19 MAY 2016
Successful Implementation of 2030 Agenda Critical to Envisaged Transition,
Says Secretary-General as Seminar on Assistance to Palestinian People Opens
STOCKHOLM, 19 May — Full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would constitute a critical piece of Palestine’s envisaged transition to a peaceful, independent and sustainable State, speakers participating in the opening session of the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People in Stockholm, Sweden, said today.
Delivering a statement on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Robert Piper, Assistant Secretary-General and United Nations Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said the newly adopted development agenda offered a universal, integrated and transformative plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.
Connecting development efforts to humanitarian action, human rights and the advancement of the peace process was critical for progress, he told the Meeting, organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. “There can be no sustainable development without peace, and no peace without sustainable development.”
“The human potential of millions of people has been denied,” he said, adding: “The result is a tragedy for both sides.” It was incumbent upon the whole international community to do everything possible to re-establish a political horizon that would lead to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he emphasized.
Ibrahim al-Shaer, the State of Palestine’s Minister for Social Development, said the Palestinian people had the will and determination to take the bold and transformative steps that were urgently needed to shift towards a sustainable and resilient path. Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestine was the main obstacle to sustainable development, he added, questioning how the Palestinian people could balance the three dimensions of sustainable development while living under occupation.
He reported that the Government of Palestine was working on its National Policy Agenda 2017-2022, which would take the objectives outlined in the 2030 Agenda into account, he said. In that regard, it had also formulated its National Team for the Sustainable Development Goals and mandated that the Ministry of Social Development focus on ending poverty through a transformative social protection system, economic empowerment programmes, wider social services and the establishment of social protection floors.
Said Abu Ali, Assistant Secretary General of the League of Arab States, said that plans for sustainable development in Palestine continued to be confronted with the challenges and obstacles resulting from occupation. Achieving freedom, social justice and dignity, while combating poverty and hunger, as well as providing education and health, were just some of the goals that the Palestinian people had struggled to attain for many decades.
In that context, he continued, implementation of the global development agenda carried special significance for Palestine and constituted a challenge for the international community. “The realities and obstacles caused by Israeli occupation should not relieve the international community of their responsibilities,” he emphasized. “In fact, these challenges should serve to motivate the international community to work more effectively to end Israeli occupation.”
Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez (Cuba), Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noted that the 2030 Agenda would need to be implemented while the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in particular, continued to require humanitarian assistance. Nevertheless, development could still occur in the midst of a situation calling for strong humanitarian support, he said. “Truly, the best humanitarian assistance is that which seamlessly segues into sustainable development and provides a bright outlook into the future.”
Mats Karlsson, Director of the Swedish Institute of International Affairs announced that Sweden’s Government, with broad support from Parliament, planned to increase bilateral support to Palestine by 50 per cent over the next four years to total $100 million per year. That would include support to Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The situation in Gaza remained particularly critical, and it was necessary to address the challenges there, including by ending the enclave’s isolation and guaranteeing full access to humanitarian and State actors.
Also speaking this morning were representatives of Indonesia, Tunisia, Morocco, Malaysia, Uruguay, South Africa, Lebanon, Mexico, China and Venezuela.
MATS KARLSSON, Director, Swedish Institute of International Affairs of Sweden, said Palestine had a right to self-determination and the ability to shape its future in accordance with international law, and the entire world community should support those rights. Political and economic assistance to Palestine had been a Swedish priority, both of Government and civil society, for many years, he noted. The Government, with broad support from Parliament, planned to increase bilateral support to Palestine by 50 per cent over the next four years, to an annual total of $100 million. That would include support to Palestinian refugees through United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he said, adding that Sweden attached great value to the Agency’s work, which it saw as an investment in security and stability, as well as the future of the Palestinian people.
Unfortunately, recent developments on the ground had been increasingly negative, he said, noting that the two-State solution was seriously at risk. In that regard, it was encouraging to hear the commitments by the parties to safeguard the two-State solution, and there was an urgent need to translate those commitments into concrete actions, including by ending settlement expansion and halting the demolition of unprecedented numbers of Palestinian homes. The situation in Gaza remained particularly critical and there was a need to address the challenges there, including by ending Gaza’s isolation and guaranteeing full access to humanitarian and State actors. Fundamental change to Israel’s settlement policy would be of utmost importance to Palestine, he said, emphasizing that the two-State solution remained the only path to security and stability for the Middle East.
