Thursday, November 27, 2014

Statement by Bureau of Committee on Exercise of Inalienable Rights of Palestinian People on Situation in Gaza Strip

The Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People issued the following statement today, 16 November:

 

The Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the deadly military attacks perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza Strip that have reportedly killed at least 21 Palestinians, many of them civilians, including a pregnant woman and seven children, and wounded more than 250 other Palestinians.

 

The Bureau of the Committee also strongly condemns the killing of three Israeli civilians and the wounding of others as a result of rocket fire into Israel, which intensified after Israel’s assassination of a Hamas leader on 14 November 2012.  The Committee has consistently denounced rocket firing by Palestinian militants indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians and called for its cessation.

 

The Bureau of the Committee demands that Israel, the occupying Power, end, immediately and unconditionally, its military campaign in the Gaza Strip.  It considers that the policy and practice of extrajudicial killings are inadmissible under international law.  Nothing can justify this deadly military operation that Israel is carrying out, gravely endangering the Palestinian civilian population and spreading fear and trauma among the population.  The occupying Power should be held accountable for the killing and wounding of the innocent civilians in Gaza.  All these actions are not only in flagrant violation of norms of international law but also are bound to spur further violence, casualties and mistrust.

 

The Bureau of the Committee emphasizes that the Fourth Geneva Convention obligates an occupying Power to protect the civilian population under its occupation, including through the provision of basic services, such as food and medicines.  The applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, has been repeatedly affirmed by its High Contracting Parties, as well as by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council.  We call on the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to take urgent and decisive action to uphold their obligation, under article 1, to “respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances”.

 

The Bureau of the Committee also considers that it is incumbent upon the Security Council to exercise its responsibilities under the United Nations Charter and engage itself fully with a view to defusing the crisis and saving civilian lives.  The Council should take immediate and concrete steps to demand that the bloodshed is brought to an end, that Israel stop its military attacks against the Gaza Strip and that the civilian population is protected.  The Council must also insist that Israel lift its blockade of Gaza, in accordance with its resolution 1860 (2009) and allow for Gaza’s long-overdue recovery, reconstruction and long-term economic growth.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2012/gapal1247.doc.htm

A Featured Article In Honor of International Day for Eradication of Poverty 17 October

From The Economist’s Special Report:

FOR RICHER, FOR POORER

Growing inequality is one of the biggest social, economic and political challenges of our time. But it is not inevitable, says Zanny Minton Beddoes

Oct 13th 2012 | from the print edition

 

IN 1889, AT the height of America’s first Gilded Age, George Vanderbilt II, grandson of the original railway magnate, set out to build a country estate in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. He hired the most prominent architect of the time, toured the chateaux of the Loire for inspiration, laid a railway to bring in limestone from Indiana and employed more than 1,000 labourers. Six years later “Biltmore” was completed. With 250 rooms spread over 175,000 square feet (16,000 square metres), the mansion was 300 times bigger than the average dwelling of its day. It had central heating, an indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, lifts and an intercom system at a time when most American homes had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing.

A bit over a century later, America’s second Gilded Age has nothing quite like the Vanderbilt extravaganza. Bill Gates’s home near Seattle is full of high-tech gizmos, but, at 66,000 square feet, it is a mere 30 times bigger than the average modern American home. Disparities in wealth are less visible in Americans’ everyday lives today than they were a century ago. Even poor people have televisions, air conditioners and cars.

But appearances deceive. The democratisation of living standards has masked a dramatic concentration of incomes over the past 30 years, on a scale that matches, or even exceeds, the first Gilded Age. Including capital gains, the share of national income going to the richest 1% of Americans has doubled since 1980, from 10% to 20%, roughly where it was a century ago. Even more striking, the share going to the top 0.01%—some 16,000 families with an average income of $24m—has quadrupled, from just over 1% to almost 5%. That is a bigger slice of the national pie than the top 0.01% received 100 years ago.

This is an extraordinary development, and it is not confined to America. Many countries, including Britain, Canada, China, India and even egalitarian Sweden, have seen a rise in the share of national income taken by the top 1%. The numbers of the ultra-wealthy have soared around the globe. According toForbes magazine’s rich list, America has some 421 billionaires, Russia 96, China 95 and India 48. The world’s richest man is a Mexican (Carlos Slim, worth some $69 billion). The world’s largest new house belongs to an Indian. Mukesh Ambani’s 27-storey skyscraper in Mumbai occupies 400,000 square feet, making it 1,300 times bigger than the average shack in the slums that surround it.

