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The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.
(e) Assistance to the Palestinian people
Report of the Secretary-General (A/58/88 and Corr.1)
Mr. Atta (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
Egypt once again calls upon the international community to intervene with urgency to deal with the humanitarian disaster faced by the Palestinian people and with their subjection to practices that have led to unprecedented suffering in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization (A/58/1) makes clear reference to the closures and curfews imposed by the Israeli occupation forces, which has led to the economic paralysis that has left more than 1 million in poverty. The report also refers to the military operations that have left approximately 10,000 Palestinians homeless.
Egypt fully appreciates the positive role played by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which has provided assistance to more than 4 million refugees. We would like to thank all organizations and agencies providing humanitarian relief and assistance to the Palestinian people. We call upon donor countries to increase their support for those efforts by providing the necessary financing and assistance in order to fill the gap in UNRWA’s budget, meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and take a very firm stance against all actions impeding the delivery of assistance to those in need.
My delegation calls upon the Secretariat to include in the report of the Secretary-General to be submitted next year to the General Assembly and to the Economic and Social Council an analytical presentation of the efforts of the United Nations with respect to the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories because of the difficulties faced in providing that international humanitarian assistance and to suggest solutions to those difficulties so that the General Assembly and the Security Council can take appropriate measures.
Egypt calls upon the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to coordinate and cooperate with UNRWA in order to follow up on the humanitarian situation of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, including the situation of the refugees, because they are an integral segment of those civilians who need humanitarian help.
Egypt believes that it is a timely priority that the United Nations assume an active role in expanding and ensuring the protection of humanitarian relief workers, and we underscore the importance of not limiting that protection to legal aspects alone. The United Nations should focus on the need for the political resolve of all States, whether or not they are a party to an agreement to host such operations. I would mention here the report of the Secretary-General, which shows that most of the victims were Palestinian UNRWA workers. That fact compels us to give sufficient importance to extending protection to those relief operations that are more exposed to dangers than other operations and to relief workers whose security and safety are threatened.
Ms. Barghouti (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic): The discussion of the Assembly concerning agenda item
40 (e): Assistance to the Palestinian people, comes at a time when the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, is seriously and unprecedentedly deteriorating, in the economic, social, cultural and environmental areas, as a result of the continued Israeli occupation, the intensification of the occupation’s coercive and oppressive policies, measures and practices against the Palestinian people, the Palestinian National Authority and the elected leadership.
In this context, my delegation wishes to express its thanks and gratitude to the United Nations Secretary-General for his comprehensive report submitted under this item (A/58/88), which deals with the difficult and deteriorating conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories, the negative impact of Israeli policies and measures on the living conditions of the Palestinian people and the acute economic and human crises the Palestinian people are facing. The summary of the report indicates that,
We are gravely concerned at the report’s statistics showing already poor conditions for the Palestinians with respect to employment becoming even worse. Moreover, there is a further drop-off in investment and an increased level of debt owed by the Palestinian Authority to private companies. The report states that losses to the Palestinian gross domestic product after three years of the intifada amounted to $5.2 billion, that the per capita income of Palestinians fell 46 per cent since 1999, that 60 per cent of the population faces poverty and that more than 75 per cent of the population of the Gaza Strip are very poor.
It is quite clear that the worsening crisis and its causes stem from the continued Israeli policies of blockades, checkpoints, settler colonialism, land confiscation and the construction of the expansionist wall, which has resulted in the confiscation of thousands of dunums and the ruining of the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians. Since September 2000, Israel has escalated its aggressive bloody campaign against the Palestinian people, which has led to the death of 2,600 Palestinian martyrs and the injury of more than 36,000 others, some of whom were left completely disabled. Furthermore, occupation forces have bombed and destroyed several homes and private and public facilities, uprooted trees and deliberately destroyed the infrastructure, including roads and water and sanitation networks. These Israeli practices against the Palestinian people are war crimes and constitute flagrant violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
We call on the international community to intensify pressure on Israel, the occupying Power, to implement its commitments in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and in compliance with the will of the international community that calls on Israel to put an end to its aggression, destruction and racist settlement policy. It is important to recall the collective and individual responsibility of the parties to the Convention to respect and guarantee respect for the Convention’s provisions in all cases.
My delegation takes this opportunity to express its special gratitude to our brothers in the Arab States who received many seriously wounded Palestinians and who provided emergency assistance and medical supplies. Most importantly, they provided crucial assistance to maintain the functioning infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority and of the Palestinian population as a whole.
We also wish to thank the other friendly States, foremost among them the European Union and Japan, that provided humanitarian and general assistance to our people. We also thank the donor countries and the non-governmental organizations that provided emergency humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people. In that respect, we must seriously counter Israeli measures against these States and institutions, the deliberate killing they are subjected to and the damage that Israel inflicts on their facilities. We call on the international community to provide protection to those institutions, commensurate with the requirements of international humanitarian law.
We emphasize that donor countries and United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), should continue to provide all kinds of support and assistance to the Palestinian people, who have been blockaded by the Israeli occupation, in order to improve their living conditions, to alleviate their suffering, to revive the peace process and to return to the negotiating table.
We agree with the conclusions of the aforementioned report of the Secretary-General that while international assistance might alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, only a comprehensive political settlement ending occupation can put an end to the real humanitarian and economic crisis faced by a growing number of people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The realization of a comprehensive and just peace, as well as peace and security for the countries of our region, requires not only Israel’s total withdrawal from all occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, but also recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State in their own territory. If those objectives are not achieved, no progress can be made in the peace process and no one can talk about regional development or cooperation with Israel, the occupying Power.
In that respect, we stress the role of the United Nations in achieving this just and comprehensive peace, based on the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the Palestine question. We also stress the importance of the role of the United Nations in providing assistance to the Palestinian people and of that of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.
Mr. Snowdon (Australia): ...
Although Australia’s aid programme is focused primarily on our region — the Asia Pacific — we remain committed to helping to meet humanitarian needs across the globe. As part of its global commitment, Australia continues to support the needs of Palestinian communities affected by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, providing almost A$ 3.5 million in humanitarian assistance through United Nations agencies in 2002-2003. Such assistance includes contributions to food aid, food security and psychosocial programmes, and has been delivered primarily through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.