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


ECOSOC/6083
18 July 2003
ECOSOC ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS AND DECISIONS ON REGIONAL COOPERATION
IN ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND RELATED FIELDS

Starts Debate on Independence of Colonial
Countries and Economic and Social Impact of Israeli Occupation

(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 18 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this afternoon adopted several resolutions and decisions on regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields and heard statements on the same topic in which speakers stressed the importance of trade, constructive World Trade Organization negotiations and assistance to developing countries.

The ECOSOC also started its debate on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations, and the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian and Arab people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan. 

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The Council also started its debate on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian and Arab people.  Michael Keating, Director of the Coordination and Socio-Economic Affairs, introduced a report by the ESCWA on the topic which said that both sides suffered from deep trauma and distrust for each other and that the humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate.  He stressed that the “Road Map” provided a framework for genuine transition –- an opportunity that could not be missed.  

Mervat Tallawy, Executive Secretary of the ESCWA, introduced the report of the Secretary-General, saying the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel continued to have serious detrimental effects on all aspects of living conditions of the Palestinian people.  The note indicated that the destruction of Palestinian homes, the military siege and the imposition of curfews on residential areas had had a multiple effect on the population of the occupied Palestinian territories, including poverty with 66.5 per cent of households living below the poverty line. 

Speakers expressed deep concern about the cycle of violence and counter-violence and stressed the need for the Israeli Government to end the occupation, stop its settlement activities, ensure freedom of movement of Palestinians, and respect international law.  Both parties were strongly encouraged to follow the provisions of the Road Map in order to ensure the return to normalcy in the region. 

Speaking this afternoon on regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields were representatives of Morocco (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), the European Commission, Ukraine, China, Russian Federation, Guatemala, Belarus, Norway, United States, Republic of Korea, Japan, Chile.

Bahrain (speaking on behalf of the Arab States), Qatar, Palestine, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Syria, and Italy (on behalf of the European Union) spoke on the economic and social impact of the Israeli occupation on living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan.

The ECOSOC will reconvene on Monday, 21 July, at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of issues related to coordination, programme and other questions; economic and environmental questions; and social and human questions.

Documents

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There is a report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (document E/2003/84) which states that the year under review saw the continuation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, with hundreds of civilians killed on both sides.  The United Nations continued to work hard to maintain Palestinian capacities to provide essential services, to repair damage to infrastructure and to meet urgent needs.  However, the planning, management and implementation of projects were hampered by restrictions placed on United Nations staff, notably locally recruited Palestinian staff, a deteriorating security environment and problems of access.  This often required re-gearing of programmes and a shift in emphasis from development to emergency activity.  The report outlines the efforts made by the United Nations system, in cooperation with Palestinian and donor counter parts, in order to support the Palestinian civilian population under extremely difficult circumstances. 

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There is also a report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia on the economic and social repercussion of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document E/2003/21).  The report states that the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel continues to have a serious detrimental effect on all aspects of the living conditions of the Palestinian people.  The Israeli army has continued to resort to excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, house demolitions, and increasingly severe mobility restrictions and closure policies, as well as the confiscation and bulldozing of productive Palestinian agricultural land.  The Palestinian economy continues to accumulate losses, currently equal to half of its annual gross domestic product.  Unemployment has increased threefold, and poverty has risen among more than two thirds of the population.  Women and children bear a special and enduring burden resulting from the occupation.  As noted in previous reports, Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory remain one of the principal issues fuelling the conflict between the two peoples.  The report highlights that the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights continue to witness settlement expansion beyond the 33 settlements already in place.  Social services such as schooling, higher education and medical facilities remain insufficient for the Arab population in the Syrian Golan Heights.

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Introduction of Reports on Economic and Social Impact of Israeli Occupation on Palestinians and Arabs

MICHAEL KEATING, Director of Coordination, introducing a report by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian and Arab people said that the situation on the ground in the occupied territories of Palestine had evolved since the issuance of the report.  Under the aegis of the United States, both sides had agreed to adhere to the Road Map and a ceasefire had been announced by Palestinian groups in June.  The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had withdrawn from some occupied areas and contacts had been established between the two parties, including between their prime ministers.  And while the violence continued, its level had dropped dramatically.  The Road Map provided a framework for a genuine transition in the region; the challenge now was to seize this opportunity by improving the economic and social situation on the ground. 

Thus far, political development had not been translated into improvements in living situations, he noted.  Both sides were suffering from trauma and deep distrust of the other; however, the Palestinian civilian population had clearly suffered the most.  Well over half of the population was now receiving some form of food assistance, and psychosocial problems were increasing, particularly among women as domestic violence increased and respect for adults decreased.  The occupation continued to be the central reality of the population; it was the approximate cause for the humanitarian and economic crisis.  Lifting the closure was vital to reconstructing the economy and revitalizing the welfare of the population.  The curfews, closures and access problems also continued to complicate United Nations support for the Palestinian civilian population. 

