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Agenda item 95: Implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and of the twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly
The meeting was called to order at 10.20 a.m.
Agenda item 95: Implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and of the twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly (A/57/271, A/57/272; E/2002/48)
21. Mr. Gamaleldin (Egypt) said that his delegation fully supported efforts to strengthen the mandate and status of UN-Habitat. He welcomed the addition of adequate shelter to the international development agenda following the World Summit on Sustainable Development, as well as the new target on sanitation linked to the Millennium Declaration goal of halving the number of persons without access to safe drinking water by 2015.
22. His delegation attached great importance to the role of UN-Habitat in addressing the dangerous situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, where Palestinians were denied access to shelter and basic services. At the twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly, the international community had undertaken to strengthen the protection of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law, in particular the 1949 Geneva Convention. The Security Council and the General Assembly had reaffirmed the applicability of the Geneva Convention to all Arab and Palestinian territories on numerous occasions. However, Israel continued to flout international law by building illegal settlements and denying help to refugees in returning to their homes. He called on the international community to step up pressure on Israel to comply with Security Council resolutions, and to support further initiatives such as the visit undertaken by UN-Habitat to the Jenin refugee camp in May 2002. A comprehensive report should be drawn up concerning the housing situation in the occupied territories, containing recommendations for action by UN-Habitat.
23. He particularly welcomed the efforts of UN-Habitat with regard to institutional capacity-building for developing countries and enhancing the productivity of urban informal sectors. It needed to strengthen its relationship with international and regional development banks, and to foster new partnerships for implementing the Habitat Agenda. It was important for the World Urban Forum and Advisory Committee of Local Authorities to retain an advisory function, and not to affect the intergovernmental guidance provided by the Governing Council and Committee of Permanent Representatives.
27. Mr. Al-Shamsi (United Arab Emirates) said that about 100 million people lacked the basic requirements in terms of adequate shelter, and health, social and educational services; millions of other people were homeless. That increased the urgency of speeding up the implementation of the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, the Habitat II Agenda and the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium. It was also essential for the donor and developed countries to fulfil their commitments towards the developing countries, particularly the least developed.
29. While the United Nations was striving to improve the living conditions of millions of people in the developing countries, the international community witnessed the killing and destruction perpetrated against the Palestinian people and their cities and villages by the Israeli forces. Israel was continuing to demolish houses, hospitals, schools, places of worship and farms as part of a deliberate plan to destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian cities and villages and the cultural and religious heritage of such cities as Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Ramallah. The continued aggression by Israel was a gross violation of the provisions of the fourth Geneva Convention and of the principles and purposes of the United Nations, which implied the development of cities and human settlements and the improvement of the living conditions of their inhabitants.
30. His delegation therefore called on the international community and the Security Council to exert pressure on Israel to cease its aggressive acts against the Palestinian people and to put an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. He also requested that the sanctions imposed on Iraq be lifted as soon as possible in order to give that country the opportunity to begin the rehabilitation and improvement of its economy and of the living conditions of its people.
31. His Government was providing financial, and humanitarian aid to many poor countries for the building of homes, hospitals, schools and mosques. It had also undertaken to reconstruct the Jenin refugee camp in Palestine, which had been destroyed by the Israeli forces. The most recent government project was the construction of a residential city in the Gaza Strip which would be provided with all basic facilities and infrastructure with the aim of easing the suffering of the Palestinian people.
65. Mr. Nakkari (Syrian Arab Republic) said that the activities of UN-Habitat were important and could not be separated from the activities of other United Nations agencies, funds and programmes. The transformation of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements into the United Nations Human Settlements Programme would encourage its integration at decision-making level with those agencies, funds and programmes, but the problem of funding remained, particularly for regional offices, and new ways of supporting the Programme were needed.
66. As the ILO representative had emphasized, improving living and health conditions in pursuit of the Millennium development goals was vital, but there were other challenges to be addressed, including poverty and underdevelopment. Planning and implementation should be methodical.
67. Among the additional issues to be considered was the demolition by the Israeli authorities of homes and a range of facilities including hospitals in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, such as the Golan Heights, in breach of many resolutions and conventions, including the fourth Geneva Convention (Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war), particularly articles 56 to 58. The matter was not a new one, but it was of direct concern to the General Assembly. The crimes in question should be brought to the attention of the international community. It was more important to end the premeditated destruction and deliberate impoverishment ofthe Palestinian people than to take remedial action afterwards. The Programme had a mandate to examine colonization, so advantage could perhaps be taken of the presence of its representative to hear what attention had been devoted to the matter.
68. In the same vein, the change to the mandate of the Programme had not yet been adopted, but the Syrian Arab Republic wished to draw attention to the need to make the position on tenure legal and proper, so that programmes did not violate international law.
69. The Chairman indicated that the representative of Israel had asked to reply to certain statements. Under rule 115 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly,the number of statements in exercise of the right of reply was restricted to two per item, with the first statement not exceeding five minutes, and the second not exceeding three minutes.
70. Mr. Nadai (Israel) said that his statement would be briefer than the rules allowed. He wished to exercise his delegation’s right of reply to the statements by the delegations of the United Arab Emirates and the Syrian Arab Republic. In the last year, the Palestinian campaignof terrorism against the citizens of Israel, begun in September 2000, had continued and even escalated. The Palestinian decision to engage in terrorism had harmed the economic, security and living conditions of all the peoples of the region, as terrorism was by its nature indiscriminate. The security measures which Israel had been obliged to implement in the face of an unrelenting threat of attack had indeed in some cases affected the daily lives of the Palestinians, but those measures were a consequence, rather than a cause, of the situation in the region. The predicament of the Palestinian people was the inevitable result of a conscious decision to forgo negotiations in favour of violence and terrorism. Israel hoped that those who truly cared about the plight of the Palestinians would refrain from using the issue as a political platform for attacking Israel.
71. Mr. Nakkari (Syrian Arab Republic), exercising his delegation’s right of reply to the statement of the representative of Israel, said that in the interests of the Committee he could not refrain from commenting on the lies and allegations it had heard. In his view, nobody believed them, and the international community was well aware of the barbarous and inhumane practices being perpetrated, the latest example of which had been the massacre in Jenin. That showed disregard not just for the Palestinians, but for all the peoples of the world. That flagrant act had been added to the blockade and the attacks against thousands of people and Christian and Muslim holy places. His delegation could not accept the justification offered for those acts, which were violations of the fourth Geneva Convention. The international community had condemned the long-standing Israeli occupation. An Israeli rabbi had even declared a fatwa, exhorting Israelis to steal olives in Palestinian territories. The approach was that the end justified the means.
72. The Chairman announced that the Committee had concluded the general debate on the item under consideration.
The meeting rose at 12.55 p.m.
This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.