The Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to approve its 1996 report to the General Assembly.
Amendments to one chapter of the report were discussed by the Permanent Observer for Palestine, the representative of Egypt and the representative of Tunisia. The Committee also heard a statement by a representative of the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI).
The Permanent Observer for Palestine made comments at the end of the meeting on draft resolutions concerning the Question of Palestine that would shortly go before the Assembly.
Acting without a vote, the Committee this morning also approved observer status for South Africa.
The Chairman, Ibra Deguene Ka (Senegal), welcomed South Africa to the Committee. The Permanent Representative of South Africa said his country shared the Palestinian people's goals and endeavours.
The Chairman also announced a special meeting organized by the Committee to celebrate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on the morning of 29 November 1996. He added that, on the same day, the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine would present an exhibit of traditional Palestinian handicrafts, in the Public Lobby of the General Assembly building.
The Chairman said the Bureau of the Committee had reviewed the draft medium-term plan for the period 1998-2001. Some adjustments needed to be made; those would be communicated to the Chairman of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) as soon as possible.
The Palestine Rights Committee will meet again at a date to be announced.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee met this morning to consider the draft report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The Committee had before it the draft report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/AC.183/1996/CRP.2). The report covers the Committee's objectives, organization of work, procedural methods and mandate, and also the respective mandates of the Committee, the Division for Palestinian Rights and the Department of Public Information (DPI). The report reviews the situation relating to the question of Palestine. The main body of the report gives an account of the action taken by the Committee. It also covers work done by the Division for Palestinian Rights and the DPI.
The report reviews the Committee's reaction to developments affecting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people; action taken within the Security Council; the Committee's attendance at international conferences and meetings; and action taken by United Nations bodies, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and intergovernmental organizations.
The report covers the Committee's work and the work of the Division for Palestinian Rights, including seminars and meetings of non-governmental organizations; research, monitoring and publications; United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine; and International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
There is a review of action taken by the Department of Public Information in continuing its special information programme on the question of Palestine, with particular emphasis on public opinion in Europe and North America, as had been requested by the General Assembly in resolution 50/84 C. That section of the report reviews the Department's efforts in several areas of activity: dissemination of information, publications, audio-visual material, fact-finding news missions, encounters for journalists, assistance in the field of Palestinian media development, Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and media relations and logistical support.
It indicates that the DPI had used a number of instruments including press releases and briefings, publications, Internet and e-Mail, and radio news bulletins and feature programmes to disseminate material on the question of Palestine. The global network of United Nations information centres and services had actively promoted the issue relating to the question of Palestine, organizing media activities and special events and regularly disseminating relevant information material. The Department's Radio and Central News Service had provided a wide range of coverage on the Question of Palestine and related issues, in daily news bulletins, weekly news magazines and feature programmes in official and non-official languages for world-wide dissemination. While the Department had not been able to organize fact-finding news missions or encounters for journalists, a number of meetings for journalists had been organized in relation to the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Department had further organized a training programme for media practitioners. Three information centres had provided media relations and logistical support for major seminars dealing with the question of Palestine.
The report notes the efforts undertaken by the Department over the past year and appreciates the results. It also notes that some important aspects of the resolution with regard to the Special Information Programme had yet to be implemented. The report further notes that a more regular process of coordination between the Department and the Committee, as already initiated, should assist in identifying and overcoming difficulties which may be encountered in the organization of specific events and thus ensure full implementation of the provisions of General Assembly resolution 50/84 C.
The report's last chapter contains the Committee's recommendations. The Committee would express concern over the future of the peace process in light of the renewed cycle of violence in the area, delays in the implementation of the agreements reached, the prolonged closure of the occupied Palestinian territory and the resumption of the policy of settlements by the Israeli Government. The Committee would express the belief that there is no alternative to negotiations by the parties concerned, on the basis of the peace process, and that the international community should intensify its efforts towards the effective implementation of the agreements reached, as well as for the implementation of all aspects of the negotiations on the agreed basis.
Further by the recommendations, the Committee would reaffirm that the United Nations has a permanent responsibility with respect to the Question of Palestine until a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement is reached, and that its own role continues to be useful and necessary during the transitional period and until a satisfactory final settlement is achieved.