The concentration of wealth at the very top is part of a much broader rise in disparities all along the income distribution. The best-known way of measuring inequality is the Gini coefficient, named after an Italian statistician called Corrado Gini. It aggregates the gaps between people’s incomes into a single measure. If everyone in a group has the same income, the Gini coefficient is 0; if all income goes to one person, it is 1.

The level of inequality differs widely around the world. Emerging economies are more unequal than rich ones. Scandinavian countries have the smallest income disparities, with a Gini coefficient for disposable income of around 0.25. At the other end of the spectrum the world’s most unequal, such as South Africa, register Ginis of around 0.6. (Because of the way the scale is constructed, a modest-sounding difference in the Gini ratio implies a big difference in inequality.)

 

 

Income gaps have also changed to varying degrees. America’s Gini for disposable income is up by almost 30% since 1980, to 0.39. Sweden’s is up by a quarter, to 0.24. China’s has risen by around 50% to 0.42 (and by some measures to 0.48). The biggest exception to the general upward trend is Latin America, long the world’s most unequal continent, where Gini coefficients have fallen sharply over the past ten years. But the majority of the people on the planet live in countries where income disparities are bigger than they were a generation ago.

That does not mean the world as a whole has become more unequal. Global inequality—the income gaps between all people on the planet—has begun to fall as poorer countries catch up with richer ones. Two French economists, François Bourguignon and Christian Morrisson, have calculated a “global Gini” that measures the scale of income disparities among everyone in the world. Their index shows that global inequality rose in the 19th and 20th centuries because richer economies, on average, grew faster than poorer ones. Recently that pattern has reversed and global inequality has started to fall even as inequality within many countries has risen. By that measure, the planet as a whole is becoming a fairer place. But in a world of nation states it is inequality within countries that has political salience, and this special report will focus on that.

 

 

From U to N

The widening of income gaps is a reversal of the pattern in much of the 20th century, when inequality narrowed in many countries. That narrowing seemed so inevitable that Simon Kuznets, a Belarusian-born Harvard economist, in 1955 famously described the relationship between inequality and prosperity as an upside-down U. According to the “Kuznets curve”, inequality rises in the early stages of industrialisation as people leave the land, become more productive and earn more in factories. Once industrialisation is complete and better-educated citizens demand redistribution from their government, it declines again.

Until 1980 this prediction appeared to have been vindicated. But the past 30 years have put paid to the Kuznets curve, at least in advanced economies. These days the inverted U has turned into something closer to an italicised N, with the final stroke pointing menacingly upwards.

Although inequality has been on the rise for three decades, its political prominence is newer. During the go-go years before the financial crisis, growing disparities were hardly at the top of politicians’ to-do list. One reason was that asset bubbles and cheap credit eased life for everyone. Financiers were growing fabulously wealthy in the early 2000s, but others could also borrow ever more against the value of their home.

That changed after the crash. The bank rescues shone a spotlight on the unfairness of a system in which affluent bankers were bailed out whereas ordinary folk lost their houses and jobs. And in today’s sluggish economies, more inequality often means that people at the bottom and even in the middle of the income distribution are falling behind not just in relative but also in absolute terms.

The Occupy Wall Street campaign proved incoherent and ephemeral, but inequality and fairness have moved right up the political agenda. America’s presidential election is largely being fought over questions such as whether taxes should rise at the top, and how big a role government should play in helping the rest. In Europe France’s new president, François Hollande, wants a top income-tax rate of 75%. New surcharges on the richest are part of austerity programmes in Portugal and Spain.

Even in more buoyant emerging economies, inequality is a growing worry. India’s government is under fire for the lack of “inclusive growth” and for cronyism that has enriched insiders, evident from dubious mobile-phone-spectrum auctions and dodgy mining deals. China’s leaders fear that growing disparities will cause social unrest. Wen Jiabao, the outgoing prime minister, has long pushed for a “harmonious society”.

Many economists, too, now worry that widening income disparities may have damaging side-effects. In theory, inequality has an ambiguous relationship with prosperity. It can boost growth, because richer folk save and invest more and because people work harder in response to incentives. But big income gaps can also be inefficient, because they can bar talented poor people from access to education or feed resentment that results in growth-destroying populist policies.

The mainstream consensus has long been that a growing economy raises all boats, to much better effect than incentive-dulling redistribution. Robert Lucas, a Nobel prize-winner, epitomised the orthodoxy when he wrote in 2003 that “of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive and…poisonous is to focus on questions of distribution.”

But now the economics establishment has become concerned about who gets what. Research by economists at the IMF suggests that income inequality slows growth, causes financial crises and weakens demand. In a recent report the Asian Development Bank argued that if emerging Asia’s income distribution had not worsened over the past 20 years, the region’s rapid growth would have lifted an extra 240m people out of extreme poverty. More controversial studies purport to link widening income gaps with all manner of ills, from obesity to suicide.

