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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
General Assembly
15 December 2010


General Assembly
GA/11038

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

Sixty-fifth General Assembly
Plenary
66th & 67th Meetings (AM & PM)


SURGE IN DEMAND FOR H UMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE IN HIGH-RISK ENVIRONMENTS INFORMS
GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE ON STRENGTHENING UN DISASTER RELIEF ASSISTANCE

Assembly Adopts Resolutions on Haiti, Humanitarian Personnel Safety,
 Assistance to Palestinian People, Minimizing Effects of Chernobyl Disaster

The surge in demand for humanitarian assistance in often high-risk environments — geared to support the growing numbers affected by the increase in frequency, scale and scope of emergencies — required effective, sustained and well-financed intervention by the international community, said delegates today during the General Assembly’s annual wide-ranging debate on strengthening the United Nations coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

The meeting culminated in the consensus adoption of six draft resolutions spanning a broad agenda, from enhancing the safety and security of humanitarian personnel to enhancing assistance to the Palestinian people, to the international response to the massive earthquake in Haiti and the Chernobyl disaster.

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Under an item on special economic assistance to individual countries or regions, the Assembly moved a consensus text reaffirming the international community’s commitment to support and assist the Palestinian people.  By that resolution, the Assembly expressed its grave concern at the difficult living conditions and humanitarian situation affecting the Palestinian people, in particular women and children, throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.  It also called on the international donor community to expedite the delivery of pledged assistance to the Palestinian people to meet their urgent needs.

The representative of Belgium, who introduced the draft resolution on behalf of the European Union, said that sustained international donor support was essential for Palestinian State-building efforts, to strengthen the Palestinian economy and to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.  His delegation reiterated its call for the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid and other resources into the occupied Gaza Strip.

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Background

The General Assembly met this morning to discuss strengthening the effective coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including economic assistance.

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Also before the Assembly was the report of the Secretary General on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/65/77), covering activities from May 2009 to April 2010.  The report describes efforts made by the United Nations agencies, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, donors and civil society, to support the Palestinian population and institutions.  The Palestinian Authority issued its governmental programme outlining a forward-looking agenda, including security and institutional reforms, to further strengthen the institutions of a Palestinian State.  To that end, the United Nations reoriented its work to support the Palestinian State-building efforts as a critical complement to the continued response to humanitarian needs. 

The report also states that the overall socio-economic and political situation remained challenging, despite notable economic growth in the West Bank prompted by Palestinian efforts and Israel’s easing of closures.  Intensive efforts by the international community, however, did not result in the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or Palestinian unity.  The political, administrative and economic rift deepened between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and popular protests took place in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on a number of occasions.  Donors disbursed approximately $1.35 billion to finance the recurrent budget of the Palestinian Authority. 

Citing other developments, the report notes that in November 2009, the Government of Israel announced a 10-month moratorium on the construction of the West Bank settlements, excluding East Jerusalem, which the report says fell short of Israel’s road map obligations to freeze all settlement activity.  In Gaza, the continued closure had contributed to a “de-development” process and the erosion of the private sector.  Key elements of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) remained unfulfilled, in particular, a durable and sustainable ceasefire.  Further, despite recent positive steps to allow the entry of materials for some United Nations projects, including glass, aluminium and wood, and a limited variety of goods for the private sector, Gaza’s needs remained largely unmet.

The report notes that humanitarian and development efforts were an essential component of the creation of a Palestinian State as part of a two-State solution, but were no substitute for the progress on the political track.  To that end, the United Nations would continue working towards the realization of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of Security Council resolutions, and an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the establishment of a sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian State, existing side-by-side in peace with a secure Israel.

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A draft resolution on Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/65/L.46) would have the Assembly express its grave concern at the difficult living conditions and humanitarian situation affecting the Palestinian people, in particular women and children, throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It would welcome recent steps to ease the restrictions on movement and access in the West Bank, while stressing the need for further steps to be taken in this regard.  Acknowledging the recent measures announced by Israel regarding access to the Gaza Strip, the Assembly would stress the importance of the regular opening of the crossings for the movement of persons and goods, for both humanitarian and commercial flows.

Calling on relevant organizations and agencies of the United Nations system to intensify their assistance in response to the urgent needs of the Palestinian people in accordance with priorities set forth by the Palestinian side, the Assembly would call on the international donor community to expedite the delivery of pledged assistance to the Palestinian people to meet their urgent needs and stress, in this context, the importance of ensuring free humanitarian access to the Palestinian people and the free movement of persons and goods.

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Introduction of Drafts

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PIETER VERMAERKE (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, introduced the draft resolutions on Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/65/L.31) and assistance to the Palestinian People (document A/65/L.46).  Concerning the first draft, the Union supported increased efforts to protect the safety and security of humanitarian, United Nations and related personnel.  On the second draft text, the Union reaffirmed its commitment to assisting the Palestinian people.  Sustained international donor support was essential for Palestinian State-building efforts, to strengthen the Palestinian economy and to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.  The Union commended the work of the Palestinian Authority in building the institutions of the future State of Palestine and reiterated its full support for such endeavours and the Fayyad plan.

At the same time, he said, the Union remained extremely concerned by the prevailing situation in Gaza, and he reiterated its call for the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.  It also reiterated its readiness to assist in the reconstruction and economic recovery of Gaza in close partnership with the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government.  The draft text before the Assembly today embodied the wish of the European Union and of the international community as a whole to help the Palestinian people in its State-building efforts, and urged Member States to open their markets to exports of Palestinian products on the most favourable terms.

