palestine Urges a ‘Tripling’ of Efforts
To Prevent Annapolis, Paris Conferences from Joining Other Failed Endeavours

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)


AMMAN, 20 February -- Asserting that the creation of a Palestinian State was no longer a dream, but a strategic viable objective, Jordan’s Ambassador warned that any procrastination would be at the expense of the peoples on both sides of the conflict.

Picking up on the theme of the two-day United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and hosted by the Government of Jordan, the representative said that the political, social and economic fabric necessary for the creation of a Palestinian State was more ready than at any other time in history. 

The elements for realizing the international vision for two States were there, as was wide-scope international momentum from Annapolis and Paris, he said.  Plus, there was the serious political will of the Palestinian leadership for creating a democratic political regime that enjoyed transparency and openness.  And, the only way to build a dynamic Palestinian economy that was nourishing, sustainable and viable lay in a just and political settlement, which put an end to the Israeli occupation.

The tragedy of the Palestinian people needed to come to a close, by allowing the occupation to end and a Palestinian State to be born, said Riyad Mansour, Palestine's Permanent Observer to the United Nations.  To move in the direction of building a Palestinian State, the institutions of the Palestinian Authority should be provided with “all sustenance of life”. 

He said there needed to be a reality check, three months after Annapolis; development and reform could not take off in the face of major settlement activity mushrooming like cancer throughout the Territory, the Gaza siege and the proliferation of checkpoints. 

“This is a critical moment, the historical moment, for all of us to move in the direction of the lofty objectives that we need in our region, between Palestine and Israel,” he said.  Friends must not stand idly by and watch the situation unfold without stepping up to the plate to help both sides get back on track and try to save the peace process; that effort would spawn concrete dividends.  What was needed was a doubling, a tripling of efforts so as not to allow Annapolis and Paris to join other failed experiences.  Everyone needed to show the highest determination not to allow that exercise to fail.  “Take that message from this Seminar,” he urged. 

Plenary III of the Seminar, held this morning, was on the challenge of mobilizing international assistance in support of the Palestinian reform and development plan.  (Below is a summary of the presentations.)

In closing this evening, Paul Badji, Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee thanked participants for their informative and insightful presentations.  The reality of life of a people under occupation, suffering from violence, poverty and humiliation, was extremely disturbing.  That harsh reality was a reminder of the Committee's duty, as well as that of the international community, to continue to work in support of the Palestinian people, he said, before recapping highlights from the two days of deliberations.

Concluding Statements

MOHAMMAD AL-ALLAF ( Jordan) said his country greatly appreciated the vanguard role of the United Nations in securing justice for the Palestinian people, and the important contributions of its organizations in prioritizing the need for a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict.  He also acknowledged the historical role played by the Palestinian Rights Committee, which underpinned United Nations and international efforts in that regard.

He said that the meeting in Amman was in conformity with Jordanian policy in favour of all forms of political, economic and moral support for the country's Palestinian “brothers” in Jordan.  His Government not only supported Palestinian rights, but embraced those rights and defended that, and relayed that to all international forums. 

During the latest humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Jordan's policy was to “move at all levels and in all directions” to lift the siege and stop the military aggression, he said, adding that his Government had strictly rejected the collective punishment and unilateral measures, and incessant military escalation.  It had asked for an immediate halt to all military operations and the opening of all crossing points, especially to give all United Nations staff the access they required.  Jordan had also had political contacts. 

Continuing, he said that the efforts of his country had also included welfare for the people of Gaza to help them cope with the implications of that unprecedented closure.  For example, Jordan's hospitals opened its doors to the Palestinians.  The accelerated events of the past month had left imprints on the region.  Clearly, the socio-economic crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had reached the unprecedented level of a looming humanitarian disaster.

Still, the Palestinian issue was, first and foremost, a political issue, despite the fact that it was multidimensional, he said.  The only way to build a Palestinian economy, which was nourishing, sustainable and viable, lay in a just and political settlement that put an end to the Israeli occupation.  The political, social and economic fabric for the creation of a Palestinian State was more ready than at any time in history, despite the strategic diversion on the ground. 

The elements in support of the international vision for two States were there, and there was wide-scope international momentum from Annapolis and the success at Paris.  There was also the Palestinian reform and development plan, along with the serious political will of the Palestinian leadership to creating a democratic political regime that enjoyed transparency and openness.  The creation of two States was no longer a dream, but a strategic viable objective, he said.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said that Gaza's private sector and economy had collapsed, but today, following the Annapolis and Paris conferences, there was “massive international collective will” evident on two fronts:  that the tragedy of the Palestinian people must come to a close with the end of the occupation and a Palestinian State must be allowed to be born.  For that to happen, everyone understood that the institutions of the Palestinian Authority should be provided with “all sustenance of life”. 

He said, however, that three months after Annapolis, there had to be a reality check; the “bell of danger” had to be rung.  It was not wise to remain mesmerized by the atmosphere that followed Annapolis.  Development and reform must take off in a serious manner, but Israel was not living up to its commitments to implement the key elements of the Road Map.

