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59th plenary meeting
Monday, 7 December 2009, 10 a.m.
The meeting was called to order at 10.20 a.m.
Agenda items 70 and 71
Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance
(b) Assistance to the Palestinian people
Report of the Secretary-General (A/64/78)
The President : I now give the floor to the representative of Sweden to introduce draft resolution A/64/L.33.
Mr. Örnéus (Sweden): I have the honour to deliver in one sequence three different statements, so I ask members to please bear with me and be patient.
On behalf of the European Union (EU) and the sponsors, I have the pleasure of introducing two draft resolutions: A/64/L.33, entitled “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel”, and A/64/L.35, entitled “Assistance to the Palestinian People”. I will begin by introducing the former.
Let me now turn to draft resolution A/64/L.35, entitled, “Assistance to the Palestinian people”, under agenda item 70 (b). The draft resolution has been shared with Member States and will be considered on Friday, 11 December. As in previous years, we expect the draft resolution to be adopted by consensus.
The European Union reaffirms its commitment to providing assistance to the Palestinian people. The sustained support from the donors of the international community is essential in order to support State-building efforts, to strengthen the Palestinian economy and to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.
The EU stands ready to further develop and enhance its bilateral relations with the Palestinian Authority. The European Union will promote Palestinian State-building and intensify work in partnership with the Palestinian Authority towards further implementation of the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan. That will involve a broad range of areas, including health, education, governance, customs, public financial management and the rule of law.
The European Union fully supports the Palestinian Authority’s Government Plan entitled “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State” and will work for enhanced international support for that plan.
The European Union welcomes the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to develop an effective and reformed security sector and will cooperate with the Palestinian Authority towards additional improvement in restoring law and order, countering terrorism, implementing a more comprehensive security strategy, and developing an effective and reformed security sector and criminal justice system. Civil police and justice will continue to be a focus of EU support through the assistance provided by EUPOL COPPS — the European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories — the European Commission and member States, and in close coordination with the United States and other partners.
The EU remains gravely concerned at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and calls for the immediate and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid in accordance with international humanitarian law, and of commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza. Reconstruction and economic recovery have to be allowed and the current humanitarian crisis must be solved.
Let me reaffirm the European Union’s gratitude to and solidarity with humanitarian actors whose safe, unhindered and timely access to civilian populations, in particular in times of armed conflict, is a fundamental condition for the fulfilment of their mandates and mission. We applaud the work of humanitarian personnel on the ground and call on all actors to respect the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.
The European Union welcomes Israel’s steps to ease restrictions of movement in the West Bank, which have made a contribution to economic growth. We look forward to further and sustained improvements of movement and access, noting that many checkpoints and roadblocks remain in place.
We call on all partners to contribute actively to the achievement of a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The European Union urges Arab countries and other partners to be forthcoming, both politically and financially, in assisting the Palestinian Authority, in accordance with Road Map provisions.
A comprehensive settlement requires a regional approach covering the political, security and economic dimensions. Encouraged by enhanced United States engagement and convinced that tangible benefits regarding economic development and security would facilitate achieving agreement on the various political tracks, the European Union stands ready to use all instruments at its disposal, such as the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Union for the Mediterranean. Through numerous agreements with partners in the region, the European Union is uniquely placed to work with the parties on key issues of regional development.
In the light of further developments at the political level and on the ground, the European Union will carefully assess how its policies and programmes can promote concrete and early results on the path towards a comprehensive settlement of the conflict.
I would like to express our gratitude to the delegations that have thus far requested to be included in the list of sponsors of this draft resolution. We would also like to thank the Palestinian and Israeli delegations for their cooperation during the negotiations.
The Acting President: I call on the observer of Palestine.
Mr. Mansour (Palestine): For decades, international assistance to the Palestinian people has been indispensable and has been one of the main factors of Palestinians’ perseverance in their struggle to end Israel’s oppressive military occupation, which has dragged them deeper into poverty and dependence on aid. That assistance has been the only source of survival and sustenance for thousands of Palestinian families through endless periods of instability, crisis and uncertainty, and has helped alleviate their hardships and suffering.
The Palestinian people and their leadership are deeply grateful for that invaluable assistance. But today, as we convene to discuss this matter, we believe it is imperative to ask important questions. How much have we helped this assistance reach its full potential? How much sabotage to its sustained assistance efforts has the international community endured? How many more internationally funded projects and efforts are we willing to allow the occupying Power to undermine and decimate as it continues to pursue its illegal policies and practices, deepening the humanitarian crisis and thus forcing the diversion of assistance from development and State-building to relief and crisis management? How much longer will the international community be willing to pay for the illegal actions of the occupying Power by alleviating the consequences of those actions rather than bringing them to an end?
The Israeli figures on the humanitarian and economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, are astounding and tragic. In fact, all recent reports have documented the enormous burden that international agencies are carrying in trying to address the continually emerging needs of the Palestinian civilian population and to alleviate the entrenched crisis. That is because Israel’s illegal actions and measures have turned back the clock on Palestinian development. So, despite the Palestinian people’s desire to pursue development with a view to the birth of their future State, Israeli policies and practices have continued to mire a sizeable portion of the Palestinian civilian population in abject poverty.
The latest report by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) sums up the bleak situation as follows:
The recent report on assistance to Palestinians by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) concludes that
Instead, in addition to its illegal blockade, Israel launched a brutal military aggression against the population that has wreaked death, destruction and possibly permanent damage on the environment there. The onslaught left Gaza’s infrastructure and electricity, sewage and water systems utterly devastated. It destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and economic, agricultural and business properties, including food production facilities and other industries, as well as hundreds of public institutions, including hospitals, schools and even United Nations facilities aiding the population. The efforts to repair the destroyed homes, infrastructure and institutions have been totally obstructed by the Israelis’ continued intransigence.
