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Agenda item 39
Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance
Report of the Secretary-General (A/59/332)
(a) Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations
Reports of the Secretary-General (A/59/93, A/59/374)
(c) Assistance to the Palestinian people
Report of the Secretary-General (A/59/121)
Draft resolution (A/59/L.24)
Mr. Wali (Nigeria): Let me start by expressing my country’s profound condolences to the Palestinian people on the untimely death of their leader, Chairman Yasser Arafat. May the Almighty God be with the Palestinian people, and may light perpetual shine upon their fallen hero.
Mr. Ravi (India): We would like to thank the Secretary-General for the reports presented under this item and for the useful introduction provided by the Under-Secretary-General of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
We associate ourselves with the statement made by the representative of Qatar on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
Before making my substantive comments on the agenda item under discussion today, I should like to pay tribute to the memory of President Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian people for almost four decades. I had the privilege of meeting Yasser Arafat during his visit to India in the mid-1980s. Like millions of others around the world, I too was struck by his charismatic leadership. On behalf of India, and on my own behalf, I join others in conveying condolences to the Palestinian leadership and the members of the bereaved family.
Mr. Al-Shamsi (United Arab Emirates) (spoke in Arabic ): At the outset, I would like, on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, to extend my sincerest condolences to the brotherly people of Palestine, its leadership and the family of the late President Yasser Arafat. We reaffirm the support of the United Arab Emirates for the Palestinian people and leadership in their efforts to realize their legitimate rights and goals of establishing an independent State in Palestine.
The report of the Secretary-General outlines the tragic humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, where more than 3,000 innocent civilians were killed as a result of continuing random military attacks by the Israeli occupation forces. The report also refers to the curfews and closures imposed by the Israeli occupation forces, which have resulted in huge losses to the Palestinian economy.
Israeli practices included the construction of an expansionist wall, land confiscation and the destruction of wells, all of which led to an increase in the levels of unemployment, poverty and internally displaced persons. The latter have reached 16,000 persons, unemployment has reached 30 per cent and those living under poverty levels amount to nearly 63 per cent. Twenty-two per cent of Palestinian children also suffer from malnutrition. On the basis of this we again call upon the international community to intervene decisively, to end the humanitarian tragedy that the Palestinian people are living under, to force Israel to cease immediately its military attacks and to end the policy of closures and siege of Palestinian towns and cities.
The United Arab Emirates notes with grave concern the difficulties and dangers that personnel working in delivering humanitarian assistance are facing, particularly the Palestinians who face problems in providing this assistance because of the violence and the constraints of Israeli forces restricting mobility. We call upon Israel to provide protection for those who work in humanitarian assistance organizations, and to facilitate the work in accordance with international law and treaties.
In recognizing the importance of humanitarian and development assistance and of promoting security and peace in the world, the United Arab Emirates has fulfilled all of its financial obligations to the United Nations humanitarian assistance activities, the last of which was a contribution of $1,028,000 to reconstruction next year, as well as providing $30 million for reconstruction in Afghanistan and $215 million for reconstruction in Iraq. Aside from that, the United Arab Emirates provided direct development assistance to many developing countries through its national organizations, such as Abu Dhabi Development Fund, which provided a total assistance of $29 billion in 2002 to 56 countries all over the world. The commitment of the United Arab Emirates to provide emergency, long-term humanitarian assistance to areas affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts around the world was manifested in many activities, such as the operation of Emirates Solidarity, which succeeded in removing 60,000 landmines from 5 million square metres in South Lebanon and turned them into arable and inhabitable lands. The United Arab Emirates Red Crescent Society is the largest non-governmental agency in the country engaged in providing relief and foreign assistance to affected countries. It has provided a total assistance of $1 billion to more than 95 countries during the last 4 years. The United Arab Emirates Red Crescent Society provides directly and through the United Nations humanitarian agencies, relief and development assistance to countries affected by armed conflicts as well as to post-conflict countries, the latest of which was the reconstruction project of Jenin refugee camp. The Society is also preparing to build 200 houses in Rafah in Gaza. The Dubai Relief City, which was established in 2003 for the purpose of providing integrated services and facilities to national and international humanitarian organizations, is a clear manifestation of our commitment to support international efforts aimed at coordinating and enhancing global humanitarian assistance. Preparations are presently underway for the second Dubai International Conference on International Aid in April 2005. I also look forward to the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, which will be held in Japan in January 2005. We hope it will lead to strengthening international efforts aimed at mitigating natural disasters around the world.
