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Programme of work for 2015
I. Mandate of the Committee
1. The mandates of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat for 2015 are contained in General Assembly resolutions 69/20 and 69/21.
2. In its resolution 69/20, entitled “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People”, the General Assembly expressed its appreciation to the Committee for its efforts in performing the tasks assigned to it by the Assembly, took note of its annual report (A/69/35), including the conclusions and recommendations contained therein, and requested the Committee to continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The Assembly also called for the achievement, without delay, of an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, the achievement of a two-State solution on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, the just resolution of all final status issues and the mobilization of international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people. The Assembly authorized the Committee to make such adjustments in its approved programme of work as it might consider appropriate and to report to the Assembly at its seventieth session and thereafter. It also requested the Committee to continue to keep under review the situation relating to the question of Palestine and to report and make suggestions to the Assembly, the Security Council or the Secretary-General, as appropriate. It further requested the Committee to continue to extend its cooperation and support to Palestinian and other civil society organizations and to continue to involve additional civil society organizations and parliamentarians in its work in order to mobilize international solidarity and support for the Palestinian people, particularly during the current period of political instability, humanitarian hardship and financial crisis. The Assembly noted that the overall aim was to promote the achievement by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights and a just, lasting and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the terms of reference of the Madrid Peace Conference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet road map. The Assembly commended the efforts and activities of the Committee to commemorate the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in 2014, in cooperation with Governments, organizations of the United Nations system, intergovernmental and civil society organizations. It also commended the efforts of the Working Group of the Committee in coordinating the efforts of international and regional civil society organizations regarding the question of Palestine. The Assembly requested the United Conference on Trade and Development to report to the Assembly on the economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people. It invited all Governments and organizations to extend their cooperation to the Committee in the performance of its tasks and requested the Secretary-General to continue to provide the Committee with all the necessary facilities in that regard.
3. In its resolution 69/21, entitled “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat”, the General Assembly considered that the Division continued to make a useful and constructive contribution to raising international awareness of the question of Palestine and of the urgency of a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine in all its aspects on the basis of international law and United Nations resolutions. The Assembly requested the Secretary-General to continue to provide the Division with the necessary resources and to ensure that it continued to carry out its programme of work as detailed in relevant earlier resolutions, in consultation with the Committee and under its guidance. It requested the Division to continue to monitor developments relevant to the question of Palestine, to organize international meetings and conferences in various regions with the participation of all sectors of the international community, to liaise and cooperate with civil society and parliamentarians, including through the Working Group of the Committee, to develop and expand the “Question of Palestine” website and the documents collection of the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine, to prepare and widely disseminate publications and information materials and to develop and enhance the annual training programme for staff of the Government of the State of Palestine. It also requested the Division, as part of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, to continue to organize an annual exhibit on Palestinian rights or a cultural event in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine, and encouraged Member States to continue to give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the Day of Solidarity. It also requested the Secretary-General to ensure the continued cooperation with the Division of the relevant United Nations system entities with programme components addressing various aspects of the question of Palestine and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and invited all Governments and organizations to extend their cooperation to the Division in the performance of these tasks.
II. Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem
4. Since the submission to the General Assembly of the report of the Committee covering the period from October 2013 to October 2014 (A/69/35), the Committee has remained deeply concerned about the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the ongoing violations by Israel, the occupying Power, including continued settlement construction, arbitrary arrests, torture and mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, including children, demolitions of housing and expulsions of Palestinians, particularly in East Jerusalem, forced displacement of civilians, including Bedouin communities, settler violence and vandalism, as well as incitement and provocative actions around the holy sites, particularly in Occupied East Jerusalem. The Committee expressed particular concern about the increasing incursions by Israeli extremists and political leaders under the protection of Israeli occupation forces on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The Committee underscored that violence by all parties to the conflict is unacceptable and reiterates its total rejection of all attacks against civilian targets, be they in the form of air strikes, bombings, rocket fire or attacks on unarmed civilians. In that regard, the Committee welcomed the Declaration of the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, of 17 December 2014, and in particular its call for an investigation of all serious violations of international humanitarian law in order to bring all those responsible to justice.
