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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
20 July 2015

20 JULY 2015

Opening Coordination, Management Session, Economic and Social Council Adopts Two Resolutions, Including on Non-Self-Governing Territories, Israeli Occupation

2015 Session, 50th & 51st Meetings (AM & PM)

Body Also Adopts Nine Decisions Recommended by NGO Committee

Opening a three-day coordination and management session today, the Economic and Social Council considered a range of issues — from urbanization in the context of sustainable development to support for the world’s least developed countries — and adopted two resolutions and nine decisions submitted to it by its committees on Non-Self-Governing Territories, the repercussions of Israeli occupation and non-governmental organizations.

The Council adopted resolutions on “Support to the Non-Self-Governing Territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations”, by a vote of 19 in favour to 0 against with 25 abstentions, and on “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”, by a vote of 42 in favour to 2 against (Australia, United States) with 2 abstentions (Honduras, Panama).

On the latter text, Simon Poni Marobe (South Africa), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the text, saying that the ongoing occupation by Israel continued to devastate the Palestinian people.  Negative trends associated with that occupation had worsened, causing high rates of unemployment, health problems and aid dependency, among other problems, and had been exacerbated by the 2014 military aggression in the Gaza Strip.


Turning to the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, one of its main subsidiary bodies, the Council adopted eight decisions contained in its 2015 report and a decision granting special consultative status to the organization Freedom Now by a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 9 against with 11 abstentions.  It voted down a decision which would have denied the organization Palestinian Return Centre special consultative status by a vote of 13 in favour to 16 against with 18 abstentions.

In that connection, a discussion emerged about the working methods of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, with several speakers voicing concerns that there had been increasing deviations from the Committee’s guiding principles.  The representative of the European Union, for one, regretted that some members of the Committee continued to use tactics to defer applications, such as asking repetitive questions, and that the withdrawal of consultative status might be used as a form of reprisal for the activities of non-governmental organizations.


TARIK ALAMI, Director of the Emerging and Conflict Related Issues Section of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/70/76-E/2015/57).  Offering an overview of the situation, he said Israeli policies and practices continued to violate international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as the right to self-determination and the principle of non-discrimination.  Its 51-day offensive against Gaza in July 2014 had led to an unprecedented loss of life and had triggered concerns about war crimes.  Palestinians lived under harsh military rule and Israel had created two separate legal systems in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians.  In addition, Israel had de facto exiled some 250,000 Palestinians from their land, including 14,000 from East Jerusalem.

Describing several pressing concerns, he said that on the excessive use of force in the summer of 2014, seven United Nations schools that had been designated as shelters had been shelled and Palestinians had been used as human shields.  Arbitrary arrests and detentions had continued unabated.  During that conflict, some 19,000 Palestinian homes had been destroyed.  They had continued to face displacement due to home demolitions, revocation of residency permits and harassment.  Referring to a number of other issues, he said Government-sanctioned expansion projects had violated the Palestinian right to self-determination, the West Bank Wall’s continued construction had been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, and the Gaza blockade, in place since 2007, had amounted to collective punishment.  In addition, Israeli settlers in the West Bank had continued to freely exploit natural resources.  Meanwhile, high food insecurity rates - 19 per cent in the West Bank and 57 per cent in Gaza, the latter having deteriorated after the 2014 offensive – had persisted, as did the illegal Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan.

During the general discussion on that item, FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for the State of Palestine, said that, regrettably, the situation of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation remained dire due to Israel’s repressive, destructive and colonial policies and practices.  The socioeconomic, humanitarian and human devastation sown by the occupation for nearly five decades had gravely affected the living conditions of the Palestinian people, severely undercutting any efforts towards sustainable development despite the assistance provided to the Palestinian people by the international community, including United Nations agencies on the ground.  The illegal occupation violated the principles of international law, she stressed.

Recalling the horror and devastation inflicted by the occupying Power on the Palestinian people in the besieged Gaza Strip in 2014, she underlined that Israel had killed 2,251 Palestinians and the ensuing humanitarian crisis had impacted every aspect of life, both short- and long-term.  That included rampant abject poverty rates, reaching an unpresented 43.9 per cent, with youth unemployment at 60 per cent, as well as widespread food insecurity, with some 80 per cent of Gazans dependent on aid.  The deliberate, systematic nature of the Israeli crimes constituted grave breaches of international law, for which it must be held accountable.  In order to end the suffering of the Palestinian people and make tangible progress towards peace, security and prosperity, Israel must end its prolonged occupation and comply with international law without exception, she said, calling on the members of the Economic and Social Council to fully support the draft resolution on the matter.