Mrs. Barghouti (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic): We learned today with great sadness of the passing of our President and leader, Yasser Arafat. We very much appreciate this gesture of holding a meeting this afternoon at the General Assembly during which all delegations will be able to present their condolences.
We would have hoped to be able to present to this Assembly a more optimistic and positive picture of the economic, social, cultural and environmental situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, while examining the item relating to assistance to the Palestinian people. But, unfortunately, the situation of occupied Palestine is deteriorating day by day. We are risking an economic and humanitarian catastrophe, if the international community does not find rapid solutions in all areas and at all levels to put an end to this ongoing tragedy.
It is clear that the root causes for the deterioration in the current situation in occupied Palestine are essentially the continuing Israeli occupation, the creation of barriers, blockages, colonial expansionism, confiscation of land and the building of the expansionist wall, and the resultant confiscation of thousands of dunams of land and the ruining of the lives of thousands of Palestinians. Since September 2000, Israel has intensified its bloody war against the Palestinian people. That has led to about 3,500 deaths and 50,000 injuries; a lot of these people are permanently injured and cannot lead normal lives. Furthermore, the occupation forces have bombarded and destroyed a great number of public and private buildings, uprooted trees, and intentionally damaged the infrastructure, including roads and water and sanitation networks.
These Israeli practices against the Palestinian people are considered war crimes and flagrant violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which requires that the international community renew its efforts to put pressure on Israel to end the occupation and to apply its commitments in conformity with the provisions of the Convention. Israel should abide by the international will, which is asking it to stop its aggression, its destruction and its racist, expansionist policy. In this respect, we must underscore the individual and collective responsibility of the Contracting Parties to the Convention to ensure that the provisions of the Convention are respected and implemented in all areas.
The report of the Secretary-General contained in document A/59/121 refers in detail and comprehensively to the difficult situation facing the Palestinian people and the economic and humanitarian crises they are experiencing, which increases their suffering and creates difficulties in meeting their basic needs. The report also points to the problem of unemployment and the increasing levels of poverty, which have reached over 63 per cent in the West Bank and 75 per cent in the Gaza Strip. The report also refers to the fact that Israel has methodically imposed restrictions on the movement of goods and people within Palestine and across borders. The Secretary-General himself states in paragraph 11 that that continues “to be the proximate cause of the Palestinian humanitarian and economic crises”.
The report also stresses in paragraph 9 that the occupying forces continue “to inflict daily hardship and humiliation on Palestinians, through closures, curfews, house demolitions, targeted assassinations, settlement activities, the use of deadly weapons in highly populated areas and the use of disproportionate force”.
We are particularly concerned about the actions of the occupying forces against the institutions of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, including the obstacles and difficulties they impose upon organizations that are trying to provide essential economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people. The report points out that the occupying forces are imposing restrictions on the freedom of movement of United Nations staff and are obstructing humanitarian assistance, the result being that such assistance must be scaled back or completely halted. In fact, United Nations agencies are rendering assistance to the Palestinian people under very difficult conditions as a result of the measures employed by the occupying forces — assistance and support that the Palestinian people urgently need. In that regard, we agree with the report’s observation, in paragraph 85, that “the significance of the United Nations agencies and their role in the occupied Palestinian territory has never been greater — nor has there ever been a time when it has been more difficult to operate”.
In that regard, my delegation would like to take this opportunity to express its gratitude to the Secretary-General for his report and for his efforts to support the Palestinians and their just cause. I would also like to convey our deep appreciation for the role of the United Nations and its relevant agencies in providing humanitarian and economic assistance to the Palestinian people, which undoubtedly contributes to alleviating their pain and suffering.
