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

5 June 1998


NEW YORK, 5 June (Division for Palestinian Rights) -- A three-day North American Non-governmental Organization Symposium on the Question of Palestine will be held from Monday, 15 June to Wednesday, 17 June, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Under General Assembly resolutions 52/49 and 52/50 of 9 December 1997, the Assembly asked the Committee to continue to extend its cooperation to NGOs in their contribution to heightening awareness of the facts relating to the question of Palestine and promoting support and assistance to meet the needs of the Palestinian people, and to take the necessary steps to involve additional NGOs in its work. The Assembly also authorized a continued programme of symposiums and meetings for NGOs under the auspices of the Committee. The languages of the meeting will be Arabic, English, French, and Spanish.

The Palestinian Rights Committee considers that NGOs can make an important contribution in support of the efforts of the international community at this particularly difficult stage of the peace process. Accordingly, the theme chosen for the meeting is "50 years of dispossession of the Palestinian people", and the programme has been structured to provide NGOs with needed information and to facilitate their elaboration of action plans.

The meeting will be opened at Conference Room 4 at 10 a.m. on Monday, 15 June, by the Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee, Ibra Deguène Ka, (Senegal). Other statements will be made by M. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine, and by David Graybeal, Chairman of the North American Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine.

The opening session will be followed by the first plenary, entitled "Memory: Remembering the Palestinian History". It will discuss the historical consequences of the political developments since the adoption of the partition resolution, memory and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and "implementing the right of self-determination: the peace process and the Palestinian state". Speakers at this plenary will include Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Professor of Political Science at Birzeit University; Don Peretz, Professor Emeritus at Binghamton University in New York; Randa Farah, Centre d'études et de recherches sur le Moyen Orient contemporain at Amman; and Marc Ellis, Research Fellow at Harvard University.

The afternoon session, to be held from 3 to 6 p.m., will be devoted to three NGO workshops to be held concurrently, to assess the status of the implementation of last year's recommendation for action and to decide on the next steps. The workshops will focus on the NGO campaign for East Jerusalem, the NGO campaign for Palestine refugees, and the effects of the closure on the occupied Palestinian territory. Resource persons for the three workshops include: Robert Assaly, representative of the American Committee on Jerusalem; Najat Khalil, Arab Women's Council; and Amira Hass, correspondent of the Ha'aretz newspaper.

The second plenary, to be held on Tuesday, 16 June, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., has as its theme "Conscience: Strategies for contesting the future". It will discuss upholding international legitimacy, the need for international protection and support of the Palestinian people, and mobilizing public opinion. The speakers include: Khader Shkirat, General Director, Law-The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights; Ruhama Marton, Chairperson, Physicians for Human Rights; Michael Lynk, Labour Lawyer and Professor of Law, University of Toronto; and Amira Hass, correspondent of the Ha'aretz newspaper.

In the afternoon, three more NGO workshops will be held concurrently. The workshops will discuss NGO campaigns against settlements, mobilizing North American public opinion, and NGO support for respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention with regard to the question of Palestine. Resource persons for the three workshops include: Kathy Bergen, American Friends Service Committee; Larry Ekin, Pax World Service: Phyllis Bennis, journalist; Corinne Whitlach, Churches for Middle East Peace; John Sigler, United Nations Association in Canada; and Neil Hicks, Lawyers for Human Rights.

The third plenary, to be held on Wednesday, 17 June, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., which has as its theme "From Memory to Conscience", will focus on the conclusions to be drawn for NGO work in North America and will include the speakers of the two previous plenaries. Action proposals from the workshops will be presented to the plenary. The closing session for the Symposium is to be held from 12:30 to 1 p.m.

It is expected that approximately 150 to 200 participants and observers will attend the meeting. Invitation to attend the Symposium have been extended to all NGOs accredited to the Palestinian Rights Committee and other NGOs interested in the issue. All Governments, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations family organizations have been invited to attend as observers. The report of the NGO meeting will be issued in due course as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights.

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