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Source: International Labour Office (ILO)
10 June 1999

Discussion of the Report of the Director-General on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories

10th june 1999


ABOU RIZK Elias, Mr., Workers' delegate (Lebanon)
AHMED Khurshid, Mr., Workers' delegate (Pakistan)
ALFARARGI Saad, Mr., Representative (League of Arab States)
BENYDIN Toolsyraj, Mr., Representative (World Confederation of Labour)
BOUZIA Mohamed, Mr., Workers' adviser delegate (Morocco)
BUVERUD PEDERSEN Evy, Ms., Workers' delegate (Norway)
DAHLAN Abdullah S., Mr., Employers' delegate (Saudi Arabia)
DJEMAM Hacene, Mr., Representative (International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions)
DJOJOSUMARTO Margono, Mr., Employers' adviser and substitute delegate (Indonesia)
EL-NATSHEH Rafiq, Mr., Representative (Palestine)
ELAMAWY Ahmed Ahmed, Mr., Minister of Manpower and Emigration (Egypt)
ELDIN Abd El rahman Nour, Mr., State Minister of Manpower (Sudan)
FREEMAN Bennett, Mr., Government delegate (United States)
GUIDER Ibrahim, Mr., Representative (Arab Labour Organization)
JORDAN Bill, Mr., Representative (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions)
KANAYEV Georguy, Mr., Representative (General Confederation of Trade Unions)
KARA Yousef, Mr., Workers' delegate (Israel)
KHALIL Ali, Mr., Minister of Social Affairs and Labour (Syrian Arab Republic)
LI Donglin, Mr., Government adviser and substitute delegate (China)
MOUSSA Michel, Mr., Minister of Labour (Lebanon)
NAJAFI-MANESH Mohammad Reza, Mr., Employers' adviser and substitute delegate (Islamic Republic of Iran)
PITYANA S., Mr., Government delegate (South Africa)
RINGKAMP Werner, Mr., Government adviser and substitute delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union (Germany)
SA'ADATI Pirooz, Mr., Government adviser and substitute delegate (Islamic Republic of Iran)
SAHBANI Ismaïl, Mr., Workers' delegate (Tunisia)
SAVAHEDI Ghadir, Mr., Workers' adviser delegate (Islamic Republic of Iran)
SCHLETTWEIN Carl-Hermann G., Mr., Government delegate (Namibia)
SKOGMO Bjorn, Mr., Government adviser and substitute delegate (Norway)
SUNMONU Hassan A., Mr., Representative (Organization of African Trade Union Unity)
TABANI M. Ashraf W., Mr., Employers' delegate (Pakistan)
THÜSING Rolf, Mr., Employers' delegate (Germany)
VERONESE Alphonse, Mr., Workers' adviser delegate (France)
WIRAJUDA N. Hassan, Mr., Government adviser and substitute delegate (Indonesia)
XIA Xiaomei, Ms., Workers' adviser and substitute delegate (China)
ZELLHOEFER Jerald A., Mr., Workers' delegate (United States)
ZHARIKOV Alexander, Mr., Representative (World Federation of Trade Unions)

M. ABOU RIZK Elias, Workers' delegate

Lebanon

- Twenty-five years after the adoption of the first resolution of the International Labour Conference concerning the situation of Arab workers in the occupied Arab territories, the situation has not changed. Their distress has not changed, and the picture is still the same. Occupation still prevails 25 years later. In fact, their misery has increased 25 years later, and the occupation has grown. Underhandedness, coercion, destruction and exploitation have all taken on new, very different aspects.
Twenty-five years later, neither the United Nations nor the ILO has been in a position to adopt measures compelling Israel to renounce its policy of occupation and aggression - measures to compel Israel to respect international law and to guarantee a worthy life to human beings, to respect the most elementary rules of labour law.
Twenty-five years later, their situation has indeed worsened; and so has their suffering. The occupation has only been extended further to other Arab territories - in military uniforms one day, in semi-civilian clothing another. It takes many names: occupation, colonization, the acquisition of houses through corruption or by force, expropriations, the need for security and so on. The Israeli enemy has extended its attack to southern Lebanon, and is attempting to prevent us from cooperating with our brother country, the Syrian Arab Republic. It is making the workers of the region pay a very high price - the price of occupation and destruction. However, they are continuing the struggle and valiantly resisting the occupation.
Twenty-five years later, they continue to struggle to obtain the implementation of the first resolution of the ILO, for the adoption of measures to force Israel to withdraw from all the occupied Arab territories, and to have it respect the law of nations and to put an end to the sufferings in the region and in southern Lebanon.

Mr. AHMED Khurshid, Workers' delegate

Pakistan

- On behalf of the Workers' delegation of Pakistan, I take this opportunity to convey sincere thanks to the members of the Governing Body for placing this item on the agenda and also to the Director-General for making a comprehensive report and sending out a mission by the ILO staff.
The report and the Appendix once again demonstrate the plight of Palestinian workers. Their authority reports that there is unemployment from 15 to 17.3 per cent. The wages compared with last year have reduced by 7.3 per cent in terms of US dollars, and social security, despite being contributed, is still not operative.
Imports from Israel are far bigger than exports from the Palestine area by almost 1.2 billion; and paragraph 27 states that $2.5 billion assistance lent to the Palestine development authority could not be fully utilized due to the security measures preventing movement of workers and goods, restrictions imposed by Israel.
The Palestinian workers are foreigners in their own lands. As pointed out, they are subject to unemployment, while paragraph 40 states that almost in the same territories, 400,000 foreign workers are employed. In these circumstances, we appreciate the role of the technical assistance of the ILO and fully support paragraphs 57 and 62, and would ask the Director-General to expand vocational education, training and assistance, as well as help the Palestinian authorities in coordination in the field of employment, social, labour and economic policy formulation and promotion of other institutional frameworks.
We ask that the illegal settlement being imposed on Arab lands and upon Palestinian people be condemned, and ask the Israeli authorities to honour the United Nations resolution and end the discrimination. We support the right to self-determination of the people of Palestine, to live in dignity, and hope that the peaceful effort being carried out by the people of Palestine for their just rights will ultimately be achieved with the right of self-determination.

M. ALFARARGI Saad, Representative

League of Arab States

- We have been presented with the Director-General's report concerning the Arab workers in the occupied Arab territories in Palestine. We would like to thank the Director-General for having continued to apply the resolutions concerned. However, we would like to draw attention to the following points.
First of all, when the mission visited the occupied Arab territories and when it met the occupation authorities, it overlooked the resolution of the Conference passed in 1981, requesting the Israeli authorities to withdraw from Palestine and the Syrian Golan Heights, as the Israeli occupation is illegitimate and unlawful. The report thus does not refer to the settlements and the policy of establishing settlements, which is so harmful to the economic and social rights of the Palestinians within the occupied Arab territories. Despite several signs of the harmful effects of such settlements, mention has already also been made of plans for new settlements around Jerusalem.
This report therefore did not refer to the true reasons behind the situation of Arab workers in the occupied Arab territories.
There is also the problem of wage discrimination and discrimination in working conditions, as well as the mistreatment of Arab workers at crossing points and when they go to and from work.
Thirdly, we should also speak about the occupied Syrian Golan. This area is under the mandate of the ILO mission according to the 1980 resolution. But the report does not refer to what is going on there, despite the unlawful practices being carried out there and despite the violations perpetrated by the Israeli occupation authorities.
Fourthly, we note that the report did not mention the harmful and destructive effects of the Israeli policy on the Palestinian economy, and the closing off of the Palestinian territories under false security pretenses.
Fifthly, we hope that the next report will refer to the degree to which the Israeli authorities are complying with international resolutions and will inform us about concrete measures taken to improve the situation of the Arab workers in the occupied Arab territories, in particular, since the occupation runs counter to all international resolutions, to international law, to international legitimacy, to the Covenants and the Declaration of Human Rights.
In the future, a special committee should be set up to study this question rather than dedicating a special sitting, which has very limited effect.

M. BENYDIN Toolsyraj, Representative

World Confederation of Labour

- The World Confederation of Labour (WCL) would like to thank you for this opportunity to make a short statement on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories.
Since its creation, the World Confederation of Labour has always upheld the right to the self-determination of peoples, a right which is universally recognized, above all in international covenants on cultural, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
The changes that have recently taken place in Israel with the election of a new Prime Minister will surely open up new possibilities for peace proposals and for the recognition of a Palestinian State, as well as the implementation of the Wye Agreement on the continuation of an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, negotiated and concluded with the Palestinians at the end of last year. We are convinced that the peace agreements will contribute to strengthening security in the Middle East.
Following testimony gathered by a recent ILO mission which went to Israel and the occupied Arab territories, the Director-General's report mentions difficulties facing Palestinians working in Israel. The Palestinian trade unions underscored a lack of clarity, particularly with respect to the minimum wage that Palestinians should be receiving. They also mentioned problems of failure to pay wages and occupational accidents, particularly in the industrial zones.
Moreover, the Labour Minister of the Palestinian Authority declared that closure of the occupied territories complicates the situation of Palestinians working in Israel. They are faced with a whole series of different types of difficulties: discrimination, violence and a constant threat of job loss. A number of people have even mentioned that administrative procedures slow the development of commercial and industrial activities and also have very serious negative effects on the Palestinian economy.
The closure of the borders between Israel and Palestine has also contributed to an increase in unemployment and has had an increasing impact on child labour, to the detriment of education. In Gaza, for example, hundreds of students have been unable to study at university and many have been prevented from attending educational establishments in the West Bank.
The massive waves of immigration have considerably reduced available employment for Palestinians. They have been forced to accept lower wages and difficult working conditions, forcing them to arrive on the Israeli labour market at 5 a.m. and to return home late in the evening. The World Confederation of Labour is launching an appeal to the Israeli Government to provide better working conditions for Palestinians and to address the increasing problem of unemployment. It is inconceivable that Palestinians, despite their low wages, are still forced to pay the same taxes and also encounter difficulties in obtaining tax reductions. Moreover, we hope that the social security contributions imposed on Palestinian workers who work in Israel will in future allow them to benefit from social security benefits because at present they have no right to receive such benefits as these are linked to residence.
We also hope for other improvements through the adoption, in the near future, of a Labour Code to guarantee better provisions in the area of occupational safety and health.
It is regrettable to see that after five years of the peace process Israel continues to control 40 per cent of the land in the Gaza Strip and 90 per cent of the land in the West Bank. As a result, the economic and social rights of Palestinians are impaired and this is detrimental to all parts of the Palestinian population, in particular the most vulnerable groups of society.
As a result, the World Confederation of Labour renews its demand for the implementation of the resolutions and earnestly hopes to see a new era of justice, peace and harmony in the Middle East in order for all to be able to enjoy their rights and live stable lives in keeping with human dignity. As for working conditions, we hope that the ILO will continue to strengthen its policy of technical cooperation in the occupied territories to the benefit of social dialogue, social security protection, employment creation, tripartism and also to open the way to better industrial relations policies in order to improve the situation of the Palestinian workers and also to give them a better standard of living.
The WCL hopes that the agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian State will be concluded as quickly as possible and that a lasting peace will strengthen development and institutional support and thus benefit the economic and social rights of workers throughout the Middle East. This is our sincere aspiration as we enter the new millennium and we hope that it will actually be achieved.

M. BOUZIA Mohamed, Workers' adviser delegate

Morocco

- On behalf of the delegation and workers of Morocco I respectfully salute you all and I congratulate the President on his election and the trust placed in him through his election. We also welcome the election of Mr. Somavia and wish him every success.
We regard this special session devoted to the Palestinian question as a study of the Palestinian people who are fighting to achieve justice and freedom in their own free and independent country. We are talking about the children of the Intifada, those who threw stones, their way of fighting against the Israeli occupation. We are also talking about the demonstrations of our solidarity with the Palestinian and Arab workers in the occupied territories.
We hope that the Palestinian people will regain all their rights and we also hope that the entire Palestinian people in the occupied territories will obtain from us the condemnation of Israeli policy and our support so as to eliminate the weight that they have borne for so long, so that they can establish Jerusalem as their legitimate capital.
We welcome all the efforts made by the International Labour Organization, in particular on the subject of work in the occupied territories. We feel a need to strengthen the programme of cooperation and the interdisciplinary programme with the various participants in the occupied territories.
The ILO is founded on certain principles and has a special role. In view of this, the time has come for the ILO, which has been studying this problem for a very long time, to put an end to the economic, cultural and social blockade that unfortunately has not ended the occupation of the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip. We note, unfortunately, that the Palestinian people continue to suffer from inhuman treatment.
The description of the economic and social situation of the Palestinian workers as it appears in the Appendix to the Director-General's Report will only be words on paper if we do not do what is necessary to convince Israel to act on international resolutions and international appeals. That is why we are also sending out an appeal to all peaceful forces to intensify further their efforts to persuade Israel to proclaim peace and to grant peace in this region, to withdraw from all the occupied Arab territories and to contribute to the creation of an independent Palestinian State.
The International Labour Organization, through its experience and its noble task, founded in its objectives and principles, should set up a special commission on the situation of the workers in the occupied Arab territories similar to that for the workers under apartheid.

