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


GA/SHC/3725
15 November 2002



Fifty-seventh General Assembly
Third Committee
50th and 51st Meetings (AM & PM)

THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFTS ON INSTRAW, PALESTINIAN CHILDREN;
CONTINUES DEBATE ON REFUGEE ISSUES


The General Assembly would endorse the recommendations of the Working Group on the future of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and decide to link the Institute to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, under the terms of a draft resolution approved in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this afternoon, by a vote of 124 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, United States), with 29 abstentions.

Also this afternoon, a resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian children was approved by a vote of 95 in favour to 3 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, United States), with 58 abstentions.

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Under the terms of the draft on assistance to Palestinian children, the Assembly would express its deep concern about the consequences, including psychological consequences, of Israeli military actions on the present and future well-being of Palestinian children.  The Assembly would, therefore, demand that Israel, the occupying Power, respect the relevant provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and comply fully with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in order to ensure the well-being and protection of Palestinian children and their families.

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Background

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The Committee was expected to take up the draft on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian children (document A/C.3/57/L.23*), which would have the Assembly express its condemnation of all acts of violence resulting in extensive loss of human life and injuries, including among Palestinian children.  It would also have the Assembly express its deep concern about the consequences, including psychological consequences, of Israeli military actions on the present and future well-being of Palestinian children.  The resolution would have the Assembly demand that Israel, the occupying Power, respect the relevant provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and comply fully with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in order to ensure the well-being and protection of Palestinian children and their families.

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Statements on Refugees

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WALKIRIA FERNANDEZ (Cuba) ...

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Ensuring equitable distribution of wealth and equal treatment of all people, as well as creating a world with fewer wars and less ethnic and political violence, would certainly lead to fewer uprooted populations, she continued.  Cuba expressed its heartfelt regards to those Palestinian people who were persistently deprived of not only their human rights and fundamental freedoms, but of the right to return to a safe and secure homeland.  Cuba would also express condemnation for all those who perpetuated and supported the anti-Palestinian barbarity.

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Action on Drafts

The Committee turned next to take action on drafts on items related to the advancement of women and the rights of children.

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Then the Committee took up the draft on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian children (document A/C.3/57/L.23*).

Several delegations took the floor in explanation of vote before the vote.

The representative of Israel said Israel opposed the draft resolution that had been introduced as an initiative of the observer for Palestine -- the latest attempt to politicize all United Nations forums and single out Israel.  He noted that there was already a resolution on the rights of the child, all children in the world.  Given this draft resolution, it seemed as if one group of children was worthier of protection than others.  Even in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the draft ignored the terrible effects on Israeli children as a result of terrorism and suicide bombings.

Indeed, a significant number of suicide bombings had deliberately targeted children.  Only a few days ago, two children, aged 2 and 5, had been killed by a Palestinian terrorist.  Was this legitimate resistance, he asked.  With the adoption of such an unfair draft resolution, the Committee would ignore the cynical abuse of children in acts of terrorism, including suicide bombings.  The draft resolution failed to show that the threats to the well-being of Palestinian children were the terrorists themselves.  He urged Member States to reject such politicized and unbalanced drafts.

The representative of Egypt said that Egypt was the presenter of this resolution, not the observer for Palestine, since they did not have their independence.

The representative of the United States said the United States could not support the draft resolution since it was unbalanced, singled out one party in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and did not reflect the complexity or context of the situation on the ground.  For example, the draft resolution ignored the participation, acknowledgement and acceptance of the use of Palestinian children to perpetrate suicide bombings by groups such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade -- despite widespread Palestinian unease with such tactics.

According to Amnesty International, Palestinian Authority television programming had explicitly encouraged children to take part in clashes with Israeli forces and extolled the virtues of “martyrdom”.  The United States was deeply concerned about the situation of all Palestinian and Israeli children; however, the omnibus resolution on the Rights of the Child included the situation of children in armed conflict and addressed the plight and concern of all children, regardless of where they lived.

A recorded vote was requested.

The draft resolution was approved by a vote of 95 in favour to 3 against (Marshall Islands, the United States and Israel), with 58 abstentions.  (See Annex II.)

Following the vote, the representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said her delegation had abstained from the vote.  The member countries of the European Union had done so because they did not support the proliferation of resolutions on agenda items where the Committee had traditionally not dealt separately with country-specific situations.  The European Union continued to support the practice whereby thematic resolutions were all-encompassing and did not highlight one situation or another.  That was the most efficient way for the Assembly to do business.  Her delegation would have been pleased to vote in favour of the issue if the needs of Palestinian children had been incorporated into one of the existing resolutions on the Middle East.