The Committee would further reaffirm that such a settlement must be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973); the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied since 1967; the principle of exchange of land for peace, and the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights, in particular the right to self-determination. The Committee also insists that, during the interim period, Israel must recognize and respect its obligations as the occupying Power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Further by the draft recommendations, the Committee would call in particular for an end to the policy and practices of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, which is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, prejudges the final status negotiations by creating facts on the ground, and is therefore contrary to the letter and the spirit of the agreements between the parties, and poses a grave threat to the future of the peace process.
Also by the text, the Committee would express its concern over the tragic clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in September 1996 and reaffirm the particular status of Jerusalem in accordance with several United Nations resolutions. The Committee would recall that the Security Council has repeatedly affirmed that all measures altering the geographic, demographic and historical character and status of the Holy City are null and void and must be rescinded.
Further by the text, the Committee would restate its continued flexibility in its approach and programme of work, while maintaining its position of principle, in order to make a concrete contribution, and would call on the General Assembly to reconfirm its mandate with overwhelming support.
The Committee would also express its great appreciation to those States which had supported its work and facilitated the organization of events held under the Committee's auspices and call again for a broadening of its membership, to include countries that support its objectives but have not previously participated in the work. Pointing to the usefulness of its programme of seminars in the different regions in informing and mobilizing public opinion and promoting exchange of experience and expertise, the Committee would state its intention to continue to organize annually a seminar devoted to economic and social challenges facing the Palestinians during the transitional period.
Also by the text, the Committee would stress the importance of intensified efforts by the non-governmental organizations to organize and coordinate sustained campaigns to inform public opinion, and to promote national and international action in support of United Nations resolution and the Committee's objectives. Noting the continued desire of non-governmental organizations to hold a future meeting in the area under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, the Committee would reiterate its call to the Government of Israel not to negatively interfere in this endeavour as an important confidence-building measure.
Under the terms of the draft recommendations, the Committee would emphasize the essential contribution of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat and request it to continue its programme of studies and publications, and to develop further the computer-based information system on the question of Palestine (UNISPAL), by including all relevant documentation. The Committee would note the successful introduction in the Division of a pilot project for the training of staff of the Palestinian Authority in the workings of the United Nations system, and request it to continue this exercise in the future.
The Committee would express its intention to continue to strive to achieve maximum effectiveness in the implementation of its mandate, and to adjust its work programme in the light of developments, in order to continue to contribute, to the extent possible, to the realization of the common United Nations objective of achieving a just and lasting solution to the Question of Palestine.
LESLIE MBANGAMBI GUMBI (South Africa) told the Committee that South Africa had shared a common plight with the Palestinian people in the past. "We share their goal, their endeavour in this noble road to restore dignity, respect and independence to the Palestinian people", he said, adding that South Africa's participation in the Committee was from a principled stance, and his delegation would do its best to be a worthy partner.
M. NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, welcomed South Africa as an observer to the Committee. He said that South Africa, for the Palestinian people, was "a sister country". South Africans had taken "a very similar road to the one taken by our people in order to achieve their legitimate rights".
RAVAN FARHADI (Afghanistan), Vice-Chairman of the Committee, said he wished to join his colleagues in welcoming South Africa. He also hoped that more regions would be represented on the Committee, so as to better reflect the evolution of international relations.
SLAHEDDINE ABDELLAH (Tunisia) said South Africa's participation was an important step that symbolized a commitment to fundamental principles, such as self-determination, on which this Committee stood.
JOSEPH CASSAR (Malta), Rapporteur, introduced the Committee's report for 1996.
MIAN QUADRUD-DIN, of the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), voiced his intention to continue working in cooperation with the Committee, to fulfil the responsibilities mandated to the Department with regard to Palestinian rights. He noted that certain points had been discussed in meetings with the Committee's Bureau, of which the Rapporteur had taken note.
The Rapporteur noted several amendments to the concluding paragraphs of Chapter VI of the report, "Action taken by the Department of Public Information in Accordance with General Assembly 50/84 C".
The Rapporteur suggested inserting two paragraphs at the end of Chapter VI. The first was: "In the light of this need, two meetings were held during the period under review between members of the Bureau and senior officials of the Department. Constraints imposed by diminished resources has influence on the review of all the programmes which fall under the responsibility of the Department, including those related to the question of Palestine. It was noted that more regular consultations between the Committee and the Department would be beneficial in identifying the most efficient manner to utilize existing resources in order to implement all aspects of the resolution during the current biennium."