Ending the closure would not, however, solve all the problems, he said.  The Palestinian Authority needed to implement an economic recovery plan that could be backed by international donors, and to promote a swift and appreciable improvement in the quality of life of the civilian population.  In this context, increased support for the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was urgently needed.  Among the challenges faced by the United Nations in supporting the Road Map, he said, were the issues of how to buttress the Palestinian Authority, how to provide humanitarian assistance without constraining development prospects and how to deal with the difficulties imposed by the continued closure. 

MERVAT TALLAWY, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introducing the report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people, said the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel continued to have serious detrimental effects on all aspects of living conditions of the Palestinian people.  The Israeli army had continued to resort to excessive use of force, arbitrary attention, extra judicial killings, house demolitions, increasingly severe mobility restrictions and closure policies, as well as the confiscation and bulldozing of productive Palestinian agricultural land.  Many innocent civilians had been killed in the bombing of villages or exchange of gunfire in circumstances indicating an indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force.  The report of the Secretary-General indicated that the destruction of Palestinian homes, military siege and imposition of curfews on residential areas had had a multiple effect on the population of the occupied Palestinian territories.  The Government of Israel had initiated the construction of physical barriers running through the West Bank to separate Israeli and Palestinian populations.  Due to severe restrictions on freedom of movement and closures, the Palestinian economy continued to accumulate losses, currently equal to half of its annual gross domestic product.  Poverty had risen substantially, with 66.5 per cent of households living below the poverty line.  The Road Map provided a rare opportunity to establish trust and respect between the two peoples.   

Statements on Economic and Social Impact of Israeli Occupation on Palestinians and Arabs

SAEED MOHAMED AL-FAIHANI (Bahrain), speaking on behalf of the Arab States, said there could be no stability or development in the Middle East without peace.  Violence continued unabated despite regional and international efforts.  Israel was still aiming to have the Palestinian people accept occupation under Israeli terms through massacres and other barbarous acts.  The whole region was as a result filled with tension and violence.  All actions taken by the Israeli Government, which seriously undermined the social and economic situation of the Palestinian people, were in violation of human rights.  In addition to the Palestinian situation, it was essential that the international community address the situations in Lebanon and Syria.  To deal with the question of violence and counter-violence, Israel needed to withdraw from occupied territories and stop its settlements, which ran counter to international law.  The Arab States reaffirmed the need to send international observers to the occupied territories in order to monitor the situation and encourage momentum in the peace process.  The draft resolution before ECOSOC contained many positive elements supported by the Arab States, including the end of the occupation and ensuring the freedom of movement of Palestinian people. 

ABDULLAH EID AL-SULAITI (Qatar) said that the report before the Council reflected the very difficult conditions of the Palestinian people living under the occupation.  The renewed negotiations should lead to respect for the rights of the Palestinian people, in which context Qatar stressed the importance of Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied territories to ensure peace.  The renewed Israeli occupation since 2000 had violated international political will.  The policy of blockade and destruction of houses carried out by Israel should be considered as inhuman treatment; moreover, Israel had prevented United Nations and humanitarian personnel from aiding the Palestinian population with concurrent negative effects on the health of the civilian population.  Israel had also strengthened its occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights.  One could not have security, when one had walls, he said.  It was hoped that the Road Map would lead to a final conclusion of peace, with Israel respecting principles such as land for peace, among others.

NABIL RAMLAWI, Observer of Palestine, thanked the United Nations agencies that provided assistance to the Palestinian people, as well as the ESCWA for its report on the repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people.  Unfortunately, there had been little improvement in the economic and social conditions in the region as a result of the actions of the Israelis, whose acts could only be compared to war crimes.  The Israeli Government was usurping Palestinian land and destroying the land it had no interest in.  The Israeli authorities were in fact killing Palestinians, not only through violence, but in a multitude of ways.  Israel acted as a special entity above international law.  Palestinians were attached to their land and were prepared to fight for it.  The main result of the occupation had been Palestinian resistance and a struggle for independence.  Palestinian people still aimed for peaceful solutions and had accepted all United Nations resolutions on the matter, while Israel refused to adhere to United Nations resolutions.  Justice would only be achieved through the withdrawal by Israeli forces from occupied areas, including Jerusalem.  It was a moral and humanitarian duty of the international community to put an end to the Israeli occupation.   

AMGAD MAHER ABDEL-GHAFFAR (Egypt) said that the continued suffering of the Palestinian people and society under occupation made this discussion particularly important.  The report noted the negative impact of the occupation upon the occupied territories; Israel’s policy of settlement had been condemned by the international community.  Moreover, the report detailed the worsening of the economic and humanitarian situation in the occupied territories.  Israel, therefore, needed to put an end to its blockade and should respect the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.  Without a just and global settlement of the question of the Palestinian people and a withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights, peace, security and stability in the Middle East would not be achieved.  Requesting greater assistance for the Palestinian people from the international community, he pledged his country’s continued support for the Palestinians.  The commitments of the Israeli Government should be applied forthwith, without any obstacles.

Commending the work of the Committee on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, he reaffirmed its role in eradicating colonialism and ensuring self-determination.  The countries of the Middle East did want peace and prosperity, which was the motivation for presenting the current draft resolution. 

