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


ECOSOC/5865
26 July 1999


ISRAEL CRITICIZED BEFORE ECOSOC OVER OCCUPATION
OF PALESTINIAN, ARAB TERRITORIES


Reform of United Nations Social and Economic Operations also Discussed


(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 26 July (UN Information Service) -- Israel's Middle East
neighbours, armed with a report presented to the Economic and Social
Council (ECOSOC) this afternoon, charged as in previous years that the
country's occupation of Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan was a
violation of international law and a violation of human rights.

An Israeli representative countered that the tone of their remarks did
not match the atmosphere of recent diplomatic peace efforts, and termed the
report political, irrelevant and biased. The representative said new
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had given the highest priority to the
Middle East peace process, already he had met with Palestine Liberation
Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, and had said that the issue of Israeli
settlements would be one of the subjects to be considered in permanent-
status negotiations.

ECOSOC, beginning the final week of its four-week session, also received
a briefing on a General Assembly resolution assessing reforms in the
economic and social fields and recommending areas for improvement, and
heard statements from national delegations on possibilities for further
reform and heightened efficiency.

A delegate from Algeria termed the Israeli occupation a "prime example"
of the violation of human rights, charging that Israel was denying
Palestinians the right to dispose of their own fate. A representative of
Syria, meanwhile, insisted that the situation represented one of the
gravest incidents of repression. Only 15,000 of the original 130,000
inhabitants of the Syrian Golan remained because other villagers had been
forced to leave, this official said; the only way to alleviate the social
consequences of the occupation was to end the occupation itself.

Also speaking -- and in some cases criticizing the continued
construction of Israeli settlements on occupied land -- were
representatives of Palestine, Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Participating in the debate on reform measures were representatives of
Guyana (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Finland (on behalf of the
European Union), United States, Belarus, China, Croatia, Indonesia, Russian
Federation and the World Bank.

ECOSOC will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 27 July, to discuss social and
human rights questions.

Statements

MOHAMED-SALAH DEMBRI (Algeria) said the occupation of another country's
territory was a violation of human rights, namely the right to dispose of

one's own fate. On the eve of the twenty-first century, there were still
people whose rights to self-determination were flouted, and this challenged
the whole international community. The Israeli occupation of Arab
territories was a prime example of this, since it denied economic, social
and other rights.

The international community had been confronted with many faits accomplis
over the last few years in this context, and they had had a devastating
effect on the living conditions of the Palestinian people. It had got to
the point where the occupation was a form of collective punishment.
Palestinians had been moved to enclaves from their ancestral lands to
remove obstacles to development for Israelis. Living conditions, including
schooling, housing and access to food, were more than difficult. Families
had been separated by demarcation lines, which was a form of moral torture.
Peace could only be established under acceptable conditions.

TAHER AL-HUSSAMY (Syria) said the Israeli occupation was a grave
situation of repression, and its economic and social consequences could not
be eliminated without eliminating the occupation itself.

Of the original 130,000 inhabitants of the Syrian Golan, only 15,000
remained -- the other villagers had been forced into leaving. Israel had
established 35 settlements on the territory. The Israeli authorities
controlled 25,000 acres of natural resources. The Syrian inhabitants had
seen their standard of living deteriorate under restrictions imposed by the
Israeli Government. The Syrian economy had taken onto itself
responsibility for the Syrian residents of the Golan. ECOSOC should call
on Israel to put an end to its occupation.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said the Palestinian people were looking
forward to being granted independence and liberation from the Israeli
occupation. Considering the serious obstacles placed by the Israeli
Government and its occupying forces in the way of the Palestinian people,
the international community should insist that Israel desist from its
unacceptable practices, as previously called for by an ECOSOC resolution.
Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were illegal and
constituted an obstacle to the socio-economic development of Palestine.
The Secretary-General had emphasized that the Israeli occupiers were
continuing their practice of harassing Palestinians, and this had a very
negative effect on living conditions.

The Palestinian leadership was very concerned at the continued
uninterrupted establishment of settlements, despite political changes and
continued talk about the Israeli desire for peace. It also was concerned
at Israel.s lack of commitment to honouring the already signed commitments.
The new Israeli Government should remedy the situation. It was no secret
that the devastating consequences of the occupation had seriously damaged
both the Palestinian territory and the Palestinian people.

HASSAN ABDELMONEIM (Egypt) said the right of peoples to self-
determination was one of the most fundamental principles of human rights
law. Since the Israeli government had started this practice of occupation,
it had been condemned by the international community. It had violated the
sovereignty of the Palestinian people. There was hope that there would be
action from the new Israeli Government. The role of the UN was of great
importance, given that it represented international legality. The UN must
ask Israel to respect international principles.