He also suggested the addition of this paragraph: "The Committee welcomes the Chairman's report about his discussions with the Department of Public Information and the assurance that he has already put in place a process of close cooperation and consultations between the Bureau of the Committee and the Department of Public Information to prepare the information programme for the coming year."
Mr. AL-KIDWA said the report dealt well with the Palestinian situation as a whole. Next year would signal the thirtieth anniversary of the occupation of the Palestinian territory, which should give impetus to the work of the Committee. Amendments made to the section relating to the DPI reflected the general mood of the Committee on that issue. There was serious concern at the fact that General Assembly resolution 50/84 C had not been fully implemented. The mandate which the Department was asked to implement "in full cooperation and coordination with the Committee" had largely been unfulfilled until recent efforts by the Chairman, and by DPI officials. The aim was to guarantee the establishment of a different kind of relationship between the Committee and the DPI, and implementation of the resolution itself. It was to be hoped that in the future the DPI would be fully cooperative.
In relation to Chapter VI of the report, on the DPI and the implementation of the programme on Palestine, MAGHED ABOUL-MAGD (Egypt) said his delegation was not satisfied. It noted with deep concern that the DPI did not implement a great part of the programme. He said his delegation was also concerned about a sentence on budgetary constraints; it was not ascribed to anyone.
The Rapporteur said the budgetary constraints were acknowledged as a "well-known fact", so the reference was not ascribed to anyone in particular. The DPI had stated that it had to work under such conditions.
Mr. ABDELLAH (Tunisia) said the report was complete and clear. He thanked the representative of the DPI who had overcome the difficulties that had emerged and had ensured the full implementation of the programme. On the budgetary constraints cited, he said the report was provided by a General Assembly resolution, and money was allocated for those programmes. That was his question to the Secretariat and some clarifications were required.
Mr. QADRUD-DIN, for the Department of Public Information, said that the budgetary constraints had been identified on the basis of the resources received this year. There had been a decline in the order of 27 per cent. Planning for next year had to be based on what was allocated this year. If the resources were increased, then it would be another matter. As things stood, there had been a reduction of 27 per cent in the resources to the DPI for this year's programme.
The Observer for Palestine referred to the possibility of using the word "acknowledge" in the report, regarding the budgetary constraints, as suggested by the Rapporteur. His delegation was not convinced that budgetary restraints were the reason that the programme was not implemented, he added, but "we do realize that there were budgetary constraints", he said. In that context, to "acknowledge" those constraints implied a different position.
The CHAIRMAN said that the sentence would be taken up in liaison with the DPI and the delegation of Egypt, and a "very dynamic" compromise on the phrasing would be found.
The Committee then approved the report as recommended, for submission to the General Assembly.
Mr. AL-KIDWA spoke about action by the General Assembly at its current session. On draft resolutions directly relevant to the work of the Committee, he said he believed the resolution on the Committee itself could remain the same, as could the draft resolution on the Division for Palestinian Rights.
The draft resolution on the Department of Public Information should be worded in a positive tone, given the promising new contacts with the Department. It should still reflect the fact that the Department's programme had remained largely unimplemented, and that this should not be the case next year.
He said the draft regarding peaceful settlement should be maintained, with the addition of certain paragraphs to reflect the facts on the ground, particularly that the peace process was facing difficulties, that the parties were obligated to implement agreements reached, and that conditions of the Palestinians were deteriorating sharply.
He said the notion of statehood should be inserted, in addition to the right of self-determination, and he noted there were now 63 co-sponsors on the draft resolution on self-determination, tabled in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).
On the draft resolution on natural resources, to be presented to the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), he hoped more members would join as co-sponsors. Another addition, he said would be a draft resolution to deal with the issue of the settlements. That draft would go before the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization). In the past, this issue had been partially addressed in the omnibus resolution on Israeli practices. However, due to the new Israeli Government's resumption of colonial 1settlements, which threatened to destroy the peace process as a whole, the international community should give special attention to the issue by adopting a separate resolution.
On other texts, he suggested the addition of minimal paragraphs to reflect the political and practical realities on the ground. Overall, he said, he had tried to maintain the spirit of the package resolution adopted at the Assembly's fiftieth session, while making updates and additions as necessary to render the package relevant to the present situation.
The CHAIRMAN welcomed the fact that the report had been formally adopted; only one sentence needed to be worked on a little further. He then thanked participants and adjourned the meeting.