UN to convene international conference in support of Palestinian people

Secretary-General Kofi Annan addresses the 2006 session of the Palestinian Rights Committee. (UN Photo)

GENEVA — The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will convene the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People on 7 and 8 September 2006 at the United Nations Office in Geneva. This event is being held in line with General Assembly resolutions 60/36 and 60/37 of 1 December 2005. Its theme is “Realizing the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people”.

The Conference will continue the work of the previous United Nations International Conferences of Civil Society and will focus on the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and related civil society action. The Conference will provide civil society organizations from all regions of the world with an opportunity to discuss the situation on the ground, promote their current programmes, develop action-oriented proposals in support of the Palestinian people and coordinate their activities. Invited speakers will deliberate on various issues of particular concern to civil society in promoting a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. Non-governmental organization representatives and other participants will have an opportunity to discuss issues of special interest to civil society organizations. It is envisaged that a plan of action will be adopted by participants at the close of the Conference.

The opening session will be held on Thursday, 7 September, at 10 a.m. in Conference Room XII of the Palais des Nations. Statements are expected to be made by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General; by Paul Badji, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; by a Representative of the President of the Palestinian Authority; and by Phyllis Bennis, Co-Chair of the International Coordinating Network on Palestine (ICNP). The opening session will be followed by a plenary session during which experts will make presentations followed by a discussion period. In two rounds of workshops, non-governmental organization representatives will discuss civil society actions, plans and concerns. The proceedings and conclusions of the workshops will be summarized in the second plenary session. The official languages of the Conference will be English, French and Spanish. Documentation will be available, to the extent possible, in these three languages.

Plenary session I, “From awareness to action: impact of peace movements, political parties and trade unions”, will begin in the morning of Thursday, 7 September, at 11 a.m. The session will review the role of peace movements, parliaments, political parties and trade unions, as well as of the Global South, in the efforts to achieve Palestinian rights. It will discuss the current crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and response by civil society. Speakers include Mustafa Barghouthi, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative; Dror Etkes, Director of the Settlements Watch Project at Peace Now; Achin Vanaik, Professor of international relations and global politics at Delhi University; Pedro Brieger, Argentinean sociologist and journalist on international affairs; Pierre Galand, Belgian Senator and Chairman of the European Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (ECCP); and Shahid Malik, Member of British Parliament.

A documentary, The Colour of Olives, will be shown after the session.

Workshops devoted to broadening, deepening and consolidating global constituencies and campaigns targeting the occupation will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Conference Rooms VIII and IX. The resource persons will include Phyllis Bennis, Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and Co-Chair of ICNP; Na’eem Jeenah, Spokesperson for the Palestine Solidarity Committee of South Africa and President of the Muslim Youth Movement; Ram Karthigasu, Executive Director of Peace Malaysia; Arlene Clemesha, Professor at the University of Sao Paulo and Board Member of the Institute for Arab Culture; Riad Malki, Director-General of Panorama - Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development; Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Action Advocacy Officer at the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Xavier Abu Eid, Chilean journalist and Vice-President of the General Union of Palestine Students; Noura Erakat, National Grassroots Organizer and Legal Advocate for the United States Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; and Jonathan Frerichs, Programme Executive at the World Council of Churches.

The second round of workshops will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, 8 September in Conference Rooms VIII and IX and will be devoted to campaigns to uphold international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the construction of the wall, and mobilizing public opinion, including media strategies. The resource persons will include Mustafa Barghouthi, PLC Member and Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative; Ben Smoes, Founder and Chairman of the International Forum for Justice and Peace; Victor de Currea-Lugo, expert in international law at the University of Lund; Catherine Maynard, human rights lawyer with Hickman & Rose Solicitors; Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights; Jennifer Loewenstein, Research Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford; Ahmed Abdirahman, Project Officer at Alternatives - Action Communication Network for International Development; Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding; and Adi Dagan, Spokesperson for the Coalition of Women for Just Peace and Machsom Watch.

Plenary session II, “Strengthening civil society initiatives”, will start at 3 p.m. on Friday, 8 September. During the session, experts and participants will hear the reports of the workshops; deliberate the issues of engaging mainstream parties and movements, the significance of the World Social Forum for Palestinian rights, and the role and strategies of the ICNP. They will also discuss a new plan of action. Speakers include Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR); Michael Warschawski, Founder and Director of the Alternative Information Center; and Jamal Juma’, Coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.

The closing session of the Conference will take place on Friday, 8 September, at 5.30 p.m. It will adopt the Plan of Action. The report of the Conference will be issued as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat.

Invitations to participate in the Conference have been sent to civil society organizations on the mailing list of the Division for Palestinian Rights. Governments, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies have been invited to attend as observers.

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