Participants at the Seminar received full reports from people on the ground, learning in “vivid colour” the details of the situation:  major settlement activity mushrooming like cancer throughout the Territory, the Gaza siege and the proliferation of checkpoints.  That environment was not conducive to peace or to advancing the cause of Annapolis or Paris.

“This is a critical moment, the historical moment, for all of us to move in the direction of the lofty objectives that we need in our region, between Palestine and Israel,” he said.  Friends must not stand idly by and watch the situation unfold without stepping up to the plate to help both sides get back on track and try to save the peace process; that effort would spawn concrete dividends.  What was needed was a doubling, a tripling of efforts so as not to allow Annapolis and Paris to join other failed experiences.  Everyone needed to show the highest determination not to allow that exercise to fail.  “Take that message from this Seminar,” he urged. 

Plenary III

The first speaker, MOHAMMAD SHTAYYEH, President, Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, Ramallah, said that it had been stated clearly throughout the two-day meeting that the Palestinian economy was in a “deep dependent” relationship with Israel, in more than one respect, including in trade, labour and infrastructure.  It had also been stated that the cause of the Palestinian economic crisis was not the result of a particular policy of the Palestinian Authority, but of Israeli occupation and the political situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 

He recalled that the Oslo Agreement was supposed to have ended in 1999 with the establishment of a Palestinian State, but that interim period begun in 1993 persisted until today.  He outlined donor contributions during that period, remarking that the year Hamas came into office -- in 2006 -- $1.6 billion was received because non-traditional donors, such as Iran, came into the picture.  So, the argument that donors did not give money to the Palestinians during the Hamas period was not true.  It was true that the dynamic had changed, as the speaker from the European Commission had described earlier today; the European Union, for example, supported the Palestinians directly, and not through the Finance Ministry.

It was important to note that donors' money was not 100 per cent in harmony with Palestinian priorities because donors had their own vision.  For example, when he went to donors with a list of projects, such as roads in Jerusalem, water for Gaza -- donors said water was a political issue, Jerusalem was a political issue, and now Gaza was a political issue, and so on.  So, there was not a 100 per cent match between donor priorities and Palestinian priorities, but hopefully, that was changing, and the 2008 money would allow growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) by no less than 5 per cent. 

Of course, he continued, some donors at Paris in the $7.7 billion mix had made their contributions conditional, for example, pending national unity, pending agreement with Hamas; if 50 per cent of that money was actually spent in the Palestinian Territory, came “into the veins of the Palestinian economy”, he would be “more than happy”.

Absent a political process, however, donor money would shrink, he said.  If the Palestinian people did not receive enough money because of a lack of progress, and, if that stalemate was as a result of Israeli actions, then the international community must find a way to put the peace progress on track, or the Palestinians would be “banished”.  Indeed, it was time for the international community to put pressure on Israel to end the occupation.  At the donors' conference in Paris, the message was not only about money, but about ending the settlement activity, allowing the Palestinian economy to grow and removing the impediments on the ground.  Refusing to do so would continue to complicate Palestinian life and not allow the Palestinian side to “make progress on the table”. 

In those circumstances, he said, donors would think the situation on the ground was so complicated that they would take a “wait and see” attitude.  Money must be allowed to flow smoothly into the Palestinian Territory.  The Palestinian people were not lazy, and their land was not infertile.  The present economic crisis was driven by the military might of the Israeli occupation and political siege.  The claim that the West Bank would be Singapore was a false claim; the claim that Gaza would be Somalia was a correct claim.  The measures being taken by Israel was the “Somaliaization” of Gaza.

ATIF KUBURSI, Professor of Economics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, said that the Palestinian economy was tied very strongly to the Israeli economy, and certain implications flowed from that.  The Palestinian economy was dwarfed by the richer, more diversified economy, which outperformed it.  The Palestinian economy was subjected to continuous fragmentation, emasculation, reduction in scope and size, exportation of its labour to Israel, and so forth.  In many respects, Israel had “deformalized” the Palestinian economy.  The closures, embargoes and roadblocks and all that stood in the way of the Palestinians had fundamentally reduced their capacity to absorb surplus labour and, thus, they had started to “deformalize” into disorganized sectors, thereby narrowing the fiscal space of the Government and the economic space of any meaningful production.

He said there was also no chance of attracting capital into that economy.  It was isolated from its natural domain, from the Arab world.  That isolation increased the cost of production in a way that precluded it from producing competitively.  Because of Israeli restrictions on the imports, Palestinian garments were twice as expensive as Jordanian goods, for example.  Those distortions had been a day-to-day reality in the Palestinian economy.

In that context, he said that it was extremely difficult for aid to be effective, as it had to aim at relieving the economy from those distorting activities that the occupation had instituted.  In many respects, the United Nations attempted to sustain the Palestinian economy within that context by minimizing the vulnerabilities and the narrowing fiscal policy space.  Despite the difficulties, the United Nations had 18 organizations on the ground, and it had been able to maintain its operations and deliver the broad spectrum of assistance to the Palestinians, not only in the West Bank, but also in Gaza.

