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20 April 2000

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PALESTINE REFUGEES
UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, 26 and 27 April 2000




The United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in cooperation with the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States, will convene the International Conference on Palestine Refugees. The Conference will be held at the Headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in Paris, on 26 and 27 April 2000.

The purpose of the Conference is to discuss the present situation of Palestine refugees, examine the role of the United Nations in finding a just solution to the refugee issue, provide an in-depth analysis of the question of Palestine refugee in the context of the current Middle East peace process, and promote a concerted political and other action in support of a lasting solution to the Palestine refugee problem in accordance with international legitimacy, as a prerequisite for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

The opening session of the Conference will take place on Wednesday, 26 April 2000, at 10.00 a.m., in Conference Room 4 of the UNESCO Conference Building. The Conference will be opened by Mr. Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The opening session will also be addressed by H. E. Mr. Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; H. E. Dr. Azeddine Laraki, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; H. E. Mr. Said Kamal, Under-Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs of the League of Arab States, on behalf of H. E. Dr. Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; Mr. Ahmed Sayyad, Assistant Director-General and representative of the Director-General of UNESCO; H. E. Mr. As’ad Abdul Rahman, Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Head of the Refugees Department; and representatives of Governments, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations bodies and agencies.

Plenary I, entitled “Palestine refugees – the longest-running humanitarian problem in today’s world,” will begin in the afternoon of Wednesday, 26 April. The speakers will discuss the origins of the Palestine refugee question; socio-economic problems facing the refugee communities; and the demographic distribution of Palestine refugees. Speakers in this session include Mr. Atif Kubursi, Professor of Economics, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario; Mr. Don Peretz, Professor Emeritus at Binghamton University in New York; Mr. Mustapha Djemali, Director of the Regional Bureau of Central Asia, South-West Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at Geneva; and Ms. Susan Akram, Associate Professor at Boston University School of Law.


On Thursday, 27 April, Plenary II will be devoted to the theme entitled “ The United Nations and Palestine refugees.” Presentations will focus on the rights of Palestine refugees in international law and the role of the United Nations as a guarantor of international legitimacy; efforts of the United Nations at resolving the refugee issue; the work of UNCCP; the role of UNRWA in providing relief, social services and development assistance to Palestine refugees; and the rights of the Palestinian displaced as a result of the June 1967 hostilities. Speakers include H. E. Dr. Hussein Hassouna, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States to the United Nations; Mr. Lionel Brisson, Director of Operations, representing Mr. Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA; Ms. Laura Reanda, former United Nations official and consultant, New York; Ms. Donna Arzt, Professor of Law, Syracuse University in New York; Mr. Yossi Katz, Member of Knesset (Labour), Tel Aviv; and Mr. Terry Rempel, Coordinator of research, BADIL, Resource Center for Palestine Residency and Refugee Rights in Jerusalem.

Plenary III, on Thursday afternoon, 27 April, is entitled “Palestine refugees and the current Middle East peace process.” It will discuss such issues as the settlement of the refugee problem – a prerequisite for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East; the Palestine refugee issue in the permanent status negotiations; the refugee issue in the multilateral negotiations; and Palestinians displaced in 1967 and the work of the Continuing Committee. Speakers include H. E. Mr. As’ad Abdul Rahman, Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Head of the Refugees Department; H. E. Mr. Osama El-Baz, Political Adviser to the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt; Mrs. Karin Roxman, Political Adviser to the Special Envoy of the European Union to the Middle East Peace Process; H. E. Mr. Andrew Robinson, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada; Mr. Alexandre Zassypkin, Head of the Middle East Peace Process Desk, Middle East and North Africa Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; Mr. Henry Siegman, Director of the United States/Middle East Project of the Council for Foreign Relations, New York; and Mr. Salman Abu-Sitta, researcher and former member of the Palestine National Council, Kuwait.

It is envisaged that the main points of the Conference proceedings will be summarized by the Organizers in a brief final document, which will be read out at the closing of the Conference. The closing session of the Conference will take place on Thursday, 27 April, at 5.00 p.m.

A report of the proceedings of the Conference will be issued in due course as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat.

Invitations to attend the Conference have been sent to all United Nations Member and Observer States, United Nations agencies, bodies and programmes, as well as interested intergovernmental organizations. Non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and a number of NGOs interested in the subject have been invited to attend the Meeting as well.

The Conference will be followed, on 28 April, by the United Nations NGO Meeting on Palestine Refugees, organized under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The official languages of the Conference and the NGO Meeting will be Arabic, English and French.

Registration for the Conference will begin on Tuesday, 25 April, from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., at a registration desk in the foyer of the UNESCO main building. On 26 April, registration will start at 8.30 a.m. All participants, observers and media representatives are kindly requested to avail themselves of the advance registration during these hours in order to receive the necessary badges to enter to premises. From Friday, 21 April, the Conference Secretariat will be operating at Rooms A-12 and A-13 of the UNESCO building.


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