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        General Assembly
22 August 1995


Fiftieth session


August 1995

5. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

452. The impact of international and regional issues does not only concern the political environment, but also affects the whole economic and social fabric in ESCWA countries. Thus, ESCWA, headed by Mr. Hazem El-Beblawi, undertook multidisciplinary coverage of work programme components, combining them in a few compact areas. Thus, the Commission's work programme was formulated around five themes featuring interrelated activities.

453. Under the first thematic subprogramme, Management of natural resources and environment, issues concerning the assessment and proper management of land, water and energy resources were addressed, as well as environmental degradation resulting from inadequate management of these resources.

454. In the field of environment, ESCWA participated in several meetings and workshops such as the Technical Secretariat of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for Environment. A report was completed on progress made in the ESCWA plan to implement Agenda 21 in the region which was presented to the Commission at its eighteenth session, in May 1995, as well as to the Commission on Sustainable Development and the Economic and Social Council. Furthermore, ESCWA, in its capacity as a member of the Executive Committee of the Joint Committee on Environment and Development in the Arab Region, participated in its fifth meeting at Cairo in July 1995. The meeting discussed the implementation of the decisions of the second meeting of the Joint Committee and preparations for a meeting on biodiversity in the Arab region. The meeting also included discussions on two technical reports on the establishment of an integrated environmental information network in the Arab region.

455. A report was prepared by ESCWA on activities related to the protection of the ozone layer, while issues pertaining to resource conservation were addressed through studies on wildlife conservation for sustainable development in the Arab countries and the assessment of the fisheries sector in the United Arab Emirates. In the field of water resources, ESCWA organized a meeting at Amman from 12 to 14 September 1994 of the Inter-agency Task Force on modalities of cooperation and coordination among United Nations specialized agencies and Arab regional agencies involved in various water-related activities. The meeting recommended that ESCWA serve as the secretariat for the Inter-agency Task Force. A long-term project on the assessment of water resources using remote-sensing techniques is under way.

456. The second thematic subprogramme, Improvement of the quality of life, includes activities to provide support for ESCWA member States in preparing, at the national and regional levels, for world conferences and meetings. Reports were submitted to the Commission at its eighteenth session on all preparatory and follow-up activities for meetings and conferences such as the International Conference on Population and Development, the International Year of the Family, the World Summit for Social Development, the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and the Fourth World Conference on Women.

457. The Commission participated in the preparatory committee for the World Summit for Social Development and in the Summit itself. It also participated in the Ninth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held at Cairo from 29 April to 8 May 1995. Other major activities included the preparation of the Arab Declaration for Social Development, which was presented to the Council of Arab Ministers for Social Affairs, the launching of a social development database, the preparation of a project document on human development in the Arab States and a workshop on sustainable human development experiences, held at Cairo from 14 to 19 May 1995. ESCWA also undertook a study on the impact of the recent crisis on the social situation in the ESCWA region, which analyzed the socio-economic impact of crises in the region, with particular emphasis on population migration, the quality of life and vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. ESCWA organized, in this context, a seminar entitled The Role of the Family in Integrating Disabled Women into Society, at Amman from 16 to 18 October 1994.

458. In the area of women and development, ESCWA organized the Arab Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held at Amman from 6 to 10 November 1994 and was attended by 420 participants representing all Arab countries. The meeting reviewed the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women and the ESCWA Strategy for Arab Women to the Year 2005. The meeting also finalized the Regional Plan of Action for the Advancement of Arab Women. ESCWA also organized a meeting on the Arab family in a changing society at Abu Dhabi in December 1994, in the context of preparations for the Fourth World Conference on Women. Other activities within this framework included national workshops in nine ESCWA countries to review the national plans of action in the light of national reports on the situation of women. Information on women's issues was addressed through a publication on Arab women in ESCWA member States. This publication includes statistics, indicators and trends. A database on statistics on women was also launched.