ROBERT PIPER, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, delivered a statement on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, noting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offered a universal, integrated and transformative plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It pledged to leave no one behind, with the true test of the Agenda resting on its implementation in all parts of the world, by all stakeholders, acting in partnership. Successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda would be critical to the State of Palestine’s transition to a peaceful, independent and sustainable State, as well as to international efforts aimed at preserving the two-State solution. The United Nations remained firmly committed to helping Palestine build its capacity to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and make them meaningful for the most vulnerable.
Welcoming the initial steps by the Palestinian Government to integrate the 2030 Agenda into its national development plan and aspirations to achieve statehood, he said the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change by President Mahmoud Abbas was another indication of its commitment to implementation of the newly adopted development agenda. “There can be no sustainable development without peace, and no peace without sustainable development,” he stressed. Connecting development efforts to humanitarian action, human rights and the advancement of the peace process was critical for progress.
As noted by numerous development and military experts, he continued, the fact that generations of Palestinians had lived under nearly half a century of occupation without any significant political progress was a major factor fuelling frustration and despair – particularly among young people. “The human potential of millions of people has been denied. The result is a tragedy for both sides,” he said. It was incumbent upon the entire international community to do everything possible to re-establish a political horizon that would lead to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace. Sustainable peace would rest on a two-State solution that met the national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, living side by side in peace and security, he said.
RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba), Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the Seminar would focus on the challenges and constraints of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals under Israeli occupation, and how the 2030 Agenda could pave the way to a peaceful, independent and sustainable State of Palestine. The Seminar would provide an opportunity to explore the unique needs of women and young people within the sustainable development context, as well as the critical role of international solidarity and partnerships to enable Palestine to reach its developing objectives.
It was important to note that the 2030 Agenda would be implemented while the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, in particular, continued to need humanitarian assistance, he said. Nevertheless, development could still take place in the midst of a situation that also required strong humanitarian support. “Truly, the best humanitarian assistance is that which seamlessly segues into sustainable development and provides a bright outlook into the future,” he said. The Seminar was one of four annual international meetings organized by the Committee to raise awareness throughout the world of the Palestinian people’s situation, with the aim of exploring what could be done to support the realization of their inalienable rights through a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
IBRAHIM AL-SHAER, Minister for Social Development of the State of Palestine, emphasized its commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as a means to strengthening universal peace in larger freedom. The Palestinian people had the will and determination to take the bold and transformative steps that were urgently needed to shift towards a sustainable and resilient path, he said, adding that Israel’s continuing occupation was the main obstacle to sustainable development. He questioned how the Palestinian people could balance the three dimensions of sustainable development while living under occupation, without sovereignty, economic rights, or the ability to control their own lands or natural resources.
Despite its best efforts, the occupation continued to stymie the pursuit of a more ambitious development agenda in Palestine, he continued. It aggravated existing environmental issues and prevented Palestinians from using their natural resources. International agreements and treaties had never been respected in relation to major environmental violations in Palestine, including the destruction of the natural landscape, the loss of fertile topsoil through illegal settlement activities, the exploitation of the oil and gas industry, and the over-allocation of water resources to illegal settlements. Respecting such agreements would be necessary if the the Sustainable Development Goals were to be attained through a holistic approach to human rights, the environment and development.
He went on to state that the Government of the State of Palestine was working on its National Policy Agenda 2017-2022, which would take the objectives outlined in the 2030 Agenda into account. In that regard, the Government had formed its National Team for the Sustainable Development Goals, while the Ministry of Social Development’s mandate would focus on ending poverty through a transformative social protection system, economic empowerment programmes, wider social services and the establishment of social protection floors. Women, young people, poor farmers and the disabled would be priority groups, and greater resources would be dedicated to mainstreaming gender and disability issues. “We share the global vision of a world free of poverty, hunger and disease,” he said, adding: “We envisage a world free of fear and violence. A world where human habitats are safe, resilient and sustainable and where there is universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.”
SAID ABU ALI, Assistant Secretary General of the League of Arab States, said its member States were in agreement that sustainable development in the State of Palestine should be implemented in parallel with a serious effort to dismantle and end the occupation. Attaining freedom, social justice and dignity, while combating poverty and hunger, as well as providing education and health were just some of the goals that the Palestinian people had struggled to attain over many decades. In that context, implementation of the global development agenda carried special significance for the State of Palestine and constituted a challenge for the international community. “The realities and obstacles caused by Israeli occupation should not relieve the international community of their responsibilities,” he said, emphasizing: “In fact, these challenges should serve to motivate the international community to work more effectively to end Israeli occupation.”