The widening gaps within many countries are beginning to worry even the plutocrats. A survey for the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos pointed to inequality as the most pressing problem of the coming decade (alongside fiscal imbalances). In all sections of society, there is growing agreement that the world is becoming more unequal, and that today’s disparities and their likely trajectory are dangerous.

 

 

Not so fast

That is too simplistic. Inequality, as measured by Gini coefficients, is simply a snapshot of outcomes. It does not tell you why those gaps have opened up or what the trend is over time. And like any snapshot, the picture can be misleading. Income gaps can arise for good reasons (such as when people are rewarded for productive work) or for bad ones (if poorer children do not get the same opportunities as richer ones). Equally, inequality of outcomes might be acceptable if the gaps are between young people and older folk, so may shrink over time. But in societies without this sort of mobility a high Gini is troubling.

Some societies are more concerned about equality of opportunity, others more about equality of outcome. Europeans tend to be more egalitarian, believing that in a fair society there should be no big income gaps. Americans and Chinese put more emphasis on equality of opportunity. Provided people can move up the social ladder, they believe a society with wide income gaps can still be fair. Whatever people’s preferences, static measures of income gaps tell only half the story.

Despite the lack of nuance, today’s debate over inequality will have important consequences. The unstable history of Latin America, long the continent with the biggest income gaps, suggests that countries run by entrenched wealthy elites do not do very well. Yet the 20th century’s focus on redistribution brought its own problems. Too often high-tax welfare states turned out to be inefficient and unsustainable. Government cures for inequality have sometimes been worse than the disease itself.

This special report will explore how 21st-century capitalism should respond to the present challenge; it will examine the recent history of both inequality and social mobility; and it will offer four contemporary case studies: the United States, emerging Asia, Latin America and Sweden. Based on this evidence it will make three arguments. First, although the modern global economy is leading to wider gaps between the more and the less educated, a big driver of today’s income distributions is government policy. Second, a lot of today’s inequality is inefficient, particularly in the most unequal countries. It reflects market and government failures that also reduce growth. And where this is happening, bigger income gaps themselves are likely to reduce both social mobility and future prosperity.

Third, there is a reform agenda to reduce income disparities that makes sense whatever your attitude towards fairness. It is not about higher taxes and more handouts. Both in rich and emerging economies, it is about attacking cronyism and investing in the young. You could call it a “True Progressivism”.

Ambassador Tanin Chaired the 344th Meeting of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People at the UN Headquarters in NY

Palestinian Rights Committee Will Continue Calls on Security Council,   Others to Hold Israel Accountable for Its Actions, Chair Pledges

 Palestine’s Permanent Observer Outlines Developments

 As Secretariat Officials Detail Deteriorating Humanitarian, Legal Situations

Press Release

Expressing serious concern over a deteriorating humanitarian situation, as well as evictions and demolitions of homes, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People would continue to call on the Security Council and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to hold Israel accountable, its Chair said today.

 

Zahir Tanin ( Afghanistan) voiced particular concern over the plan recently announced by the Government of Israel to evict Palestinian residents from eight villages in the south Mount Hebron area to make way for army training zones.  Israel continued its settlement announcements, publishing tenders for 171 new units in East Jerusalem, he said, condemning the continuing demolition of homes and violent attacks against Palestinians by Israeli settlers.

 

Summarizing developments in the region since the Committee’s 12 June meeting, Mr. Tanin recalled that violence had escalated around Gaza in June and July.  Rockets and mortars had been fired into Israel, and the Israeli Army had conducted airstrikes and incursions into Gaza, killing nine Palestinians and injuring 54 more.  Additionally, a committee led by retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy had published a Government-commissioned report which claimed that the Israeli presence in the West Bank was not a military occupation and recommending the legalization of existing settlement outposts.

 

Ambassador Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations

He went on to note that the Palestinian Authority faced acute challenges to remain solvent.  It had only been able to pay part of the June and July salaries of 150,000 employees, and expected a $1 billion budget shortfall for 2012, he said, adding that, during its 22 July meeting in Doha, the Arab League Follow-up Committee for the Arab Peace Initiative had supported Palestinian plans to seek further recognition at the United Nations without specifying a concrete timeline.  During a briefing to the Council on 25 July, United Nations Special Coordinator Robert Serry had expressed concern that developments on the ground were undermining prospects for a two-State solution, as well as ongoing attempts to reach agreement between Israel and the Palestinians on a package of confidence-building measures to pave the way for a resumption of high-level contacts.