Regarding the draft's substance, the European Union had consistently expressed its concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza, and had been particularly concerned by recent disturbing reports of how the health of Palestinian children had been affected by the worsening crisis.  If there was, indeed, to be peace in the future, and neighbourly relations between the parties, children needed to live in peace.  They should not be involved in the conflict, nor taught hate.  Israel and the Palestinian Authority had to do more to fulfil their responsibilities in those respects.

The representative of Australia said the resolution just approved covered specific regional issues, and his delegation believed it should not have been tabled under thematic items on children.  The resolution was also unbalanced, as it reflected only on the actions of Israel and did not reflect the situations that existed on the ground.  Australia would continue to urge both sides to work towards a diplomatic solution to the situation.

The representative of Turkey said his country's position on the ongoing conflict was well known by both parties, with which Turkey enjoyed good diplomatic relations.  Turkey deplored all acts of violence, particularly those involving children, and would continue to support any actions to end such violence.

The representative of Canada said his country had consistently supported all actions to alleviate the suffering of children in armed conflict.  It had not supported the resolution because the text did not reflect the terrible toll of the continued conflict on Israeli children, as well as Palestinian children.  Canada called on all parties to continue to work towards a diplomatic solution, so that all the children of the region could live in peace.

The representative of Cameroon said her delegation was particularly concerned at the situation of children suffering in the Middle East, and would call on both sides to work to ensure that Palestinian and Israeli children lived a life in security and free from fear.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation had voted for the resolution, despite the fact that the text dealt selectively with the issue, out of its unstinting concern for the situation of all children in conflict situations.

The representative of Switzerland said her delegation had abstained from the vote.  Switzerland regretted the situation of all children in conflict and particularly recognized the situation of Palestinian children.  However, it would have wished that the issue had been taken up in other texts under more appropriate items.  Switzerland would also note that the elements of the text applied to all children and that all parties to conflict must abide by the Geneva Conventions.

The representative of India believed that the resolution should have been taken up under another agenda item.

The Observer for Palestine expressed his deep appreciation to all delegations who had chosen to support the resolution.  However, he failed to understand the position of some who had not been in favour, since there were not enough reasons to withhold support.  Previous speakers had referred to Palestinian attempts to single out Israel.  That was not Palestine’s intention.  However, Israel’s actions of the past years had led to the fact that Israel had singled out itself.  Israel was the only occupying country in the world and was engaged in active colonialism, affecting not only Palestinian children but the Palestinian people as a whole.  That kind of resolution could not be balanced -- the realities reflected a completely unbalanced situation.  There was no way parallels could be drawn between the occupied and the occupier.  The Palestinian child had a little bit more hope for a better future because of the message sent by the Committee today.

The representative of Suriname said the only reason the resolution deserved a positive approach was that it served the best interest of children, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which called for the protection of children all over the world, including the Middle East.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, exercising his right of reply, expressed his dismay and outrage, since the Palestinian delegate was speaking with complete impunity when, at this exact moment, there were 11 dead bodies lying in Hebron.  Those people had been killed on their way to pray, and had been brutally massacred.  That was a fact, and in the face of that fact he would have thought that the Palestinian observer would have offered his regret, instead of coming out with baseless accusations.

The Observer for Palestine, speaking in right of reply, said he had become accustomed to hearing such things from Israel.  The Palestinian leadership regretted any loss of life.  However, it was important to state that Hebron was a city occupied by Israel.  What were those Israelis doing in Hebron, he asked.  There were about 400 Israeli religious fanatics in Hebron, engaging in the colonization of the city, making life for Palestinians a nightmare.  That was an illegal occupation and the responsibility, therefore, lay with Israel.  One must be sick to accept the settlers and colonizers in Hebron; in such situations, extreme reactions were seen, and were understood and legitimate under international law.  The problem was the Israeli occupation, which must come to an end.

The representative of Israel said he wished to inform his Palestinian colleague that with the complete end of Palestinian terrorism there would be negotiations and then a peace settlement, including Israeli withdrawal.  This was the path that the Palestinians should take, instead of exercising terror.  He indicated that, in Israel, it was expected that the Palestinian Authority should not only speak of denouncing terrorism, but should act as well.

The Observer for Palestine said the first acts of violence that were terrorist in nature took place more than 20 years ago -- the occupation.  It was the occupation that had caused the violence, not vice versa.  Was Israel willing to end its occupation, he asked.  Was the Israeli delegate ready to condemn Israeli war crimes committed against the Palestinian people, he asked.  Was he ready to accept the self-determination of the Palestinian people?

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ANNEX II


Assistance to Palestinian Children

The draft resolution on assistance to Palestinian children (document A/C.3/57/L.23*) was adopted by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 3 against, with 58 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Israel, Marshall Islands, United States.

Abstaining:  Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Yugoslavia.

Absent:  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Gabon, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Niger, Oman, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan.


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For information media - not an official record