Ms. BUVERUD PEDERSEN Evy, Workers' delegate

Norway

- On behalf of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, I would like to thank the Director-General for continuing to follow up the situation of the Palestinian and the Arab workers in the occupied territories.
As in previous years, the report provides us with an opportunity to confront the realities in that region. It highlights many flagrant violations of human and trade union rights which still continue, despite the signing of many agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in particular the Oslo Agreement, which raised new hopes and expectations of a peaceful settlement. But we are sorry to say that the situation has got worse.
The reports from the ILO missions over the years have been objective and impartial and have significantly contributed to the presentation of rational proposals. Unfortunately, most of the mission recommendations and our appeals have not been followed and respected by the outgoing Israeli Government, which has pursued its occupation of the Palestinian and other Arab lands, thus violating international law.
What is clear from the report is that the Israeli policy and measures are the main cause of the decline of conditions in the occupied territories. The policy of closure and the lack of free movement for the Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza negatively affect the economic situation.
The outgoing Israeli Government claims that the Israeli labour market employed 100,000 Palestinian workers in 1998, while the World Bank reports that only 45,000 Palestinian workers were permitted that year, compared with 38,000 in 1997. This information, which means a continuing deterioration of Palestinian working conditions, makes us deeply disappointed.
There are serious problems related to how the phenomenon of unorganized employment has been dealt with in Israel. According to Palestinian estimations, there are between 25,000 and 30,000 Palestinian workers who work without permits inside Israel, most of them come from the West Bank towns and refugee camps. Another 8,000-11,000 workers work in the industrial zones in the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. The organized employment phenomenon is another expression of violation of basic human rights and of economic exploitation.
We call upon Histadrut and the PGFTU to cooperate in order to overcome and to control this inhuman phenomenon. There is also discrimination in wages between Israeli and Palestinian workers employed in the same type of work.
The Israeli Government has moreover stipulated the minimum daily wage for workers at 96 Israeli shekels. However, the majority of the Israeli employers do not respect this and pay between 50 and 80 shekels. We urge the Israeli authorities to revise these policies which have led to economic exploitation in the Palestinian areas.
The Palestinian trade unionists are still suffering under the lack of freedom of movement. They are unable to perform their legitimate work as trade union representatives.
In addition to this, the outgoing Israeli Government has kept on confiscating land, building and expanding Israeli settlements, demolishing houses, both in East Jerusalem and in other Palestinian areas.
All these hostile and inhuman measures can only be interpreted as a lack of will on the part of the outgoing Israeli Government to promote peace and coexistence between the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples. This is also a violation of all the peace agreements.
It is absolutely imperative to follow up the agreed commitments with a view to entering into final status negotiations to resolve the problem concerning Jerusalem and the refugees at the borders.
I would conclude by saying that the new political development and the results of the last Israeli elections make us positive and optimistic. They give hope for a better future in the region and we do believe that this Government will respect international law, international labour standards and implement all the agreements they have signed.
Until then we must pursue the issue and focus on this question, to make sure that it bears fruit and until then we must continue to monitor the situation through an annual report and a debate through the mechanism of a special sitting.

Mr. DAHLAN Abdullah S., Employers' delegate

Saudi Arabia

- On behalf of the employers of Saudi Arabia and on my own behalf, as well as that of the President of the Chamber of Commerce of my region, I am very pleased to congratulate the Director-General on his report on the situation of Arab workers in the occupied territories. This is of course the minimum that we would expect but still we have this minimum.
We would expect the secretariat of the International Labour Organization to devote more time to the discussion of this report. The Governing Body and the Conference are themselves convinced of the importance of implementing international labour standards in the interests of workers and employers, to ensure freedom of work for workers in the territories.
Any departure from these principles is a matter of concern to everyone. This means a lack of freedom and any lack of freedom means instability for workers and employers. The situation of Palestinians, be they employers, workers or government, is the same. This is a people seeking its freedom and what we are asking for is the absolute vital minimum.
How many times have we hoped that this may be the last session of this kind? Yet the conditions that would put an end to the need for such a session have not yet been fulfilled. The causes are still there. I do not want to reopen wounds or to stress injustices. I simply want to insist on the just cause of respect for international law and international labour standards.
I must say that we continue to hope, truly to hope, that with the new administration in Israel there will be new measures and solutions. Yet to obtain such solutions the three Israeli government parties must take into account the rights of Arab workers and employers in the occupied territories. They must realize that the time has certainly come to respect international resolutions and labour standards.
On behalf of all the religions of the world and all the peoples of the world, we invite the entire world to assist in implementing these standards and resolutions so as to unleash the tremendous potential that exists so that there can be a sustainable and just peace. We should achieve the coexistence of these two peoples in the interests of the entire region.
This is a sincere appeal that we are issuing to all, and we would like to see a concrete response. It is not just a matter of talk. This goes to the heart of the principles of this Organization and applies throughout the world, but also in Palestine and the occupied Arab territories.

Mr. DJEMAM Hacene, Representative

International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions

- In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate! On behalf of the Secretary- General of the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions may I express our appreciation of the ILO's efforts to pursue the action being undertaken by the Organization in the Arab territories. We trust the Director-General will pursue these endeavours and prepare a further mission so that at the right moment a study can be carried out on the situation.
We trust that this mission will focus on the agreements drawn up with Israeli authorities and the need to apply all the provisions of the agreements. In other words, there must be an end to the settlement policy and assurance that there will be an improvement in the working and living conditions in the occupied territories.
This mission should point out all of the violations of human rights by the Israeli authorities: the harsh living conditions and drop in growth rates, the sufferings of Palestinian workers and violations of their rights, the violence perpetrated against them as a result of the expansion of the settlement policy in the sealing off of territories.
This report has not mentioned a number of problems such as the illegitimacy of the presence of Israelis in the Syrian Golan and the sufferings of Syrian Arab workers which demonstrates that Israel is not complying with the ILO resolution. There is also the continued occupation of the southern part of Lebanon and the destruction of infrastructure there which is not mentioned.
We are aspiring to a global and durable peace which will reinstate Palestinian workers' real rights in conformity with international resolutions. However, the present situation does not reflect that. The present changes in Israel have shown that the predecessors and the successors are really just two sides of the same coin and Israeli policies have demonstrated that there is the threat that the whole region will be destroyed. This is drawing us towards an abyss.
We call upon the international community to put an end to this ambiguous policy and to apply the United Nations resolutions. We call upon the International Labour Organization to ensure real follow-up action on all of these resolutions.
We call upon the International Labour Office to develop technical cooperation with all workers' organizations in Palestine and the occupied territories, in particular when it comes to training and social reintegration. We ask the Organization to take all necessary steps to make sure that the rights and dignity of all workers are respected.
The International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions condemns the Israeli occupation and the expansion of settlements, and all the arbitrary actions and attempts to hold back the peace process and the implementation of the international resolutions. We condemn the authorities for the continuing occupation of Syrian Golan and the other occupied territories. We fully support the right of Palestinian workers to self- determination with their capital, Jerusalem, and we call for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Syrian Golan and from southern Lebanon. We call upon the international community to condemn the Israeli authorities and the Zionist occupation carried out in defiance of the international United Nations resolutions.
We call upon the International Labour Conference to set up an ad hoc committee to examine the Director-General's report, as was the case of the Conference Committee on Action against Apartheid in the past, in order to condemn the occupying authorities for these violations of human rights.

Mr. DJOJOSUMARTO Margono, Employers' adviser and substitute delegate

Indonesia

- Allow me first of all to welcome the holding of this special sitting to consider the Report of the Director-General on the situation of the workers of the occupied Arab territories. This special sitting reflects the continued concern of the tripartite constituents of the ILO about the daily hardship faced by the workers of the occupied Arab territories and, in this regard, we take good note of the Report of the Director-General which provides ample factual and statistical data on the situation. The Employers' Association of Indonesia believes that the Report should serve as a basis for the Organization to formulate the appropriate policies to accommodate the concerns and interests of the workers of the occupied Arab territories.
From reading the Report, we learn with deep concern that the situation of the workers in the territories is far from improving and therefore requires our renewed attention.
The security measures imposed by the Israeli authorities, including the closure of the occupied territories which has been enforced since 1993, have repercussions on many aspects of everyday life in the territories. Of particular concern to us is the fact that these measures, under the guise of security imperatives, are seriously hindering the development of industrial and commercial activities in the territories. Palestinian workers continue to be discriminated against in all aspects of their daily life. Another area which suffers particularly from these measures is technical cooperation to improve the economy of the territories. As a result, the interests of both the employers and the workers are seriously affected and create an unacceptable situation.
The Employers' Association of Indonesia is of the view that the problems encountered derive from the fact that the Middle East peace process is at a standstill. In this regard we fully support the realization of a comprehensive, just and durable peace settlement in the Middle East.
Our association considers the work of the ILO, and especially its future technical assistance and advisory services directed towards improving the situation of workers in the occupied territories, and towards supporting the Palestinian authority as well as employers' and workers' organizations, to be of prime importance. The ILO should therefore focus on the following aspects: the creation of employment, workers' rights, capacity building, the promotion of social dialogue, the provision of social security protection and tripartism. Last, but not least, we fervently hope for close cooperation between workers' and employers' organizations in the territories, in order to achieve the improvement of labour relations between all the parties concerned.

Mr. EL-NATSHEH Rafiq, Representative

Palestine

- In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate! I am honoured to convey to you the greetings of our people in Palestine, Palestine the cradle of religions and land of peace. I am especially honoured to convey the special greetings from thousands of prisoners, including workers, who are in Israeli prisons. I would also like to convey to you the greetings of the families of martyrs killed at Israeli border crossings while simply commuting to or from work.
The people of Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority which I represent here with the rest of my delegation would like to express to you our deep appreciation for the courageous stance that you have taken in support of peace in the region. In spite of all the obstacles and all the challenges that we face, we remain committed to peace until our people have the right of self-determination and can set up a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, in the near future, if God wills it.
At the same time we would like to express our deep concern for the events under way in Palestine, especially the confiscation of our land in order to build settlements, giving effect to the campaign launched by the previous Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ariel Sharon, and the Government of Netanyahu, which incited and encouraged settlers to occupy Palestinian land in defiance of the international will and the agreements that they had signed. Such acts require condemnation from all parties, for this very serious situation undermines the peace process and may well destroy it.
The vicious settlement campaign, in addition to what is happening in Jerusalem, in Ras-el-Amoud, in Jabal Abou-Ghaniem and in other Palestinian territories, is a spark that could lead to an explosion in the region. It will bring back tension and great trouble to the region. I would like to assure you that our people are stubbornly committed to the process but we will not tolerate having our land usurped, our property expropriated and our houses demolished. We will not be prevented from reaching our places of worship, while thousands of Palestinians languish in Israeli jails and detention camps. Our people will resist, however many sacrifices we may have to make, and we will not give up our legitimate rights enshrined in all international instruments, as well as in international customs.
I would like to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude, the gratitude of our people and leadership for the support that you have provided to our people and to the National Authority in political and development fields, and in particular in the field of labour and workers rights. Our people need your continued support and assistance in order to be able to set up an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. We are in dire need of all that can help our people see the results of the peace process in practice. The peace process is unfortunately stalling, indeed paralysed, while we wait for positive steps to be taken by the new Israeli Government in response to the hopes of the entire world for the return of security, stability and peace in this region through the truly comprehensive, thorough and faithful application of the peace accords.
I would like to say very clearly and frankly that we were not against Netanyahu personally. We were against his policy, which undermined the peace process. We are very optimistic with the new Government, not because of who Mr. Barak is, but because we hope that the accords will be implemented. Without the implementation of the accords, things will not work. There is no alternative to the peace accords. I would like to call on you all to stand by the Palestinian workers, who suffer like no other workers in the world while we stand here at the threshold of the twenty-first century.
I would like to put a question to you, a question that I put to myself. Can there be any law or any logic that justifies having a worker spend more than 16 hours out of his home, from the time he leaves it until he returns to it, because of the arbitrary measures that he has to face every day at the Israeli border crossings? We wonder what the justification can be for detaining workers at the border crossings, why tens of thousands of them are prevented from going to work because of Israeli orders to close the border. This all increases unemployment among these workers, which is 90 per cent at such times, and results in daily losses for the Palestinian economy that are estimated at $9 million a day. This of course contributes to the destruction of our new economy.
I call on this Conference, and through it, on the international community as a whole, and the specialized agencies in particular, to take immediate steps to stop the construction of Israeli chemical plants which emit poisonous gases and pollute the environment, endangering the health and safety of Palestinians - such as the Jeshuri plant which was set up on Israeli territory and then, by decision of an Israeli court of justice, transferred from Kafarsaba to Toulkarem following complaints and protests from Israelis. This was decided legally, and it was decided that it should only be fully in operation when the wind blows towards the Arab territories. Is this not one of the worst forms of racial discrimination, which we are here to condemn? I call on this Conference to set up an investigation committee to look into this matter and to stop the dumping of poisonous waste in our lands which are still under occupation.
We are living in circumstances that are extremely difficult for all classes of society, especially for workers. We need your support to establish peace, stability and prosperity for all the peoples of the region, which will not see peace established as long as occupation and settlements continue.
Finally, I would like to say that the military occupation and colonial settlements are the main reason for the problems in the region. Peace, which we are all looking for, will not be genuine and lasting unless it is just and comprehensive and covers the entire region. An Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, from the Syrian Arab Republic and from Palestine, is the key to peace throughout the Middle East.
To conclude, I would like to thank you for the support you have provided to our people, thank you for the stand you have taken by our side in our struggle for a just and comprehensive peace. We hope that very soon we will be able to invite you to visit the land of peace in the capital of peace, the capital of the independent State of Palestine, Jerusalem.

