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UNITED
NATIONS
A

        General Assembly
Distr.
GENERAL
A/63/15 (Part IV)
24 October 2008

Original: English

Sixty-third session

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* The present document is an advance version of the report of the Trade and Development Board on its fifty-fifth session, held at the United Nations Office at Geneva from 15 to 26 September 2008. It will appear in final form, together with the reports of the forty-third executive session, the twenty-fourth special session and the forty-fourth executive session of the Board, as Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-third Session, Supplement No. 15 (A/63/15).




Introduction

The fifty-fifth session of the Trade and Development Board was held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, from 15 to 26 September 2008. In the course of the session, the Board held 11 plenary meetings, the 1019th to the 1029th. I. Action by the Trade and Development Board on substantive items on its agenda /... D. Other action taken by the Board

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Report on UNCTAD’s assistance to the Palestinian people

Also at its 1028th plenary meeting, the Board took note of the report by the UNCTAD secretariat (TD/B/55/2) and decided, in accordance with General Assembly decision 47/445, that the report of the Board on its fifty-fifth session to the General Assembly would include an account of the deliberations under this item (see chap. II, sect. K, below).

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II. President’s summary1

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K. Report on UNCTAD’s assistance to the Palestinian people

92. All speakers expressed appreciation for UNCTAD’s technical assistance to the Palestinian people, and the majority of them shared the assessment contained in the report (TD/B/55/2) of recent economic development in the occupied Palestinian territory. Delegates noted the disturbing indicators that showed deep and long-lasting economic regression in the territory. They were alarmed by the cycle of “de-development”, the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and productive capacity, the lack of food security, the Palestinian economy’s increased dependence on Israel, and the mutually reinforcing mechanisms that held back Palestinian economic recovery. Many speakers pointed out that the situation was the result of Israeli occupation practices, including the closure policy and mobility restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza and the construction of the separation barrier. Speakers expressed alarm at the distressful situation created by the isolation of Gaza, where the number of industrial establishments in operation had fallen by 95 per cent, two thirds of the population lived in absolute poverty and 80 per cent in relative poverty, and a third of the labour force was unemployed.

93. One delegate said that the report failed to mention that the root cause of the economic anomalies in the occupied Palestinian territory was the Israeli occupation, which denied the Palestinian private sector the freedom to create and innovate and threatened its very survival. A number of speakers were of the view that economic development could not be achieved under occupation.

94. Several delegates considered that living in poverty and isolation in the occupied Palestinian territory was tantamount to being kept in an open prison, and saw the economic strategy directed against the Palestinian people that led to that situation as a serious violation of international humanitarian law. Attention was drawn to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, in which the court concluded that the construction of the separation barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory was a serious violation of a number of Israel’s international obligations.

95. One delegate questioned how the report would contribute to the UNCTAD XII mandate, with its focus on Africa, and how half a day of debate on the Palestinian issue would contribute to the development needs of Africa or those of the Palestinian people. Instead of offering constructive advice, funds or creative solutions for revitalizing the programme of assistance to the Palestinian people, speakers were using inflammatory language to hijack the Trade and Development Board for a narrow political debate, while the report before the Board failed even to acknowledge the difficult security situation faced by Israel.

96. Most delegates agreed that correcting occupation-related economic distortions, rebuilding productive capacity and increasing donor support, while necessary, would not be sufficient to put the Palestinian economy on a path towards sustainable development. One delegate called for the current Palestinian economic policy framework — the Paris Protocol — to be reconsidered, to allow for expanded policy space as a step towards the establishment of a sovereign, contiguous, viable Palestinian State. Without self-determination for the Palestinian people, and the right to freely determine their own economic, social and cultural choices, economic policy was useless even in the short run.

97. For most delegates, empowering the Palestinian Authority with more policy space and the tools of fiscal, monetary, trade and exchange rate policies was essential to reviving the Palestinian economy and putting it on the path towards sustainable growth. Without such tools, foreign aid and international cooperation alone would not be able to bring about economic growth and development.

98. While a number of delegates welcomed the idea of considering a Palestinian national currency to enable economic policymaking, others did not, though for different reasons. One view was that the impoverished fiscal position of the Palestinian Authority would not support a national currency, while the other was that the adoption of a Palestinian currency made no sense in the context of the customs arrangements with Israel, under which the Palestinian economy benefited from the appreciation of the new Israeli sheqel. It was pointed out that expanded policy space with political stability would accelerate growth and reduce unemployment, and that all policy options, including the eventual introduction of a national currency, should be considered when the moment and conditions were favourable.

99. Many delegates called for greater and more predictable foreign aid for the Palestinian people, with no conditions attached, to allow the Palestinian Authority to play a greater role in aid allocation. Without foreign aid, the crisis would have taken an even greater toll. Some delegates believed that the closure policy and the destruction of the Palestinian productive base reduced the efficacy of foreign aid. A number of delegates drew attention to international efforts to support the Palestinian people, including efforts to strengthen Palestinian institutions, the convening of international conferences, a focus on well-targeted, human-centric capacity-building initiatives and efforts to increase Palestinian exports.

100. Many delegates commended UNCTAD for the achievements of its technical cooperation operations in extremely difficult field conditions, for its work to modernize Palestinian customs under the Asycuda programme, and for its engagement with the private sector, which had led to the establishment of the Palestinian Shippers Council. Nevertheless, delegates expressed concern about the lack of extrabudgetary resources, which left a number of important secretariat activities unfunded. Delegates called for the strengthening of UNCTAD’s programme of assistance to the Palestinian people with adequate resources and related operational activities, as called for in paragraph 44 of the Accra Accord.

101. Most delegates stressed the need to achieve a just and lasting peace in line with all relevant United Nations resolutions related to the question of Palestine. One delegate noted that violence had never solved any problems, and that stability in the Middle East was vital to world peace. It was emphasized that all parties must work diligently towards the establishment of a Palestinian State as envisioned by the international community.


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1 Electronic versions of statements by delegates are available on the UNCTAD website in the form and language in which they are received. Audio files (floor/English) of general statements and statements made at the high-level segment, among others, are also available on the website. To find the speeches and audio files, go to www.unctad.org/meetings, select the intergovernmental body and session, and click on Programme.


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