5. The Government of Israel has continued its settlement campaign in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with particular aggressive settlement expansion in East Jerusalem. Those measures have been soundly rejected by the international community and their illegality unanimously confirmed, but they continue unabated. The Committee reiterates that all settlement construction, including so-called “natural growth”, is illegal under international law and must be halted immediately. Settlement activities constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and war crimes under article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. They also severely undermine the prospect of the two-State solution. The Committee calls upon all Member States to bring their national regulations into line with international law on settlements and to implement them fully.
6. The Committee remains deeply concerned about the situation in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli blockade is in its eighth year and, together with the devastating conflict during the third quarter of 2014, has left the majority of the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza dependent on humanitarian aid to meet basic needs. The harsh weather conditions in the first quarter of 2015 affect in particular the 88,000 Palestinians who are still homeless as a result of the recent conflict that damaged or destroyed about 100,000 homes, in some cases destroying entire communities. While the ceasefire of 26 August 2014 has mostly held and the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, brokered by the United Nations, has delivered some materials to needy recipients for the reconstruction of their homes, over 60 per cent of those requiring support have yet to receive the necessary materials. The Committee calls on Israel to live up to its responsibilities as the occupying Power, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, and calls for an end to the blockade and collective punishment of the Palestinian people and for unimpeded movement of persons and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip through the regular and sustained opening of its border crossings. The Committee also recognizes the generous support pledged by donors to provide funding for reconstruction and calls for the fulfilment of pledges to accelerate needed rebuilding and to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
7. Having monitored the situation closely, the Committee would like to register its concern about the grave financial crisis besetting the Government of the State of Palestine, which undermines the accomplishments of its national institution-building programme. The crisis has been exacerbated by the decision of the Government of Israel, announced on 3 January 2015, to withhold the tax receipts it collects from Palestinians on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, as mutually agreed through the Oslo Accords. The funds must be disbursed by Israel without delay in accordance with the signed agreements and commitments that have been made. The Committee calls upon all donors to expedite the delivery of the aid pledged in Cairo in 2014. The Committee is deeply concerned that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which has been facing tremendous humanitarian needs in Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, is grappling with an ongoing financial crisis in the wake of the conflict in Gaza in the third quarter of 2014 and the exponential increase in humanitarian needs in Gaza. The Committee calls upon both traditional and new UNRWA donors to increase their contributions to the Agency, which, in addition to carrying out a vital humanitarian mission, continues to serve as a critical anchor of stability in the region.
8. The Committee remains of the view that Israel must release, immediately and unconditionally, all remaining Palestinian political prisoners, particularly children, women, the sick and legislators, including Marwan Barghouti. Recently intensified arrest campaigns have brought the number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to more than 6,000 people, who are being held under dire conditions. The harsh practices and excessive force routinely used by the Israeli occupying forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have been underscored by the recent death of Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein, following his participation in a peaceful demonstration on 10 December.
III. Priority issues in the programme of work of the Committee for 2015
9. The Committee considers that its work and the programme of mandated activities of the Division for Palestinian Rights represent a significant contribution by the United Nations and its membership to efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine in accordance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. The Committee will build on the achievements made during the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in 2014 and work towards heightening international awareness of the various aspects of the question of Palestine, international support for the rights of the Palestinian people and the peaceful settlement of the conflict. It will strive to keep the following elements at the top of the international agenda:
(b) Developments regarding obstacles to peace, particularly those requiring urgent action, such as illegal Israeli settlements, the situation in Jerusalem, the blockade of Gaza, prisoners and the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory;
(c) Mobilization of international, regional and national action towards the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine.
11. The Committee will continue to promote an in-depth dialogue between Palestinian and international legal experts on the implications of General Assembly resolution 67/19, by which Palestine was accorded non-member observer State status in the United Nations. It will support the capacity-building of Palestinian cadres in connection with the recent accession of the State of Palestine to important international covenants and treaties. The Committee will encourage, in its outreach efforts to Governments, intergovernmental organizations, parliamentarians and other non-State actors, the growing international recognition of the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders.
12. The Committee will mobilize international support to mitigate the difficult financial situation and safeguard the accomplishments of the Palestinian State-building programme. It will, as mandated by the General Assembly, raise awareness of the massive cumulative economic costs of the Israeli occupation, borne by the Palestinian economy and by international donors, and, in cooperation with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, will explore appropriate institutional arrangements within the United Nations framework to document them to determine whether Israel, the occupying Power, could be held accountable under international law and compelled to pay restitution. The Committee will draw attention to the plight of Palestinian women and children, the most vulnerable segment of Palestinian society, who are suffering as a result of the occupation.
