The general segment of the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council continued today with consideration of the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.
The Council had before it a report of the President of the Council on consultations held with the Chairman of the Special Committee on the situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document e/2004/47), which describes support to Non-Self Governing Territories by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations.
The Council also had the Secretary-General’s report on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations (document A/59/64), which contains a list of specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations to which the provisions of Assembly resolution 58/104 apply and to whose attention the Secretary-General drew the text of the resolution.
Annexed to a note by the Secretary-General (document A/59/89-E/2004/21) was the report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.
According to the report, the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel continues to deepen the economic and social hardship for Palestinians. The Israeli army continues to resort to extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, household demolition, severe mobility restrictions and closure policies.
Economic indicators, the report states, continue to show negative trends. Unemployment reached 70 per cent in some areas. There was greater dependence on food aid. Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources for settlements and the erection of the West Bank barrier accelerated during 2003. Refugees, women and children bore the major brunt of these measures. Israeli settlements and the construction of a barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory, contrary to the Geneva Convention and other norms of international law, continue to fuel the conflict, having detrimental repercussions on the living conditions of the Palestinian people.
Expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights continues unabated, according to the report. Access to natural resources and social services, in particular schooling, higher education and medical facilities, remains inadequate for the Arab population there.
The accumulated consequences of all those factors have nearly brought the occupied Palestinian territory to “war-torn economy” status, the report concludes. Humanitarian assistance is not sufficient to ensure a sustainable life with dignity and rights for the Palestinian civilians under occupation. The sustainable option for addressing the current economic and social deprivation lies in lifting the occupation of the Palestinian territory, as well as the Syrian Golan.
There was also a Secretary-General’s report on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/59/121-E/2004/88), containing a description of efforts made by United Nations agencies, in cooperation with Palestinian and donor counterparts, to support the Palestinian civilian population and institutions.
The report observes that there was a continuing trend of the reduction in the capacity of Palestinians to function effectively and a growing dependency upon aid — budgetary, technical and humanitarian. The significance of the United Nations agencies and their role in the occupied Palestinian territory has never been greater, nor has there ever been a time when it has been more difficult to operate.
A two-track strategy — balancing emergency needs against development goals that support a viable Palestinian Authority — has been the basis of the United Nations approach for the past three years. Although less than preferable, it has become the modus operandi for relief efforts in the occupied Palestinian territory. As a result of their considerable efforts, the United Nations system and donors have achieved measured success in both emergency and development assistance. Unfortunately, those successes have been overshadowed by the escalation of the crisis, which has led not only to loss of life, but also to a reversal in the progress made in the socio-economic sectors.
Humanitarian and financial assistance will not by themselves serve as a solution to the political crisis affecting the lives of the Palestinians and Israelis. A solution regarding the status of the Palestinian people, as well as the economic situation and humanitarian crisis, is linked directly to respect for international law and the achievement of a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
As a matter of priority, the Government of Israel must ease restrictions and work closely with United Nations agencies, donors and humanitarian organizations to ensure that aid and development projects are delivered in a timely and comprehensive manner. Effective steps by the Palestinian Authority to lessen Israel’s security concerns would facilitate such an effort. The international community must not lose its focus despite the challenges; particular attention was drawn to the latest emergency appeal of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The report concludes that the events of the past year have demonstrated how desperately the people of the Middle East need a political solution to their long conflict. There will be no peace unless each of the parties, the region and the wider international community was ready to play its part. To that end, the Quartet and others were making a concerted effort to engage the parties in a political process through negotiations that would ultimately bring an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory that began in 1967. Only then could the suffering of the Palestinians, and of Israelis, be alleviated. The United Nations system would continue to carry out its work in support of that goal.
By a draft resolution on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document E/2004/L.25), the Council would demand the complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction.
The Council would call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to end its occupation of Palestinian cities, towns and other populated centres, to end the imposition of all forms of closure and curfew, and to cease its destruction of homes and properties, economic institutions and agricultural fields.
The Council would stress the need to preserve the national unity and the territorial integrity of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and to guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods in the Territory, and the freedom of movement to and from the outside world.
The draft was sponsored by Algeria, Bahrain, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.
MERVAT TALLAWY, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), presented the report of the Secretary-General on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan. The only hope of bringing an end to violence in the occupied territory and Israel was a comprehensive peace settlement that included Syria and Lebanon, she noted, adding that the Road Map submitted by the Quartet was considered reasonable, but efforts to implement it remained “deeply unsatisfactory”.
ABDULLA EID SALMAN AL-SULAITI (Qatar) said the Israeli occupation continued to lead to many difficulties for the Palestinian people, including through the Israeli Army’s policy of extrajudicial killings and executions and the demolition of Palestinian housing. Those policies had intensified, despite calls by the Secretary-General, who had expressed concern that such actions would lead to additional bloodshed and violations of international law. Among the policies most detrimental to the Palestinians was that of property seizure. Determined to expand their settlements, Israeli authorities had constructed the separation barrier, which the International Court of Justice had just found contrary to international law. Israel must end the barrier’s construction, dismantle those parts already constructed, and make reparations for all damages caused by the construction.
According to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he continued, following three years of economic deterioration, the Palestinian people had lost all the gains of the previous 15 years. That economic deterioration had not just affected the Palestinian Authority, which had been unable to pay staff salaries, but the wider population, as well, of whom 63 per cent now lived in absolute poverty. Moreover, Israel had impeded humanitarian assistance. Continuous deterioration of Palestinian living standards and renewed forms of confiscation of their public and private assets had led to severe economic recession. Humanitarian assistance was insufficient to counteract the effects of that recession. The Palestinians must be allowed to regain their national rights, including the rights to self-determination and the establishment of an individual State.
MUIN BURHAN SHREIM, of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, said the report detailed the dire situation facing the Palestinian people as a result of the Israeli occupation. Israel, the occupying Power, had committed countless war crimes. Its policies of confiscating land and building illegal settlements had continued unabated. Such illegal practices compounded the situation on the ground. Among other things, the report recognized that Israeli settlements continued to fuel the conflict, and that such policies had given rise to serious concerns regarding establishment of an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian State.
He said another crime was the construction of its expansionist wall, despite international condemnations. The International Court of Justice had concluded that Israel was under legal obligation to cease construction of and dismantle the wall. The wall cut deep into Palestinian territory and had involved confiscation of Palestinian land, destroyed the livelihood of thousands of Palestinians, and impacted on the social and economic living conditions and the Palestinian water resources. Other violations included frequent collective punishment, confiscation of land, exploitation of water resources and home demolitions. Restrictions of the freedom of movement of Palestinian persons and goods were also prevalent during the reporting period. Administrative detentions and the harassment, physical mistreatment and torture of Palestinian detainees and prisoners also persisted.
He said the economic and social crisis facing the Palestinian people required the United Nations to continue to monitor the situation closely in an effort to effectively put an end to al illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. Israel must be compelled to respect its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law. The international community must give the necessary attention to that issue and take urgent measures to help the Palestinian people and to halt Israel’s destruction of the natural resources in the occupied Syrian Golan.
“The sustainable option for addressing the current economic and social deprivation lies in lifting the occupation -– an occupation that has only brought misery and suffering to the Palestinian people for more than 37 years”, he said. “Once that is accomplished, the Palestinian people will be able to live a normal life, free from Israeli occupation, subjugation and destruction.”