He noted that the United Nations had always been careful to deliver its aid “with a systematic concern that it also be of developmental value”.  The Organization had been “the eye of the world” on the suffering of the Palestinians.  No one else could do that more objectively.  The United Nations had also seen the need for structural transformation, through capacity-building and options for the Palestinians.  It had also tried to widen the policy space, to affirm the paradigm that underpinned its assistance – the human development paradigm – the broadening of people's choice.  If anything contravened that paradigm, it was occupation.

The most important expression of today's human development was the synonymous equation of development with freedom, because, without freedom, development objectives could not be realized, he said.  If the United Nations could “re-empower, re-develop” the access of the Palestinian economy to trade with Jordan, Egypt and the other Gulf States, if it could liberate the Palestinian economy and open those corridors of trade -- give the Palestinian people some breathing space – then the economic situation might turn around.  At present, 92 per cent of Palestinian trade was with Israel, he added.

WAJIH AZAIZEH, Director General, Palestinian Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, agreed that the Palestinian economy had lagged behind because of occupation.  Since 2000, most Palestinian economic sectors had sustained great losses.  The number of impediments, including military barriers, had increased to 563, and the comprehensive blockade imposed on Gaza had brought life to a standstill.  Most of the economic sector and services were unable to function, daily life had been disrupted and, overall, the impact of the closures had been enormous. 

Citing recent statistics, he noted that 57 per cent of Palestinian households suffered from poverty, including 42 per cent in the West Bank, and 79 per cent in the Gaza Strip.  The unemployment rate exceeded 40 per cent.  Prices had spiralled in 2007, particularly on basic commodities, at a rate of 5 per cent.  In order to achieve the political process and a level of security and stability, the economic and development challenges must be confronted.

Jordan had spared no effort on international and regional levels in support of the Palestinians and, in fact, that was a distinct feature of Jordanian diplomacy, he said, also stressing the importance of support for the Palestinian Authority and its institutions.  A better climate for investment and the exportation of products, particularly to developing countries, should be developed, as that would also help rebuild the Palestinian national economy. 

He discussed projects initiated by Jordan in support of the Palestinians, including the effort to link Jericho and Ramallah.  Jordan also continued to send urgent foodstuffs and other basic commodities and medicines to the West Bank and Gaza, and it had established hospitals there, as well as in Jerusalem and Nablus.  It had also opened hospitals in its own country for the purpose of treating Palestinian refugees in need.  It maintained the nationality of Palestinian refugees and gave them their rights in full, while allowing them to integrate into Jordanian society.

NAOMI MARK, Gaza Project Coordinator, Physicians for Human Rights, Tel Aviv, said the main dilemma faced in work like hers stemmed from the tension between political and humanitarian work.  Helping individuals meant getting some degree of cooperation from Government bureaucracies, and it was always a risk that that help could be used by the Government.

She said she had chosen to be a civilian who opposed occupation and the militaristic atmosphere of her society.  She had refused to serve in the Israeli military.  Instead, she worked for Physicians for Human Rights in Israel.  Established in 1988, the organization had more than 1,500 members.  Its mission was to obtain human and health rights for those whose rights were violated in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Through a power point presentation, Ms. Mark showed the process by which a Palestinian received a permit to leave Gaza for hospital care.  She described the relationship between the Palestinian committee and the Israeli side, both required for the permit, as “Kafkaesque”; a patient could wait anywhere from one week to a couple of months for an answer from the Israeli side or the Israeli General Secret Services, and, even then, there was no guarantee that he or she would be granted a permit.

She noted that, as time passed, more sick people with life threatening illnesses sat in Gaza with no treatment options.  Her work was meaningless if her efforts were not tied to a political struggle against an inhumane policy that made people choose between their life and “the enemy”.  Individual help and humanitarian work must also flow from an understanding that the problems would be solved once occupation ended, she added. 

CHARLES CLAYTON, National Director, World Vision, Jerusalem, and Chairman of the Association of International Development Agencies working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said that, most importantly, his organization was “in the business of facilitating dignity and hope for millions of people”.  The Occupied Palestinian Territory was a unique environment for international aid.  The occupation was prolonged, which meant that most children in Ramallah had never been to Jerusalem, only 10 kilometres away.  The occupation drove poverty and misery, yet it also enjoyed western sponsorship.  Very few aid contexts came close to that extraordinary distortion. 

He said that the violence committed by both sides, though unequal in scale, was equally entrenched and equally condemnable.  Civil society organizations looked on with despair at the disregard for the protection of children and the violence against civilian populations on both sides. 

On the ground in the West Bank and Gaza, there were further differences from the “normal” aid environment, he said.  Many Palestinians were well educated, politically aware and historically strong.  Unlike people in typical poor countries, those people knew how the aid machine worked and were not fooled by its exigencies.  On top of that, many were reluctant to admit their own needs because of traditional hospitality norms; a family would suffer hunger in order to give a guest a good meal and a good impression. 

He said that poverty did not look like poverty as it was known elsewhere.  A new definition of poverty was needed for that situation, not unlike poverty in Eastern Europe, for example.  A new definition of poverty would help the rest of the world understand it more quickly and demythologize the political conflict. 


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For information media • not an official record

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