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UNITED
NATIONS
A

        General Assembly
Distr.
GENERAL
A/C.3/57/SR.51
4 December 2002

Original: English

Fifty-seventh session
Official Records



Third Committee

Summary record of the 51st meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Friday, 15 November 2002, at 3 p.m.

Chairman: Mr. Wenaweser ............................................................ (Liechtenstein)
later: Mr. Morikawa (Vice-Chairman) ........................................... (Japan)


Contents

Agenda item 109: Human rights questions (continued)

(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms (continued)

Agenda item 102: Advancement of women (continued)

Agenda item 105: Promotion and protection of the rights of children (continued)

Agenda item 104: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions (continued)


The meeting was called to order at 3.40 p.m.

/...

Agenda item 105: Promotion and protection of the rights of children (continued)

Draft resolution A/C.3/57/L.23: The situation of and assistance to Palestinian children

31. The Chairman said that Benin, Brunei Darussalam, the Comoros, Lesotho, the Niger, Suriname, the Syrian Arab Republic and Zimbabwe had joined the sponsors of the draft resolution.

Explanations of vote before the voting

32. Mr. Koren (Israel) said that his delegation opposed draft resolution A/C.3/57/L.23, which had been introduced at the initiative of the Observer for Palestine and was an unprecedented and one-sided document representing the latest attempt by the Palestinians to turn yet another United Nations forum into a political platform for singling out Israel. The draft referred solely to the situation of one specific group of children and ran contrary to the universal spirit of the draft resolutions usually adopted by the Committee on the promotion and protection of the rights of children. One might ask whether one group of children was more deserving of a single, particularized resolution than children suffering elsewhere in the world, for example, in parts of Africa and the Arab world or Israel, for that matter.

33. Even in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the draft shamelessly distorted reality. It was devoid of any reference to the destructive effects of Palestinian terrorism on innocent Israelis and foreign nationals. A significant number of Palestinian terrorist attacks had been deliberately directed at children, including attacks on specific locations where large numbers of children were known to gather. Only a few days earlier, a Palestinian terrorist had burst into a home at Kibbutz Metzer and murdered two children aged four and five along with their mother, who had tried to protect them. He wondered whether the Committee was to conclude from the draft that the lives of those Israeli children, brutally murdered in their beds in the name of so-called “legitimate resistance”, were less valuable than those of Palestinian children or whether they had been guilty of something that would justify denying them the specific protection it called for in the draft for Palestinian children. With the adoption of such totally unfair resolutions, it was not surprising that much of the work of the General Assembly was viewed by people around the world with disdain as fundamentally unfair and disconnected from reality.

34. The draft resolution completely ignored the cynical abuse of children in the Palestinian campaign of violence and terrorism and the unbridled incitement to violence in the Palestinian media and educational system. It also failed to reflect the fact that the central threat to the well-being of Palestinian children was the terrorists themselves, who endangered civilians on both sides with their criminal and repugnant tactics and were destroying hopes for peace. The draft was clearly meant to serve the political interests of the Palestinian leadership, not those of Palestinian children.

35. The debate in the Committee should have been conducted in a professional manner by adopting two general resolutions on the protection of the rights of children everywhere. To allow the draft currently before the Committee to proceed unopposed would set a dangerous precedent. Israel understood and shared the concern over the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories and welcomed the efforts of the international community in that regard. While respecting its basic obligation to protect its civilians, his Government was doing its utmost to improve the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people.

36. Israel hoped that efforts to alleviate the situation of all children in the region would be channelled to projects on education for peace and tolerance. Such efforts, however, were not enhanced by one-sided initiatives in the United Nations seeking to perpetuate an alternate and false reality and pretending that one side had a monopoly on the status of victim. He strongly urged all Member States to reject the counterproductive and politicized draft, which should be opposed not only for the sake of the reputation and integrity of the Committee but also for the welfare of the world’s children, including Palestinian and Israeli children, without bias, prejudice or blindness to the suffering of others.

37. Ms. Khalil (Egypt) recalled that it was her delegation which had introduced the draft resolution.

38. Ms. Costa (United States of America) said that her delegation could not support the draft resolution, which was unbalanced, singled out only one party in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and did not reflect the complexity of the situation on the ground. For example, it ignored the use of Palestinian children to perpetrate suicide bombings despite widespread Palestinian unease with such tactics.

39. Her Government was deeply concerned about the situation of all Palestinian and Israeli children. During the past year there had been hundreds of victims in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The omnibus resolution on the Rights of the Child, which included the situation of children in armed conflict, addressed the plight and concerns of all children regardless of where they lived.

40. Her Government’s deep commitment to the welfare of Palestinian refugees was reflected in its $120-million contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), whose primary beneficiaries were Palestinian children, as well as direct bilateral assistance provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to Palestinian non-governmental organizations and development projects.

41. At the request of the representatives of the European Union, Israel and the United States of America, a recorded vote was taken.

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 (Islamic Republic of), Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, 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, Syrian Arab Republic, 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 of America.

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 of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Yugoslavia.

42. Draft resolution A/C.3/57/L.23 was adopted by 95 votes to 3, with 58 abstentions.

43. Ms. Løj (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union, the associated countries Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, and, in addition, Iceland and Norway, said that they had abstained on the draft resolution because they did not support the proliferation of resolutions on agenda items where the Committee had traditionally not dealt separately with country-specific situations, and believed that thematic resolutions should continue to be all-encompassing and should not highlight one situation or another. That was the most efficient way for the General Assembly to do business. They would have welcomed the opportunity to vote in favour had the issue of the needs of Palestinian children been incorporated in one of the existing resolutions on the Middle East.

