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


Economic and Social Council
2004 Substantive Session
37th & 38th Meetings (AM & PM)
ECOSOC/6129
14 July 2004


HELP BUILD LOCAL, NATIONAL ANTI-DISASTER CAPACITIES, EMERGENCY
RELIEF COORDINATOR URGES HUMANITARIAN COMMUNITY

Need to Enable Crisis-Affected Countries Highlighted
As Economic and Social Council Concludes Humanitarian Segment


Having successfully developed fast, sophisticated international relief networks, the humanitarian community must now help build local and national capacities to prevent and mitigate future humanitarian crises, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland stressed today.

As the Economic and Social Council concluded its humanitarian segment, Mr. Egeland, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, summed up the main concern voiced by Member States over the past few days:  the need to enable countries affected by crises to coordinate effective emergency relief responses, for which they bore primary responsibility.

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Background

The 2004 substantive session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) convened today to continue its consideration of special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.  For more background information, see Press Release ECOSOC/6127 of 12 July.

Statements

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KHALED ABDEL RAHMAN SHAMAA (Egypt), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, ...

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Referring to the principles governing humanitarian assistance, he stressed that sovereignty must be taken into account.  Humanitarian activities must not be hindered by political activities, as that would give a false impression and could endanger humanitarian staff.  Egypt urged the international community to intervene clearly in the Palestinian crisis caused by the Israeli occupation, which had resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians and the destruction of buildings and infrastructure.  Sanctions and blockades also impeded access for humanitarian assistance.

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Right of Reply

MOSHE SERMONETA (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, expressed surprise at allegations by a certain delegate against his country, given the fact that the delegate’s country was involved in putting the Middle East peace process back on track.  It was difficult to understand how such language could contribute to that process.

Regarding the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the region, he said that violence and terror, by their very nature, entailed hardships for the civilian population.  Ending the suffering and providing security for all people in the region was a critical component of any peace process.  Israel had made efforts to facilitate humanitarian assistance despite the threat of terror.  During 2003, there had even been an increase in the movement of humanitarian assistance from Israel to the Palestinian territories.

He said the delegate had failed to make even a token reference to the campaign of terrorism against innocent civilians.  Efforts continued to improve the situation, but it was far easier to facilitate humanitarian aid without the terror.  Palestinian terrorists had consistently exploited any easing of measures against terrorism, using the immunity granted to medical personnel to smuggle weapons.  The intentions of the international community should not be devoted solely to easing the situation of the Palestinian population, but also that of Israelis suffering from terror.

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