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

12 May 1998


An International Non-governmental Organization (NGO) Meeting on the Question of Palestine, held in Cairo from 25 to 26 April, concluded by stressing the continuing and unfulfilled responsibility of the United Nations and the international community for a just resolution of the issue, based on establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Al Quds or East Jerusalem as its capital.

The meeting, convened under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, answered a long-standing request by the international community and Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, for the holding of such an event in the Middle East region. It was attended by 73 NGOs (including 21 observers) and seven NGO coordinating committees, as well as by representatives of 35 Governments, a delegation from Palestine, three intergovernmental organizations, and seven United Nations bodies.

The central theme of the meeting was: "The question of Palestine: the international responsibility 50 years later". At the opening session, a statement was made by Sayed Abu Zied, Assistant Foreign Minister of Egypt. A message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan was delivered by Chinmaya Gharekhan, Under-Secretary-General and United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories.

The opening session was also addressed by Ibra Deguene Ka (Senegal), Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee; Mohamed M. Sobeih, Permanent Representative of Palestine to the League of Arab States; Don Betz, Chairman of the International Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (ICCP). The invited experts made presentations in two panels, which were followed by discussion.

In the first panel, entitled "The international responsibility 50 years later", speakers drew on the historical consequences of the political developments since the adoption of the partition resolution. They discussed the recent political developments in the peace process and stressed the need for international protection and support of the Palestinian people.

The speakers were Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Director of the Palestinian Society for the Study of International Affairs; Khaled Muhie Al-Dein, member of the Egyptian Parliament; Zahawa Galon, Board Member of the Israeli Meretz Party; and Ahmad Saad, Member of the Israeli Knesset.

The second panel focused more specifically on NGO issues. Under the general theme "NGO support for international efforts to promote a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine", participants discussed NGO action to apply international instruments to the question of Palestine, including the Fourth Geneva Convention; NGO campaigns against settlements; and NGO campaigns for East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Speakers on the second panel were Fiona McKay, a 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-Palestine Association and representative of the European NGO Coordinating Committee; K.M. Khan, member of the Indian Parliament and Chairman of the Asian NGO Coordinating Committee; Victor Makari, representative of the North American NGO Coordinating Committee; and Nouri Abdulrazak, Secretary-General of the Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization.

In addition to the panels, two workshops were held for NGO participants. The first focused on NGO action in support of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The second discussed cooperation with Palestinian and Israeli NGOs and the coordination of international campaigns.

Most interventions focused on the dismal state of the peace process and the serious economic situation in the Palestinian territories. They expressed frustration that the international community, including the United Nations, had not been able to bring about a just settlement of the question. A number of speakers stressed the need for the Palestinian leadership to proceed with declaring an independent Palestinian state and for NGOs to develop activities in support of such a move.

The participating NGOs adopted a Final Statement, as follows:

For information media - not an official record