Israel’s blockade has also severely restricted and reduced the amount and quality of goods allowed into Gaza and has completely prevented all exports from Gaza. That has put Gaza’s once-thriving agricultural exports at the top of its most endangered economic sectors. And the noose Israel is tying around Gaza’s socio-economic life is only getting tighter. Most industries and economic sectors are on the verge of collapse, forcing the vast majority of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip into utter dependence on international aid.
And as if siege, death and destruction were not enough, the occupying Power also obstructs relief and assistance. International donors pledged $5.2 billion in aid to war-torn Gaza at a conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in March, but these funds have yet to reach Gaza for its reconstruction. Israel continues to brazenly defy Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) and General Assembly resolution ES-10/18, which call for the immediate opening of Gaza’s border crossings.
As for the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel continues to flagrantly breach international law and the United Nations resolutions that call on the occupying Power to cease its illegal settlement activities, confiscation of Palestinian land and collective punishment of the civilian population. Israel continues to pursue those illegal policies and practices by continuing to construct and expand its illegal settlements at an unprecedented rate, especially in and around occupied East Jerusalem, as well as ordering the demolition of the homes of thousands of Palestinians in the city. That is in addition to the ongoing illegal construction of the wall, which is severely obstructing Palestinians’ access to jobs, schools, agricultural land and health care and is causing grave damage to their socio-economic life.
That colonial regime is guarded and maintained by a multilayered matrix of roadblocks and movement restrictions, with more than 550 checkpoints and roadblocks firmly in place.
That is why, despite the Palestinian Authority’s remarkable achievements in law enforcement, financial transparency and development efforts, socio-economic indicators have continued to show significant decline. In five years the Palestinian economy has lost $8.4 billion in potential income — twice the value of the Palestinian economy today. That should alarm all, as the loss of that potential income, combined with the losses incurred by the destruction or sabotage of internationally funded projects and efforts, shows the grave trap Palestinian development efforts and international assistance have fallen into.
Over the past few years, international aid to the Palestinian people has increased significantly. Yet this increase has had little effect on the grim reality on the ground because of the incessant military aggression, siege, and colonial expansion that Israel continues to inflict on the population. That is an unacceptable trend that the international community must seriously address and bring to a halt. In order for international assistance to the Palestinian people to achieve its intended results, the international community should focus on helping the Palestinian Authority to implement its State programme. Funding is crucial, but it is not enough. There must be serious efforts and action to remove the tremendous obstacles Israel is placing on the ground to undermine the programme. Without that, international assistance and the crucial role it plays will end up only covering the cost of the Israeli occupation rather than achieving development and building the institutions of the independent Palestinian State, which is the only guarantee of peace in the Middle East.
On 25 August 2009, the Palestinian Authority, headed by Dr. Salam Fayyad, presented a programme entitled “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State”, which envisions the establishment of an independent State within two years. The donor group for the Palestinian Authority — the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for the Coordination of International Assistance to Palestinians, or AHLC — welcomed that programme, which has received wide international support.
We thus reiterate our call on all United Nations Member States to join us in our efforts to build our independent State, to establish justice and peace in our homeland and to uphold the principles that this Assembly stands for. This is undoubtedly a test of our resilience as an oppressed people and equally a test of international credibility. Indeed, the international community must shoulder its moral and legal responsibilities by compelling the occupying Power to cease its violations and put an end to its crippling siege of all of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.
The cause of the utter destitution Palestinians now suffer is known to all of us. It is the 42-year Israeli military occupation. Thus, as numerous international organizations agree, full economic recovery and rehabilitation in the occupied Palestinian territory, which are the goals driving international assistance, will be possible only when that occupation ends.
The Palestinian people will not allow Israel’s insistence on pursuit of hegemony, colonization, wall construction, wanton violence and destruction and discrimination to stand in their way. They will continue to rebuild that which the occupation destroys, to preserve the life and society the occupation attempts to shatter and to replant what the occupation razes and uproots. Our commitment to exercise our inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and full sovereignty over our natural resources is unwavering. Our empowerment to establish a sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, is the only option, the only way to achieve peace in the region.
Our goal is to stand before the Assembly, soon, to announce that through sovereignty we have overcome dependence, and that any international assistance we might seek would be to complete our recovery from the occupation, rather than to continue coping with its devastation. But to do that, we need the assistance of the international community, to protect its investment in peace. Make sure that it is not in vain.
Mr. Al-Barout (United Arab Emirates) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
The United Arab Emirates attaches special importance to providing support and assistance for the Palestinian people and their Government in their humanitarian plight resulting from Israel’s occupation of their lands. We have translated our political and moral solidarity with the Palestinian people into ongoing financial and economic support, which includes emergency humanitarian relief and long-term development and technical assistance amounting to more than $3 billion. In March 2009 we pledged $174 million in Sharm el-Sheikh for the reconstruction of Gaza.
In that regard, we urge the international community to compel Israel, the occupying Power, to immediately lift its blockade on the Palestinian people in order to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to them; comply with international law and resolutions, the principles of international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention; end its occupation of Arab territories; and resume peace negotiations on the basis of the relevant international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. Furthermore, we urge donor countries to continue their assistance to the Palestinian people and Government to help them meet their daily requirements until the end of the Israeli occupation of their land and the establishment of an independent State, Palestine, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
Until a final solution is reached, we reaffirm our support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and emphasize the vitality of its role. We demand that its personnel and assistance be able to reach Palestinian refugees in all areas of its operations. We stress the need to provide adequate financial support for the agency to allow it to fulfil its commitments to all refugees. We have doubled our annual contribution to UNRWA in order to help it discharge its responsibilities towards Palestinian refugees.
The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room U-506. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.