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Statements

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RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said assistance from countries and international organizations alike had empowered Palestinians to build strong national foundations and institutions for their State.  Since the 2009 launch of his Government’s two-year plan “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State”, international assistance had focused on State-building, with much of the aid centred on helping Palestinians build functional, transparent and accountable institutions.  Despite serious difficulties on the ground, Palestinians had implemented reforms of social welfare, economic policies, governance and security.  Citing a World Bank report acknowledging that those reforms had positioned Palestinians well for independence, he noted an additional finding of the report that the Palestinian Authority would remain “donor dependent” unless obstacles to private sector development were addressed.

“The road ahead remains difficult,” he said, citing examples of escalated destruction by the occupying Power, and a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report concluding that Palestinian economic recovery would “remain elusive” under occupation.  The picture was most bleak in the Gaza Strip, where Israel’s crippling blockade had impacted all aspects of life in a “brutal form of collective punishment”, which amounted to a war crime.  Israel appeared to have made the dangerous choice of illegal settlements and entrenched occupation at the expense of peace, despite international condemnation.  Further, Israel’s illegal settlement expansion continued at an unprecedented rate, especially in and around East Jerusalem.  More than 500 checkpoints and roadblocks also impeded the movement of persons and goods in the West Bank.

Such practices had cost the Palestinian economy billions of dollars in potential income, he said, and it was unrealistic to discuss assistance without addressing the drain on international resources caused by Israeli occupation.  He wondered how much longer the international community was willing to pay for such illegal acts.  Palestinians were taking the final steps towards realizing their national goals, unwavering in their commitment to rebuild and exercise their inalienable rights.  “We will not waver in our pursuit of the two-State solution for peace and justice” on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Road Map, he said.  In those efforts, he called on States to step up their support, stressing that Palestinians neither planned nor wished for permanent dependence.

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AHMED AL-JARMAN ( United Arab Emirates) ...

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Regarding the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the Gaza Strip, the country remained committed to providing humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority until the liberation of their land from Israeli occupation, he said, adding that the international community must compel Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza.  He reaffirmed his country’s support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and urged the donor community to continue their assistance to the Palestinian people and Government.

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Action on Drafts

Speaking in explanation of position before action, Israel’s delegate said his Government would join consensus on resolution on assistance to Palestinian people (document A/65/L.46), which, in contrast with other texts, was constructive in its approach, encouraging Palestinians to develop their economic capacity.  Israel’s commitment to that objective could be seen in measures taken in the past year to improve lives in the West Bank.  In that connection, he discussed a specific bridge that had extended its hours of operation to midnight.  Such measures were showing results.  In first six months of 2010, the West Bank had registered a 9 per cent increase in real gross domestic product (GDP) growth, while Gaza had seen a 16 per cent increase.  He cited one study showing that some 50 per cent of Palestinians in the West Bank believed “things were headed in the right direction in their community”.

In Gaza, Israel had worked to improve the situation of Palestinians, he explained.  Despite continued terrorist attacks, Israel had made the decision on 17 June to liberalize “the system” and expand the inflow of materials into the area.  The number of trucks entering Gaza had increased by 92 per cent since June.  Israel also had approved 78 projects, including for schools, and on 8 December, the Israeli Cabinet took measures allowing for the expedited flow of exports from Gaza.  To be sure, Gaza was an area from which rockets were still fired at Israeli civilians and arms and munitions were stockpiled.  On the same day Israel had taken its measures, rockets and mortars were fired on Israeli towns.

Given that, any discussion of humanitarian assistance must address the issue of security, he said, which was integral to the well-being of Palestinians and Israelis alike.  Israel welcomed the text’s preambular paragraph 9 as a “modest start” in addressing security on the ground and the welfare of people in the region.  The draft resolution’s discussion of the “policy of assistance” of Gaza did not reflect Israel’s security needs; any resolution on the region should be clear on the security risk inherent to Gaza that Israel faced.  Moreover, its discussion of the humanitarian situation did not represent facts on the ground.  Significant measures taken by Israel to improve the Palestinian economy should not be dismissed.  Despite those concerns, and others, Israel had joined consensus.  With that, he called on Palestinians to return to negotiations to achieve a peace agreement, stressing that it was only through bilateral negotiations that “we can achieve the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security”.

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Also acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted the resolutions on:  safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection United Nations personnel (document A/65/L.31); strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/65/L.45); assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/65/L.46); ...

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Making a general statement, the Observer of Palestine thanked all Member States on the consensus adoption of the resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people.  The Assembly’s action came at a time when the Palestinian people were preparing for the end of illegal occupation and the beginning of the creation of an independent State of Palestine.  He called on the international community to continue its support of the Palestinian people and called on Israel to end its occupation and destruction of Palestinian livelihoods and development projects.

He said that while the Israeli delegate had tried to paint a “pretty picture” of the situation in the Occupied Territory, the reality was just the opposite.  Israel’s destructive and indiscriminate actions had crippled development and sustainable growth. Israel continued to attempt to justify its actions, which were roundly criticized as war crimes.  Israel continued to indiscriminately raze and disrupt Palestinian infrastructure, justifying its actions by saying its security was at risk.  But how could water mains and sewer lines threaten Israel?  How could roads threaten Israel?  How could such infrastructure threaten Israel “which was armed to the teeth”, he asked.  Finally, he appealed to the international community to support the Palestinian people, who were in their “home stretch towards independence”.


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For information media • not an official record

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