Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my honour to address the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People as the Head of the delegation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People of the United Nations.
In the discharge of its mandate, our Committee consistently addresses various socio-economic and humanitarian issues and emphasizes the urgency of mobilizing international support for and assistance to the Palestinians in various fields. Along with international and regional meetings dedicated to addressing political aspects of the question of Palestine, seminars on assistance to the Palestinian people, such as this one, have become an integral part of the Committee’s activities.
Indeed, there is a nexus between the search for a political solution to the question of Palestine and its socio-economic underpinnings. I am certain that the two days of our Seminar will provide ample evidence of this interconnection. Before I touch upon some of the issues, which we shall be addressing in this Seminar, I would like to say a few words about the current situation on the ground, what has to be done to break out of the status quo and the role of the international community in that regard.
In the Gaza Strip, the humanitarian situation has been steadily worsening as a result of the Israeli military offensive more than a year ago. The continuing Israeli blockade of Gaza has prevented the long overdue reconstruction and rehabilitation work. The blockade continues to obstruct the movement of persons and goods, including the flow of critical humanitarian aid, essential supplies and commercial trade, preventing economic recovery and compounding the already-high levels of poverty and unemployment. There is a growing sense of urgency about the need to begin the process of recovery and reconstruction of the thousands of destroyed and damaged homes, schools and hospitals, and of other vital civilian infrastructure. The isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the Palestinian Territory and from the international community has to be lifted with the regular and sustained opening of all crossings for the movement of persons and goods. Concrete steps must be taken to restore normal economic activity. The Committee welcomed the readiness of the international community to contribute to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and urged the donor countries to continue to do so.
In the West Bank, Palestinian access to land and resources continues to be severely impeded by a multi-layered system of restrictions. These include permit requirements, physical obstacles, settlements and settlement outposts, the wall and accompanying obstacles, and the implementation of zoning and planning regulations that deny Palestinians the ability to expand and develop their communities. The situation in East Jerusalem continues to deteriorate. The majority of the Palestinian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory is denied access to the City. The City’s Palestinian residents have to grapple with dismal living conditions and an inequitable distribution of the municipality’s budgetary resources. Thousands are at risk of eviction, house demolition and/or displacement.
The substantial donor contributions aimed at rehabilitating the Palestinian economy have been considerably less effective than the donors had anticipated, in part because they were spent to attenuate the economic damage resulting from Israeli restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement, rather than on development projects.
The United Nations and other humanitarian agencies have been making consistent and tireless efforts to contain the crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. However, further increase in emergency aid and assistance is urgently needed. Those humanitarian agencies on the ground have recently launched the 2010 Consolidated Appeal Process for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, totalling US$664.5 million. The scope of the appeal is the largest ever, which only underscores the seriousness of the situation. In this regard, the Committee wishes to call on all donors to do their utmost to help meet the requirements in this appeal, covering the “basic human needs” of the Palestinian population. The Committee also emphasizes the critical importance of international donor assistance for the functioning of the Palestinian institutions at this difficult time.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Seminar is will focus on the Programme of the Palestinian Authority “Palestine: Ending the occupation, establishing the State” – the programme that has become known as the Fayyad Plan. In its report to the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly and the programme of work for this year, our Committee has supported this initiative. The Committee backs this forward-looking programme, which calls for Palestinians to unilaterally build the administrative, economic and institutional foundation of an independent State in spite of the Israeli occupation and as a peaceful, constructive means to countering it. As you are aware, the programme includes a blueprint for the development, institution-building and reform not only of the urban areas the Oslo Accords allow the Palestinian Authority to function in, but also the rest of the Occupied Territory, including Area C and marginalized areas, particularly affected by Israeli settlement expansion and/or separation wall construction.