459. In the field of rural development, two long-term rural community development projects are being implemented in Egypt and the Syrian Arab Republic. ESCWA continued to issue its annual publication Agriculture and Development in Western Asia (No. 16, December 1994); and it prepared a National Farm Data Handbook for the Syrian Arab Republic. Other publications issued by the secretariat include: Land and Water Policies in the Near East Region; Marketing of Agricultural Products in Lebanon; Evaluation of Agricultural Policies in the Syrian Arab Republic: Policy Analysis Matrix Approach; Prospective Development of the Agricultural Institutions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; and Rehabilitation of Veterinary Services.

460. Information on human settlements issues was disseminated through the publication of a newsletter jointly published by ESCWA, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements and the League of Arab States. ESCWA participated in preparatory meetings for Habitat II and convened at Amman, in March 1995, a regional preparatory meeting for the Conference.

461. In the area of industrial development, ESCWA completed a publication entitled Proceedings of the Expert Group Meeting on the Creation of Indigenous Entrepreneurship and Opportunities for Small and Medium-scale Industrial Investments. In preparation for the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Commission issued a publication entitled Participation of Women in Manufacturing: Patterns, Determinants and Analysis. Several training-of-trainers workshops on how to start a business in war-torn areas were held in Bethlehem, Gaza, Nablus and Beirut. Moreover, a pilot workshop on upgrading entrepreneurial skills of managers of small and medium enterprises under changing conditions, was held at Amman in September 1994. A study was completed entitled Impact of the single European market on the industrial sector in the ESCWA region; and two project documents were completed for the establishment of business incubators in the occupied Palestinian territories.

462. The third thematic subprogramme, Economic development and cooperation, involved activities dealing with such central issues as promoting economic and technical cooperation and integration among ESCWA countries, promoting coordinated regional strategies, training officials in developing national capabilities in managerial skills, and reviewing and analysing economic performance, policies and strategies.

463. The Survey of Economic and Social Developments in the ESCWA Region, 1993 was issued in November 1994. The Survey for 1994 was completed in July 1995. Within the same context, a study was completed on Review of developments and issues in the external trade and payments situation of countries of Western Asia, which included a chapter on the implications of the Uruguay Round on development in the region. A study was also completed entitled Review of developments and trends in the monetary and financial sectors in the economies of the ESCWA region.

464. The proceedings of four workshops/conferences were published, namely: the Western Asia workshop on strategies for accelerating the development of civil registration and vital statistics system; the Second Arab Conference on Perspectives of Modern Biotechnology; the workshop on the implication of the new advanced materials technologies for the economies of the ESCWA countries; and the workshop on the integration of science and technology in the development planning and management process in the ESCWA region.

465. In the area of transport and communications, a report was submitted to the Commission at its eighteenth session on the Follow-up action of the implementation of the Transport and Communications Decade, second phase: 1992-1996. Furthermore, studies were completed on Development of free zones in Western Asia; Development of the telecommunications sector in the ESCWA region; and Present status, development trends and future prospects of telecommunications in the ESCWA region; and the ESCWA Transport Bulletin for 1994 (No. 5) was issued. Additionally, the ESCWA secretariat conducted an expert group meeting on the Development of a Multimodal Transport Chain in Western Asia, held at Amman from 24 to 27 April 1995.

466. In the field of statistics, ESCWA continued the development and maintenance of databases on energy and industry. A workshop on the implementation of the 1993 System of National Accounts was held at Amman from 12 to 19 December 1994 and another workshop on industrial statistics took place at Damascus from 26 November to 6 December 1994. Training was also provided on the use of statistical computer packages, geographical information systems and the application of the International Comparisons Programme.

467. The fourth thematic subprogramme, Regional development and global changes, encompassed activities dealing with exogenous factors and global changes affecting the region. The major activity under this subprogramme is an ongoing multidisciplinary study on the impact of the single European market on different sectors in the ESCWA region.

468. Issues concerning Palestine, the Middle East peace process and the least developed member States were the focal points for the fifth thematic subprogramme, Special programmes and issues. In its studies, the Agriculture Section covered the rehabilitation of the fisheries sector in the Gaza Strip and of veterinary services in the occupied territories. In addition, a proposed action programme for the restructuring of Palestinian agricultural public institutions was also prepared. The Industry Section undertook workshops on the development of small enterprises in the occupied Palestinian territories.


