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        General Assembly
A/53/15 (Part IV)
27 October 1998

General Assembly
Fifty-third session

Report of the Trade and Development Board on its forty-fifth session*
(Geneva, 12 to 23 October 1998)

* The present document is an advance version of the report of the Trade and Development Board on its forty-fifth session, held at the United Nations Office at Geneva from 12 to 23 October 1998. It will appear in final form, together with the reports of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth executive sessions of the Board, as Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-third Session, Supplement No. 15 (A/53/15/Rev.1).


Decision 455 (XLV)
(b) Progress report on UNCTAD's assistance to the Palestinian people

8. At its 899th plenary meeting, on 16 October 1998, the Board took note of the progress report on UNCTAD’s assistance to the Palestinian people (TD/B/45/CRP.1). (Further to the provisions of General Assembly decision 47/445, an account of the Board's discussion on assistance to the Palestinian people is annexed to the present report (see annex II)).


Annex II


1. For its consideration of this subitem, the Board had before it the following documentation:

"Technical cooperation activities: Report on UNCTAD's assistance to the Palestinian people - Progress report, October 1997 - September 1998: prepared by the UNCTAD secretariat" (TD/B/45/CRP.1).

2. The Chief, Inter-Agency Affairs and Technical Cooperation, introducing the progress report, said that particular attention was focused on operational activities that had been launched in seven fully or partially funded projects and proposed operational activities in five other project areas which remained unfunded. The secretariat would pursue its efforts to mobilize extrabudgetary resources from UNDP, while the support of bilateral donors, including members of UNCTAD, would also be sought. Successful implementation of the activities in question would further develop UNCTAD’s contribution to peace and development in the region. Finally, he welcomed the fact that partners in the field, both in the Palestinian Authority and in the family of United Nations organizations, continued to turn to UNCTAD for assistance, thus recognizing the role UNCTAD had played in the past and the concrete assistance it could provide in the future.

3. The observer for Palestine said that, though the progress report did not discuss the economic situation in the occupied territory, important analytical studies had been published in the course of the year by the UNCTAD secretariat. He commended the secretariat in particular for its study on the Palestinian economy and the prospects for regional cooperation, which Palestinian decision-makers had found to contain constructive recommendations for future economic and trade policies.

4. He greatly appreciated UNCTAD’s efforts to provide concrete support, through its technical cooperation activities, in respect of building Palestinian capacities and strengthening the institutions of the Palestinian National Authority in order to reconstruct and develop Palestine after three decades of Israeli occupation. It was imperative that these activities be sustained and intensified through the provision of the necessary financial resources. He called upon the Secretary-General of UNCTAD to deploy all the resources at his disposal to mobilize the necessary extrabudgetary funds for this purpose through the Consultative Group of donors.

5. He noted that the post of Chief of the Special Economic Unit was still vacant, which meant that the General Assembly resolution on the matter had not been implemented, despite the Secretary-General’s repeated assurances and notwithstanding several letters from Palestine on this matter. The appointment of the special coordinator, as called for by the General Assembly resolution, was necessary as soon as possible to ensure continued delivery of concrete assistance to the Palestinian people in this period preceding independence and the building of the institutions and policies of the forthcoming Palestinian state.

6. The representative of Morocco, speaking on behalf of the Arab Countries, congratulated the secretariat for its progress report and for its continued commitment to the Palestinian people. The Arab countries had always attached great importance to UNCTAD's operational technical assistance for the Palestinian people and its analytical work on prospects for the development of the Palestinian economy. The fact that these two types of activity were being undertaken simultaneously reinforced their quality and impact. The analytical work should be strengthened with a view to providing a serious basis for operational activities and policy advice for the Palestinian Authority. UNCTAD's Mid-term Review had recently underlined that assistance to the Palestinian people should have a direct economic impact, and he encouraged the secretariat to reinforce its internal coordination and field presence.

7. It was a matter of concern that the secretariat had been able to secure only 45 per cent of the financial resources needed to implement its proposed projects. The bulk of funding to date had come from UNDP rather than from bilateral sources, and the Arab Countries hoped that further resources could be mobilized to allow UNCTAD to fully implement its proposed projects.

