Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · Geneva


20 August 1997



A four-day symposium on the question of Palestine will be held from 25 to 28 August at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The meeting, 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 51/23 and 51/24 of 4 December 1996, will be chaired by representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Assembly resolutions asked the Committee to continue to extend its cooperation to NGOs in heightening awareness of the question of Palestine and promoting support and assistance to the Palestinian people. The languages of the meeting will be Arabic, English, French and Spanish.

The Palestine Rights Committee considers that NGOs can make an important contribution in support of the efforts of the international community at this stage of the peace process. Accordingly, the theme chosen for the symposium is, "Ending 30 years of occupation -- the role of NGOs". The programme has been structured to provide NGOs with needed information and to facilitate their elaboration of action plans.

The meeting will be opened on Monday, 25 August by the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Ibra Deguène Ka (Senegal). There will be statements on behalf of Secretary- General Kofi Annan, and on behalf of Palestine. The chairmen of the international and the European coordinating committees for NGOs on the question of Palestine will also speak at the opening session.

The first plenary session, on Monday afternoon, will provide briefings on various aspects of the situation with regard to the peace process, the conditions on the ground, and the possibilities for further action by the United Nations and other international forums, in particular the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. The speakers at that meeting will be Saeb Erakat, Minister of Local Government of the Palestinian Authority and head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and Lynn Welchman of the London-based Centre for Human Rights Enforcement.

The next morning (Tuesday, 26 August) will begin with a briefing on current Palestinian needs and perspectives and proceed to a review of past and current NGO activities, and to an analysis of possibilities for intensified NGO action on the question of Palestine in different regions. Gabi Baramki, First Vice-President of the Palestinian Council for Peace and Justice will address the need for coordinated international campaigns in support of Palestinian rights. The following representatives of NGO regional coordinating committees will also speak: K.M. Khan (Asia); Sébastien Carliez, Chairman of the French NGO Platform for Palestine (Europe); Ahmad Saad, from the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Israel); José Elias (Latin America and Caribbean); and David Graybeal (North America). There will also be statements from Kathy Bergen of the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia and Allam Jarrar, Member of the International Coordinating Committee and Vice-President of the Palestinian Council for Peace and Justice.

The remainder of the meeting will be devoted to NGO workshops on technical and substantive aspects, with a view to adopting concrete proposals for action. The technical workshops are intended to provide NGOs with information for future action, giving participants the opportunity to discuss existing and prospective campaigns against settlements, for East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state and, for refugee rights and family reunification, as well as campaigns on economic and social issues.

About 200 participants and observers will attend the meeting. Representatives of mass media organizations wishing to be accredited for the meetings should contact the United Nations Information Office in Geneva at (41-22) 917 2302. (Those holding valid media passes for the United Nations Office in Geneva do not need additional accreditation.)

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