Economic and Social Repercussions of Israeli Occupation

SIMON PONI MAROBE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, then introduced a draft resolution titled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document E/2015/L.22).  The continuing Israeli occupation was devastating the Palestinian people, with worsening negative trends that had seen high unemployment rates, health problems and aid dependency among other problems that had been exacerbated by the 2014 military aggression in the Gaza Strip.

By the draft text, the Council would reiterate the call for the full opening of Gaza’s border crossings, in line with Security Council resolutions.  The text was based on the 2014 resolution with updates to reflect the situation on the ground as well as emerging issues.  The Council would, by the draft, call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to cease all settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to end its illegal practices there.  Further by the draft, the Council would call on the occupying Power to end the construction of the wall and to remove obstacles to critical environmental projects necessary for addressing health issues and providing access to sanitation and other basic services.  By the draft resolution, the Council would stress the urgency of achieving an end to the Israeli occupation without delay, and would urge the need for increased international efforts in that regard.

Syria’s representative, aligning himself with the “Group of 77”, said the relevant reports showed an increase in the suffering of the Palestinian people and in Israel’s illegal actions.  There had been “zero” response from the occupying Power, which had disregarded the hundreds of decisions of the United Nations, he said.  In addition, Israel was using terrorist groups in the zone of separation as a way to intimidate Syrian citizens and had also provided food and other support to the Al-Nusra Front and other groups, facilitating attacks in Syrian towns, he said, calling on ESCWA to include such facts in its future reports.  Today, the picture in the Syrian Golan was more tragic than ever before, with the population being subjected to a systematic Israeli campaign to force them to abandon their lands.  European and American companies had helped Israeli companies steal the natural resources of the Syrian Golan, including oil, he said, stressing that Israel and those supporting it financially and militarily must be held accountable.

By a recorded vote of 42 in favour to 2 against (Australia, United States) with 2 abstentions (Honduras, Panama), the Council adopted draft resolution E/2015/L.22.

Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of the United States said she was disappointed by the presentation of a one-sided and biased resolution, which her delegation could not support.  The resolution failed to take a constructive approach to the conflict and did not help to advance the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a more peaceful future.  The United States was the largest bilateral donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provided education, health care and other social and relief services to Palestinian refugees.  It remained committed to UNRWA’s critical humanitarian mission.  Sharing the international community’s concern over the dire humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, she said the United States remained committed to achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in line with a two-State solution, which would result in a viable State of Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel.

The United Kingdom’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the group supported the resolution, but wanted to place on record that the term, “Palestinian Government” in the text referred to the Palestinian Authority.  Further, the use of the term “Palestine” could not be taken as recognition of the State of Palestine, she said.

The speaker from Japan said his country had supported the draft and called on both parties to take serious action to resume talks.  Last year’s crisis in Gaza had resulted in a tremendous loss of life for both parties.  Further efforts were necessary to prevent such crises, he said.

Israel’s representative expressed her delegation’s disappointment at the resolution for not reflecting the reality on the ground.  The text had failed to mention the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to take responsibility for the future of its people.  Regarding humanitarian aid, Israel was making sure that the United Nations reconstruction mechanism was implemented on a daily basis, she said, asking how the resolution could be taken seriously when it failed to mention the destructive role of Hamas in promoting terrorism.  The same one-sided approach used in the resolution was also reflected in the ESCWA report, which had a tendency to ignore the terrible human rights violations in other parts of the Middle East, especially Syria.  The Commission’s obsession with Israel had undermined its own credibility.  Further, the current resolution did not enhance cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.  All it had done was to perpetuate the current situation.

The representatives of France and China amended their votes on the resolution regarding support to Non-Self-Governing Territories (E/2015/L.24).  France would have abstained and China would have voted in favor.

The Council then took note of the report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/70/76-E/2015/57).

Non-Governmental Organizations

Prior to the general discussion on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and action on draft texts, the representative of Ghana said his Government was not able to vote in favour of draft resolution L.24 from this morning.  The President of the Council, in response to his statement, said the record of voting could not be changed, but the statement would be reflected in the records.