Mr. ELAMAWY Ahmed Ahmed, Minister of Manpower and Emigration

Egypt

- In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate! The decision to hold a special sitting at the 86th and 87th Session of the International Labour Conference to discuss the special report of the Director-General on the situation of Arab workers and employers in the occupied Arab territories, as a logical continuation of the special sittings devoted to this question from 1990 to 1995, is a reflection of the ILO's concern faced with the deteriorating conditions of workers and employers in the occupied Arab territories.
It is also a reflection of the determination of the Organization to make every effort to improve those conditions and to relieve the injustice that they live in, in accordance with Conference resolutions of 1974 and 1980.
The policy that has persistently been adopted by the Israeli Government is in violation of the ILO Constitution and the Organization's decisions. It is therefore responsible for stalling the peace process in a way that has been unprecedented since the Madrid Conference of 1991. This in turn has led to further deterioration of the conditions of workers in the occupied Arab territories.
We hope that the recent developments in Israel will help revitalize the peace process and bring about a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East. This peace cannot be achieved without the full Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab lands.
The International Labour Organization should continue to monitor closely the situation of workers and employers in the occupied Aran territories, thus implementing the abovementioned International Labour Conference resolutions.
There are many points that require comment and observation in the report of the Director-General on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories. I would simply like to comment on some as briefly as possible.
The reason for the decision adopted by the International Labour Conference to send missions to the region was to get first- hand insight into the employment situation there. However, the report that we have received simply consists of a few statistics and a record of various points of view. The report does not give us any deeper insight into the conclusions of the mission which undertook the field visit. We would have hoped that the report would have provided a basis for a positive and practical conclusion. Just the same, we would like to express our appreciation for the effort made by the International Labour Organization's mission in its visit and its preparation of the report.
We are grateful for the parts of the report which deal with the situation of Palestinian workers in East Jerusalem and all the information provided on technical cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli colonization and practices are the main sources of the numerous problems besetting workers in the occupied Arab territories. Repression is a corollary of occupation. It takes the worst forms, such as killing, detention and torture. This creates an environment of suffocation where humanity is denied. It is very far indeed from the requisites of economic and social development.
The horizontal and vertical expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories is yet another illegitimate and destructive manifestation of the Israeli occupation.
Furthermore, the Israeli policy of laying siege and preventing Palestinians from having safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza is a violation of the commitments that Israel has taken upon itself.
I would also like to mention the economic exploitation of the exports from the occupied Arab territories, which have to go through Israel.
The report makes it clear that because of the deteriorating economic and social conditions resulting from the Israeli military occupation, Arab workers in the occupied Arab territories have no choice but to work within Israel and to accept what work is available, which is usually in low salary, hard, menial jobs.
In their work, they are the subject of harassment, insults and exploitation. Their rights are violated. Every time they cross the border they are insulted. What is more, of course, the recurring closures lead to huge losses of revenue.
There are steps that it is important for the International Labour Organization to take, in application of International Labour Conference resolutions. First the International Labour Organization should issue a publication after the special sitting, with wide distribution. The International Labour Organization should publish the report we are discussing today and have it translated into all languages. These special sittings should not be limited to reading statements. We should be able to reach conclusions and to make recommendations.
We hope that serious consideration will be given to the possibility of setting up a standing committee, in accordance with the resolution of the International Labour Conference in 1980, to deal with Israeli violations against workers and employers in the occupied Arab territories.
Finally, Egypt supports all positive efforts aimed at revitalizing the peace process in the Middle East. While we wait for these efforts to bear fruit, we must continue to do everything that is in our power to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian people under occupation. The situation is a cause for deep concern, and the ILO has a vital role to play in the region.

Mr. ELDIN Abd El rahman Nour, State Minister of Manpower

Sudan

- In the name of God, the Compassionate, and the Merciful! I should like to address you today, not only on behalf of my country, Sudan, but also on behalf of the Arab group as a whole.
A few days ago, the Palestinian people organized peaceful demonstrations to express their anger at the continued policy of colonial settlements in Palestine and other Arab occupied territories. Their slogan has been "No peace as long as there are settlements". These peaceful demonstrations were, as usual, forcefully put down with the usual Israeli arrogance and brutality. Unarmed Palestinian officials and civilians were beaten up by heavily armed Israeli troops.
We would like to take advantage of this special sitting to send a message of solidarity to the Arab Palestinian people, to the workers of Palestine, Golan, and southern Lebanon. We would like to tell them that all the nations of the world believe in peace and justice, that the social conscience of the world will not forsake its solidarity with the Palestinian people and all people under military occupation. We know that their struggle is hard, especially in this period remaining until their independent Palestinian State is set up - and even more so because the Israeli authorities have no respect whatsoever for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Israel denies international labour standards and various international agreements on human rights. They refuse to fulfil their commitments and responsibilities. They deprive Palestinians of their right to work so that they might have a secure and stable life, freedom of expression and freedom of movement.
The Arab group has carefully studied the report of the ILO mission which visited Palestine and the other occupied territories, and we would like to share with you its views.
While we appreciate the positive efforts of the Director-General and heads and members of the mission, we find that they are not commensurate with the gravity of a potentially explosive situation in this region of the world. We hope that the Director- General will adopt a new method of work for the next mission which takes place in these territories.
We hope that the effects of settlements and of the confiscation of lands and water resources will be analysed in greater depth.
Israel has deprived this part of the world of global peace, of social justice and of the right to benefit from the principles laid down in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
Palestinians pay a heavy tribute for the services of the Israeli Federation of Trade Unions. This is something that is clearly pointed out in the Report of the Director- General. Any Palestinian who attempts to go and pray on his own is dismissed from work. These are some of the facts that one can see from the report. The Report of the Director-General has a title this year, Decent work. Well, "decent work" is not at all respected in the occupied Arab territories because Israel does not believe that Arab workers deserve decent work. Arab workers are being assassinated at borders. They are prevented from arriving on time at their work; and this ultimately undermines all the principles for which this Organization was set up.
The Arab group which I represent here wants this special sitting to continue until the Arab workers in Palestine and all other occupied Arab territories are free from occupation.

Mr. FREEMAN Bennett, Government delegate

United States

- The United States takes the position today, as it has in previous years, that it is inappropriate to hold this special sitting. Not only does this practice single out one member country for treatment different from others, it also misuses the ILO as a forum for political discussions and diverts attention from practical measures that can make a real, concrete difference in the daily lives of Palestinians.
The United States strongly agrees that the ILO should focus on improving the situation of workers in the West Bank and Gaza. In that regard, we would note that the United States provides substantial assistance to improve economic conditions for Palestinian workers and indeed to improve the situation of all Palestinians.
Last fall at the conference to support Middle East peace and development in Washington, President Clinton announced that he would seek $400 million to help Palestinians meet urgent economic needs in the West Bank and Gaza. That amount is over and above our annual assistance to the Palestinians, which is expected to reach $100 million this year. And that amount is in addition to the $500 million we pledged from 1994 to 1998. To date, we have made available approximately $350 million of that initial pledge. This money is helping Palestinians improve their water infrastructure, promote economic opportunities and build institutions that can foster democracy and good governance.
Last fall's donor conference was only one international forum in which the United States has taken a leadership role in efforts to promote economic development for Palestinians and others in the region. For example, the United States is the largest donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. So far this year, the United States has contributed more than $77 million toward the Agency's budget, and additional contributions are expected. Working with the multilateral Refugee Working Group, the United States is also the shepherd for vocational training, job creation and human resource development. In this role, the United States has spearheaded innovative initiatives and provided millions of dollars to support projects that give Palestinians the skills and the resources to help them contribute to development.
Just as we recognize that the growing economic prosperity among the peoples of the region depends in large part on peace, the opposite is also true - that lasting peace depends on prosperity. Our efforts throughout this decade to support the peace process have created direct economic and humanitarian benefits for Palestinians and Israelis. For example, the Gaza airport in the Gaza industrial estate, opened toward the end of 1998, in the wake of the Wye Memorandum, is doing much to help Palestinians. The industrial estate alone is expected to create 20,000 new jobs. We encourage the parties to make rapid progress in talks to open the Gaza seaport and secure safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank. A more stable security situation, full implementation of the Wye Memorandum and improved commercial laws and regulations would likely promote sustained economic growth in the West Bank and Gaza.
Wider and easier access to the Israeli economy is also important for Palestinian workers and business people. Israeli security measures to prevent terrorist attacks have barred the movement of people and goods into and out of the West Bank and Gaza. The continual imposition of these measures, though recently somewhat relaxed, has dampened investors' interest and hindered the development of export markets.
Israel certainly has the right and the responsibility to protect the security of its citizens, but it also has a long-term security interest in improving economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. Creating jobs and raising incomes can promote economic opportunity and build a permanent constituency for peace at the same time.
For nearly two years, the United States Government has encouraged Israel to reduce restrictions on the movement of Palestinian goods, services and people, consistent with Israel's security needs. We are beginning to see the fruits of this effort. More Palestinian business people can enter Israel and travel between the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian goods and labour are beginning to move across borders with fewer restrictions. Over 60,000 Palestinians are legally working in Israel, although this is still only half the level of the 1980s. The economic indicators are beginning to show this progress.
Yet constraints on the movement of goods and people continue to keep the West Bank and Gaza economies essentially separated, when the long-term goal should be to encourage them to be integrated - with each other, with Israel and with an entire region at peace. Many closure restrictions remain in effect. Only a small minority of people and vehicles with permits can cross the Green Line, and under very restrictive conditions.
In the end, it is neither international assistance nor government programmes, but private investment and private sector development that will secure those economic opportunities for Palestinian workers and a stable and prosperous future for all Palestinians. The United States hopes that in the coming years the ILO will focus on such practical measures, and not on another special sitting to improve the conditions of Palestinian workers.

M. GUIDER Ibrahim, Representative

Arab Labour Organization

- In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate! In 1980 the International Labour Conference adopted a historic resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestine and the occupied territories and called for the elimination of existing settlements. At the time, the Director-General called for all forms of support so as to develop the economic and technical potential of Arab workers in the region, in order to meet all the challenges that were created by the settlement process. Now, almost 20 years later, are we not entitled to ask to what extent a commitment has been made to the implementation of this resolution?
I should like to say that over this period things have taken place in an entirely different manner. The International Labour Conference and all international organizations have taken action which has had a different result, because there have been many hundreds and thousands of settlements set up in the meantime. The territories that are independent of Israel have indeed been reduced, all because of the pressure of Israeli economic and social policy. Now the Israeli authorities are racing against time to set up more and more settlements and to mark out the path towards the partition of Palestinian land. They have been imposing discrimination against Palestinians and Palestinian workers.
Faced with these clear and flagrant violations of all the resolutions adopted by international bodies, in the name of the ILO, I wonder whether our international Organization and our Conference is simply going to sit with its arms crossed and remain inactive. Should we not consider the very serious consequences of these violations perpetrated by the Israeli authorities, violating the rights of Palestinian workers and those of Syrian and Lebanese workers, for instance, in the Golan Heights?
All the rights that are being violated have to be respected. The free movement of workers from their place of residence and place of work, which is a natural and legitimate right under international law, must be guaranteed. When 60,000 workers are obliged to work without an official permit, as has been confirmed by the Israeli delegates, surely this is a violation of these workers' rights. The very people who are violating these rights acknowledged the fact.
In our Organization we must endeavour to work for a real solution which will put an end to these practices. We trust that the new top-level management of the International Labour Office will take this into account and try to find the right solutions. Perhaps an ad hoc committee should be set up to resolve these issues and to adopt a more effective, more practical approach to ending the violation of Palestinian and Arab workers' rights in Palestine, in the Golan Heights, and in southern Lebanon.