4. Relief operations in the Near East (UNRWA)

525. The activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), headed by Commissioner-General Ilter Türk-men, focused during the reporting year on providing constructive support to the Middle East peace process.

526. The Agency took immediate steps to develop an effective working relationship with the Palestinian Authority and to meet the Authority's requests for assistance to the fullest extent possible. On 24 June 1994, an exchange of letters took place between the Commissioner-General of UNRWA and the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for the purpose of facilitating the continued provision of UNRWA services to Palestine refugees in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. On an ad hoc basis UNRWA provided land and buildings, temporary shelter and emergency humanitarian aid to assist the Authority in establishing its operations in the Jericho area. UNRWA actively pursued coordination of its services with those provided by the Authority, developing effective relations with it in the education, health and relief and social service sectors. The Agency also played an active role in multilateral forums established to support the peace process, such as the multilateral working group on refugees, as part of the United Nations delegation.

527. Within the context of developments in the peace process, UNRWA began the process of relocating its headquarters from Vienna to Gaza by the end of 1995. The relocation should serve to demonstrate the commitment of the United Nations to the peace process, underline its confidence in the Palestinian Authority and contribute to the economic development of the Gaza Strip.

528. UNRWA developed a detailed budget and action plan for the move, including the design of a new headquarters building in Gaza. As at May 1995, the Agency was taking the necessary steps to obtain the $13.5 million in funding needed for the move and to meet the schedule for the move.

529. At my request, UNRWA undertook to administer the payment of the salaries of 9,000 members of the Palestinian Police Force from funds contributed by donors. The technical mechanism underlying the effort was established in a memorandum of understanding signed by UNRWA and the Palestinian Police Force in September 1994. From that date until March 1995 a total of $29.8 million was disbursed in the operation, in which UNRWA worked closely with the office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories. In its resolution 49/210 of 13 April 1995, the General Assembly requested UNRWA to continue to facilitate the payment of Palestinian Police Force salaries until the end of 1995.

530. In September 1994, UNRWA launched the second phase of its Peace Implementation Programme with the objective of providing continuing infrastructure development and job creation to Palestine refugees throughout the Middle East. Funded projects included construction of schools, health clinics, women's programme centres and sewerage and drainage works, as well as renovation of shelters. Besides improving living conditions for refugees, related projects created an estimated 5,500 jobs over an average four-month period in Gaza alone. The programme met with a positive response on the part of donors, receiving a total of $109 million in funding as at May 1995. The Agency's project for a 232-bed general hospital in Gaza, begun in October 1993, continued during the reporting year. The hospital is due to be completed in early 1996 and recruitment of senior staff is under way.

531. While taking on new roles and responsibilities in response to changing conditions, UNRWA continued to fulfil its basic mission of providing essential health, education and relief and social services to 3.1 million Palestine refugees located in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic and the West Bank and Gaza. Some 410,000 elementary and preparatory school pupils were enrolled in the Agency's 643 schools during the academic year 1994/95. The Agency handled nearly 6.5 million patient visits during 1994 through its network of 122 health centres and health points. Over 168,000 of the neediest Palestine refugees received special assistance from the Agency during the year, including food rations, shelter rehabilitation and subsidized medical care. Additional facilities and services provided on an ongoing basis through the Agency's core programmes included vocational training, graduate scholarships, family planning services, special infant care, community rehabilitation centres, women's programme centres and income-generation schemes.

532. UNRWA's regular and emergency cash budget for the biennium 1994-1995 was $570 million. The Agency ended 1994 with an actual funding shortfall of $7 million. Because of the deficit the Agency was forced to carry over the austerity measures imposed in 1993 in response to an earlier deficit, which included a salary freeze, a reduction in administrative costs and cuts in the budgets for additional teacher posts, hospitalization and medical supplies. An informal meeting of UNRWA's major donors and host Governments held at Amman in March 1995 resulted in pledges that helped to reduce the projected deficit for 1995. At the Amman meeting the donors reiterated their commitment to the continued provision of UNRWA services and approved a five-year planning horizon proposed by the Agency.