As a matter of fact, this programme might be understood as the Palestinian answer to Israeli settlement-building by creating unilaterally positive facts on the ground that restructure the strategic equation. Yet, there is a fundamental difference in that, unlike Israel’s settlement activity, the Palestinian Authority’s programme is consistent with international law, welcomed and supported by the international community, and promotes rather than hinders prospects for a peace agreement. The document reflects the Palestinian determination to empower themselves by taking their destiny in their own hands and shouldering their share of the responsibility by building state institutions under occupation with a view to ending occupation.
The initiative had been announced in August last year and was followed up this January with a detailed financial agenda guiding all branches of the Palestinian Authority on what needs to be accomplished and how this can be supported financially, technically and politically. It is an ambitious undertaking, but a number of projects are already under way both in the public and private sectors. It is worth mentioning in this regard the Palestinian Authority’s plans for adding to the map of the West Bank, for the first time, a new Palestinian city named Rawabi. There are also plans for establishing the first ever private equity fund aimed at developing small- and medium-sized Palestinian businesses.
Our Committee is encouraged that this programme has been welcomed by the international community. Already last September, the donor group for the Palestinian Authority characterized the plan as an important platform for donor coordination with Palestinian authorities aimed at promoting sustainable economic development and building the institutions of the future Palestinian State. Also, the United Nations Secretary General pledged the Organization’s full assistance in its implementation. At its meeting in New York last September, the Quartet welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s plan for constructing the institutions of the Palestinian State within 24 months backing the Palestinian Authority’s serious commitment to an independent State that would provide opportunity, justice and security for the Palestinian people and would become a responsible neighbour to all States in the region. It emphasized that transformative change on the ground was integral to peace. At a Principals’ meeting last week in Moscow, the Quartet reiterated its support for Palestinian statehood. Similarly, the European Union had fully endorsed the plan in its landmark statement of 8 December and pledged to work for enhanced international support. Arab Governments are making contributions to projects under the programme.
It should be emphasized that this programme of the Palestinian Authority deserves a good deal more attention and, in particular, specific contributions. Billions of dollars have been pledged in international support for the Palestinian Authority, but not much has been delivered and the Authority continues to live hand to mouth. The fallout of lacking financial and other material support is felt immediately on the ground contributing to hardships and instability.
The Palestinian Authority has proven its ability to transform international support into concrete government-administered programmes, as demonstrated by the reform of the law and order sector and improved transparency at all levels. The Fayyad Plan is a logical continuation of these efforts. It also takes into account the developments of recent years in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. We in the Committee firmly believe that the programme deserves the full and continued support of the international community.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It has to be borne in mind that this programme of the Palestinian Authority is not being implemented in a political vacuum, but that it is, and will be in the foreseeable future critically affected by developments in the political process. In fact, its success is determined by the measure of progress in the political area. At the international level, support needs to be built for the broad recognition of an independent Palestinian State. At the end of the projected two years of the plan, this recognition could be enshrined in a United Nations Security Council resolution clearly determining the borders of the Palestinian State based on the pre-1967 lines.
Our Committee’s position is that the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory must end without conditions, which should allow the Palestinian people to establish an independent State on all territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, and to exercise their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination. The Committee is of the view that the two-State solution should be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1850 (2008). It is convinced that only serious and sustained international engagement will bring about a peaceful and negotiated settlement of all outstanding issues and reverse the growing support for radical forces that promote violent and unilateral approaches to ending the conflict, for which there is no military solution. The Committee remains committed to contributing constructively and actively to international efforts aimed at the achievement of a peaceful settlement.
We also feel strongly that the United Nations should continue to maintain its permanent responsibility towards all aspects of the question of Palestine until it is resolved in a satisfactory manner, in conformity with relevant United Nations resolutions, in accordance with international legitimacy, and until the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are fully realized.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before I conclude, I would like to say that we are privileged by the presence here of the distinguished Palestinian Authority officials, from whom we hope to hear in detail about the Palestinian Authority Programme. We are looking forward to analyses and inputs from our distinguished experts representing think tanks, academic institutions, the United Nations, humanitarian agencies and civil society.
I thank you all and hope that in the course of the coming two days, you will have an opportunity to engage in a stimulating and useful discussion of the issues at hand.