8. General Assembly resolution 52/220 had decided that UNCTAD’s programme of assistance to the Palestinian people should continue to be carried out by a special coordinator and another member of the secretariat, but the progress report indicated that it has not been possible to implement the resolution in the light of budgetary constraints. The Arab Countries were extremely concerned by this situation and hoped that a solution would be found.

9. The spokesperson for the African Group (Tunisia) welcomed the increasing emphasis in UNCTAD's assistance to the Palestinian people on concrete operational activities, including close coordination with the Palestinian Authority and the private sector. This action-oriented, demand-driven and associative approach had prompted extrabudgetary funding amounting to $550,000 for the current biennium. She thanked donors for their support and appealed for additional contributions.

10. As for staff needs, she was concerned that secretariat resources did not match the increasing demands being made on it in this area. The Special Economic Unit had been reduced to only one officer, whereas General Assembly resolution 52/220 clearly stipulated that work should be carried out by a special coordinator at the P.5 level and a staff member at the P.4 level. The Secretary-General of UNCTAD was therefore invited to honour his commitment to maintain the Unit at its required level.

11. The spokesperson for the Asian Group and China (Indonesia) said that technical assistance was of paramount importance in helping a country to develop its capacity and build its institutions. She expressed appreciation to the Secretary-General of UNCTAD for providing much-needed technical assistance to the Palestinian people and to UNDP, UNITAR and the Government of Italy for supporting that technical assistance in a process that called for maximum international attention and goodwill. She urged donors and UNCTAD to lend their full support to those projects which still awaited funding and which should be commenced without further delay.

12. The continued vacancy of the post of special coordinator for assistance to the Palestinian people was preventing prompt and efficient implementation of projects, and her Group urged that the post be filled as soon as possible.

13. The representative of Pakistan said it was heartening to note the increasing support of the international community for UNCTAD’s programme of assistance to the Palestinian people. More needed to be done given the difficult circumstances facing the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority. The secretariat's progress report reminded all of the tremendous development challenge facing the Palestinian people. Funds allocated to projects should be carefully approximated to needs, and there should also be coherence between projects so as to ensure their optimal impact. The institutional capacities in the secretariat to support this programme should be strengthened, and the post of special coordinator should be filled.

14. The representative of Egypt said that UNCTAD's technical assistance activities in support of the Palestinian private sector and the Palestinian Authority required constant support, so as to achieve their development objectives in the field and to assist the Palestinian people in overcoming the challenges still facing them. The continuing cooperation of the Palestinian Authority with UNCTAD and the voluntary contributions already made to these activities pointed to their vitality and effectiveness. However, only 45 per cent of the funds needed for UNCTAD’s projects had so far been secured, and he called upon the secretariat to undertake all possible efforts to mobilize these resources; he hoped that the donor countries would contribute.

15. UNCTAD's Special Economic Unit for the Palestinian people still lacked its special coordinator, despite General Assembly resolution 52/220, which called for the appointment of the coordinator. He hoped the resolution would be implemented as soon as possible, and he requested that the Board be kept informed at the monthly consultations or at any executive session.

16. The representative of Italy, referring to the statement of Morocco and Italy’s contribution to one of UNCTAD’s projects of assistance to the Palestinian people, pointed out that, in addition to such direct bilateral funding, it should be remembered that much of UNDP’s financing was itself from bilateral donors.

17. The representative of Cuba welcomed the progress report on technical assistance to the Palestinian people, which would contribute to the reconstruction of the Palestinian economy. The appointment of the special coordinator for the programme was long over-due.

18. The representative of Israel congratulated the secretariat on its professional and constructive progress report. Israel supported UNCTAD technical assistance to the Palestinian people and considered that it had a beneficial effect on the peace process in general. While important talks were currently taking place on that process in the United States, UNCTAD was making its own efforts for the benefit of the peace process. Israel especially welcomed the orientation of UNCTAD’s projects, such as the Nablus Industrial Estate and the EMPRETEC projects mentioned in the report. Activities that could contribute to job creation and strengthen the Palestinian private sector were of great value.

19. He noted that 45 per cent of the funds required for UNCTAD’s projects had been secured to date. For its part, the Government of Israel was willing to provide advisory services and training to the Palestinian Authority, and it was ready to do so in full cooperation with the UNCTAD secretariat.


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