Egypt would continue work with all involved parties. It was regrettable
that the relevant document was distributed late to the Council, and Egypt
hoped that in the future, documents would be distributed well enough in
advance that member States would have the opportunity to review them.

FARRUKH IQBAL KHAN (Pakistan) said there had been steadfast support from
Pakistan for the just struggle for the inalienable rights of the
Palestinian people. The failure to implement the terms of agreements

reached between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization had caused
continuing hardship for the Palestinian and Arab populations in the
occupied territories.

It was hoped that the stated intention to revive the Middle East peace
process by the new Israeli Government would allow for the full
implementation of the Wye River Memorandum of October 1998. Without
faithful implementation of previous agreements, the Middle East Peace
Process would not only remain fragile and flawed, but would increase the
sufferings of the Palestinian people. The full realization of their
economic and social rights was critical to alleviate suffering.

DAVID PELEG (Israel) said the speeches made today were detached from the
diplomatic efforts that were being made on the ground. On 6 July the new
Israeli cabinet had been confirmed and Prime Minister Barak had said Israel
would adhere to its international commitments. Israel was determined to
find a way to overcome all obstacles and to come to a mutual understanding
for a new peace.

The peace process was the highest priority for the new Prime Minister.
This week, Prime Minister Barak was scheduled to meet with Chairman Arafat.
His ambition was to bring an end to the violence and suffering, and he was
committed to working with Chairman Arafat. Israel and the Palestinians
agreed that the issue of settlement would be one of the issues which would
be negotiated in the context of the permanent status negotiations. ECOSOC
could contribute to the peace process by supporting efforts to promote the
economic and social well-being of the peoples of the region, and by
rejecting any effort to politicize its deliberations and decisions, a
process which could only damage the peace effort. Unfortunately, the
report presented by ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia)
under this agenda item should have been seen in this context as a
political, irrelevant and biased report, which was mainly based on
newspaper clippings.

HASSAN WIRAJUDA (Indonesia) said the recent elections in Israel had given
new hope for a resumption of the peace process. The detrimental economic
and social impact of the proliferating Israeli settlements and the
formidable arsenal of oppressive policies and draconian measures imposed on
the Palestinian people had combined to deliver a crushing blow to their
spirit and bury their legitimate rights.

The United Nations and its agencies needed to continue to play a
significant role in alleviating the plight of the Palestinian people as
well as assisting in the formidable and challenging task of nation
building. It was an undeniable fact that peace and development were
closely intertwined, and it was therefore crucial for the entire
international community to extend every assistance for development of the
region.

PATRIZIO CIVILI, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Policy
Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, said discussion of the joint
meetings held by the bureau of the Council were an opportunity for the
Council to assess progress. There was room for improvement, and the
relevant reports pointed to areas where improvements could be made. There
was little doubt that advance planning could have been considerably
strengthened. Members of the Council had made considerable effort to make
the decisions of the Council more action oriented.

Over the last few years, and particularly during the past two years, the
Council had also significantly increased its interaction with the
specialized agencies. Senior agency officials had participated actively in
the different segments of the Council. A significant and increasing number
of reports for the Council were also being prepared jointly with the
agencies. This contributed to making ECOSOC's work and guidance more
directly relevant to the agencies' own activities and concerns, and
undoubtedly strengthened the Council's coordination role. It was the

strong wish of all concerned that this relationship should be further
strengthened in the future.

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO, Vice-President of ECOSOC, said four aspects of the
report of the joint meetings held by the Bureau of the Council and its
functional commission were of great interest. The Bureau and the Secretary
of the Council did and should continue to contribute much to the
functioning of the Council.

The consultation process was somewhat remote from the functions of
several Commissions. Clarification needed to be made, and the rules made
more explicit, so that recommendations could be more operative. Commissions
should hold periodic meetings with each other, and use the available
communication technologies for them, and should discuss cross-cutting
issues. It was important to guarantee the continuity of the Councils work.
Institutional coordination mechanisms needed to be designed. More specific
action by the Council and the Bureau should be highlighted.

GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana) speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China,
said the resolutions on reform represented important landmarks and
guideposts in the overall process of reform of the United Nations, and more
particularly in the restructuring of the organization in the economic,
social and related fields. The set of reports which the Secretariat had
made available offered an enlightening account of the progress made thus
far in the implementation of, as well as useful recommendations for,
further advancing the reform and restructuring process. The process of
reform had to reaffirm the unique role of the United Nations in the
economic, social and related fields in accordance with the Charter. It had
to enable the organization to perform its functions in a manner befitting
the comprehensive mandate envisaged in the Charter.

The Group of 77 was convinced that these objectives could be achieved not
merely through a process of internal restructuring and reorganization, but
also through a renewed commitment by all member States to a more effective
role for the UN in the economic, social and related fields.