Starting the discussion, Luxembourg’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that with regards to the functioning of the Committee, civil society and NGOs were an essential part of the work of the United Nations, including the Council.  Over the past years, there had been increasing deviations from the guiding principles laid down in Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.  The Union regretted that some Members of the Committee continued to use tactics to defer applications, such as asking repetitive questions.  Such practice, she noted, could leave NGOs in a state of limbo for several years at a time.  

The withdrawal of consultative status might be used as a form of reprisal for the activities of NGOs, she said.  If the provisions were not followed, the decisions of the Committee could become arbitrary and unfounded on the criteria set by the Council.  Recalling the core mandate of the Committee, she highlighted that such cases reflected a negative trend in its functioning and urged all Committee members to work together to defend and uphold the guiding principles agreed upon by Member States.

The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of Chile and Uruguay, said in the face of the global challenges, civil society played a role in tackling issues that States could not or did not wish to handle.  Non-governmental organizations had more than shown their usefulness.  In order to maintain an environment in which civil society can contribute to the work of the United Nations, the Committee’s work must be carried out in a transparent manner.  The criteria for granting member status had been distorted and there were cases that seemed to have indefinite deferrals, which amounted to a denial of the NGO’s legitimacy.  Urging greater transparency, he suggested webcasts to open up the proceedings for member organizations.  Such improved transparency would encourage the applications from all regions and all subjects and insure well-balanced representation of all of the United Nations objectives.

Turning to the report of the Committee, Iran’s speaker said it was clear that the Palestinian Return Committee had fully complied with international humanitarian law, serving its homeland.  It was a cause of concern that one delegation was misleading the Committee, which should give its valuable support to Palestinian Return Centre.

Introducing a draft resolution titled “Application of the non-governmental organization Freedom Now for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council” (document E/2015/L.21), the representative of the United States said the group had worked for the defense of freedom of expression of political prisoners in the world.  Its application had been on the agenda of the Committee’s for five years, with more than 60 questions put to its approval and it deserved status with the Economic and Social Council. The speaker from Albania said that Member States had the obligation to defend human rights and the work of the NGOs.  Accordingly, he noted that Freedom Now should have the same status with other NGOs.

The Council then, by a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 9 against with 11 abstentions, adopted draft resolution E/2015/L.21.

Introducing a draft resolution titled “Application of the non-governmental organization Palestinian Return Centre for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council” (document E/2015/L.25), which would have the Council decide not to grant special consultative status to the group, Israel’s delegate emphasized the involvement of NGOs as crucial for the functioning of civil society and that his delegation had been proud to promote the granting of consultative status to many NGOs working to promote human rights.  However, the Palestinian Return Centre was not what it had claimed to be; it was not only affiliated with Hamas, but it was also an essential part of the Hamas network.  It was well known that the Centre operated throughout Europe, calling for the annihilation of Israel, and that it was funded by well-known terrorist organizations.  The Centre had constantly denied any connection with Hamas, but this denial was deceitful, he said, quoting a conversation he saw between the Hamas Prime Minister and one of the leaders of the Centre.  Israel urged the Economic and Social Council to not grant consultative status to the group, an organization that was in clear violation of the charter of the United Nations to maintain international peace and security.  If the application was not handled correctly, it would pave the way for other terrorist organizations, such as Jabra al-Nusra and ISIS, to receive NGO status under humanitarian names and gain a foothold at the United Nations, he said.

Making a statement before the vote in connection with the draft decision, the speaker from the United States said her delegation would vote in favour of the draft due to serious concerns about the Palestinian Return Centre, its background and activities.  It was unfortunate that some delegations had pushed the voting “prematurely”, however, and several questions related to the organization remained unanswered.

The Council then took action on “L.25” with a recorded vote of 13 in favour to 16 against, with 18 abstentions.

Speaking after the vote, several delegations relayed their positions.

The United Kingdom’s delegate said the involvement of NGOs was an essential part of the United Nations and attached great importance to open, strong and independent societies to support the work of the Organization.  Questions, however, had been raised about the Centre as to whether its objectives were compatible with the work of the United Nations and, as such, the United Kingdom had voted in favour of the proposal.

The delegate from Germany said her delegation had followed the issue very carefully.  Echoing the previous statement about unanswered questions, she said that her country could not vote for the Palestinian Return Centre to become an affiliated NGO.

Responding to the speaker from Congo’s statement that his delegation was unable to press the voting button, Council President OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said the records would reflect that point.


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