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The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.
Agenda item 21
Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance
Report of the Secretary-General (A/57/300)
(c) Assistance to the Palestinian people
Report of the Secretary-General (A/57/130)
Mr. Aboul Gheit (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic): The delegation of Egypt would like to thank the Secretary-General for the reports under consideration in the General Assembly today. We would also like to express our appreciation to Under-Secretary-General Kenzo Oshima for the positive impetus that he has given to the humanitarian sector of the Secretariat since taking up his post.
I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the Secretary-General, to the humanitarian assistance team and to the Government of the United Kingdom for the killing, by Israeli forces’ bullets last Friday, of a staff member of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, who had been entrusted with the work of reconstructing the Jenin refugee camp.
Egypt would like to take this opportunity to emphasize its belief that a firm position should be taken in dealing with threats or violence to, and the detention and murder of, all humanitarian assistance personnel anywhere in the world. All such practices are condemned by international law and their perpetrators are held accountable. In fact, the statute of the International Criminal Court has included such violations as war crimes that fall within its jurisdiction. Egypt reiterates its demands to all parties in armed conflicts to respect the rights of personnel operating in the humanitarian assistance field and to ensure their safety and security. We would like to emphasize that violation of those rights is a serious matter and constitutes a breach of international law.
Egypt believes that the provision of humanitarian assistance to deal with the consequences of natural and man-made disasters is an indispensable, noble activity. We consider supporting that assistance and enhancing its effectiveness a duty of the international community as it acts through the United Nations system to address natural disasters and the consequences and implications of wars, whether they are between States or internal conflicts.
Such disasters and wars have claimed high tolls in human lives and caused great destruction of infrastructure. They have adversely affected development efforts in countries and have resulted in unprecedented levels of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Egypt supports, in principle, the call by the Secretary-General to promote the culture of protection and demands that extensive international consultations be undertaken to define the exact meaning of this important concept and to determine the modalities for putting it into effect, while respecting the mandates of the main organs of the United Nations.
The United Nations has advocated in recent years the promotion of a culture of peace and prevention. We must, however, ensure that such diverse cultures would engage the support of the international community for a better future for humanity.
These concepts must be addressed in a way that moves them from abstract cultures to practices established by international consensus. The delegation of Egypt reiterates its appeal to the international community to intervene to counter the humanitarian catastrophe that the Palestinian people are undergoing as a result of grave and unprecedented Israeli practices. The international community must intervene to provide assistance to this unarmed people and to salvage the peace process in the Middle East. These Israeli practices have led to a humanitarian disaster in Palestinian territories and to a total collapse of the political, economic, humanitarian and environmental structures.
There has been an attempt to intimidate the Palestinian people whose only request is to enjoy its natural right to independence, freedom, the implementation of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, the norms established at the Madrid Peace Conference and the land-for-peace formula. Egypt would like to emphasize that a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, a peace based on equal rights to security and respect for United Nations resolutions, is the only guarantee for the future of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples alike. We must put an end to the bloodbath afflicting the civilian population on both sides.
Egypt appreciates the positive role played by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as this agency provides assistance to about four million Palestinian refugees. Egypt would like to express its thanks and appreciation to all organs and institutions that provide humanitarian relief assistance to the Palestinian people. Egypt also calls on donor countries to step up their efforts to provide the necessary financing and aid to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. We also ask those donor countries to take firm positions against any practices that would block the delivery of this assistance to those who need it.
Egypt calls upon the Secretariat to include in the report of the Secretary-General to be submitted to the General Assembly and the United Nations Economic and Social Council next year an in-depth analysis of the efforts of the United Nations to tackle the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories and the difficulties it faces there. The Secretariat should propose solutions for overcoming these difficulties in order to allow the General Assembly and the Council to adopt the appropriate resolutions in this regard. Moreover, Egypt calls upon the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to coordinate its efforts with UNRWA aimed at following up on the conditions of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, both refugees and non-refugees, as they form an integral part of the civilians that need humanitarian assistance.
