Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

25 November 2002

Fifty-seventh General Assembly
58th and 59th Meetings (AM & PM)


Texts Indicate Strategy of Encouraging Transition from Relief
To Development, Self-Help in Humanitarian Assistance Programmes



The General Assembly this morning began its consideration of the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance, for which it had before it a number of reports and resolutions.


Finally, the General Assembly had before it the report of the Secretary-General on Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/57/130-E/2002/79) which notes that realities and priorities in the occupied Palestinian territory shifted significantly owing to the rapid escalation of violence and confrontation in March-April 2002.  To reflect this shift in emphasis, the report contains a separate analysis of the assistance provided in the periods from June 2001 to March 2002 and from March to May 2002.  The international community is responding to the crisis with a two-track approach of continued efforts to support the Palestinian Authority’s capacity to deliver essential services and emergency assistance with regard to damage to institutions, infrastructure and property and urgent social and humanitarian needs.

The report concludes that there is growing consensus in the international community around a vision for peace in the Middle East -– one of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders in an economically prosperous region.  For its part, the United Nations will continue to advocate an end to violence, including terrorism, and to promote a meaningful resumption of political dialogue between the parties leading to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting political settlement of the conflict based on relevant United Nations resolutions.


AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) expressed his condolences in connection with the killing over the weekend of a British national working with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and reiterated that violations of the rights of humanitarian workers were a breach of international law.  He supported the enhancing of humanitarian assistance to meet the consequences of natural and man-made disasters as well as the impact of wars and conflicts.  He emphasized the importance of the Secretary-General’s call to promote a culture of protection. 

He appreciated the efforts of the international community to alleviate the plight of the Palestinian people resulting from Israeli practices.  The international community must provide assistance to the Palestinians and help salvage the peace process in the Middle East.  Israeli practices had resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe and the collapse of Palestinian infrastructures, economy and ecology.  A just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East was the only guarantee for the future of the Palestinian and Israeli people and for an end to the bloodbath. 

He appreciated the positive role played by UNRWA, which assisted about four million refugees.  He called on donor countries to step up their efforts to provide the necessary financing to meet the needs of the Palestinian people.  Donor countries must also take firm positions against actions which blocked the delivery of such assistance.   He called on OCHA to coordinate its efforts with UNRWA in order to follow up on the humanitarian condition of the Palestinian refugees.


ABDULAZIZ BIN NASSER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said he was deeply concerned about the suffering of the Palestinian people, who had lost their properties and sources of living and were subject to displacement, extreme poverty and serious diseases.  Their suffering was the result of continuing Israeli aggression and crimes, which had exerted a devastating impact on the Palestinian economy.  His country had continued to provide special and immediate humanitarian aid, as well as long-term development assistance, to the Palestinians to alleviate their suffering and support them in their strife against Israeli aggression.

He condemned the Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories, which impeded staff of United Nations humanitarian organizations from providing the necessary relief assistance to the Palestinian people.  Such actions called for the intervention of the international community to protect the Palestinian population from Israeli aggression and massacres.

He requested Israel to halt its attacks and crimes against civilians immediately, to end the internal closure and blockade policies in Palestinian cities, and to allow humanitarian organizations to deliver the necessary aid.  He also urged the donor countries and relevant international financial institutions to enhance the scale and quality of humanitarian aid provided for the Palestinian people, in order to save them from humanitarian catastrophe.


SOMAIA S. BARGHOUTI, Observer for Palestine, said that the Secretary-General’s report had dealt with a number of issues, including the deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and the severe economic crisis faced by the Palestinians.  Since April 2000, the occupied Palestinian territory, including Al-Quds, had encountered serious deterioration.  In addition to the thousands of Palestinians killed and wounded, Israeli forces had bombed and demolished a number of buildings, homes and lands.  The destruction wrought between November 2000 and November 2001 had been assessed at $305 million.

As mentioned in the report, the Israeli policy of circling and surrounding Palestinians was the initial reason for the crisis, which was first of all an economic crisis, she said.  The policy had brought about a decline in income and economic activities.  Unemployment in the West Bank was 50 per cent; it was about 60 per cent in Gaza.  Israeli practices aimed at the Palestinian people were flagrant violations of the Geneva Conventions.  It was up to the international community to ensure that Israel respected the principles of those conventions and the will of the international community. 

She paid tribute to those in Arab countries who had provided emergency relief to the Palestinian people as well as support to the Palestinian Authority.  In addition, she thanked all donors and NGOs that had provided humanitarian and emergency assistance to the Palestinian people. 


Afternoon Meeting


LUIS E. CAPPAGLI (Argentina) deplored the death on 22 November of Iain Hook of UNRWA, and expressed concern at reports that the ambulance that had been summoned to assist him was refused immediate access.  In addition to that grave incident, he said, on several occasions in recent times vehicles and staff of UNRWA had also been attacked.  He called on Member States to take “stronger actions” to fulfil their responsibility to ensure that the perpetrators of attacks against United Nations personnel were brought to justice and that any threat or act of violence against humanitarian personnel on their territory was investigated and that all appropriate measures taken against such perpetrators.

