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Meeting Hears Update on Bureau’s Retreat, Chair’s Brief on Major 2015 Events
Humanitarian, socioeconomic and security conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained grave amid Israel’s continuing violations of human rights norms and United Nations resolutions, the Deputy Observer for the State of Palestine said today, as the Palestinian Rights Committee approved four draft resolutions for consideration by the General Assembly.
Feda Abdelhady-Nasser said that since mid-2016, Israel had advanced plans for constructing more than 2,000 units in illegal settlements throughout the West Bank. As that country’s illegal colonization campaign pressed on, the international community was witnessing unprecedented demolitions of Palestinian homes and confiscations of their lands, in addition to construction of the “annexation wall”, forced displacements and constant violence perpetrated by settlers, she noted.
As a result, prospects for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – as per the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid Principles and the Arab Peace Initiative – were being rapidly diminished, she told the Committee, formally known as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Noting that provocations and extremist incitement continued against holy sites, especially Al-Haram Al-Sharif, she said that civilians, including children, were arrested and detained every day, and that more than 7,000 Palestinians were now held in Israeli captivity under “appalling, inhumane conditions”. She also urged support to help the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) overcome severe funding shortfalls.
Turning to the State of Palestine’s efforts at the United Nations, she expressed gratitude to those who had supported draft resolutions in its favour, noting that significant gains had been made in that context. While the text on settlements had traditionally been strong, it had been strengthened further during the current session by a clear condemnation of all settlement activities and a call to consider accountability measures in the event of non-compliance on Israel’s part.
Draft resolutions on UNRWA renewed the Agency’s mandate for another three years, she noted, calling to explore ways and means by which to ensure sufficient and predictable funding of its mandate. Also, in light of the onset of the fiftieth year of occupation, another draft resolution called for the Committee to undertake activities and initiatives aimed at ending the occupation, in cooperation with Governments, United Nations and other intergovernmental organizations as well as civil society. While those texts had already been approved in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and Second Committee (Economic and Financial), the State of Palestine hoped they would receive even broader support when presented for adoption by the General Assembly, she said, urging active participation at that time.
She went on to call upon the Security Council to end its silence on Palestine and uphold its Charter duties to maintain international peace and security. The State of Palestine was awaiting a decision from the Arab Ministerial Committee on the timing of next steps by the Council, while simultaneously supporting ongoing efforts by France to convene an international peace conference, as well as efforts by Egypt and the Russian Federation to facilitate dialogue.
The Committee then approved, without a vote, four draft resolutions on the “question of Palestine”, the first three dealing with the Committee’s work, as well as that of the Secretariat’s Division for Palestinian Rights and Special Information Programme of the Department of Public Information. The fourth text was titled “peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine”.
By the terms of the draft “Division of Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat”, the General Assembly would request that the Secretary-General provide the Division with the necessary resources and ensure that it effectively carried out its programme of work as detailed in relevant resolutions. It would further request that the Division monitor developments, organize international meetings and activities, liaise and cooperate with civil society and parliamentarians, develop and expand the “Question of Palestine” website, and enhance the annual training programme for Palestinian government staff.
The Committee also approved the draft “special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat”, by which the General Assembly would request that the Department, in full cooperation and coordination with the Committee, continue its special information programme for 2017-2018, and disseminate information on all United Nations system activities relating to the question of Palestine and peace efforts. It would also encourage the Department to formulate ways for the media and civil society representatives to engage in open and positive discussions.
Also approved was the text “committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable rights of the Palestinian People”, by which the General Assembly would request that the Committee continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It would further request that the Committee focus its efforts on activities and initiatives to end the occupation and organize awareness-raising activities.