 

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said that an emergency meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement’s Committee on Palestine scheduled for 5 and 6 August in Ramallah had been scrapped after the Israeli Government’s banning of Foreign Ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Cuba, Nigeria and Bangladesh from entering the territory to attend the gathering.  The Committee had condemned that action in a communiqué and decided to send the “Ramallah Declaration” of support for upgrading Palestinian United Nations membership to the Movement’s Tehran Summit, scheduled for later this month.

 

“This action by Israel is not going to weaken our collective resolve to continue to have more countries recognize the State of Palestine,” he stressed.  Moreover, a League of Arab States ministerial meeting on 5 September would discuss the timetable for enhancing Palestine’s status in the United Nations system, including through the Security Council, the General Assembly and other agencies of the world body.

 

Mr. Mansour noted that Palestine had participated as a State in the just-concluded Tenth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names, which was important considering that Israel was attempting to change the names of Palestinian sites that had been in existence for hundreds of years.  During the United Nations Asian and Pacific Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, held in Bangkok on 10 and 11 July, Thailand’s Foreign Minister had announced that the Thai and Palestinian ambassadors would formally establish diplomatic relations and exchange credentials on 1 August, he added.

 

Afterwards, Saleumxay Kommasith (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) presented the Chair’s Summary of the Bangkok meeting, of which the Committee took note.

 

Today’s meeting also featured a detailed briefing on the humanitarian impact of settlement construction and of forced displacement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, delivered in three parts.

 

Janique Thoele of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, delivered the first briefing, saying the impact of settlement activity could be seen in four areas:  demolitions and evictions; forced displacement; restricted movement and access to services; and settler violence and harassment.  All that amounted to a “protection crisis” with serious humanitarian consequences, she said, adding that the crisis had been occasioned by a failure to respect human rights and humanitarian law.

 

Presenting a brief slide show spotlighting the impacts of the occupation, she pointed out the effects of displacement, infrastructure demolition and ongoing settlement activity on the geography and physical character of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which was dotted with myriad restricted zones and physical obstacles to movement.  Although settlements were illegal under international law, twice as many Israeli settlers as Palestinians lived in “Area C” today, she added.

 

Turning to the West Bank and Israel’s ongoing construction of the separation wall, she said that the structure, which the International Court of Justice had ruled should be torn down, continued to hamper Palestinian access to resources.  While Israel had a right to protect its security, it must respect international law, she emphasized.  The situation was also particularly dire for farmers who owned land located in the “seam zone” and required special permits allowing access to their land through special gates, only a few of which were open every day.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was also seriously concerned because the barrier prevented Palestinian citizens from seeking specialized health care, especially as some areas required them to obtain special permits.

 

In the last decade, more than 4,000 Palestinians, half of them children, had been displaced due to home demolitions, she said, adding that a total of 620 homes were demolished in 2001.  Palestinians in Area C could build homes and other structures on only 1 per cent of the land, while construction was prohibited outright on 70 per cent.  Meanwhile, Israeli settlements occupied 24.5 kilometres in East Jerusalem, while Palestinian construction took just 9.5 kilometres.  Some 200,000 Palestinians were not connected to the water network and relied on tinkered water.  They faced restricted movement, as well as access to education, health, water and sanitation services.  In the West Bank, 20 per cent of the population lived in poverty, 55 per cent were food insecure and 28 per cent were malnourished.

 

Turning to the occupation’s humanitarian impact, she said almost 500 Palestinians had been killed and 9,000 injured since 2005.  Settler violence, including physical attacks and damage to property, had increased by 165 per cent from 2009 to 2011, and 83 Palestinians communities were vulnerable to settler violence.  Settlers largely acted with impunity, she said, adding that more than 90 per cent of complaints alleging settler violence were closed without indictment.

 

Noting also Israel’s new trend of confiscating external humanitarian aid intended for the Palestinians, she said that since 2011, Israeli authorities had destroyed more than 150 donor-funded structures such as water tanks and tents.  Beginning in March 2012, it had impounded relief supplies even before they were delivered to the communities in need, she said, calling for effective law enforcement against settler violence, revision of an unfair zoning and planning regime, and enabling the humanitarian community to meet basic Palestinian needs.

 

Antonia Mulvey of the Norwegian Refugee Council, discussing legal matters, said the international community had resoundingly denounced Israel’s settlement construction, as evidenced by some 12 United Nations resolutions.  For example, Security Council resolution 465 (1980) explicitly called on Israel to dismantle its settlements and cease all construction.  Further, the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on the legal implications of the separation wall’s construction also stated that settlements were a “flagrant violation” of international law.  The 2004 decision also noted that parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention were obliged to ensure Israel’s compliance with international law.