Mr. JORDAN Bill, Representative

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions

- For many years the ICFTU and the international community have expressed their outrage about the unacceptable conditions suffered by the Palestinian people. Those of us who have visited the West Bank and Gaza will never forget the unbearable images of poverty, marginalization, massive unemployment and humiliation, particularly in the vastly overpopulated refugee camps. The report presented at last year's special sitting of the International Labour Conference still showed that there had been hardly any change in the hardships suffered by the Palestinian workers.
I have, therefore, been encouraged to read this year's special report of the Director-General on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories because it indicates that we are beginning to see progress with regard to some of the most serious problems and concerns of the Palestinian people.
There is improvement in the economic situation; unemployment, though unacceptably high, has decreased, and so has the number of border closures between Israel and Gaza, which has had a further positive effect on the employment situation.
We greatly welcome the developments, and hope that they represent the first signs of an irreversible trend towards economic and social stability. However, these fragile symptoms of progress may well dissipate very quickly if they cannot be carried on and consolidated by the indispensable resumption of the peace process. The ICFTU has welcomed the new prospects that have hopefully emerged in Israel in this regard. The work community, all of us, now expect new initiatives and a broader vision from all parties involved, on the way forward towards a comprehensive agenda for peace involving Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.
A second precondition for sustainable progress in the situation of the Palestinian workers, in our view, is that some of the more urgent labour problems should be given priority attention by the Palestinian Authority itself. A first one is the adoption of a new labour code. We have to thank the ILO for the advice and assistance it has provided on this matter and hope that the Palestinian Authority will iron out the remaining flaws in the draft law, some of them quite important ones which are mentioned in the ILO report. While the question of the adoption of a code has to be dealt with as a matter of urgency, we nevertheless have to make sure that we will be proud in the future to refer to the Palestinian Labour Law as a model for the region: that is what we intended and that is what we will work to achieve.
In this connection, I want to mention the issue of export processing or free trade zones. In many countries, too many countries, these zones have become a symbol of exploitation, abusive labour practice, and the denial of basic workers' rights. Thus they become a source of conflict and bring bad publicity to the country and to the business conducted there. In this area, as well, I hope that the Palestinian Authority will draw on the rich experience of the ILO and make sure that the model opted for will be in conformity with the universal values of this Organization. The same holds true for the various types of precarious work such as home-based work, which, according to the ILO findings, appears to be on the increase.
The ICFTU greatly appreciates that the ILO continues to offer substantial support in a variety of areas to improve the conditions of Palestinian workers. I have also been impressed to see the large assistance provided by a number of member States, and, not least, by trade unions. We should examine possibilities for a further strengthening of this cooperation. I would very much like to support in this respect the proposal made by both the Director-General and the Palestinian Authority that the ILO should step up its work to help reinforce the social partners in view of the important role they have to play in the building up of a prosperous and progressive Palestinian nation.
Other key areas of ILO support are, in our view, labour administration, industrial relations, occupational safety, labour inspection and, of course, freedom of association. As far as the last question is concerned, I am very pleased that the actions taken by the ILO and the ICFTU are mutually supportive.
To conclude, I fully appreciate and share the feeling of other speakers that, while recognizing that the ILO is an organization dealing with labour issues, peace in the Middle East and for the Palestinian people is the dominating factor in today's debate and any other debate about that region. However, progress for peace must be measured in several ways. Yes, it must be measured in political terms, in security terms, but also in terms of social peace. Social peace is the key to upholding confidence in the socio-economic capacity of any country, and certainly in the Palestinian nation. Social peace and justice is the agenda of the ILO. It is the agenda of strong and independent trade unions. It must be the agenda for us all.

Mr. KANAYEV Georguy, Representative

General Confederation of Trade Unions

- I should like to say that I am speaking not only on behalf of the delegation of the General Confederation of Trade Unions which represents the trade unions of the CIS, but also on behalf of the Workers' delegation of the Russian Federation.
The situation of workers in the Arab territories occupied by Israel has been under examination for a number of years within the International Labour Organization. There is no doubt that a certain amount of progress has been seen regarding the situation of Palestinian workers, in particular in political terms. Nevertheless, this region remains the centre of acute tension in today's world, and the principal reason is the ongoing occupation there.
The Director-General's report points out that despite positive changes the lot of Palestinian workers is still a difficult one. The so-called "security measures" taken by the Israeli Government involving the sealing off of borders seriously complicate working conditions in Israel. Moreover, Palestinian workers are subjected to discrimination and violence when crossing the borders.
The state of affairs in east Jerusalem is a source of particular concern, as is that of the Golan Heights. There, as a result of action taken by the Israeli authorities, employment opportunities have been severely restricted. The settlement process continues and is increasingly proliferating on the Palestinian territories, resulting in the expropriation of land belonging to Palestinians and further complicating the situation in the region. Palestinians are even denied access to water supplies. Workers' wages are constantly decreasing and high levels of unemployment persist unabated. Workers in Israel are not members of Histadrut and cannot call upon its protection or are forced to pay for it.
The report indicates that Histadrut cooperates within the Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions and organizes training courses for Palestinian workers. This is a positive factor and it is our hope that such cooperation will further develop.
Trade unions in our region, the Commonwealth of Independent States and above all the Russian Federation, have always voiced their genuine solidarity with the just struggle of the Arab people of Palestine for basic rights. Again today we reiterate our determined support for all efforts aimed at durable peace in the Middle East; for securing decent living and working conditions for Palestinian workers.
We support the endeavours of the world community, including the International Labour Organization to that effect and express our hope that the Russian Federation and other CIS States will make their own due contribution to this venture.
We would also appeal to the trade unions of the entire planet to continue to show active and effective support and solidarity for the people, the workers and the trade unions of Palestine.

Mr. KARA Yousef, Workers' delegate

Israel

- Allow me to congratulate the President on his election to chair the proceedings of the 87th Session of the Conference. I wish both him and the Conference a successful and prosperous meeting.
Here I am once again before you to convey to you the fraternal feelings of fellow workers and to convey to you a comprehensive view of the situation in our region. A new sun has risen in the Middle East. We hope that its rays will bathe the region in a comprehensive peace, for no peace can be effective unless it is comprehensive, unless it covers the whole region and involves all.
The victory of the doves in the Israeli elections is a development that has important consequences for the situation in my region of the world. I am convinced that the impact will be positive, so that all the countries of the region may enjoy a prosperous standard of living and a thriving economy, and so that workers and the farmers may work together to build a new society, and the prophecy of our religions may come true and this part of the world may become heaven on earth.
Allow me once again to reiterate my objection to the convening of this special sitting to examine the situation of workers on the West Bank and in Gaza, as I see no use in such a meeting and I hope that this sitting will be the last one.
Yes, we have to strive, together with the International Labour Organization, to provide assistance and to organize activities in the various sectors, including capacity building, for those officials in charge of employment policies, social policies and for workers' and employers' representatives. The Appendix to the Director-General's Report refers to the positive developments which have taken place in the Palestinian economy, and these are mainly due to the support provided by the Israeli economy. Unemployment has dropped. The per capita income has increased notably, which indicates that we are on the right path. This is the result of the understanding between the Government and the Histadrut, the general labour union of Israel, which led to the cancellation of the quota system for Palestinian workers operating in Israel. Their number has increased. Today more than 45,000 registered workers work with a permit, while another 60,000 work without permits. There are many other facilities that have been extended, and these have been referred to in the Appendix of the Director-General's Report, in paragraph 18.
Over the last few years, the number of foreign workers in Israel has increased. Today there are about 80,000. Large quantities of them are working legally, but many others are working illegally, and in total about 300,000 are said to be illegal immigrants. The Histadrut, in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour, is seeking to replace these workers with Palestinian workers. It is no secret that the Histadrut has been and continues to be the foremost partner in the building of the peace process.
We are striving to achieve this goal through improved cooperation with Palestinian labour organizations, through the implementation of the principle of equal pay for equal work and through the provision of appropriate working conditions. The Histadrut ensures that better working conditions may be achieved through cooperation between us and the Palestinians.
The Histadrut continues to defend the rights of Palestinian workers. We provide advice and legal assistance to thousands of Palestinian workers who work in Israel, through several specialized Arab legal advisers who receive the workers in legal consultancies opened by the Histadrut at the workers' worksite. These help the Palestinian workers to defend their rights and their working conditions through negotiation with the employer, or before the specialized courts. As you may well know, the Histadrut has a special fund to pay the deposits for workers should a case be brought before a court. Furthermore, we organize, through the framework of the International Institute for Peace and Democracy, special training sessions for Palestinian workers. We have also now proceeded to turn over one-half of the dues levied from Palestinian workers to the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) - this is mentioned in paragraph 50 of the report. The Histadrut and the workers of Israel believe in the unified stand among workers in the world. We look forward to the day when peace will prevail in the Middle East, when trade unions and labour organizations will cooperate in all the neighbouring countries, both in an exchange of experience and in the interest of the workers of the region.
The attainment of peace would be the main means to establish new construction and building projects in the Middle East, to improve the living standards of workers and to combat unemployment and combat child labour.
Peace between Arabs and Israel would mean vast amounts of money for construction, agricultural development, industrialization and the implementation of modern technology. We must not forget that we are speaking of a region that has suffered a great deal. We suffer wars and aggression. We are a region which is the cradle of all the main religions, and of all human values.
I said at the outset that a new sun has risen in a clear sky in the Middle East, and on this basis, we therefore would like to pray, on behalf of all workers seeking to achieve a decent living, that peace and progress will prevail. We all know that the various religions call on us to support peace, to stay away from evil, and turn to the Almighty for his guidance.