13. The Committee attaches great importance to enhancing cooperation and coordination between the Department of Public Information and the Division for Palestinian Rights in the implementation of their respective mandates. In its resolution 69/22, the General Assembly requested the Department, inter alia, to continue to issue and update publications and audiovisual materials on the various aspects of the question of Palestine in all fields, including materials concerning relevant recent developments, in particular the efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. The Committee will continue to cooperate with the Department in carrying out the various mandated activities.
14. The Committee will continue to make an effort to encourage participation by countries and organizations that have not yet fully engaged in its programme of work.
IV. Activities of the Committee and the Division for Palestinian Rights
A. Action by the Committee
15. In pursuance of its mandate, the Committee will continue to keep the situation relating to the question of Palestine under review and to participate in relevant meetings of the General Assembly and the Security Council. The Committee will also continue to monitor the situation on the ground and draw the attention of the international community to critical developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, requiring international action. The Committee and its Working Group will hold regular meetings throughout 2015 at United Nations Headquarters in New York, developing the core themes outlined above.
16. The Committee, through its Bureau, will continue to participate in relevant intergovernmental and other conferences and meetings, as necessary. The Committee considers such participation an important aspect of its work to promote international support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The holding of high-level meetings by relevant intergovernmental organizations with the participation of the Committee will be encouraged.
17. In cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, the Committee will continue to maintain contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Government of the State of Palestine and other institutions, as well as Palestinian civil society. Following the practice of previous years, the Committee will continue to invite prominent personalities, United Nations system entities and civil society representatives to its meetings at United Nations Headquarters to further enrich the substantive content and improve the format of the Committee’s deliberations. In that regard, the Committee will call the attention of the Secretariat to the need to ensure, within existing resources, the continued participation of eminent persons and international renowned experts in these meetings and conferences, to be invited on par with the members of the Committee, as mandated by the General Assembly in resolution 69/21.
18. The Committee will continue to support the organizations and entities of the United Nations system in their work aimed at assisting the Palestinian people in various fields and at advancing a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. In the course of 2015, the Committee will continue to collaborate with those organizations and entities in pursuance of its mandate and will invite them to international events organized under its auspices.
19. The Bureau of the Committee will continue to hold consultations with Governments and intergovernmental organizations interested in its programme of work. The exchanges should help to promote an understanding of the mandate and objectives of the Committee.
B. International meetings and conferences
20. The Committee considers that its programme of international meetings and conferences implemented by the Division contributes to focusing the attention of Governments, intergovernmental and civil society organizations and the public on the urgency of bringing about the two-State solution and mobilizing assistance to the Palestinian people. Through its international meetings programme for 2015, the Committee intends to focus attention of the international community on ending the occupation, as a matter of urgency. It seeks to further generate widespread recognition of the State of Palestine as a concrete step to safeguard a peaceful two State solution to the conflict, based on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. It will promote worldwide solidarity with the Palestinian people and support for the realization of their rights. The Committee will continue to engage Governments, parliamentarians and civil society organizations, including youth and women’s groups, to mobilize support for a just solution to the conflict and solidarity with the Palestinian people.
21. The Committee intends to continue to draw the attention of the international community to the developments on the ground, including those that constitute obstacles to negotiations on issues related to permanent status, in particular Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem; the need to compel Israel, the occupying Power, to end and reverse its settlement expansion and all other illegal policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; the accountability of the occupying Power; and the legal obligation of third parties not to support or contribute to the breaches of international law by Israel.
22. The Committee will support peaceful civil society action worldwide that challenges Israeli impunity and promotes the concept of Israel’s accountability for its illegal actions towards the Palestinian people. The Committee will pay special attention to highlighting the plight of the most disadvantaged Palestinians, such as refugees, the Palestinians living in Gaza and Palestinian political prisoners. The Committee will continue to mobilize support for the institution-building and State-building efforts of the State of Palestine and all other efforts to promote and strengthen the independence and viability of the Palestinian State.
