Question of Palestine home
13 November 2006
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Sixty-first General Assembly
Meetings (AM & PM)
COMMON EFFORTS TO STRENGTHEN COLLECTIVE HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE CAPACITY SHOULD SEEK
TO ALLEVIATE SUFFERING, IMPROVE SURVIVAL CHANCES, SAYS GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
Assembly Also Considers Strategies to Forestall Disasters, Boost Response;
Assistance to Palestinian People; Three Texts on Regional Cooperation Adopted
In the ongoing search to boost the collective humanitarian response capacity by preventing complex crises or mitigating their effects and, when necessary, rapidly and effectively providing humanitarian assistance to the affected populations, the international community must not fail those who depended on the United Nations as their final hope, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain said today.
“Our common efforts to strengthen the coordination of the humanitarian and emergency response system of the United Nations should aim to alleviate suffering and improve chances of survival in times of emergency,” Sheikha Haya said, opening the Assembly’s joint debate on the matter, which also touched on coordinating economic assistance during complex humanitarian emergencies and conflict, as well as providing assistance to the Palestinian people.
When the Assembly also took up the Secretary-General’s report on assistance to the Palestinian people, the Permanent Observer of Palestine said that by combining its aggression with economic siege, Israel had succeeded in neutralizing the positive outcome of international assistance to the Palestinian people over the past six years. Assistance had been geared towards emergency humanitarian assistance, rather than towards sustainable development, which did not build towards a bright future. A large number of Palestinians now lived under the poverty line of less than $2.10 per day. The poverty level over the past year had risen by 30 per cent to a “shocking 75 per cent”.
He emphasized that international assistance to the Palestinian people was the lifeline by which a viable Palestinian State could live side by side with Israel. The destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, public buildings and other economically vital institutions amounted to war crimes and must be halted. The occupying Power must not be allowed to sabotage generous international contributions through collective punishment, denial of rights and destruction of chances for a viable Palestinian State, he declared.
The General Assembly met today to consider the question of cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations, along with the question of strengthening coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief activities.
A report on
assistance to the Palestinian People
) covers the period from May 2005 to April 2006. In it, the Secretary-General outlines major developments, including the implementation of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank, the attainment of an Agreement on Movement and Access only partly implemented, ongoing violence, continuation of a tight closure policy by Israeli authorities, the incapacitation of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and legislative elections both in Israel, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Israeli election led to the formation of a coalition Government led by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the Secretary-General continues. The Palestinian elections were won by the Hamas “Change and Reform” list of candidates. Following that victory, many donors reviewed their assistance to the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government withheld payment of taxes and duties collected on behalf of the Authority. The result is an acute fiscal crisis, exacerbating an already precarious economic and social situation. Setting aside medium and longer-term planning, the United Nations agencies and programmes made emergency assistance the priority.
The report then describes actions taken to support the Palestinian civilian population by United Nations agencies in cooperation with Palestinian and donor counterparts. These actions are focused on the areas of human and social development, governance and institutional support, development of the private sector, emergency assistance and coordination of assistance. Donor response was in the form of emergency budget and fiscal support, as well as support for the Task Force on Palestinian Reform.
Identifying challenges, the Secretary-General says the overall situation during the period was characterized by uncertainty and failed expectations. Despite an apparent stabilization of the economy and growth in private sector activities after 2003, all Palestinians did not benefit comprehensively or equitably. The donor community is searching for ways to maintain vital support for the people, while pressing the Authority to accede to the three Quartet principles of recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence and acknowledging previous agreements. Operationally, closures and security restrictions continue to constrain implementation of programmes and agencies need to adopt a more robust common approach to access.
Finally, the Secretary-General observes that the period under review was one of rapid change in the Territory. Significant financial support would be required to avoid further degradation in the quality of life there. Despite significantly scaled down planning time frames, the United Nations system remained fully committed to assisting the Palestinians. It was critical for agencies to quickly address needs through established mechanisms, such as the consolidated appeals process, while continuing to pursue the broader aim of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and the establishment of a sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace with a secure Israel.
ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI (
United Arab Emirates
Turning to the issue of the Palestinian people, he said his country attached great importance to support and assistance for the Palestinian people and Government to alleviate their suffering during the humanitarian crisis created by the brutal assault by the Israeli occupying forces. The United Arab Emirates was deeply concerned by the aggravated humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory resulting from the economic, political and military blockades imposed by the Israeli occupying forces. He called upon the United Nations, especially the Security Council, to undertake its responsibility for protecting the Palestinian people and compel Israel to stop its aggression, lift its blockade of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and halt construction of the illegal expansionist wall. He also emphasized the need for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to keep providing services to refugees in all regions of its operations, and for the international community to maintain financial support of its activities.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of
to the United Nations, said the international community was committed to support the political efforts of the Palestinian people by building an economically viable Palestinian entity but the commitment and the resulting accomplishments were constantly confronted by the crushing arm of the Israeli occupation, which had decimated achievements. With its illegal policies, military aggression and severe economic siege, Israel had ensured that the Palestinian economy was destroyed and that the people were transformed from a young and productive society into a crippled and starved one.
Every destruction of an internationally funded project meant that important and scarce resources had to be diverted towards reconstruction, he emphasized. But that was only half the story because it did not expose the wider picture or uncover the comprehensive effect of those devastating acts of aggression. By combining that aggression with the economic siege, Israel had succeeded in neutralizing the positive outcome of international assistance to the Palestinian people over the past six years. Assistance had been geared towards emergency humanitarian assistance, rather than towards sustainable development, which did not build towards a bright future. A large number of Palestinians now lived under the poverty line of less than $2.10 per day. The poverty level over the past year had risen by 30 per cent to a “shocking 75 per cent”.
That had been the consequence on the ground, of the new mechanism for international assistance designed by the Quartet in response to the new Palestinian Government, he said. Essentially, that had been the result of an international boycott of the Palestinian Authority and it had been absolutely paralyzing. Israel had compounded that boycott by withholding $60 million per month, which was owed to the Authority in collected taxes. The boycott was effectively a collective punishment against the Palestinian people since even the stable Palestinian public servants were not bankrupt. Israel repeatedly used the guise of “self-defence” and “security needs” to justify its unrelenting violations of law, its military aggression and siege on the Territory. But self-defence and security needs should never be acceptable excuses for gross violations of human rights.
Concluding, he said that international assistance to the Palestinian people was the lifeline by which a viable Palestinian State could live side by side with Israel. The destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, public buildings and other economically vital institutions amounted to war crimes and must be halted. The occupying Power must not be allowed to sabotage generous international contributions through collective punishment, denial of rights and destruction of chances for a viable Palestinian State.
FAHAD R. BOURESLY (
He cited two priority areas related to humanitarian crises, which should be addressed urgently. One was the development of early warning systems on a regional basis. The other was the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The staggering poverty and the 23 per cent unemployment rate there amounted to crises. Direct assistance was provided to the Authority through UNRWA, but that was not enough, he stressed.
MAGED ABDEL AZIZ (
He said that recent events had underscored the urgent need to provide assistance to the Palestinian people, according to General Assembly resolution 60/126. He urged effective implementation of the Secretary-General’s recommendation for broad international financial assistance, in order to avoid greater deterioration in the quality of life inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the further decline of the Palestinian economy. The role of UNRWA should be supported and Israel had to respect the “Cross Passage Agreement” to open up all means for the Palestinian people to interact with the outer world and receive humanitarian assistance. The Secretary-General’s report concluded with some observations, but without presenting a future course for addressing the issues. Egypt believed the Secretariat should effectively rectify that in its future reports on the topic.
REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (
On the issue of the suffering of the Palestinian people, he urged the international donor community to continue its generous support. It was imperative that the international community rededicate itself to peace in the Middle East and to the creation of a viable and sovereign Palestinian State.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (
) said his country was increasingly involved in delivery of humanitarian assistance. It had donated food, medicines, blankets, shelter and other forms of assistance to victims of the tsunami and South Asia earthquake and floods in Guyana, Ecuador and Suriname. Resources had also been pledged for the reconstruction of Lebanon and the Occupied Territories.
ROBERT SHAFER, Permanent Observer of the
Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta
... Finally, he said the Order was committed to assisting the Palestinian people. It had run the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem-Palestine for 16 years and more than 36,000 healthy children had been born there.
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For information media • not an official record