M. KHALIL Ali, Minister of Social Affairs and Labour

Syrian Arab Republic

- The skies over the Arab world have always been clear with a brilliant sun shining but not long ago that changed.
Allow me once again to convey to the President on behalf of the Syrian Arab Republic and on my own behalf, my warm congratulations to him on his election and my sincere hopes that we shall succeed in reaching the right conclusions in this sitting.
I would like to express our gratitude to Mr. Somavia, the new Director-General of the International Labour Office, for his continued concern in sending out a mission to the occupied Arab territories to implement the International Labour Conference resolutions of 1974 and 1980. We hope that these efforts shall continue in the same manner to assess the situation of Arab workers in Palestine and the occupied Syrian Golan.
I am fully convinced that the report will be able in fact to reach positive conclusions on the points I am about to raise. First of all, the Director-General must be called upon to send future missions at an earlier time and allow them sufficient time to prepare their reports in the light of the reality lived by Arab workers under Israeli occupation, and in order thus to be able to assess the impact of international labour standards on workers.
The authorities in Palestine and in the Syrian Arab Republic must also be allowed time to assess the veracity of statistics. The report was based on the resolution of the Conference of 1980 regarding the effects of colonization and the establishment of settlements in Palestine, but they should have also based themselves on the 1974 resolution regarding the racist and discriminatory policies vis-à-vis Arab workers, be it in occupied Palestine or in occupied Syrian Golan.
The mission failed in its report to refer to the basis of international law which governs the situation of the Arab territories and more specifically the Hague Convention of 1907 and the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which were both signed by Israel. Both documents are in fact the legal references for the military occupation that has continued since 1967.
The report continues to describe Arab territories as "territories". This term appeared 19 times in the report. International law does not have anything called territories where occupied land is concerned. The report continues to describe the Syrian Arab citizens in Syrian Golan as the Arab inhabitants of the Golan.
The mission noted at the bottom of page 2 of the report the situation of the Israeli authorities but I believe that in addition to referring to the position of the Israeli Government it should have also referred to the United Nations resolution that does not recognize the annexation of the Syrian Golan, which was illegally occupied in 1967, and that all the measures taken by Israel on the matter are illegal and void and in fact are in conflict with the principles and the charter of the United Nations and international legitimacy.
The occupied Arab Syrian Golan in fact falls within the purview and mandate of the mission according to the decision of the Conference in 1980. The mission committed an egregious mistake as it omitted to take into account the negative impact of settlements on Palestinian and Syrian territories, though it referred in paragraph 30 in the report, in a few lines only, that the establishment of new settlements was continuing and that the number of settlements in Gaza and the West Bank continued, without referring to those of the Golan.
The mission referred to the Conference report of 1980 and its resolution, yet the report does not indicate the existence of any effort to assess how far the Israeli authorities have sought to implement the resolution. Clearly, the resolution is being violated by Israel as it has failed to respect either the provision of the preamble or in fact the very substantive parts of the report. It should have referred to them in several paragraphs so that the world may witness how many settlements have been established, extended and expanded.
In several paragraphs of the report it may be in fact concluded that the Israeli side is being very generous with the Palestinians, such as in the financial activities financed by the authorities, mentioned in paragraph 65, 74 and 80. In fact this is simple propaganda. It would be far better for Israel to respect international labour standards, to respect the Philadelphia Declaration and to restore to Arab workers the rights which are theirs.
The report failed to refer to the stalling of the peace process because of Israel's stubborn refusal to abide by the decisions of the Madrid Conference or the agreements signed with the Palestinian side, and the freezing of other peace prospects with the Syrian and Lebanese sides and the damaging effect of that on the interests of Arab workers.
Though the International Labour Office was requested to provide technical assistance to workers in Syrian Golan in addition to the Palestinian workers, the report did not deal with this matter though it spent one-third of its pages describing the assistance provided by other technical cooperation activities. It could have asked why the workers' conditions and working circumstances had deteriorated. Such a reference would normally be mentioned in such a report.
We believe that a better procedure to implement the decision of the Conference in 1980 would be to establish a special committee rather than convening a special sitting to assess these results. This committee could submit a report on the matter to the Director-General of the International Labour Office and the Governing Body so that such proposals and recommendations could be implemented to put an end to the suffering of Arab workers, taking into account the purposes and goals of the International Labour Organization and Conventions and Recommendations in this field.
Finally, I wish to simply point out we opt for peace, peace based on justice. Peace not at any price but peace for all. I would like to reaffirm the right of all nations struggling for their rights to do so.
History, geography and civilization are on the side of the Arabs, and they shall be victorious.

Mr. LI Donglin, Government adviser and substitute delegate

China

- The Chinese delegation has read carefully the Director-General's report on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories, which we find very helpful in explaining the latest developments there. A special sitting being called once again by this Conference to discuss the workers' situation in the occupied Arab territories is a clear indication of the great concern of the member States over the issue of the Middle East. For many years, turbulence has prevailed in this region, badly impairing the employment status for the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and disturbing the life of all peoples in the region. The situation there merits the attention of the whole world.
Over the greater part of the century, the Palestinian people have tasted to the full the ravages of wars and turmoil. Millions of them have been forced to leave their homes and wander about as refugees. Their tragic experiences and miserable predicament have drawn extensive solicitude and concern from the international community.
The Palestinian people have fought a protracted struggle and exerted unremitting efforts for the restoration of their legitimate national rights. Since the Madrid Conference in 1991, the peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel, with the common efforts of both sides and the impetus of the international community, have made significant progress. However, as stated in the report, there are worrying problems relating to the workers' situation in the occupied territories in areas like employment, working conditions, social insurance, labour-capital relations, etc.
We have noted with pleasure that the ILO has taken a series of measures and carried out activities to meet the needs of the people of the occupied territories, to improve their situation, and to raise the quality of their lives. But the key to the fundamental solution of these problems lies in the final settlement, as early as possible, of the Palestinian issue through political negotiations on the basis of relevant UN Resolutions, and with flexible and pragmatic approaches.
We have always deemed it the responsibility and duty of the international community to support and help the Palestine people to restore their legitimate national rights, including the right to return to their homes and to establish an independent State of their own.
The Chinese Government has always sympathized with the hard lot of the Palestinian people, supported their just cause, and extended any assistance within our capacity.
We appeal to the ILO to render more care to the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories, and to play a better role in improving the livelihood of the workers there, by means of human resources development, such as labour training, labour quality upgrading, and job creation programmes, thus making the due contribution to the realization of peace and development in the Middle East.
Mr. TABANI (Employers' delegate, Pakistan) - I wish to thank the Governing Body for requesting the Director-General to hold this special sitting, and congratulate him for the quality of the Appendix to his Report, dealing with the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories. I am pleased to express my appreciation of the continued effort of the mission he sent to the Arab territories, and commend the frankness and the reality of their report.
This is a comprehensive document, with a good deal of useful information, which is based on work carried out in the true spirit of ILO principles and objectives. Such a clear report was possible because the Israeli authorities cooperated this year, unlike last, to give the members of the mission every facility in visiting the different areas and meeting the officials concerned, as well as representatives of employers and workers.
It is a matter of deep regret that, in spite of the implementation of the decisions taken since August 1997, as pointed out in paragraph 18 of the Appendix to the Report, the conditions of the workers have not appreciably improved. Paragraphs 27 and 28 do not really make very pleasant reading. Much more has to be done to ameliorate the conditions of underpaid workers, and those seeking employment.
We appreciate the technical cooperation and other assistance given by the ILO under the 1994 Memorandum of Understanding. The Director-General will have to make special efforts to accelerate new technical assistance programmes for the promotion of investment and enterprises, in order to create more jobs.
We sincerely hope that a constructive dialogue with the affected parties will be resumed in order to bring peace and stability to the occupied Arab territories.

M. MOUSSA Michel, Minister of Labour

Lebanon

- I would like at the outset to congratulate the Director-General of the International Labour Office for holding this special sitting on the effects of the Israeli settlement policy on the situation of Arab workers and employers in Palestine and the other occupied Arab territories.
This sitting will let the whole world know, once again, about the crimes committed by Israel day after day against Arab workers in the occupied territories of Palestine, Golan, southern Lebanon and Western Bekaa. The Israeli settlement policy and practices have had grave consequences for the situation of Arab workers and employers at all levels. The harsh security measures adopted by the Israeli Government in Palestine and the Golan, and the daily shelling of southern Lebanon and Western Bekaa have exposed our workers to unemployment, and sometimes to violence. This has also hindered the activities of employers in the industrial, commercial and production sectors. Likewise, these measures have caused a dangerous deterioration of the economic and social situation of all those living in the occupied Arab territories.
This situation requires, more than ever before, an intervention on the part of the international community, including the International Labour Organization, in order to protect Arab workers and their families and in order to make Israel withdraw from all the occupied Arab territories so as to establish a comprehensive and just peace in the region.
We are quite sure that our region will not know real peace based on social justice and the right to self-determination as long as the Israeli military occupation continues.
The most recent statistics collected by specialized agencies show that the unemployment rate has reached 25.5 per cent in the West Bank and 27 per cent in the Gaza Strip and that the national average is around 30 per cent among Palestinian workers. Due to this deterioration in their situation, income levels and average wages have sharply declined in recent years, which has led to the spread of poverty, affecting half a million Palestinians according to World Bank 1997 estimates.
As far as the occupied Golan is concerned, Syrian workers are also suffering from harsh Israeli practices, ranging from discrimination in wages and occupation to unjustified dismissal and deprivation from social insurance, the replacement of Syrian labour by foreign labour, as well as intimidation and other harsh and cruel practices which have led to a decline in agricultural production.
We greatly appreciate the content of the Director-General's report and the information on the suffering of those living in occupied Palestine and the Golan. However, we must refer here to the suffering of the Lebanese living in southern Lebanon and Western Bekaa. The daily shelling of our cities and our villages is, in fact, hindering the reconstruction and development plans drawn up by the Government. Israel continues its daily attacks against the sovereignty of our country and against our cities and our villages. It is destroying houses, schools, hospitals, factories, enterprises. It is burning farms and crops and preventing farmers from planting their lands. It is polluting our seas and our coasts and is depriving our fishermen of their livelihoods. It is driving civilians from their houses and their villages.
Israel is usurping a big part of our water resources in the occupied territories. It is depriving our farmers of the water that they need to irrigate their crops, it is displacing workers and employers through these means of intimidation.
We call upon the Conference to condemn these attacks and to call on Israel to withdraw unconditionally from the occupied territories in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 425, to free all prisoners and detainees, and to abstain from usurping our resources.
We also call upon the ILO to provide support to the Lebanese people in order to resolve the problems which have resulted from the Israeli occupation in order to improve the situation of Lebanese employers and workers.
We would also like to request the Committee which was set up in accordance with the resolution adopted by the International Labour Conference in 1980 to implement this resolution and not to confine itself to formalities. It should implement a working method based on international labour standards. We also call upon the International Labour Organization to set up a permanent standing committee as long as Israeli occupation continues.
We are sure that what unites us here is our belief in justice, peace and freedom. You have also carried the torch of justice and freedom which will put an end to darkness.
Soon our beloved land will be liberated from Israeli occupation. The Liberation of Jezzina is the inevitable result of this strong faith of our heroic resistance. As long as the resistance lives, justice cannot die.

Mr. NAJAFI-MANESH Mohammad Reza, Employers' adviser and substitute delegate

Islamic Republic of Iran

- On behalf of the Confederation of Employers of Iran, I thank you for this Committee where the rights of the Palestinian people are investigated.
Palestine is the source of religions such as Islam and Christianity. But the extravagances of Zionism has mixed its history with blood. Unfortunately, no international organization has been able to achieve the right of an ethnic Palestine.
I should like to mention some examples of violations which have occurred in the occupied Arab territories. A researcher from Tel Aviv University, Ili Rikhis, wrote in an article in the Jerusalem Post: "Israel does not or could not feel social or economic gaps between Jews and Arabs." Another Israeli researcher, Amas Elon, has been quoted as saying that Arabs are second degree citizens in Israel. He gives as an example the fact that among 2,400 governmental company managers, there is only one Arab.
Arab workers are usually employed in trades such as textiles, carpentry, building and painting. They participate very little in developed industries, such as the electronics industry. All electronics and shipping industries are completely under the Jewish authorities; Arabs are not engaged for security reasons.
The share of unskilled workers from 1972 to 1983 was between 18 to 35 per cent. According to the statistics of 1992, Arab workers accounted for only 25 per cent of unskilled workers in Israel.
Arab workers usually work five hours more a week than Israelis - and among young workers the difference is higher. Arab workers do not have the same social security advantages as Jewish workers. Unemployment among Arabs is much higher than among the Jewish.
There is a limitation on women workers in the West Bank and Gaza. The share of women is less than 10 per cent but for Israeli women the share is 45 per cent. Moshe Siminof, President of the Sociology College of Tel Aviv University, states that the share of women workers since 1970 has decreased. As Palestinian workers have to cross from the West Bank and Gaza to the Jewish centres, women workers are very concerned about conditions so they seldom use labour opportunities.
The composition of the labour force has changed and rural workers in agriculture have left their jobs and have been forced to take up work in Israeli territory. As for political protest and strikes, these often make it difficult for workers to go from their homes to their place of work. And they have to cope with these difficulties every day in return for a pittance.
I now feel that the time has come for the rights of the social partners to be respected and I call upon the ILO to give special attention to the subject of principles of rights at work in the occupied Arab territories.