23. In so doing, and mindful of budgetary constraints, the Committee will make the most cost-effective utilization of resources a priority. It will endeavour to organize its events in cooperation with interested intergovernmental organizations and national Governments, with due regard to cost-sharing arrangements. It will invite the Division for Palestinian Rights to streamline documentation while making maximum use of modern information technologies, including paper-smart approaches where applicable. It will mobilize social media and bloggers to promote global coverage and interaction during these events in a cost-effective way. It will strive to achieve gender and geographic balance among invited experts and will encourage the active participation of Governments from all regional groups. The Committee, through its Bureau, will regularly assess the outcomes of the international meetings and conferences and, where required, decide on steps to be taken to enhance the contributions of those activities to the mandated goals of the Committee and to boost media exposure, attendance and interaction. It will disseminate the practical recommendations emanating from conferences and meetings to the United Nations membership at large and systematically review them with a view to taking follow-up action, as appropriate.
24. In 2015, the Committee intends to organize events such as the following:
(b) A United Nations international meeting on the question of Palestine, to be held in Asia in April 2015;
(c) A round table on the legal aspects of the question of Palestine, to be held in The Hague on 20 and 21 May 2015;
(d) A United Nations international meeting in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace, to be held in Moscow on 24 and 25 June 2015;
(e) Special Committee meetings with civil society, parliamentarians, local governments and other relevant partners, to be held in New York;
(f) An international meeting on the question of Jerusalem, in cooperation with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
25. In the course of 2015, the Committee will continue to cooperate on issues relevant to its mandate with the African Union, the European Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the League of Arab States. The Committee will also reach out to other organizations and to the regional groups at the United Nations. Representatives of those groups and organizations will be invited to lend their support to and participate in the Committee’s programme of international meetings and conferences.
D. Cooperation with civil society
Civil society organizations
26. The Committee appreciates the work of civil society organizations in support of the Palestinian people and will continue to work with civil society in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The Committee encouraged civil society and coalitions of civil society organizations to form steering committees to coordinate activities during the International Year, while making full use of existing networks. The Committee will continue to support all humanitarian and assistance initiatives aimed at improving the daily lives of the Palestinian people. The Committee will continue to assess its programme of cooperation with civil society and consult stakeholders on ways to enhance their contribution, taking into account lessons learned during the International Year in 2014.
27. The Committee intends to continue to invite civil society organizations to all international meetings and conferences organized under its auspices. The participation in such meetings of civil society organizations, eminent personalities and parliamentarians, women’s organizations, youth groups and their leadership, in addition to Governments and intergovernmental organizations, offers a unique opportunity to promote the exchange of views and ideas, encourage people-to-people dialogue and develop and strengthen strategies, by the international community at all levels, in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The Committee will use the meetings and conferences organized under its auspices to promote dialogue among Israeli, Palestinian and international civil society groups and to offer a useful platform for interaction between the parties.
28. The Committee will maintain and further develop its liaison activities with national, regional and international coordinating mechanisms on the question of Palestine, in addition to the established liaison activities that it already carries out with a large number of civil society organizations. Through its Working Group, it will continue to engage in regular consultations with accredited civil society organizations and observers. It will continue to accredit new organizations. Periodic meetings of consultations with civil society representatives held on the sidelines of the Committee’s international meetings and conferences will further contribute to the enhancement of the Committee’s programme of cooperation with civil society.
29. The Committee is of the view that it is important to continue to exchange information with civil society on current and planned activities. The Committee intends to request accredited civil society organizations to submit periodic reports on their activities in support of Palestinian rights to its Working Group. The Committee requests the Division to obtain information and report periodically on civil society initiatives in order to enhance interaction between civil society and the Committee. It also requests the Division to continue to issue the bimonthly NGO Action News and regularly update the civil society web page of the “Question of Palestine” website (www.un.org/Depts/dpa/qpal/ngo) and the Division’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/UN.palestinianrights) in order to promote the exchange of information and communication between the United Nations and civil society.
30. In 2015, the resources available for cooperation with civil society will be used for the following activities:
(b) Participation of representatives of the Committee and the Division in important forums and other events on the question of Palestine organized by civil society organizations worldwide;
(c) Periodic consultation meetings of the Working Group with civil society organizations with a view to keeping them apprised of the various activities of the Committee, encouraging better coordination, participation and cooperation among them and with the Committee and other relevant United Nations entities, and receiving their views on the work of the United Nations and the Committee, in particular, and information about their current activities;
(d) Periodic side events of the Working Group with civil society speakers in order to raise the awareness of the States Members of the United Nations and observers about specific issues pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
(e) Periodic briefings by representatives of Palestinian, Israeli and international civil society on the situation on the ground and their work in support of a peaceful realization of the two-State solution, to which all States Members of the United Nations, observers and civil society organizations, are invited, to be held at United Nations Headquarters, including on the sidelines of major United Nations events, such as the sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women;
(f) Assistance to Palestinian civil society organizations in facilitating the participation of their representatives in meetings held under the auspices or with the support of the Committee.
