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

11 July 2005

IN PARIS, 12 – 13 JULY
(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

PARIS, 9 July -- The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will convene the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Middle East Peace on 12 and 13 July 2005 at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.  The holding of this event is mandated by General Assembly resolutions 59/28 and 59/29 of 1 December 2004.

The Conference will draw on the positive results of the previous United Nations International Conferences of Civil Society and will focus on the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and support by civil society for the current peace efforts.  The Conference will provide civil society organizations from all regions of the world with an opportunity to discuss the situation on the ground, develop action-oriented proposals in support of Middle East peace, and coordinate their activities.  Invited speakers will make presentations on various aspects of the role of civil society in promoting a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.  Non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives and other participants will have an opportunity to discuss issues of particular interest to civil society organizations.  It is envisaged that a plan of action will be adopted by participants at the close of the Conference.  The working languages of the Conference will be English and French.

The opening session will be held on Tuesday, 12 July 2005, at 10 a.m. in Conference Room IV of the UNESCOBuilding.  Statements are expected to be made by:  Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General; Ravan A.G. Farhâdi, head of the delegation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; Hind Khoury, Minister of State of the Palestinian Authority; and Phyllis Bennis, Co-Chair of the International Coordinating Network for Palestine.  This will be followed by a segment in which representatives of Governments, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations bodies and agencies will be invited to make statements.  The opening session will be followed by plenary sessions during which experts will make presentations.  Each plenary will have a discussion period.  In two rounds of workshops, NGO representatives will discuss civil society actions, plans and concerns.  The official languages of the meeting will be English and French.  Documentation will be available, to the extent possible, in these two languages.

Plenary session I, “The current situation on the ground and action by civil society”, will begin in the morning of Tuesday, 12 July, at 11 a.m.  The session will look into realities facing the Palestinian people and discuss action by Palestinian NGOs and by the Israeli peace camp, as well as initiatives by international NGOs.  Speakers include Jad Isaac, Director General of Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ); Gabi Baramki, President of the Palestinian Council for Justice and Peace; Adi Dagan, Spokesperson for the Coalition of Women for Just Peace; and Achin Vanaik, Professor of International Relations and Global Politics at DelhiUniversity.

A documentary, "Rachel Corrie – An American Conscience", will be shown after the session.

Workshops devoted to strategies to consolidate and broaden constituencies, to mobilize public opinion and to engage Governments will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Conference Rooms III, VI and XI.  The resource persons will include Bernard Ravenel, Chairman of the French NGO Platform for Palestine; Ram Karthigasu, Executive Director of Peace Malaysia; Yonathan Mendel, Intervention Coordinator for Physicians for Human Rights -- Israel; and Luisa Sirvent, Secretary-General of the Spanish Federation of Associations for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights.

The second round of workshops will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 13 July, in Conference Rooms III, VI and XI and will be devoted to such themes as “European civil society in support of Middle East peace”, “Cooperation with the United Nations (General Assembly, Security Council, Committees, UNSCO, UNRWA, UNDP, OCHA, UNESCO and others)”, and “Campaigns in support of peace in the Middle East”.  The resource persons will include Pierre Galand, Belgian Senator and Chairman of the European Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (ECCP); Rema Jamous Imseis, Legal Officer in the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO); Elizabeth Sime, Country Director for CARE International; and Omar Barghouti, independent Palestinian political analyst.

Plenary session II, “Strengthening civil society initiatives”, will start at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 13 July.  During the session, experts and participants will hear the reports of the workshops, discuss establishment of a global network of national and regional movements, review civil society action in 2004 and 2005, and discuss a new plan of action.  Speakers include Pierre Galand, Belgian Senator and Chairman of the European Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (ECCP); Na’eem Jeenah, President of the Muslim Youth Movement and Spokesperson for the Palestine Solidarity Committee of South Africa; Phyllis Bennis, Political Analyst, Fellow in the Institute for Policy Studies and Co-Chair of the International Coordinating Network for Palestine; and Raji Sourani, General Director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).

The closing session of the Conference will take place on Wednesday, 13 July, at 5:30 p.m. It will adopt the plan of action.  The report of the Conference will be issued as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat.

Invitations to participate in the Conference have been sent to civil society organizations on the mailing list of the Division for Palestinian Rights.  Governments, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies have been invited to attend as observers.  The plenary sessions of the Conference will be webcast live at mms://stream.unesco.org/un-peace/livehd.wmv.  The webcast recordings will be archived for access through the Internet.

Participants are requested to register with the secretariat either at its Office or prior to entering the conference room.  Registration will be held on Monday, 11 July, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and on Tuesday, 12 July, starting at 9 a.m.  The secretariat is located in Offices A12 - A13, tel. (+33-1) 4568-5040, fax (+33-1) 4568-5372.

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For information media - not an official record