He said Member States which had imposed restrictions on communications equipment for the use of international humanitarian staff should lift those restrictions immediately, in the interests of safety and security.  The safety and security of United Nations and associated staff engaged in United Nations peacekeeping and peace-building operations should continue to be an important element in the planning of those operations, he said.  In that context, he invited the Secretary-General to continue to seek the inclusion of, and host countries to include, key provisions of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, among others those regarding the prevention of attacks against members of the operation, the establishment of such attacks as crimes punishable by law and the prosecution or extradition of offenders.

He underlined the importance of promoting the universality of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, and encouraged all States to become parties to and respect fully their obligations under the Convention and further called on all Member States and other parties involved in armed conflict, in compliance with international humanitarian law, to ensure the security and protection of all personnel.


Right of Reply

CHAIM SHACHAM (Israel), in right of reply, expressed condolences over the killing of Iain Hook, project manager of the Jenin camp rehabilitation programme of UNRWA and said Israel was conducting a thorough investigation of the events leading to his death.  He said Israel was sensitive to the humanitarian and economic needs of the Palestinian population.  In today’s debate, the Palestinian observer had referred to the deteriorating condition of the Palestinians, blaming Israel’s security measures as the cause of that deterioration.  Israel, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, had taken actions to improve the free movement of goods and labour from Palestinian territories into Israel.  Those actions had had significant positive impact on the Palestinian economy.

However, he continued, the decision of Palestinians to employ violence as a political tool had sabotaged Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and had left Israel with no other choice than to take certain security measures.  He stressed that the purpose of those security precautions was not to burden the Palestinian population but to ensure the security of Israeli citizens.  The challenge for Israel was to protect its citizens while minimizing the impact of tightened security on the Palestinian population.  Unfortunately, terrorists had used every easing of measures to carry out attacks.  If there was no terrorism, then there would be no need for tightened security and the resulting economic consequences. 

Ms. BARGHOUTI, Observer for Palestine, said that the Israeli statement was full of lies and distortions.  The real cause of violence and the deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories was the continued Israeli occupation and the continued military actions of Israeli forces.  That claim was not coming from her or her delegation.  She encouraged the Israeli representative to read the reports of the Secretary-General, which indicated that the main causes of the humanitarian and economic deterioration was Israeli military action. 

Israeli forces had resorted to committing the worst war crimes seen in history, including State terrorism, she continued.  Under the banner of security, they had used excessive force and demolished homes, all of which had a negative impact on the Palestinian economy.  The Palestinian Authority had condemned all forms of terrorism.  There was a difference between terrorism and the right of people living under occupation to defend themselves.  That right came from international law, which legitimized the use of any means to resist occupation. 

Mr. SHACHAM (Israel), responding, said that he wished to elaborate on the death and injury of Palestinian children in the violence.  A few hours ago an eight-year-old boy was killed in Nablus while trying to hurl two pipe bombs at Israeli soldiers.  This abhorrent use of children was not unique, but had been actively promoted by the Palestinian Authority.  Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority had trained children in the use of weapons and encouraged them to become suicide bombers.  Instead of educating for peace, Palestinian textbooks openly taught hatred of Israel and Israelis, while materials broadcast in the media reinforced this hatred.  Children were urged to “drop your toys and take up arms”, while youth groups taught children to be holy warriors in the jihad against Israel and the Jews.

As the Palestinian Authority expanded its use of children in the violence, the age of suicide bombers was dropping by the day while attacks by teenagers had become the norm, he said.  Children had been used to transport weapons.  This constituted a violation of every treaty meant to protect children in conflict.  It was immoral and illegal.

Hundreds of Israeli children had been killed and wounded, he added.  This was not just incidental; they had been the intended targets of violence.  Although the suffering of every child was tragic and regrettable, there was a distinction to be made.  Most Palestinian children had been hurt during their direct involvement in acts of violence, while Israeli children were the intended and preferred victim of the perpetrator.

Ms. BARGHOUTI, Observer for Palestine, said that the Israeli representative’s statement was racist and, moreover, it was not accurate but full of lies.  Her delegation regretted the death or injury of any child.  She reminded the Assembly that 2,000 Palestinians had been killed since September 2000, one-third of whom had been children and most of whom had either died in their homes or in school.  Only a few had died where violence was taking place.  Furthermore, there had been more than 35,000 Palestinians injured, one third of whom had been children.

The Palestinian Authority did not exploit children, nor educate them to hate, she added.  The children had seen the destruction, the demolition of their houses, the killings of their parents and the closures.  That was how they had learned to oppose the occupation.  They had not seen one day of normal life during the 35 years of occupation, nor had they enjoyed the rights provided by the Universal Declaration.  The Palestinians loved life and their children as much as anyone else, she concluded, but the end of the occupation was the only way that the two peoples could live in peace.

* *** *
For information media - not an official record