44. The European Union had consistently expressed its deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza. The situation of Palestinian children was in sore need of improvement. It was also concerned at the endangering of the lives and well-being of Israeli children owing to acts of terror. If there was to be a future for peaceful, neighbourly relations between the parties, children needed to learn to live in peace. Israel and the Palestinian Authority must do more to fulfil their responsibilities in those respects. The European Union, which remained strongly committed to improving the humanitarian situation of Palestinians and their children, was the largest supporter of UNRWA.

45. The Union’s position on the Palestine question was well known through its work on the numerous General Assembly resolutions on the subject. It also remained ready, in close cooperation with its partners in the Quartet and in the Arab world, to assist the parties in their efforts at finding a final solution to the Middle East conflict and thereby realizing the vision whereby the two States, Israel and Palestine, lived side by side within secure and recognized borders.

46. Mr. Choi (Australia) said that the draft resolution should not have been tabled under a thematic item on the rights of children. It was also unbalanced, focusing on criticism of Israeli action and its impact on Palestinian children, and failed to reflect the complexity of the current situation. Australia had therefore abstained. His delegation urged both sides to bring an immediate end to the conflict and to resume negotiations.

47. Mr. Tekin (Turkey) said that his Government’s stand in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was clear and very well known by both of the parties, with which Turkey enjoyed close relations. Turkey strongly condemned any act of violence resulting in loss of life among children of Palestinian, Israeli or any other nationality. Turkey was also strongly against the abhorrent abuse of children to commit acts of violence and terrorism. His delegation had supported the draft resolution on that understanding and would support any other initiative that would address the plight of children in similar situations in any part of the world.

48. Mr. Laurin (Canada) said that his Government had consistently supported the protection of children affected by armed conflict, whose basic needs must be met without impediments or exceptions. Accordingly, his Government called on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law. However, his delegation had abstained on the draft resolution, which failed to acknowledge that the current conflict had taken a toll on both Palestinian and Israeli children. The United Nations must address the promotion and protection of the rights of children in all parts of the world rather than focusing on specific situations or regional conflicts. Canada called on all parties to end the violence immediately and resume negotiations so that all children and young people in the Middle East could lead normal lives in safety, security, dignity and peace.

49. Ms. Mahouve (Cameroon) said that her delegation had abstained in the vote on the draft resolution. Cameroon had often emphasized its great concern at the plight of children in situations of armed conflict; it therefore supported efforts by the international community to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian children. She urged the two sides to resume negotiations so that the young people of Israel and Palestine could live free from fear.

50. Mr. Knyazhinskiy (Russian Federation) said that he had voted in favour of the draft resolution despite the fact that it was selective. His Government was seriously concerned at the situation of children affected by armed conflicts, particularly Palestinian children. Children in a number of countries in the Middle East were living in fear from the constant threat of terrorist acts.

51. Ms. Groux (Switzerland) said that her delegation had abstained in the vote because it would have liked to see the question of Palestinian children integrated into a general resolution rather than the subject of a separate text; the problems they faced applied to all children. The draft resolution had invoked the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, but it also should have mentioned the obligations of the Palestinian Authority.

52. Mr. Yerrannaidu (India) said that his delegation had voted in favour of the draft resolution in order to express its solidarity with the Palestinian people, although it felt that there should have been a single draft resolution on all children.

53. Mr. Al-Kidwa (Observer for Palestine) said that his delegation highly appreciated the support for the draft resolution just adopted, although it failed to understand the position of some of its friends who had not found insufficient reason to support it.

54. A number of delegations had criticized attempts by Palestine to single out Israel, but in the view of his delegation, Israel had singled itself out for years through its policies and actions. It was the only remaining occupying Power at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Other delegations had drawn attention to the unbalanced nature of the draft resolution, but it was not possible to have a balanced text, given the reality of the situation. Palestinian children had been systematically deprived of all their rights by Israeli practices, and would not have a chance to grow up in a normal environment. His delegation regretted any loss of life, especially of children. Palestinian children would have more hope for a better future because of the Committee’s support for the draft resolution.

55. Ms. Tobing-Klein (Suriname) said that the only reason, in the view of her delegation, that the draft resolution deserved its sponsorship and vote was that it served the best interests of children in accordance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

56. Mr. Tamir (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that his delegation wished to express its dismay and outrage that the Palestinian delegation could speak with complete impunity, while the bodies of 12 Jews brutally massacred on their way to prayer lay in Hebron. That delegation should have expressed regret for those deaths, rather than making more groundless accusations.

57. Mr. Al-Kidwa (Observer for Palestine), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the Palestinian Authority and its leadership did regret any loss of life, but the incident had occurred in an occupied city. Four hundred Israeli settlers had been brought in to colonize Hebron illegally. Since their presence was illegal, under the fourth Geneva Convention responsibility for their safety lay with the occupying Power. Such a situation should be expected to elicit extreme reactions. The source of the whole problem was the Israeli occupation.

58. Mr. Tamir (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that, with a complete end to Palestinian terror, renewed negotiations would lead to a peace settlement, including an Israeli withdrawal. He urged the Palestinian Authority to take that path.

59. Mr. Al-Kidwa (Observer for Palestine), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that Israel must be ready to end the illegal occupation, condemn the war crimes it had committed and accept the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence, before it could expect the actions it demanded.

/...

The meeting rose at 6.10 p.m.

This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record.

Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.



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