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


GA/PAL/777
17 April 1998

NGO MEETING ON PALESTINE QUESTION, SEMINAR ON ASSISTANCE
TO PALESTINIAN PEOPLE, TO BE HELD IN CAIRO

Non-Governmental Organizations to Meet From 25-26 April;
Assistance Seminar, 27-28 April


A two-day International Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) meeting on the Question of Palestine will be held on Saturday and Sunday, 25 and 26 April, at the El Gezirah Sheraton Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. It will be followed immediately by a Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, on 27 and 28 April.

Both events are being convened under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and in accordance with General Assembly resolutions 52/49 and 52/50 of 9 December 1997, which asked the Committee to continue to extend its cooperation to NGOs in heightening awareness of the question of Palestine and to promote support and assistance to the Palestinian people. The languages of both meetings will be Arabic, English, and French.

International NGO Meeting

The Committee considers that NGOs can make an important contribution in support of the efforts of the international community at this particularly difficult stage of the peace process. Accordingly, the theme chosen for the meeting is "The question of Palestine: the international responsibility 50 years later". The programme has been structured to provide NGOs with needed information and to facilitate their elaboration of action plans.

The meeting will be opened in the conference room of the El Gezirah Sheraton Hotel in Cairo at 10 a.m. on Saturday, 25 April, by the Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee, Ibra Deguene Ka (Senegal). Statements will also be made on behalf of the host country and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as well as by an Observer for Palestine and by the Chairman of the International Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine.

The first panel, to be held at 11 a.m., 25 April, is entitled, "The international responsibility 50 years later". It will address the historical consequences of the political developments since the adoption of the partition resolution, recent political developments in the peace process, and the need for international protection and support for the Palestinian people. Speakers on that panel include Khaled Muhie Al-Dein, of the Egyptian Parliament; Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, Jerusalem (PASSIA); and Rawya Shawwa, of the Palestinian Council.

Saturday afternoon will be devoted to NGO workshops to assess the status of the implementation of the NGO plan of action adopted in Geneva in 1997 and to decide on the next steps. Workshop I will focus on NGO action in support of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. It will be followed by Workshop II, on NGO support for Palestine refugees, including support for and coordination with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Resource persons for the two workshops are Allam Jarrar, Vice-President of the Palestinian Council for Justice and Peace, and Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Director of PASSIA.

The second panel, to be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, 26 April, has as its theme "NGO support for international efforts to promote a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine". It will address more specifically NGO action relating to the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international instruments, NGO campaigns against settlements, and NGO campaigns for East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. The following representatives of NGOs and regional coordinating committees for NGOs will review past and current NGO activities and analyse possibilities for intensified NGO action: Fiona McKay, Lawyer with Redress, a London-based NGO; Gabi Baramki, First Vice-President of the Palestinian Council for Justice and Peace; Pierre Galand, Secretary-General of the Belgo-Palestinian Association, representing the European Coordinating Committee; K.M. Khan, Chairman of the Asian Coordinating Committee; Victor Makari, Coordinator of the Middle East/Southern Asia Office of the Presbyterian Church, United States, representing the North American Coordinating Committee; and Mourad Ghaleb, Chairman of the African Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine.

From 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, 26 April, Workshop III will discuss NGO support for the Palestinian people and cooperation with Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, as well as NGO action on the national and international levels and the coordination of international campaigns.

The International NGO Meeting is scheduled to close at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

It is expected that approximately 200 participants and observers, including Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, will attend the meeting. Invitations to attend the meeting have been extended to all NGOs accredited to the Palestinian Rights Committee and to other NGOs interested in the issue. All Governments, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations family organizations have been invited to attend as observers. The report of the NGO meeting will be issued in due course as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights.

Seminar on Assistance to Palestinian People

The Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian people is being held on the theme, "Facing the challenges of the year 2000: Promoting Palestinian national development". It is being convened by the Palestinian Rights Committee in accordance with the Committee's mandate to promote international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people during the transitional period.

The Seminar, to be held on 27 and 28 April at the El Gezirah Sheraton Hotel in Cairo, aims to build on the seminars on economic and social issues held under the Committee's auspices during the past five years. The Committee has been greatly concerned at the growing hardships and hopelessness of the Palestinian people living in the occupied territories. It believes that efforts to achieve a political settlement will succeed only if they are accompanied by policies designed to promote improved living conditions, as well as economic cooperation and development.

The opening session of the Seminar will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday, 27 April, in the conference room of the El Gezirah Sheraton Hotel. Statements will be made on behalf of the host country, as well as by the representative of the Secretary-General, the Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee and the Observer for Palestine.

A plenary session will follow on the topic, "Planning Palestinian national development: challenges and prospects". The keynote speaker for the session will be Nabil Shaath, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of the Palestinian Authority. Statements will also be made by representatives of donor countries, regional organizations, United Nations bodies and agencies involved in programmes promoting Palestinian national development, other intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations active in the field.

The participants will subsequently meet in three round tables. Round table I, beginning at 3 p.m. on Monday, 27 April, will consider the Palestinian development plan. Participants will focus on the goals, strategies and priorities of national development, as well as on economic indicators and social conditions. Speakers will include Ali Shaath, Assistant Deputy Minister for Planning and International Cooperation of the Palestinian Authority; Jonathan S. Paris, Fellow, United States/Middle East Project, Council on Foreign Relations, New York; Samir Huleileh, Head of Nassar Investments Company, Jerusalem; and Salem Ajluni, Head of the Economic Monitoring Unit in the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, Gaza.

The second round table, to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 28 April, is entitled "Gathering information for future planning: the results of the Palestinian census". The issues to be discussed are "The Palestinian people: structure, trends, historical perspective", "The Palestinian labour force: characteristics, skills, trends, potential" and "The situation of women". Speakers are Hassan Abu Libdeh, President of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics of the Palestinian Authority; and Marwan Khawaja, of the Department of Sociology, Birzeit University.

Round table III, entitled "Overcoming obstacles: the role of the international community", will begin at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. It will discuss obstacles and challenges, efforts by the Palestinian Authority, the role of Governments and intergovernmental organizations, experience of United Nations programmes and agencies, and actions by NGOs. The speakers are Chinmaya Gharekhan, United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories; Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Director of PASSIA; Simcha Bahiri, Co-Chairman of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, Tel Aviv; and Joseph G. Bock, Country Representative of the Catholic Relief Services, Jerusalem.

The Seminar is scheduled to close at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

It is expected that the report of the Seminar will be conveyed by the Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee to the President of the Economic and Social Council for circulation at the next regular session of the Council, and to the President of the General Assembly for circulation at its fifty-third session. It is also envisaged that the report will be issued as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights.

Invitations to attend the Seminar have been sent to all Governments and to a number of intergovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies and organizations, and the NGOs active in the field. A delegation of the Palestinian Rights Committee will also be present.

Registration for NGO Meeting, Seminar

Registration for all participants, observers and media representatives wishing to attend the International NGO Meeting and/or the Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People will be held from Wednesday, 22 April, to Friday, 24 April, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Conference secretariat on the first floor of the El Gezirah Sheraton. The Secretariat will issue badges necessary to enter the premises. All participants, observers and media representatives based in Cairo are kindly requested to avail themselves of the advance registration. Registration will also be possible in the foyer to the conference room from 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, 25 April and during regular meeting hours.


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For information media - not an official record