The international community should continue its efforts to implement development projects and promote the capacity of Palestinian statehood institutions, including through large-scale international partnerships, he said. Providing international protection for the Palestinian people, reaffirming the peace process and stopping all settlement activities and practices that undermined the two-State solution should be of key importance for the international community. In that regard, the Arab States fully supported the French initiative to hold an international peace conference as soon as possible, he said. They reiterated their support for the 2030 Agenda and would extend all possible efforts to actively and efficiently contribute to the achievement of its aims, in accordance with Arab countries’ moral and political commitments and sense of responsibility towards the Palestinian people’s rights, which were guaranteed by international laws and conventions.
The representative of Indonesia said it was important that other countries consider following the model exemplified by Sweden in providing assistance to Palestine, noting that Indonesia and Sweden had agreed to cooperate in improving capacity-building programmes in Palestine through greater triangular cooperation. Indonesia highly appreciated the presence of Margot Wallström, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs at the 2015 Asian-African Summit in Jakarta, where she had stated her country’s decision to recognize the State of Palestine and its intention to provide additional capacity-building support to the Palestinian people. In 2015, Indonesia had laid out plans to establish a consulate in Ramallah, which would officially open in 2016. Having supported Palestine’s membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Indonesia had also hosted the Palestinian Rights Committee’s Conference on the Question of Jerusalem in 2015. It provided about $100 million in annual assistance to Palestine.
The representative of Tunisia said her country had stood firmly beside the State of Palestine in its quest for peace, independence and sustainability. Tunisia would provide it with bilateral support and additional assistance through established institutions, with the aim of empowering the Palestinian authorities to fulfil their duties, particularly with regard to providing opportunities for young people.
The representative of Morocco said the international community had closely followed negotiations between Palestine and Israel since the 1990s, in the hope that they would lead to a resolution of the Palestinian question, which was the source of many conflicts in the Middle East. The negotiating process should endeavour to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said. Expressing concern over the continuing occupation, the confiscation of Palestinian land and the activities of settlers who spread violence and extremism, he said Morocco supported efforts to organize an international peace conference before the end of 2016, saying that initiative deserved the full support of the international community.
He went on to say that his country had contributed to the implementation of projects designed to improve living conditions in the Palestinian territories, improve capacity and deter the spread of extremism and hatred. With the Gaza Strip experiencing a dire humanitarian situation due to four wars launched by Israel, as well as the devastating blockade, Morocco intended to present a draft resolution to the Arab Group, for submission at a meeting of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that would be held in Nairobi later this month, requesting that its Executive Director send a delegation of environmental experts to Gaza to assess the environmental situation there, as well as the impacts of the wars waged in 2012 and 2014.
The representative of Malaysia, noting that the international community promised in the 2030 Agenda that no one should be left behind, said it was important that the people of Palestine not be forgotten. The 2030 Agenda declared that cohesive, nationally owned strategies, supported by an international financing framework, must be at the heart of efforts to attain the Sustainable Development Goals. Therein lay the challenge for Palestine, which had been denied access to its own natural resources, she said. The occupying Power had chosen to withhold revenues raised from the use of Palestine’s natural resources, while continuing to restrict the Palestinian people’s empowerment. Through the occupation, Israel denied Palestine its rightful land, resources and income, she said, pointing out that sustainable development could not be realized without peace and security. “This decades-long conflict must end,” she emphasized.
Malaysia was committed to a two-State solution as the best options for both Palestine and Israel, she said. Reiterating the need for United Nations or other international protection for the Palestinian people, in line with humanitarian law, she said it would pave the way for greater humanitarian efforts. The international community must fulfil its responsibilities regarding the Question of Palestine and pursue all diplomatic, legal and economic measures against Israel’s illegal settlement policies. Malaysia also called upon the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility to end the occupation.
The representative of Uruguay said that a solution to the question of Palestine must be found through bilateral negotiations, and the international community must encourage both parties to return to negotiations leading to a lasting solution. Uruguay had organized two open debates in the Security Council, the first on the protection of civilians in conflict, and the other on the situation in the Middle East, reflecting its strong commitment to the region.