Mr. Al-Shamsi (United Arab Emirates) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
The United Arab Emirates is deeply concerned about the suffering of the Palestinian people, who have lost their properties and livelihoods and have been subjected to displacement, abject poverty and serious diseases as a result of continuing Israeli aggression and crimes, which have had a devastating impact on the Palestinian economy. The United Arab Emirates has continued to provide special immediate humanitarian aid as well as long-term development assistance to the Palestinians throughout their years of hardship to alleviate their suffering and to support them in their strife against the brutal Israeli aggression.
Those are a few examples of Government and individual humanitarian assistance initiatives.
As part of the efforts of the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates to mitigate the humanitarian and economic crisis in Palestine, it spent $52 million during the last year and a half on various humanitarian projects such as reconstruction of the Jenin refugee camp, which was totally demolished by the occupying Israeli forces, refurbishment of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Nativity and building or reconstruction of schools, hospitals, mosques and churches in many cities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Government of the United Arab Emirates contributed $50 million to the project of the Sheikh Zayed residential city in Gaza. It also financed the construction of the Sheikh Zayed hospital in Ramallah, which will help alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people and generate employment opportunities for thousands of Palestinians who lost their sources of income as a result of the policies of destruction and suppression implemented by the occupying forces in Palestinian cities and villages. Furthermore, the United Arab Emirates has also donated $500,000 to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East to enable the Agency to fulfil its commitments to the Palestinian refugees.
Our country’s First Lady, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, chairperson of the Women’s Union and honorary chairperson of the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent Society, has made a personal donation of $2 million for establishing a vocational rehabilitation centre and a charitable society for children in the occupied Palestinian territories. Her Highness was presented with a gold pin by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in recognition of her initiatives and generous donations to refugees, in particular, her initiative to establish a refugee fund for women.
In that context, the United Arab Emirates condemns the Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories, which intentionally impeded the staff of United Nations humanitarian agencies from providing the necessary relief assistance to the Palestinian people. My country calls for the intervention of the international community to protect the Palestinian people from Israeli aggression and massacres. We further request Israel to immediately halt its attacks and crimes against the Palestinians, to end its policy of internal closures and blockades in Palestinian cities and to allow United Nations humanitarian organizations and their respective agencies to deliver the necessary aid to needy people in Palestine, in accordance with international laws and treaties, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention. We also urge donor countries and relevant international financial organizations to increase funding for, and to improve the quality of, the humanitarian aid provided to the Palestinian people in order to save them from such a humanitarian catastrophe, which is in violation of human conscience and of all humanitarian and international laws.
While the United Arab Emirates commends the efforts of the United Nations to provide humanitarian and relief assistance to countries and peoples in post-conflict and natural disaster situations, it stresses the importance of international partnerships in strengthening and coordinating such assistance within an immediate and long-term development strategy framework, based on the following principles: to assist developing and poor countries, as well as countries in post-conflict situations, in establishing systems for responding effectively to disasters and for building national capacity to better respond to disasters; to provide unconditional financial and developmental assistance to developing and poor countries and to facilitate their access to advanced technology, so that they can deal with disasters with minimum losses; and to strengthen international humanitarian law and human rights treaties in order to eliminate causes of armed conflicts and wars, such as foreign occupation, racial discrimination and repeated violations of human rights, which lead to violence and hinder development.
Mrs. Barghouti (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic): I would like at the outset to express our gratitude and appreciation to the Secretary-General for the important report he has submitted regarding support to the Palestinian people, in document A/57/130. We also wish to convey our appreciation to Mr. Terje Larsen, Special Coordinator for Peace in the Middle East and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The report that I have just mentioned deals with a number of important issues— the deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as the grave impact of repressive and arbitrary policies and measures conducted by Israel against the Palestinian people. The report also covers the severe economic crisis that the Palestinian people are confronting. My delegation would like to make a few remarks about the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as other important and relevant questions.