My delegation would like in particular to thank our brothers and sisters in Arab countries who have taken in the seriously wounded and provided medicines and emergency medical assistance, as well as for their great assistance in safeguarding the structure and functioning of the Palestinian Authority and in providing assistance to the Palestinian people in general. We also extend our thanks to all friendly States, to the European Union and Japan in particular, for having provided us with humanitarian assistance and for having supported our people in general. In addition, we thank all the donor countries and non-governmental organizations that have provided emergency humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.
In that regard, we must firmly confront all Israeli measures against donor States and bodies, including assassinations and attacks carried out by Israel against the staff and headquarters of humanitarian agencies. The international community must provide protection for those extending assistance, in line with international humanitarian law.
I would like to add that just and lasting peace and stability in the region in general essentially requires not only the full withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem and the Golan, but also the exercise by the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination and to establish a sovereign State on their own territory. If that does not happen, there will be no possibility of making progress in the peace process. Nor will we be able to talk about regional development or regional cooperation with Israel, the occupying Power. We wish to underscore the importance of the role of the United Nations in bringing about just and lasting peace on the basis of its permanent responsibility with respect to the Palestinian issue.
I would like to conclude my statement by quoting again from the report of the Secretary-General. In paragraph 87 he states:
Mr. Adel (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic): ...
I shall now touch on ways of providing assistance to the Palestinian people. I should like to begin by extending my sincere condolences on the passing of their late President and leader, Yasser Arafat. His passing is not a loss only to the Palestinian people but to the world as a whole. I am fully confident that the Palestinian people and their new leadership will spare no effort in working to restore their right to live like the rest of humankind — as free citizens in an independent State.
Egypt calls on the international community once again to intervene decisively in order to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe that the Palestinian people are facing. Daily they must endure unprecedented suffering, and therefore efforts must be made to address the tragic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.
What the Palestinian people are facing, under the yoke of Israeli occupation, not only is destroying the infrastructure of the West Bank and Gaza, and the financial and natural resources of the Palestinian people; it is a blatant violation of their legitimate and inalienable rights. The practices of the Israeli army extend to targeting unarmed civilians, many of them women and children, as well as extra-judicial executions and collective punishment through the imposition of siege and closures.
Sieges, closures and curfews have led to a total paralysis of the Palestinian economy, and more than a million Palestinians are living in terrible poverty. In addition, Israeli operations have displaced nearly 10,000 Palestinians, who now have no shelter at all.
The report of the Secretary-General (A/59/121) has noted another negative element which has led to increased suffering on the part of the Palestinian people: the construction of the separation wall and its impact on the lives of the Palestinians and on the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian State. This jeopardizes the two-State solution set out in Security Council resolution 1397 (2002).
Egypt appreciates the positive role undertaken by the United Nations and its specialized agencies in providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, and particularly what the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is doing for 4 million Palestinian refugees.
Egypt calls on donor States to increase their support for such activities by providing the necessary financial assistance to breach the current financing gap so as to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians and to take a firm stand regarding any practices that hinder the delivery of such assistance to those who need it.
Egypt would request that the report of the Secretary-General to be presented next year include an analysis of the activities of the United Nations with respect to the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and the difficulties it faces in providing humanitarian assistance. Even more importantly, proposals on how to deal with these difficulties should be made in order to enable the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to adopt appropriate resolutions in this area.
In conclusion, I should like to emphasize that we believe that the assistance provided to the Palestinian people is only a first step. It is a means and not an end. The goal is clear: for the Palestinian people to be able to determine their destiny freely, in an independent and sovereign State capable of economic development. To that end, we must ensure the implementation of all relevant resolutions of the United Nations, particularly resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and subsequent international, national and regional resolutions and initiatives, which emphasize the linkage between economic and political issues.
Mr. De Rivero (Peru) (spoke in Spanish ): I should like at the outset to express the condolences of the delegation of Peru to the delegation of Palestine on the death of President Yasser Arafat.
Mr. Mpundu (Zambia): On behalf of my Government, I wish to express our sincere condolences to the Palestinian National Authority on the demise of President Yasser Arafat. Zambia recalls his extraordinary leadership.
Mr. Chulkov (Russian Federation) (spoke in Russian ): I would like to begin my statement by expressing my sincere condolences to the leadership of the Palestinian people and the family of President Arafat on the passing away of President Arafat.
The meeting rose at 12.40 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.