Mr. PITYANA S., Government delegate

South Africa

- At the outset let me thank the ILO for convening this special sitting concerning the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories. The holding of this sitting is timely and I hope that it will lend further impetus to the amelioration of the difficult conditions experienced by workers in the occupied Arab territories.
It is a great pleasure for me to address this special sitting concerning the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories on behalf of the non-aligned countries.
This special sitting takes place against a background of some important events which will have a profound and lasting effect on the future of the territories and the region as a whole, in particular on the situation of workers. Despite this feeling of hope and optimism the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories to date remains far from satisfactory.
According to reports issued by the United Nations Office of the Special Coordinator, in 1997 there were an average of 38,000 permit-holding Palestinians employed on a daily basis in Israel or Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and Israel's industrial zones in the West Bank and Gaza. This increased to an average of 44,000 Palestinians with permits in 1998. Overall, Palestinian employment in Israel and the occupied territories is estimated at over 100,000 persons.
I mention these figures mainly in order to highlight the magnitude of the problem at hand. In recent years Israel has sought to replace Palestinian workers with other immigrant workers. Although this policy has been somewhat diminished, job opportunities for Palestinians have been reduced as a result of the closure of borders in the West Bank and Gaza, unemployment has increased or is proportionally higher.
According to the United Nations Office of the Special Coordinator, in 1998 there was no reduction in the severity of the general closure and separation policy applied in the West Bank and Gaza by the Israeli authorities. There were, however, significantly fewer comprehensive and internal closure days as compared to 1997.
The arbitrary practices and security restrictions affecting workers have not ceased and restrictions imposed on the employment of Palestinian workers are still maintained. Palestinian workers continue to be subjected to detention, humiliation and dismissal from work for demanding respect for the fundamental rights of workers, the very rights which define the quintessential elements of the ILO's mandates.
As a result of the settlement policy pursued by Israel in the occupied territories, the character and demographic composition of the region has changed dramatically. The Palestinian workers in the occupied Arab territories have been denied their basic rights. They are faced with threats to their safety, lack of guarantees of basic rights, discrimination, unemployment and unjust treatment. According to the report of the Director-General, the economy of the occupied Arab territories remains underdeveloped, dependent, subjected to massive constraints and vulnerable to external shocks.
In conclusion, once more we wish to reiterate the demand of the international community that continued settlements which involve any legal basis would seriously obstruct the establishment of any comprehensive justice and lasting peace in the region would be brought to an immediate halt.
I wish to express the hope that the new Israeli authorities will take urgent measures within the broader political framework of the Oslo Agreements to improve the situation of workers in the Arab territories.

Mr. RINGKAMP Werner, Government adviser and substitute delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union

Germany

- It is an honour for me to speak to you on behalf of the European Union this afternoon.
Having read the Appendix to the Report of the Director-General on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, I would like first and foremost to thank the participants of the mission for their efforts in examining the situation and for their drafting of a comprehensive report. We understand clearly that it is absolutely necessary to have free and timely access to all information available, and to be able to consult all parties involved, in order to have a complete overview of the situation. We hope that increased efforts in the spirit of cooperation will result in further progress, as is pointed out in the current report.
We appreciate the openness which led the mission to express clear concern in areas where progress has been slow, and where problems remain.
The European Union appreciates also the recent positive trends, which are described in the report, concerning the brightening picture of the Palestinian economy. The accelerated growth of GDP in 1998 is a direct result of the rise in employment in the Palestinian workforce, which was experienced over the past year. It is also a consequence of the drastically reduced number of closure of the points of entry over the past year. This policy of closures continues to be of concern, and we hope that, with the new Government, this policy will improve.
However, in some areas, like the Gaza Strip, unemployment levels are still unacceptably high and continued support is needed in order to overcome this problem. In this regard, ILO technical assistance programmes, which receive support from European Union Member States, have an important role to play. We therefore welcome the ILO's increased efforts in this regard, and would particularly like to voice our support for the assistance provided by the ILO in the drafting of a social security code. This is a step towards the establishment of a sustainable public social protection system. The European Union further appreciates the fact that the ILO technical cooperation programmes include an action plan within the framework of the International Programme on More and Better Jobs for Women (WOMEMP) which, once implemented, will represent an important step towards gender equality.
In this context, we welcome the activities undertaken by the ILO's International Training Centre in Turin, in particular the project for the development of technical colleges for the Palestinian Authority.
Last year, the European Union expressed its commitment to progress in the peace process by hoping that this year there would be no need for a special session and an Appendix to the Report. Looking at the large number of ILO initiatives reflected in the report and the number of encouraging signs, the report this year actually does make quite good reading. The European Union remains entirely committed to progress in the peace process, and in this context, allow me to underline the European Union's readiness and willingness to work actively with the ILO in supporting social development in the region.

Mr. SA'ADATI Pirooz, Government adviser and substitute delegate

Islamic Republic of Iran

- I would like to consider the question of the situation of the Palestinian and Arab workers in the occupied Arab territories. We should bear in mind the need to alleviate the problems of the Palestinians and the Arabs in this region of the world. The Middle East crisis, particularly the problem of Palestine, has been the focus of efforts made by the international family. Over the last five decades, the international community has adopted a number of resolutions and decisions at the international level. I think it may be said that this issue has occupied much of the work of the international organizations and institutions and these issues have been the focus of many statements and a great deal of dialogue.
So far, the situation remains the same. No results are forthcoming, there have been words but no action. One can give several reasons for this failure. I do not wish to list them all, but would like to draw attention to some of them.
One reason is Israel's flouting of all these resolutions and the weakness of the international community in the face of such intransigence. Sanctions should be adopted against the occupation forces. We should not merely discuss these matters endlessly. There must be a withdrawal from these territories.
The Palestinian people, particularly the Palestinian and Arab workers, continue to live in the occupied Arab territories, but what a life they live in such dreadful conditions! They suffer as a result of many measures of a political nature taken against them. We hope that this will not merely mean that the United Nations, the International Labour Organization and many other international organizations will be lead by the nose, if I may use that term. I mean leading them astray and not letting them see the true situation. The workers in the occupied Arab territories have often appealed to the international organizations and complained about the ill-treatment, the inhuman treatment meted out and their sufferings in the occupied Arab territories. I believe that collective sanctions are the least of these abuses.
We should also implement the policies needed to eliminate the settlements and force a change in the settlement policies of the Israeli occupation authorities. These authorities prevent Arab workers from moving freely to their workplace. I will not list all the measures taken against the workers in the occupied Arab territories, but say that our repeated appeals to put an end to this inhuman treatment have still not been heeded by the Israeli occupation authorities.
The settlement policy in the occupied Arab territories continues with the latest settlement in east Jerusalem. This is a provocation and a flagrant violation of all the resolutions and international decisions adopted by the international community. Once again the Government is flouting all these resolutions and decisions.
We should guarantee the sacred nature of Jerusalem for all religions of the world. We should not continue to treat the Palestinians in this manner in the occupied Arab territories.
What is happening in Palestine is an integral part of the global plan of the Zionist entity to occupy the whole area. It is nothing new. Hitherto, questions have been left unanswered concerning the way in which the Palestinian issue has been dealt with. This question must be examined in the proper light. The few measures adopted by the Israeli authorities are certainly insufficient to solve the situation of the Arab workers and my Government therefore condemns this Israeli occupation and the ill-treatment of the Palestinian workers. This is action which we should all take together.

M. SAHBANI Ismaïl, Workers' delegate

Tunisia

- I wish to thank the Director-General of the International Labour Organization for his valuable report which has drawn a complete picture on the plight of workers in the occupied Arab territories and has exposed Israeli discriminatory practices which are justified with the excessive excuse of security, only to carry on with their aggressive agenda consisting of annexation of occupied territories, expansion of settlements and going back on previous commitments as well as exploiting Arab labour for Israeli economic interests.
The Arab workers living in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon are living in tragic conditions. They are exposed to unemployment and poverty. They are exposed constantly to humiliation, to continuous aggression. They are constantly being deprived of their natural right to work. They are being killed and humiliated daily at military crossings as they go to work. Palestinian workers also get wages which are below those of Israeli workers. They are deprived of freedom of movement as a collective punishment. This policy has kept unemployment rates high and they are likely to rise even further if agricultural Palestinian land continues to be confiscated and turned into settlements. This will only deprive farmers and farmworkers of their livelihoods and they will swell the ranks of the unemployed, leading to instability, discouraging investment and preventing the revitalization of the economy which will cause a further deterioration in living standards in the occupied Arab territories.
The trade union situation is not better than the economic situation. The Palestinian trade union movement is operating under difficult circumstances. Its efforts to organize and mobilize workers is constantly hindered and paralysed by the will of the occupying authorities to divide the movement. The fact that the Arab workers in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories are governed by different laws adversely affects the ability of trade unions to organize and to defend the rights of their members and therefore we must recognize that the Israeli occupation is the main obstacle to freedom of association and the right to organize.
The practices described in the report of the Director-General this year, as well as in previous years, will not stop unless the occupation is stopped and when the Palestinian people recover their natural right to self-determination and can establish their own independent State with Jerusalem as its capital, and only if the area recovers the Golan which is an integral part of its territory and Israel withdraws from southern Lebanon.
Israel is almost the only country in the world which is occupying the land of others by force. It continues to destroy the houses of the indigenous inhabitants. It continues to recruit inhabitants from other countries on the basis of religion and race, so as to replace the indigenous people. These practices must be condemned by the international community as they are illegitimate. Israel is violating the resolutions of the United Nations and is breaking the will of the international community to establish a just and lasting peace in the region. The ILO is therefore called upon to increase its assistance to the Arab workers and the other social partners in Palestine and the Golan in order to train trade unionists. It is called upon to intensify its technical cooperation programmes in cooperation with the representative organizations. It must create an environment conducive to overcoming this difficult situation and putting an end to poverty, unemployment and alienation.
Finally, we must continue with the peace process. The ILO should play an important role in spreading peace, security and social progress by putting an end to the Israeli occupation, by lifting the embargo imposed on Iraq and freeing the region of all weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. SAVAHEDI Ghadir, Workers' adviser delegate

Islamic Republic of Iran

- In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate! I am very happy indeed to be attending this special session of the International Labour Conference dedicated to the Palestinian workers. I greet you on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on behalf of the Iranian people, on behalf of all Iranian workers I greet you.
As we are all aware, in the 1980s and 1990s the world witnessed radical changes, including dismantling of the Soviet Union, the liberation of many peoples throughout the world and economic globalization, all of which have had negative repercussions for many people, economically, politically and socially. The labour movement and the trade union movement are suffering as a result of this new international economic order and this globalization of relations. There are ever more monopolies, mergers and cartels, and there is flagrant exploitation of workers throughout the world.
These changes have not just affected one part of the world, but have been felt in all the corners of the earth. Day after day we witness small areas of tension which are increasing throughout the world and which first and foremost threaten the workers. Workers are the very first victims, such as the workers of Palestine, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the Sudan, the Islamic Republic of Iran. All the workers throughout the Third World are suffering from these changes.
The struggle between the State of Israel and the Arab, Islamic and Palestinian peoples is an ever more bloody one and is threatening the entire world. This is a permanent, explosive powder keg. The actions taken are actions against the Arab peoples, the Islamic peoples. Israel is continuing to flout all the resolutions and appeals of the international community and the Israeli Government is every day waging attacks against the workers in Palestine, southern Lebanon and other occupied Arab territories. These are aggressions which are increasing in their ferociousness, the way they are targeted and their terrible repetition. Of course, Israel has the support of the United States which is merely seeking to weaken the already unstable and precarious balance in the region.
I must say quite frankly that the Islamic countries should overcome their internal struggles. They should show more understanding as is advocated by Islam. If this were the case we would achieve positive results. The Palestinian workers are suffering from acts of violence, discrimination, terrorism and permanent exacting demands. Their employment contracts are cancelled for no apparent reason and they have no access to water.
But who supports Zionism but the major powers? They give their unconditional support to the Zionist entity at the expense of the Palestinian workers who are bowing under the Zionist yoke.
I would wish any future missions to the occupied Arab territories every success, as I do the ILO and the International Labour Conference. There are certain realistic and effective solutions which could guarantee the rights of workers in general and Palestinian workers in particular.