 

Spotlighting other legal precedents rejecting Israel’s settlement activity, she cited specific articles of The Hague Regulations and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Yet, Israel did not recognize the overall applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and did not view its destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and removal of Palestinians from their lands as a “forced population transfer”, proscribed under that treaty.  She added that the Israeli Government provided tax and other incentives for settlers, thought to include housing infrastructure amounting to some $240 million, none of which was made available to Palestinians.

 

Ambassador Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations

While international law was very clear that settlements were illegal, she continued, Israel had adopted national legislation that delineated the basis under which such construction could be legal:  through political decision; State land only; lawfully designed building scheme; and boundaries decided by a military order.  Moreover, there was a clear dual legal system in place, she said, explaining, for instance, that the case of a Palestinian alleged to have committed manslaughter in Area C would go through Israeli military courts, while allegations against an Israeli citizen, perhaps living right next door, would be handled by civilian courts.  Settlers were increasingly not brought before the courts and impunity was growing, she warned, citing Susiya village in the southern Hebron hills.  Home to 350 people, Israel’s High Court of Justice was considering it for demolition, she said, adding that advocacy could have a huge legal impact in preventing such injustices.

 

Amira Hassan of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) New York Office, said the West Bank was home to 771,000 registered Palestine refugees, a quarter of whom lived in one of 19 camps, and the rest in towns and villages.  At least 2,300 Bedouins, particularly in Area C, were under threat of displacement due to settlement construction plans announced in July 2011.  Much advocacy thus far had prevented plans to move one Bedouin community to a garbage dump, she said, adding that their inability to sell animal products threatened traditional Bedouins’ livelihoods.

 

She went on to state that the Israeli Government was moving rapidly forward with a plan to turn Al Walaja village, located nine kilometres south-west of the old city of Jerusalem, into a national park, which would force out its 2,000 Palestinian residents without any compensation.  The authorities had posted a notice in Hebrew giving residents 60 days to file objections to the plan, but all objections made by a local committee had been rejected.  Another case study pointed to the Burin cluster in Nablus, where Palestinians had no access to 7,500 dunums of land.  In 2011, there had been 70 incidents of property damage, the highest number recorded during that year, she said, adding that, on 19 May, a group of settlers had set fire to four or five Palestinian homes in Burin.

 

During a brief question-and-answer period, Indonesia’s representative announced that his Government was planning for next year a meeting on the role of the media and civil society in dealing with the Palestinian question.  He added that his delegation would be seeking advice from the Department of Public Information.

 

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said the briefings had starkly highlighted the “ugly picture” of Israel’s occupation.  Stressing that other events in the region must not distract the international community’s focus from the truly dire situation faced by the Palestinian people, he said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was bound to deteriorate as Israel’s illegal activities continued.

 

Deborah Seward, Director of the Strategic Communications Division in the Department of Public Information, reported on the United Nations Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, held in Geneva on 12 and 13 June.  The event had featured messages from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Wolfgang Amadeus Brulhart, Switzerland’s Assistant Secretary for the Middle East and North Africa, among other senior Government and United Nations officials, she said.  All participants in the Seminar — from Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the wider Middle East, Europe and the United States — had been encouraged to make use of social media such as Twitter and Tumblr, including ahead of the event and during its five panel discussions.

 

She said the discussions had focused on:  the prospects for peace approaching the twentieth anniversary of the Oslo Accords; how the Arab Spring had affected media coverage of the question of Palestine; the role of women’s activism and the media in promoting Israeli-Arab peace; civil society in media and film in the Middle East; and youth activism in the region, including evolving attitudes towards and tools for social change and democracy.  One of the Seminar’s main aims had been to focus on the Arab uprising and to explore their implications for the Palestinian question, she said.  Reflecting that theme, the Seminar’s organizers had made a specific effort to invite more women and youth to the event than in previous years, resulting in the youngest group of participants ever, as well as one all-female panel, another “first” for the Seminar.

 

Characterizing the discussions as “stimulating and challenging”, she went on to say that the panels had also benefited positively from the diverse experiences of the participants.  “The feedback we have received, both from the participants and from observers present at the Seminar, has been extremely positive,” she continued, noting that many participants had expressed appreciation of the opportunity to meet others face to face.  In at least one case known to the organizers, such opportunities had led to a group of journalists from different backgrounds and working in different areas to explore collaboration on a news story.  “So, in sum, we are extremely pleased and very encouraged by this year’s event,” she concluded.

 

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