SICHAN SIV (United States) said the United States was committed to assisting the parties on the difficult road to peace.  However, it was ultimately up to the parties to take the necessary steps to make the process succeed.  The current prospects for peace were the most promising in several years.  The transfer of authority in Gaza and Bethlehem, from the Israeli Defense Force to Palestinian security forces, demonstrated that there had been important progress made by the two parties in direct negotiations.  However, one-sided resolutions undercut the credibility of the work of ECOSOC.  They unfairly isolated Israel, doing nothing to improve the situation in the region.  The ECOSOC resolutions must not prejudge political issues, including territorial issues that the parties had agreed were to be decided in final status negotiations.  Instead, ECOSOC must focus on working together constructively to address Palestinian needs and support the two parties on the road to peace.  

ABDULLAH AL-SHEIK (Saudi Arabia) said that the economic and social repercussions of the occupation on the Palestinian people had been severe.  In the past few years, serious developments and suffering had been witnessed, and while it was agreed that no stability and development would occur within the Middle East while the occupation continued, the suffering of the Palestinian people could not continue.  The international community needed to extend a helping hand to the Palestinian people.  Israel had violated international political will; as the occupying authority, Israel needed to lift its siege and recognize the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and of the inhabitants of the Syrian Golan Heights.

HAIM WAXMAN (Israel) said that his Government was interested in the well being of the Palestinian people.  Israelis and Palestinians were neighbours and their futures were bound together, thus it was important for Israel to see the social and cultural life of the Palestinian people flourish, and their economy prosper.  However, the current debate did nothing to contribute to the realization of this goal; one-sided resolutions based on one-sided reports that did not take into account the reasons for Israel’s defensive actions nor the suffering of Israelis in the past three years would not advance the living conditions of the Palestinians.  The real answer to improving the socio-economic situation of the Palestinians lay in the creation of an environment of peace and stability, free of terrorism, violence and incitement.  For example, there had been impressive growth in the Palestinian economy prior to the commencement of the Palestinian terror campaign.  The absolute condition for the improvement of the situation of the Palestinian people was the complete cessation of acts of terror and a meaningful political dialogue with Israel aimed at solving the conflict.

There were strong indications, he said, that such a process was under way with the adoption of the Road Map by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  The steps set forth in the Road Map could usher forth a new reality for the region.  Joint committees, dealing with important issues such as economic affairs, security and the elimination of incitement had been established and their work had already led to positive developments on the ground.  Now a new culture of peace should be fostered to replace the climate of intolerance and hatred that had plagued the region.  This should find expression in the United Nations with the abandonment of one-sided reports and resolutions.  The international community should rather concentrate its efforts on assisting both sides to settle the conflict.

MOHAMMAD KHAFIF (Syria) said the subject under consideration had been a constant concern of the international community for the last 40 years.  What had happened to the objectives of the United Nations Charter and legality, he asked.  The same standards must be applied equally in the international community, according to international law.  Why was this not the case for the Palestinian people or Arab people living in the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon?  In the Syrian Golan, Israel had continued its policy of colonization through further military and civilian settlements in the region.  This was a war crime according to the fourth Geneva Convention, he said.  Israel’s decision to impose its laws on the Syrians living in the Golan was simply not valid.  In addition, Israel had taken control of the water resources, charging Syrians for access to it.  It was stressed that children had been deprived of education and were forcibly taught in Hebrew.  He thanked the ESCWA for its report and stressed that the terrorist policies undertaken by Israel were forcing Arab people into despair.  There must be full implementation of United Nations resolutions and an end to the occupation.  He reaffirmed Syria’s commitment to the implementation of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council as well as the principle of land for peace.  The introduction of a just peace in the region was a prerequisite for international peace and security, and the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the populations in the region.  The draft resolution must be adopted in order for the ECOSOC to be in alignment with international law in defending Palestinian and Syrian. 

VALENTINO SIMONETTI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Union was fully committed to promoting a lasting, peaceful and just settlement of the Middle East conflict.  There was now an historic opportunity for peace that the European Union was determined not to miss.  Welcoming the acceptance of the Road Map, he said the Union was convinced that no alternative to speedy implementation of this plan existed.  The European Union remained ready to contribute in all aspects of its implementation, including through the setting up of a credible and effective monitoring mechanism.

Deeply concerned by the continuing violence on the ground, he said visible and clear gestures of good faith by both sides were imperative to restoring hope and promoting stability.  In this regard, the Palestinian announcement of suspending attacks against Israeli targets and the initial Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and Bethlehem were welcomed.  Israel should make all possible efforts to support Palestinian authorities and to ease the plight of the Palestinian people, including through facilitating the movement of Palestinian people and goods, access for humanitarian organizations, the removal of outposts, reversing settlement policy and activities and ending land confiscations and the construction of the so-called “security fence”.  The European Union shared the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security, which included an end to the occupation and the establishment of a sovereign, viable and peaceful Palestinian State with democratic institutions and security and recognition for Israel.

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