Mr. SCHLETTWEIN Carl-Hermann G., Government delegate

Namibia

- May I first of all inform all here today that I am giving my statement on behalf of the Labour and Social Affairs Commission of the Organization of African Unity.
It is an honour and a pleasure for me to participate at this special sitting of the 87th Session of the International Labour Conference, which is devoted to the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories. On behalf of the Organization of African Unity and that of the African group, I would like to pay tribute to the ILO and its Governing Body for the organization of this special sitting which should be regularly organized until the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and workers are fully restored. I wish to thank the Director-General for his comprehensive report, which has clearly highlighted the plight of the Palestinian workers in the occupied territories, especially the massive employment problems in these territories.
These facts contained in the report of the Director-General confirm the well- known shocking and appalling living and working conditions which are arbitrarily imposed on the people and workers of Palestine. Thousands of Palestinians, deprived of their land, have been driven into exile, while others are forced to live as strangers in their own land, which is occupied by another country. They are subjected to inhuman practices such as: harassment, humiliation, dismissals, imprisonment, torture, murder and other serious violations of fundamental human rights by the police and army.
May I therefore take this opportunity to express the sympathy and solidarity of the African people to the people and workers of Palestine in their legitimate struggle to recover their liberty, dignity and right to self-determination within an internationally recognized territory.
The Palestinian Authority has been recognized and established. Since then, it has been governing itself - indeed in conditions which are particularly difficult - but it will be acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority has succeeded in demonstrating its capacity for creating an atmosphere of peace and security; unfortunately, however, its efforts have been constantly torpedoed by political demands during the past two years and the continued illegal occupation of its territories. All these factors have contributed to the climate of violence and tension in the Palestinian territories. After the signing of the Agreement by the PLO and the Government of Israel in January 1997, which set out a calendar for Israel's withdrawal from parts of the rural zones of the West Bank, while outlining the calendar for future negotiations, the Israeli authorities' decision to build new settlements in the south of Jerusalem appears to be a serious setback to the peace process.
This action was condemned by the OAU because it is a major obstacle to peace. At a stroke of a pen, it simply reversed the achievements of all the earlier negotiations which had brought a lot of hope to all of us. Faced with this situation, which was the cause of outbursts of violence, the OAU, during its annual meetings in Harare, Zimbabwe in June 1997 and in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in June 1998, respectfully expressed its deep concern and condemnation of the violations of the principles of peace and peaceful coexistence by Israel and its non-respect of the principles guiding the peace process. The OAU formally reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people, under the leadership of the PLO, to enjoy their inalienable national rights - i.e. the right to go back to their fatherland, the right to own property, and the right to self-determination. In short, the right to establish an independent State on their national territory with Jerusalem as its capital. This would be in conformity with the principles and resolutions relating to international legality. The OAU has always requested the Israeli Government to stop immediately the confiscation of Palestinian territories, especially in Jerusalem and around it, to end the construction of settlements and to comply with resolutions 242, 338, 465 and 478 of the United Nations Security Council as well as resolution 101 of the United Nations General Assembly concerning the city of Jerusalem and the illegal measures applied all over the occupied Palestinian territories. The OAU is of the view that violation of these resolutions endangers the peace process and seriously compromises the entire region's security. That is why it calls upon the international community to encourage all parties to refrain from any unilateral measures and to abandon any act of violence which could undermine further the chances of peace. It also calls upon the new Israeli Government to show the spirit of compromise in order to establish a climate favourable to the continuation of negotiations and the process of peace. In this connection, the OAU's Labour and Social Affairs Commission feels that the international community should deploy all efforts needed in persuading the new Israeli Government to be involved in the peace process by implementing fully and as soon as possible all the commitments and agreements entered into by the parties concerned and especially to avoid pursuing the predecessor's policy which, until, now has been a major obstacle in the implementation of agreements concluded earlier.
Finally, this session of the International Labour Conference is once more an opportunity for the OAU's Labour and Social Affairs Commission to renew its expression of solidarity with the courageous people and workers of Palestine and to reiterate to them its strong support in the efforts aimed at attaining the legitimate rights guaranteeing peace and security and ensuring stability in all of its regions. I wish you complete success in your deliberations.

Mr. SKOGMO Bjorn, Government adviser and substitute delegate

Norway

- In the Middle East, the peace process is closely linked with the development of growth and stability in the Palestinian economy. When there is uncertainty in the political process, we must keep building hope in the future by intensifying our efforts in the socio- economic development process. Social and economic progress with tangible improvements in living conditions is a precondition for long-term reconciliation and peace.
As the report before us illustrates, an important challenge is to raise living conditions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The steady decline in per capita income and high unemployment rate must be taken seriously. Raising living conditions requires, more than any other single factor, steady employment.
First and foremost, this means that thousands of new jobs must be created in the West Bank and Gaza Strip private economy. This can only be accomplished through stimulating greater private sector investment.
Secondly, predictable access to the Israeli job market will remain a necessity for years to come. The year 1998 saw progress in this direction and we appreciate the decisions of the Government of Israel that permitted this to happen.
Thirdly, we would hope to see greater access to other regional labour markets. The prospects for per capita income growth will quite clearly remain closely linked to average household size. Similar to many other governments, the Palestinian Authority must grapple with the disequilibrium between resource growth and population growth.
We believe strongly that the coordination structures that have been put in place over the past five years have made a significant contribution to the effectiveness of the development effort. Despite difficulties and disagreements, working partnerships have been formed among the donors and the parties. The new phase in the development effort will undoubtedly prompt us to review on an ongoing basis, as we have done in the past, whether these mechanisms are operating effectively.
As the peace process moves through the permanent status phase, the work of the ILO for the workers of the occupied Arab territories will become even more complex than it has been to date. It will also become more vital to the peace process.
The ILO is well positioned to contribute in improving employment opportunities and hence living conditions in the occupied territories. The four strategic opportunities must guide the ILO in this endeavour. Furthermore, the ILO contribution must be concerted with other development efforts. For Norway, as chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, this perspective is of great importance.

Mr. SUNMONU Hassan A., Representative

Organization of African Trade Union Unity

- On behalf of African workers and the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), I congratulate the Director-General for his excellent report on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories. From the report it is very clear that the rights of Arab workers continue to be violated by the Israeli authorities. The beatings, maimings and killings of workers by the Israeli security forces referred to in paragraph 12 of the report are typical examples of the violation of human and trade union rights of the Arab Palestinian workers. The annexation of east Jerusalem, the fragmentation of Palestinian territories and discrimination against Palestinian businessmen in Israeli markets referred to in paragraph 16 of the report also form part of the pattern of violation of the rights of the Palestinian workers and people. The human rights situation in the occupied Arab territories remains very serious. The sealing off of the territories has deprived thousands of the Palestinian workers of their sources of income. The changes in the physical and demographic characteristics of the occupied Arab territories are not only a violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, but also contrary to international law. I congratulate the ILO and donor countries and agencies for the technical and financial assistance given to the Palestinian Authority. The ILO, as well as the donor countries and agencies, should continue to provide this crucial assistance in order to ameliorate the social and economic conditions of the Palestinian workers and people. The Organisation of African Trade Union Unity reaffirms its consistent support for the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian workers and peoples against occupation, oppression and injustice, and for their right to self-determination and the creation of an independent State of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital.
The OATUU supports the continuation of the special sitting of the International Labour Conference to discuss the report of the Director-General on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, until the restoration of the territories to their rightful Arab owners, and the achievement of freedom and statehood by the Palestinian people.
A gentleman spoke here earlier and said that this will be the final special sitting. It will not be the last unless a miracle happens to restore to the Palestinian people their rights and establish a State of Palestine. Indeed, we in the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity would even suggest that the creation of a special committee like the one set up to fight apartheid should be considered next year if the situation does not improve.

Mr. TABANI M. Ashraf W., Employers' delegate

Pakistan

- I wish to thank the Governing Body for requesting the Director-General to hold this special sitting, and congratulate him for the quality of the Appendix to his Report, dealing with the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories. I am pleased to express my appreciation of the continued effort of the mission he sent to the Arab territories, and commend the frankness and the reality of their report.
This is a comprehensive document, with a good deal of useful information, which is based on work carried out in the true spirit of ILO principles and objectives. Such a clear report was possible because the Israeli authorities cooperated this year, unlike last, to give the members of the mission every facility in visiting the different areas and meeting the officials concerned, as well as representatives of employers and workers.
It is a matter of deep regret that, in spite of the implementation of the decisions taken since August 1997, as pointed out in paragraph 18 of the Appendix to the Report, the conditions of the workers have not appreciably improved. Paragraphs 27 and 28 do not really make very pleasant reading. Much more has to be done to ameliorate the conditions of underpaid workers, and those seeking employment.
We appreciate the technical cooperation and other assistance given by the ILO under the 1994 Memorandum of Understanding. The Director-General will have to make special efforts to accelerate new technical assistance programmes for the promotion of investment and enterprises, in order to create more jobs.
We sincerely hope that a constructive dialogue with the affected parties will be resumed in order to bring peace and stability to the occupied Arab territories.

Mr. THÜSING Rolf, Employers' delegate

Germany

- The report of the Director-General unfortunately shows us that over the past year the economic and social situation has not undergone much improvement. Economic growth is weak, unemployment is still high and the road to social justice will obviously be a long one.
In addition to the political framework for a real and lasting peace in the region, economic development is necessary. The prerequisites for such development are growth in markets, a strengthening of the private sector and the promotion of the businesses. The International Labour Organization can make an important contribution to these objectives in the field of technical cooperation. Since the ILO's resources are limited, it should focus primarily on the development of smaller and medium-sized businesses. The programme "Improve your business" which is now available for the Arab world promotes training and further training in business management and that is a positive step. Another programme specifically for women in connection with the promotion of small and medium-sized businesses was introduced last year. Both these programmes are an important contribution, but will not, in the light of existing requirements, be sufficient.
Within the framework of the strategic objectives set out in the Director- General's programme and budget proposals, the International Labour Organization should give even more attention to the promotion of small and medium-sized businesses. The creation of jobs in the private sector is the most reliable way of reducing unemployment. In the long term it is only private enterprise which generates productive employment capacity and thus helps to create greater prosperity and improve of the general standard of living. The support provided by the International Labour Organization through these programmes and through the assistance provided by ILO experts and the multidisciplinary teams should be continued, and the International Labour Organization should make the necessary resources available. This needs to be done rapidly, since we cannot afford to waste time.
However, this is only one aspect. Another important contribution must be made by the enterprises themselves. The International Labour Organization, through its Bureau of Employers' Activities, should contribute to the creation and the strengthening of effective employers' organizations. Strong and independent employers' organizations are a prerequisite for social dialogue and therefore for the development of democracy. I do not think I need to stress here that the same can be said of workers' organizations. The Director-General's report draws attention to difficulties in industrial relations, although there are already a number of some collective agreements in force at company level in the private sector. I would like to recall here that improving the basic conditions for social dialogue by strengthening the employers' organizations is also one of the strategic objectives of the International Labour Organization.
I should also like to mention another important task which I referred to last year, that is to say, training. Training is of very great importance and the ILO has an important role in promoting training activities particularly for young people. In the territories we are speaking of, young people make up a disproportionate part of the population as a whole. These young people must be given hope for the future. The International Labour Organization should make them aware of the importance of the private sector and the role of private enterprise.
It is a rewarding task to encourage young people and provide them with the training they need to become independent entrepreneurs. This is another means for creating jobs of course. The economy of these territories cannot exist in isolation from the outside world. It must be able to cooperate with businesses and enterprises in other countries. The International Labour Organization should therefore not neglect the process of regional integration. Strengthening the employers' organizations in the territories means strengthening employers' organizations in other countries in the region.
This is a long-term process, and there needs to be an evaluation of the International Labour Organization's programmes and a continuing review of its activities. This, I think, should be taken into consideration in the next report.
The hope of real and lasting peace in the region and of social justice in those territories has grown in recent weeks. It is a hope which we all share.

