Question of Palestine home
14 November 2005
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Sixtieth General Assembly
Meetings (AM & PM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALLS FOR FURTHER STRENGTHENING UNITED NATIONS
HUMANITARIAN CAPACITY TO ASSIST MILLIONS OF DISASTER VICTIMS WORLDWIDE
The General Assembly met today to consider strengthening the coordination of United Nations emergency humanitarian assistance; managing the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster; and assistance to the Palestinian people. It was also expected to consider a draft resolution with regard to the global agenda for dialogue among civilizations.
Among the documents before the Assembly was the report of the Secretary-General on
safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel
), which outlines the threats against the safety of relief workers over the past year, and is the first such report under the auspices of the newly-established Department of Safety and Security. It notes that throughout the year, United Nations personnel deployed globally in a broad range of field operations continued to be subjected to threats such as hostage-taking, physical assault, robbery, theft, harassment and detention.
There were three incidents of hostage-taking and 17 kidnappings, as well as four cases of rape and six assaults against United Nations personnel during the reporting period. A total of 119 incidents of armed robbery involving significant United Nations assets were reported, as well as nine attacks, resulting in the death or injury of the Organization’s personnel, on humanitarian convoys and operations. Noting that overall, the year had been one of “great risk” for international relief workers, the report notes specific and “unrelenting” danger in Iraq, as well as in the Sudan’s western Darfur region, among others.
The report observes that there continues to be deep concern about the ongoing difficulties encountered in a few countries in obtaining permission to import communications equipment, as well as long-standing cases of unwillingness by some host Governments to provide timely information in the event of arrest or detention of locally recruited United Nations personnel. Very few countries have fully investigated attacks or threats against local or international relief workers. According to the report, while much can and will be done by the United Nations to train and equip its staff to operate safely in difficult places, the culture of accountability engendered by Member States, local authorities and leaders at all levels remain the surest means of enabling the Organization’s staff to safely meet the needs of the world.
Also before the Assembly is the Secretary-General’s report on
assistance to the Palestinian people
), which notes that despite ongoing violence in the Middle East region, the year under review was marked by the announcement of Israel’s disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, successful Palestinian elections, and cautious efforts towards resumption of the peace process by both Israelis and Palestinians. It also notes that internal and external closures and other measures by the Israeli military, though eased somewhat towards the end of the period, nevertheless continued to create economic hardships for Palestinians and to restrict the delivery of necessary emergency supplies.
According to the report, while the humanitarian situation required that such supplies and assistance remain a priority throughout the year, United Nations agencies took steps to assist the Palestinian Authority to refocus on longer-term planning and improved governance at both the central and municipal levels. The humanitarian community will need to address a wide variety of needs in 2005 and 2006, and it will, therefore, be vital for the United Nations, donors and others to continue to provide the necessary resources for assistance to programmes for the Palestinian people.
The report also observes that the parties themselves must make every effort to facilitate the work of United Nations agencies and partners in the donor and aid communities. The Secretary-General especially calls on the Israeli Government to ease restrictions and work closely with the United Nations and other humanitarian and relief agencies to ensure that aid and development projects are delivered in a timely and comprehensive manner.
JAN ELIASSON (
He said that the complexity of today’s crises and the growing magnitude of disasters required that humanitarian assistance remain one of the highest United Nations priorities. The Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit reiterated the importance of the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. It further reinforced the need for safe and unhindered access by humanitarian actors to populations in need. It also called for strengthening the capacity to prepare for and respond to disasters and for improving the use of emergency standby capacities for rapid response to humanitarian emergencies. In addition, it called for better predictability of humanitarian funding, notably by improving the current Central Emergency Revolving Fund. The proposed improved Fund, which would include a grant element, aimed to promote early response, as well as to strengthen the core elements of humanitarian response in underfunded crises.
He said the debate was based on several reports from the Secretary-General, including ones on the Chernobyl disaster and on humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people. Three draft resolutions had also been submitted for action on the South Asian earthquake, on Chernobyl, and the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. Behind the issues of today’s discussions were hundreds of thousands of human beings in grave need and mortal danger. “Our solidarity with them must be unwavering.”
HAMIDON ALI (
) took up the question of assistance to the Palestinian people by calling on Israel to ease its obstruction of Palestinian economic recovery, to provide unfettered access to United Nations staff members and to comply with the advisory opinion rendered by the International Court of Justice concerning the separation wall. He welcomed the coordination efforts undertaken by the various actors providing assistance to the Palestinian people, including the launch of a new media-related inter-agency coordination mechanism to draw attention to the humanitarian situation in the region and to the United Nations presence there.
He said the Israeli disengagement from Gaza was a positive move that could lead to peace and stability, as well as contribute to economic improvement. Both Israel and the Palestinians must establish and maintain close coordination within the context of the Road Map. Peace would not come without good faith and political will on the part of both parties and the international community.
ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI (
United Arab Emirates
Turning his focus to the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories, he said that even after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, conditions for Palestinians had worsened due to the continued control of the borders and trade points by Israeli forces. International humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians in the occupied territories, according to international reports, was not sufficient for alleviating their suffering. Donor countries and international financial institutions needed to provide the necessary assistance to the Palestinian people.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Observer of
, said international assistance had been the lifeline for the Palestinian people over the past decades of occupation and deprivation since 1967, when the Palestinian economy became hostage to the occupying Power and had been forbidden to reach its potential. The past five years had seen a downward spiral in the Israeli attitude towards international assistance efforts, going from obstruction to destruction, by systematically destroying hosts of internationally-funded infrastructure projects such as ports, roads and water networks. Conservative estimates put the cost of the Israeli campaign at $4.5 billion between 1994 and 1999, plus $6.4 billion in lost potential income. Concurrent with that destruction, collective punishment measures against the Palestinian people were worsening an already dire situation.
As the Secretary-General’s latest report showed, he continued, 700 roadblocks and checkpoints had severely restricted movement of persons and goods. Land and property had been destroyed when in the way of expanding illegal settlements. The wall, which the International Court of Justice had declared illegal in its 2004 advisory opinion, had caused untold damage to the Palestinian economy. As the Quartet’s Special Envoy for Disengagement had said in a situation letter, it was as if the occupying Power was loath to relinquish control, as if there had been no withdrawal.
The Palestinian Authority had formulated a Medium-Term Development Plan, and he called on the international community to endorse it with funding of the projects in order to optimize Palestinian ownership quickly. Also, pledges should be backed by delivery of funding and pressure should be brought upon Israel to end its occupation.
Right of Reply
Ms. ORON (
) said the situation in her region had changed in the past year since leaders on both sides had come to an agreement, and Israel had taken bold steps earlier this year to carry out its commitments. What had not changed was the unwillingness of the Palestinian authorities to attack the infrastructure responsible for thousands of terrorist attacks against Israel. Furthermore, there was no doubt the targets were children and other vulnerable persons. Neither side had a monopoly on suffering. Therefore, Palestine should refrain from unhelpful rhetoric. Israel would speak further when the appropriate resolution came up for debate.
AMMAR HIJAZI, observer for
, said Israel’s recent actions in Gaza came 30 years too late and fell far short of what was needed. Gaza had been left in ruins and was still effectively under Israel military control. Over 4,000 Palestinians had died in the past two years, many of them children. The situation could change only when Israel’s occupation, and the suffering of the Palestinian people, came to an end.
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For information media • not an official record