By the terms of the draft “peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine”, the General Assembly would stress the urgent need to salvage the prospects for a two-State solution within recognized borders, and urge renewed international efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace. It would further stress the need to resume negotiations based on long-standing terms of reference and clear parameters, and call upon both parties to act responsibly in order to reverse negative trends on the ground. In addition, the Assembly would demand the complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and call for Israel’s withdrawal. Among other things, the Assembly would urge Member States to expedite the provision of economic, humanitarian and technical assistance to the Palestinian people and government in order to alleviate the serious humanitarian situation.
The Committee then heard an update on the Bureau’s retreat held on 2 November. Carmelo Iguanez (Malta), Rapporteur, said a constructive discussion had revolved around three main themes: programme assessment and planning for 2017 activities, engagement by the Committee, and communications strategy. The Bureau had agreed to organize activities in collaboration with Member States and viewed favourably the State of Palestine’s proposal to frame such activities under the theme “International Year to End the Israeli Occupation”. It had also decided to ask Committee members to plan national activities, and agreed to shift the planning of its international events from a country-based to a theme-based approach.
Regarding the programme of work, the Bureau had decided to organize a visit to Nicaragua and other countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region in February, he said. It had also decided to hold a capacity-building seminar on the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as a joint meeting with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Jerusalem in early 2017, to plan a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the occupation at United Nations Headquarters in June, and to organize a visit to Africa. The Bureau had also agreed to continue capacity-building programmes for Palestinian cadres on water diplomacy, water conflict management and other topics relating to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It had also viewed favourably the State of Palestine’s proposal to have its status changed from observer to Committee member, possibly on 29 November. The Bureau had decided to enhance the Committee’s communications and outreach strategy by including speaking engagements at universities in the United States, he said.
Following that briefing, Namibia’s representative recalled that one of the retreat’s goals had been to seek more active ways for Committee members to participate in its work. They should look at the Bureau’s proposed activities in order to see how they could engage better, she suggested.
The Committee also heard from David Mansfield (Malta), Chair of the Committee’s Working Group on latest activities. He said that the Group had organized a briefing in October during which Human Rights Watch had suggested reducing aid to Israel by the amount that country spent on settlements. Amnesty International had called for the suspension of arms sales to Israel, pointing out that it had failed to deliver on accountability. Al-Haq had raised concerns about house demolitions, while all speakers had underlined the need to end impunity for Israeli forces.
On the Strategy for Cooperation of the Working Group with Civil Society Organizations, he said that document had been approved under a silence procedure. Under the Strategy, it was envisaged that civil society organizations would influence United Nations Member States to increase their support for Palestinian rights by engaging with media and high-profile personalities, among other activities. The Strategy would also promote stronger action by civil society and enhance coordination by organizing periodic conferences and providing an online platform for them. In order to achieve those goals, however, Working Group members must participate actively, he emphasized, expressing regret that it had failed to reach a quorum on two occasions.
The Committee also heard updates on activities by Member States and other entities, with Shaher Awawdeh, Deputy Permanent Observer for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), saying that the bloc’s new office in Ramallah would support Palestinians by helping them to build institutions. The OIC had engaged in a number of partnerships with civil society organizations focusing on youth, housing and education, he added, noting that it had actively raised funds.
Douglas Nicomedes Arcia Vivas (Venezuela) said that his country’s Government was actively working with the State of Palestine’s Embassy in Caracas in order to promote dialogue and exchange of views. In addition, a number of events had been organized, including a poetry festival and a joint celebration of International Women’s Day, he added.
Committee Chair Fodé Seck (Senegal), recalling major conferences of 2015, said they had all featured a segment devoted to Palestine with a view to bringing about a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Decrying illegal business and exploitation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he expressed hope that international efforts could save the two-State solution.
The Committee Chair concluded by presenting Zena Moshashe and Ameed Amer, the 2016 trainees of the annual training programme conducted by the Division for Palestinian Rights. He also announced a number of upcoming activities, including observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. He encouraged all to participate in the General Assembly’s plenary debate “Question of Palestine”, which would begin on 29 November and end on 30 November with action on the draft resolutions approved today.
For information media. Not an official record.