15. The Middle East

736. In the course of the past year, significant results were achieved in the Middle East peace process, signalling the parties' continued commitment to proceed on the road to peace. An outstanding achievement was the conclusion, on 26 October 1994, of the historic Treaty of Peace between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I warmly welcome this momentous agreement, which ended a decades-long state of war.

737. Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) continued the implementation of their Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, signed on 13 September 1993. By December 1994, the Palestinian Authority, which had been established in May in most of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, was given responsibility for health, education, social welfare, tourism and direct taxation in the other areas of the West Bank. Israel and the PLO are at present negotiating the redeployment of Israeli military forces in the West Bank and the holding of elections for the Palestinian Council; interim understandings on an agreement have been reached by leaders on both sides.

738. Meanwhile, multilateral negotiations on Middle East regional issues have proceeded, creating a network of common projects among countries in the region. The United Nations participates actively in the multilateral negotiations as a full extraregional participant.

739. Hope has been generated by these encouraging signs that progress can be accelerated in the Israeli-Lebanese and Israeli-Syrian negotiations leading to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978).

740. The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been complicated and set back, on more than one occasion, by terrorist attacks from enemies of peace in which dozens of civilians have been killed and wounded. I have condemned these incidents and I am encouraged by the determination of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to continue the peace process.

741. In addition, concern in the international community has been generated by the Government of Israel's decisions to expropriate land and expand settlements in the occupied territories. The subject was taken up in deliberations in the Security Council at its formal meetings on 28 February 1995 and 12 May 1995.

742. The peace process needs broad public support and without a visible improvement in the living conditions of the Palestinians this support will remain fragile. In this connection, I have to draw attention to the damaging effects which closures of the occupied territories by Israel have had on the nascent Palestinian economy.

743. In its efforts to support the Arab-Israeli peace process, the United Nations has placed special emphasis on sustainable economic and social development in the occupied territories. The United Nations Special Coordinator, Mr. Terje Rod Larsen, has been active in strengthening local coordination between agencies and programmes of the United Nations system, the Bretton Woods institutions and the donor community. He works in close cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction. The first results of the international assistance efforts are already visible, especially in institution-building and the infrastructure.

744. In southern Lebanon hostilities have continued at a high level between Israeli forces and armed elements that have proclaimed their resistance to Israeli occupation. On several occasions civilian targets on both sides came under attack. I have called for restraint and urged the parties to refrain from attacking civilians.

745. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has sought to limit the conflict and to protect inhabitants from violence. In resolution 1006 (1995) of 28 July 1995, the Security Council reaffirmed the mandate of UNIFIL as defined in its resolution 425 (1978) and subsequent resolutions, to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restore international peace and security, and assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area. Although UNIFIL has not been able to make visible progress towards these objectives, it has contributed to stability in the area and afforded a measure of protection to the population of southern Lebanon. On the basis of the request for my good offices regarding the detainees held in Khiam jail in the area controlled by the Israel Defence Forces in southern Lebanon, I have authorized the appropriate contacts in that regard.

746. In July 1994, I initiated a study to determine how UNIFIL could perform its essential functions with reduced strength in view of the long-term problem of the shortfall in its assessed contributions. By its resolution 1006 (1995), the Security Council approved my proposal for a streamlining, which will result in a 10 per cent reduction of the Force's strength and direct savings of $10 million a year. This will not affect UNIFIL's operational capacity.

747. The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) continued to supervise the area of separation between the Israeli and Syrian forces and the areas of limitation of armaments and forces provided for in the disengagement agreement of 1974. With the cooperation of both sides, UNDOF has discharged its tasks effectively and its area of operation has been quiet.

The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), which is the oldest existing peace-keeping operation, has continued to assist UNDOF and UNIFIL in carrying out their tasks and has maintained its presence in Egypt. A streamlining undertaken by UNTSO is under way and will result in a 20 per cent reduction of its strength and corresponding savings in expenditures.


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