Since September 2000 and up to today, in the occupied Palestinian territories, including al-Quds, the economic, social, humanitarian, cultural and environmental situation has seriously deteriorated. Israel has decided to escalate its bloody campaign of aggression against the Palestinians, which has resulted since September 2000 until this day in more that 2,000 deaths and 35,000 injuries. Many of them are permanently handicapped and cannot lead normal lives. Moreover, more than one third of those wounded are children, under 18 years old. In addition to the dead and wounded, the Israeli occupying forces have bombed and demolished a number of public and private buildings and facilities. They have destroyed the infrastructure, trees, roads, running water and sewage systems in Palestinian towns and cities. They have struck at hydroelectric plants and media outlets, and have destroyed large numbers of homes and shelters. Thousands of Palestinians have been left homeless. Moreover, statistics from the World Bank and ESCWA show that the destruction wrought by the Israeli forces is estimated at about $3.0 to $4.1 billion between 1 October 2000 and 31 December 2001. The Secretary-General has summarized this tragic situation in his report:
(spoke in English )
“... the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is characterized by a deepening economic crisis with growing humanitarian consequences. The Palestinian people are facing a threat of economic collapse and social destitution. Continued emergency economic and social assistance is needed, but this cannot be a substitute for a resumption of political dialogue and progress towards an agreed solution” (A/57/130, para. 43).
( spoke in Arabic)
As was mentioned in the report, the Israeli policy of siege and closures was the initial reason for the crisis, which has affected all economic sectors. It has led to a quasi-paralysis of the entire labour sectors. Moreover, restrictions were imposed on peoples’ freedom of movement and trade between Palestinian towns and cities and between them and the outside world. This has had an impact on the Palestinian economy and has brought about a decline in the gross domestic product and in the disposable income of Palestinians. Economic activity has declined to less then 20 per cent of its normal rate. Unemployment in the West Bank is over 50 per cent and in Gaza it is over 70 per cent. The number of people who live below the poverty line is estimated at more than 2 million. We have seen this in a number of resolutions and reports of the United Nations, including the reports submitted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms. Katherine Bertini, who said:
(spoke in English)
“The crisis is primarily evidenced by rising levels of malnutrition among children, high levels of poverty and unemployment, deteriorating health conditions and an increasing exhaustion of the coping mechanisms that have allowed the Palestinian population to sustain itself since the situation started deteriorating in late September 2000.”
(spoke in Arabic )
We thank Ms. Bertini for her support of the Palestinian people and, in particular, for the humanitarian assistance given.
The Israeli practices against the Palestinian people are in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is up to the international community to ensure that Israel respects the provisions and texts of that Convention. Israel must respect the will of the international community and cease its aggression, destructive policies and racist colonialist occupation.
My delegation would like to take this opportunity to express its particular thanks to our brothers in the Arab countries who have accepted some of the wounded, and who have provided emergency relief, especially medicines and medical supplies. Even more important is the substantial assistance rendered to the Palestinian Authority, to its structure and work and to the people of Palestine in general.
We also thank other friendly countries, in particular the European Union and Japan, for their humanitarian assistance and their support of our people in general. Again, our thanks and appreciation go to the donor countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have provided humanitarian emergency assistance to the Palestinian people. We wish to reiterate the importance of seeing those donors, as well as the United Nations emergency relief system, continue to provide all types of support and humanitarian assistance to the besieged Palestinian people in order to alleviate its suffering and to improve its living conditions. Humanitarian assistance is needed until the occupation ceases, and until the Palestinian people enjoy their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and to an independent State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
It is obvious that the current crisis has its roots basically in continued illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. It also has its roots in continuing Jewish colonialist expansionism and refusal to abide by conventions and agreements. This is in addition to threats against Christian and Muslim sacred places, all in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
In order to achieve just and comprehensive peace, security and stability for all countries in the region, the occupation must cease, and Israel must withdraw from all occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. Likewise, Israel must withdraw from occupied Golan Heights and must recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to establish an independent State with full sovereignty over the entire territory. Without any of the aforementioned, there can be no peace process — the peace process cannot advance — and we cannot talk about regional development or cooperative policies with Israel as the occupying Power.
We wish to reiterate the importance of the role of the United Nations in establishing a just and comprehensive peace in the region. This is based on the Organization’s responsibility towards the Palestinian cause. We wish to insist on the importance of the role played by the United Nations in the area of assistance rendered to the Palestinian people, as well as the role played by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.
The meeting rose at 1.10 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.