M. VERONESE Alphonse, Workers' adviser delegate

France

- Thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity to speak at this special session for discussing the Director-General's report on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories. Last year from this same podium we said it was not within the powers of anyone to turn the clock back to before September 1993.
The result of recent elections in Israel is encouragement that there will be new impetus to the peace process and new relationships between all the peoples of the region. But in order for such aspirations to become reality it is essential that the trade unions and the workers in Palestine, Israel and the other federations and confederations of trade unions in the Middle East should direct their efforts urgently and effectively towards improving the situation of the populations.
We support the ILO's commitment in the fields of cooperation and technical assistance aimed at contributing to the economic and social development of Palestine in order to overcome poverty and unemployment, and to train young people and ensure their access to stable employment.
In order to bring about durable development leading to social justice, we support the efforts made towards improving access of women to employment and qualification. These are the minimum conditions to ensure that plans and programmes for the development of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are carried out.
However, obviously the settlement of Israeli colonies and the creation of these colonies is a serious threat to relations between the two peoples and to the implementation of cooperation programmes.
Unions are responsible for seeing that rights and dignity, and the means of action of women and men at work, in particular in the area of basic rights, security and health, are respected and promoted.
For this reason the French trade unions, the CGT, support the action of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) in adopting the general labour code and public services code that are compatible with the requirements of progressive and independent democratic trade unions.
Together with the Palestinian federations, we shall support efforts to ensure that Palestinian workers, both men and women, working in Israel are paid salaries, are given labour permits and that contracts cease to be broken. This is an opportunity for positive cooperation between the PGFTU and Histadrut.
Original German: Mr. THÜSING (Employers' delegate, Germany) - The report of the Director-General unfortunately shows us that over the past year the economic and social situation has not undergone much improvement. Economic growth is weak, unemployment is still high and the road to social justice will obviously be a long one.
In addition to the political framework for a real and lasting peace in the region, economic development is necessary. The prerequisites for such development are growth in markets, a strengthening of the private sector and the promotion of the businesses. The International Labour Organization can make an important contribution to these objectives in the field of technical cooperation. Since the ILO's resources are limited, it should focus primarily on the development of smaller and medium-sized businesses. The programme "Improve your business" which is now available for the Arab world promotes training and further training in business management and that is a positive step. Another programme specifically for women in connection with the promotion of small and medium-sized businesses was introduced last year. Both these programmes are an important contribution, but will not, in the light of existing requirements, be sufficient.
Within the framework of the strategic objectives set out in the Director- General's programme and budget proposals, the International Labour Organization should give even more attention to the promotion of small and medium-sized businesses. The creation of jobs in the private sector is the most reliable way of reducing unemployment. In the long term it is only private enterprise which generates productive employment capacity and thus helps to create greater prosperity and improve of the general standard of living. The support provided by the International Labour Organization through these programmes and through the assistance provided by ILO experts and the multidisciplinary teams should be continued, and the International Labour Organization should make the necessary resources available. This needs to be done rapidly, since we cannot afford to waste time.
However, this is only one aspect. Another important contribution must be made by the enterprises themselves. The International Labour Organization, through its Bureau of Employers' Activities, should contribute to the creation and the strengthening of effective employers' organizations. Strong and independent employers' organizations are a prerequisite for social dialogue and therefore for the development of democracy. I do not think I need to stress here that the same can be said of workers' organizations. The Director-General's report draws attention to difficulties in industrial relations, although there are already a number of some collective agreements in force at company level in the private sector. I would like to recall here that improving the basic conditions for social dialogue by strengthening the employers' organizations is also one of the strategic objectives of the International Labour Organization.
I should also like to mention another important task which I referred to last year, that is to say, training. Training is of very great importance and the ILO has an important role in promoting training activities particularly for young people. In the territories we are speaking of, young people make up a disproportionate part of the population as a whole. These young people must be given hope for the future. The International Labour Organization should make them aware of the importance of the private sector and the role of private enterprise.
It is a rewarding task to encourage young people and provide them with the training they need to become independent entrepreneurs. This is another means for creating jobs of course. The economy of these territories cannot exist in isolation from the outside world. It must be able to cooperate with businesses and enterprises in other countries. The International Labour Organization should therefore not neglect the process of regional integration. Strengthening the employers' organizations in the territories means strengthening employers' organizations in other countries in the region.
This is a long-term process, and there needs to be an evaluation of the International Labour Organization's programmes and a continuing review of its activities. This, I think, should be taken into consideration in the next report.
The hope of real and lasting peace in the region and of social justice in those territories has grown in recent weeks. It is a hope which we all share.

Mr. WIRAJUDA N. Hassan, Government adviser and substitute delegate

Indonesia

- The holding of this special sitting by the International Labour Organization represents the continued grave concerns of the constituents of this body at the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories. In a wider context, this also reflects the anxiety of the international community of the uncertainty of the Middle East peace process and its repercussions on respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people living in the occupied territories, including the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination and to establish an independent State in their own homeland.
The report of the Director-General on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories provides a comprehensive picture of the reality on the ground. An important element missing from the report is a set of recommendations addressed to the Israeli and Palestinian authorities with a view to improving the situation of workers in the territory. However, this report should nevertheless serve as a basis for the International Labour Organization to determine the priorities and direction of its programmes and activities in the territories, in order to be responsive to the concerns and interests of the non-Israeli worker living there.
It is revealed in the report that the security measures taken by the Israeli authorities, including the closure of the occupied territories which has been in force since 1993, have rendered the situation of Palestinians working in Israel and in Israeli settlements difficult. Consequently, it is impossible for workers to work in an organized manner. They are constantly in danger of losing their jobs and they are the subject of discrimination, sometimes even of violence, at the points of entry into Israel. Administrative steps taken for security reasons are also preventing the development of the employers' industrial and commercial activities, as well as hindering the technical cooperation projects being carried out to help the Palestinian economy.
The living and working conditions of Syrian Arab citizens living in the occupied Syrian Golan have not changed since previous years. They continue to suffer from discrimination and injustice in terms of wages, insurance and unjustified dismissal. They continue to face difficulties, especially as a result of the confiscation of land and discriminatory practices, as well as through Israeli settlement policy.
The lack of clarity of the legislation applicable in the settlements that were still being established or extended is also contributing to the hardship faced by the workers of the occupied Palestine and other Arab territories.
It is undeniable that all these problems are deeply rooted in the fact that the political peace process has reached a stalemate, in particular due to the failure on the part of the Israeli Government to respect the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination and to comply with the timetable for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories according to the Oslo and Hebron Accords.
There cannot be any progress without both sides accepting the Wye River initiatives for a second phase of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, on the one hand, and resuming final discussions, on the other hand. Moreover, Israel must implement the agreements it has reached with Palestinians in their entirety and with consistency and fairness, and not selectively, sporadically and conditionally.
As regards the ILO's regional programme for the Arab States, the ILO should continue to attach great importance to and make a priority of assisting the countries and territories directly concerned with a peace process in the subregion, in particular Gaza and the West Bank. The programme should focus on capacity- building activities for the officials responsible for labour and social policies and for the representative of employers' and workers' organizations, as well as on the expansion of employment opportunities for the Palestinian labour force. In this regard, we support the ILO's future technical assistance and advisory services, which continue to be directed towards improving the situation of workers in the occupied territories and towards support for the Palestinian Authority, as well as employers' and workers' organizations, by focusing on workers' rights, capacity building, employment creation, the promotion of social dialogue, social security protection and tripartism.
An important issue for the Palestinians working in the territories is the adoption of a Labour Code which contains provisions on occupational safety and health. The adoption of the Code should be accompanied by the establishment of a strong enforcement mechanism and the functioning of a properly trained labour inspectorate. Technical assistance should also be extended by the ILO in this area.
To conclude, my delegation hopes that assistance to improve the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories will continue to be accorded a high priority by the ILO.

Ms. XIA Xiaomei, Workers' adviser and substitute delegate

China

- The International Labour Conference is being held for the last time in this century. It is regretful for mankind that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution has not yet been found for the Palestinian question, one of the most difficult problems in the international relations of this century. We sincerely hope that with the concerted efforts of the parties concerned the Palestinian issue can be settled at an early date so that the peoples in the Middle East countries can live a happy life in the coming century.
Since the late 1970s, an international day to support the Palestinian people has been held by the United Nations at the headquarters, at the end of November every year. Also, a mission has been sent by the Director-General of the ILO each year to the occupied territories and Israel to investigate the employment, work and life of the workers, and the role played by the International Labour Organization there. At the same time, discussions on the Palestinian issue have been carried out almost annually in the Assembly Hall as part of the International Labour Conference to support the Palestinian people in their just struggle, but we have not yet seen the founding of a Palestinian State by the date set by the Oslo Agreement. The Palestinian issue has not yet found a reasonable solution and the Palestinian people are still the subject of terrible suffering.
The Palestinian issue lies at the heart of the Middle East issue. To establish a Palestinian State is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people. Prolonged failure to seek a just and reasonable settlement for the Palestinian issue affects peace and development not only in the Middle East but also in the world as a whole.
We note with pleasure that the just cause of the Palestinian people to strive for the restoration of legitimate national rights has gained increasingly extensive sympathy and support internationally. Chinese workers and trade unions have all along supported the Palestinian and Arab workers and people in their just struggle for the restoration of their legitimate rights and will, as always, support the Middle East peace process.
We appreciate the remarkable role played by the International Labour Organization in the occupied territories to promote democracy, to defend the basic rights of the workers in employment, to combat poverty and to protect the lawful rights and interests of the workers there.
We hope that the International Labour Organization will continue to support the peace process and intensify projects of technical cooperation in the occupied territories, to improve the working and living conditions of the Palestinian and Arab workers and people. The Chinese workers and people have made, and will always make, unlimited efforts for peace and stability in the Middle East.

Mr. ZELLHOEFER Jerald A., Workers' delegate

United States

- I thank the President for giving me the opportunity to address the present, and hopefully the last, special sitting on this matter. As has been the case every time the ILO Conference has held a special sitting on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories, the American labour movement, the AFL-CIO, has expressed its deep concern over the unfortunate misuse of the ILO.
It has been our consistent view that this Organization's mandate is not political. This Conference is not the same as the United Nations General Assembly or Security Council. The ILO is a unique and specialized body within the United Nations system with a universally accepted and respected mandate and competence. Special sittings like this only serve to politicize and, unfortunately, weaken the ILO's effectiveness and, ultimately, its credibility.
Indeed, there are some who would very much like to see the ILO weakened, or worse, and there are those who would just as well prefer to see the peace process in this region undermined, or worse.
Certainly there is, however, very clearly a constructive and important role for the ILO to assist within its mandate and competence the process that must underpin genuine peace, security, and democracy, and economic and social justice for all in this part of the world.
The Appendix to the Director-General's Report this year include a concise summary of the various technical cooperation and assistance programmes that have been carried out and are expected to continue. More, indeed much more, needs to be done. It was encouraging to see in the report the expanding cooperation between the Histadrut trade union federation and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.
In underscoring fundamental human rights, meaningful and gainful employment, income-generating activities, capacity building for those responsible for labour and social policies, tripartite consultations and dialogue, stressing freedom of association, collective bargaining, ending discrimination and strengthening the commitment to achieve equality, in reality the technical cooperation and other assistance provided and in the planning stages all very much underscore the Director-General's four strategic objectives for the ILO.
These strategic objectives and, in particular, the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work are now more important in the surrounding region than ever. Just today, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions released its annual survey of violations of trade union rights. From that report and other sources, it is clear that trade unions are simply banned in some States, in others no collective bargaining is allowed, outright government control is the case in some others and only a very few States permit trade unions to act but, most commonly, with very limited independence.
The appalling social and economic inequities that are so widespread in the surrounding region are directly linked to the suppression of fundamental human and labour rights and the lack of democracy, and are manifested so frequently in the absence of genuine independent trade unions. Human dignity, human potential, continue to be repressed by all too many regimes.
For the wider surrounding region, this is the essential and enormous challenge facing the ILO.

Mr. ZHARIKOV Alexander, Representative

World Federation of Trade Unions

- We appreciate the efforts of the ILO sending a mission to the occupied Arab territories and organizing this special sitting on the situation of Palestian workers under occupation.
We also appreciate the work carried out by the ILO mission visiting these territories, which met all parties concerned and prepared the report for this session.
We note that in comparison with previous years, the mission reported that it had encountered less formal difficulties in accomplishing its task. But as far as the situation of Arab workers in Israeli occupied territory is concerned - as is made clear in the report and as we know ourselves from our members concerned - there is no improvement in the situation, despite the fact that we have discussed this situation at many previous sessions of this Conference.
Indeed - and this is our main position - no progress has been made in the implementation of respective resolutions of United Nations demanding Israel to withdraw from Arab occupied territories in Palestine, Syrian Arab Republic, the Golan and southern Lebanon. And the ILO is an important part of the United Nations. These resolutions, which represent a legitimate demand from the international community and constitute the highest source of international law, have been ignored by Israel for decades. Moreover, its policy of building up Jewish settlements in the occupied territories continues, representing a perfect example of ethnic cleansing of the Arab population. The Arab workers in the occupied territories cannot exercise their basic rights. They are not considered as citizens but merely inhabitants. They do not live under a rule of law but depend upon permits - which may be withdrawn at any moment. They are not treated by the Israeli authorities as human beings. They are not free individuals but prisoners waking up and going to sleep under military guard. Of course, demands could be made for improvements in the prison conditions; but we all understand the difference between the situation of a prisoner and a free man, between a child born as a citizen and someone living in a refugee camp.
That is why we refrain at this Conference from congratulating the new Israeli Government on its elections until conditions set up by the international community to withdraw from all Arab occupied territories have been fully met. Because we know that many governments may come and go but the situation remains the same. We appeal to all governments to refrain from providing Israel with military and economic assistance until this country unconditionally complies with international law and the just demands of the international community, expressed on numerous occasions by the only universal and legitimate authority, the United Nations.
We welcome the promise of the Director-General, Mr. Somavia, to insist on more effective measures of the ILO towards promotion policies. In this respect, we support the suggestion that the ILO might set up a special committee to follow up the situation of Arab workers in the occupied territories on a standing basis - as was the case with the situation of the workers under the regime of apartheid. We should not wait another year just to send a delegation on the spot to state that no progress has been made.
We agree with the Director-General that immediate solutions have to be found. We cannot wait another decade and bring such a dangerous situation to the next millennium we are approaching.




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