The representative of South Africa noted that the adoption of the 2030 Agenda not only spoke to the need to address the needs of vulnerable groups, but also placed the onus on the international community to take extra steps in support of populations living under occupation. The socioeconomic development of Palestine and the impact of Israel’s illegal occupation rarely gained the attention they deserved. In 2015, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had released a report outlining the severe economic realities faced by the people of Palestine, according to which the number of Israeli settlers had increased. Israel continued to withhold Palestinian people’s rightful resources, which compromised their ability to pursue sustainable development.
Furthermore, UNRWA stated that conflict and the continuing illegal blockade made Gaza the “least liveable place on earth”, he noted. The suspension of private cement sources made reconstruction slow, amid decreasing access to and predictability of electricity, pervasive poverty and high levels of unemployment. Furthermore, the continuing delay in construction of a seaport left Gaza a de facto landlocked State. Conditions in Palestine reflected Israel’s reluctance to find a permanent solution that would result in two States living side by side in peace, he said, emphasizing that the dire economic situation in Palestine could not be separated from political developments. South Africa had provided assistance in the form of infrastructure development in Gaza and the West Bank, but it was necessary to exert greater pressure on Israel to ensure it did not continue to use the right to development as a political tool.
The representative of Lebanon said everyone knew that for almost 70 years, Israel had never recognized, respected or implemented any international resolution issued by the United Nations, including the Security Council. Lebanon had long, historic experience with Israeli aggression and occupation, he said, recalling that it had only managed to liberate its land through force. A two-State solution was good in theory, but not practical, he added.
The representative of Mexico said her country supported efforts to find peace through dialogue and would keep striving for a negotiation process that would recognize two States, living side by side. Mexico was concerned about the serious humanitarian crisis in Gaza and called on both parties to stop the violence and aggression there. Mexico hoped for an early resumption of direct talks, and stood in solidarity with the people in Gaza, she said, adding that it had made a significant financial contribution to UNRWA.
The representative of China noted that turbulence continued to create difficulties in the Middle East, including the spread of violent extremism. The Palestinian people must make their own efforts, although the international community must provide support. Development efforts should be holistic, focusing on the areas of economy, society, the environment and improving living standards. Palestine faced national constraints and difficulties in its pursuit of sustainable development, which must be addressed through increased support from the international community in the form of financing, capacity-building and trade. Development needed a peaceful environment to flourish, which could only be attained through peace talks. The immediate priority was to take credible steps to stop settlement activities, cease violence against civilians and end the blockade of Gaza. China had always supported the desire of the Palestinians to restore their lawful rights and attached great importance to helping them.
The representative of Venezuela said that constrained Palestinian social and economic development was linked to the illegal occupation, which constituted the main cause of conflict in the region. The occupation — including illegal settlement activities, the revocation of Palestinian residency rights in East Jerusalem, the blockade of Gaza, the construction of the wall of containment, and the demolition of Palestinian homes and subsequent eviction of inhabitants — contravened the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, he said, adding that those activities prevented the normal development of citizens and led to economic decline affecting social and economic development.
The illegal exploitation of resources contributed to poverty, and Venezuela called for the State of Palestine to have the right to manage and exploit its own natural resources, he said. The Secretary-General’s May 2015 report, on the occupation’s economic and social impacts, indicated that many homes had been damaged or destroyed, with approximately 44 per cent of those in Gaza affected by the 2014 Israeli offensive. Dozens of schools, hospitals, medical facilities and commercial establishments had been destroyed or damaged. Dozens of young people, including many between the ages of 7 and 11 years old, had been killed or injured, or later arrested and detained. In addition, the lack of economic opportunities had exacerbated the level of unemployment in Gaza, particularly for women.
He went on to note that, despite the seriousness of the situation, the Security Council had not taken action. Venezuela had tried, during its Council presidency in February, to give momentum to the question of Palestine, and for the first time, had organized consultations on the humanitarian situation there. Furthermore, an informal meeting of the Council had been held a few weeks ago to discuss the protection of Palestinian civilians. During that meeting, some Council members had reiterated the need to support the Palestinian people, who were victims of the occupying Power, he recalled, reiterating that the people of Palestine required support through international protection and emergency measures to promote development.
For information media. Not an official record.