MATTI KAARIAINEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union,
said the revitalization of the United Nations in the economic and social
field was a priority objective. Progress made in the implementation of
reforms was welcomed, but a renewed effort was needed in the year 2001 to
give new momentum to the reform effort.

In the meantime, implementation of the relevant resolutions should
continue. Great importance should be placed on the simplification,
rationalization, and harmonization of the procedures of programmes and
funds, especially at field level. The Bretton Woods institutions were
major global players in the economic and social field and as such were
important partners for the United Nations operational activities system, as
well as ECOSOC and its subsidiary machinery. Enhanced field coordination
between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions should take
place in close cooperation with national authorities and in support of
their policy objectives.

LYNETTE PAULTON (United States) said significant progress had been made
in the last few years in strengthening the role of ECOSOC in coordination
and oversight. There had been significant progress and improved relations
with the executive board and governing bodies of the funds and programmes,
with the regional economic commissions and with many of the functional
commissions.

Another area where there had been great advances in the last few years
was in the relationship between the Council and the Bretton Woods
institutions. The increased exchange of views, via the annual meetings in
the spring and the reciprocal trips of executive directors to New York and
ECOSOC ambassadors to Washington had strengthened the relationship. Such
activities should continue.

TAMARA KHARASHUN (Belarus) said the progress made in implementing the
resolutions on reform was striking proof of the efforts made by ECOSOC and
its subsidiary bodies towards implementation. It was important to
continue the debate about standing issues related to United Nations work in
the economic and social spheres. There should be development of the
practice of holding joint meetings between the ECOSOC board and the boards
of the functioning commissions. Such meetings would make a considerable
contribution to further progress.

There was a need for the participation in reform efforts of national
experts and those Governmental representatives responsible for implementing
United Nations recommendations. The debate should be constructive and
helpful. Attention should be paid to the efforts of the Commission on Human
Rights.

ALFREDO SFEIR-YOUNIS, of the World Bank, said the relationship between
the Bank and the UN decision making at the policy, institutional and
operational levels had improved. The scope of the relationship had moved
forward in major ways, from a simple exchange of information to a
substantive dialogue on development issues. Recently, the Bank had
undergone a process of identification of, and a full engagement on, major
strategic issues facing developing countries.

This process of progressive engagement had been advanced and consolidated
by the reform processes. Both institutions had pursued these reforms
relentlessly. There was plenty more to do, but this was in the nature of
change. There was no room for complacency. Both institutions were
changing, and it was strongly believed that this change was for the better,
and, more importantly, for the betterment of humanity.

LIU JINGTAO (China) said the United Nations had achieved major progress
in the reform of its major bodies, including ECOSOC. The current stage of
reform had come to a close. It was a gradual process, and what was required
was an implementation of the new reform measures, and then a short process
of evaluation of the effectiveness of the reforms.

While in favour of cooperation between the relevant organizations, China
still saw a need to respect their different competencies. Cooperation
between the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions was
useful, and should continue.

Z. UJEVIC (Croatia) said great importance was attached to the ongoing
process aimed at restructuring and revitalizing the UN in the economic,
social and related fields. The main responsibility in that regard would
continue to rest with ECOSOC, the principle organ for economic and social
issues, and a central mechanism for coordination within the UN system. The
process of restructuring the UN in the economic and social fields should be
part of an overall reform of the UN designed to enable the organization to
better respond to the needs of its membership in the current international
environment.

Croatia commended the steps already taken in this direction and welcomed
the report. The document gave a clear picture of what had been achieved
and where additional efforts were needed to ensure the full implementation
of the General Assembly resolution. Croatia believed that efforts aimed at
enhancing the efficiency of the work of ECOSOC and its functional
commissions and at improving interaction with specialized agencies and
funds and programmes should continue.

HASSAN WIRAJUDA (Indonesia) said the report should greatly assist the
Council in identifying and addressing the major policy issues emerging from
the work of commissions which required a coordinated response by the United
Nations system. It should also promote a clearer division of labour among
the functional commissions and provide them with clear policy guidance in
their follow-up to the United Nations conferences. ECOSOC should organize
an open and informal dialogue to discuss in particular the cross-cutting of

themes in the various functional commissions, with the widest possible
participation between experts, NGOs, and the Council.s subsidiary bodies.

Meetings between ECOSOC and relevant financial and trade institutions
could provide an effective forum for addressing issues of common concern
within the framework of the forthcoming round of negotiations for trade
liberalization.

VASILY A. NEBENZYA (Russian Federation) said the information relating to
the implementation of the various provisions of the reform resolutions was
helpful. There was a potential for rationalizing the agenda of the reform
process. The level of participation of Bretton Woods representatives was
noted.


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