31. The Committee views its cooperation with parliamentarians worldwide as one of its programmatic priorities and will continue to develop this aspect of its work. It firmly believes that national parliaments and interparliamentary organizations play an important role in shaping public opinion, formulating policy guidelines and upholding international legitimacy in support of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. The Committee considers that the experience and political influence of lawmakers and their organizations can be instrumental in consolidating the democratic process and institution-building in the State of Palestine, strengthening political dialogue between the parties and applying the principles of international law to efforts aimed at resolving the conflict. The outcomes of recent votes in the parliaments of Australia, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and other countries demonstrate the results of those efforts. The Committee reaffirms the continuing importance of developing closer cooperation and effective partnership with parliaments and representatives of interparliamentary bodies in order to encourage the discussion, within the respective parliaments and among all strata of society, of ways of advancing peace in the Middle East and resolving the question of Palestine. To that end, the Committee will strive to continue to involve parliamentarians and representatives of interparliamentary organizations in international conferences and meetings organized under its auspices and will work towards organizing joint events with interested interparliamentary organizations. Consultations between the Committee and representatives of parliaments and interparliamentary organizations, at Headquarters and worldwide, should improve cooperation between the two sides on issues of common concern. The Committee attaches special importance to involving members of the Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council in events organized under its auspices.
E. Publications programme
32. The Committee considers the publications programme of the Division to be an important source of information and outreach activity that contributes to raising awareness at the international level of various aspects of the question of Palestine, the role and efforts of the United Nations and the work of the Committee. The Division should continue to monitor and disseminate information on developments relevant to the question of Palestine and issue, electronically and/or in print, the following publications:
(b) A monthly bulletin on action by the United Nations system and intergovernmental organizations relevant to the question of Palestine;
(c) A periodic review of developments relating to the Middle East peace process;
(d) A monthly chronological review of events relating to the question of Palestine;
(e) An annual compilation of resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly and the Security Council relating to the question of Palestine;
(f) Reports of international meetings and conferences held under the auspices of the Committee;
(g) An annual bulletin on the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People;
(h) A bimonthly summary of civil society activities on the question of Palestine, entitled NGO Action News, which is available on the civil society web page of the “Question of Palestine” website;
(i) A study entitled “The origins and evolution of the question of Palestine, part VI”.
F. United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine
34. The Committee requests the Division for Palestinian Rights to continue its work on the further development, expansion and updating of the “Question of Palestine” website, including the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL). The Division will continue to ensure that the UNISPAL collection of United Nations and related documents is comprehensive and up-to-date and that it can be accessed easily and its displays are user-friendly. It encourages the Division to develop this useful tool further so as to provide information to users worldwide on various aspects of the question of Palestine. The Division should also continue to provide information concerning activities of the Committee through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and RSS feeds and alert users about materials newly posted on UNISPAL. The Committee requests the Division to report periodically to the Bureau on the status of work accomplished in respect of UNISPAL and progress achieved in its development.
G. International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
35. The Committee is committed to mobilizing people throughout the world to take a variety of actions in solidarity with the Palestinian people, particularly on 29 November 2015 (the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People). The Day of Solidarity will be commemorated at United Nations Headquarters, the United Nations Offices at Geneva and Vienna and other locations. A Palestinian exhibit and/or a cultural event will be organized at Headquarters in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.
H. Training programme for staff of the Government of the State of Palestine
36. The Committee considers that, in the light of the importance and usefulness of the annual training programme for staff of the Government of the State of Palestine, the Division should continue to develop and enhance it further in 2015. The Committee remains of the view that, in selecting candidates for the programme, special consideration should be given to achieving gender balance. Training sessions will be held at United Nations Headquarters, at the United Nations Office at Geneva, and at other United Nations locations, subject to the availability of funding.
I. Continuing review and assessment
37. The Committee will continue to review and assess its programme of work in the light of the situation on the ground and new political developments and will make adjustments as necessary. It will actively seek feedback from participants in the events organized under its auspices and from other partners, apply lessons learned and follow best practices.