Press Releases

    GA/PAL/897
    8 August 2002

    PALESTINIAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE APPROVES WORK PROGRAMME
    FOR INTERNATIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY CONFERENCE

    Meeting Scheduled for Headquarters on 23 and 24 September


    NEW YORK, 7 August (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this morning approved the work programme of the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People, scheduled for New York on 23 and 24 September 2002.

    With the theme "End the Occupation!", the Conference is set to follow the general debate of the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly. The two-day plenary will be devoted to discussions on "The daily face of occupation", "Civil society and occupation", "Challenging the occupation," and "Ending the occupation". Expert presentations on economic and humanitarian crises, strengthening networks of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in times of crisis and legislative and political advocacy will guide those discussions.

    The Committee also took note of the oral reports of two recent conferences -- the African Meeting on the Question of Palestine, and the most recent meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which marked the inaugural Summit of the African Union.

    In further action, it approved the applications of 41 civil society organizations active in support of Palestinian rights all over the world for accreditation to the Committee.

    Reports by Chairman

    PAPA LOUIS FALL (Senegal), Committee Chairman, reported on the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the United Nations Workshop of African NGOs on the Question of Palestine, held in Rabat, Morocco, from 24 to 26 June under the auspices of the Committee. The theme of the meeting, which took place in the first two days, was "Achieving the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people –- a key to peace in the Middle East".

    He said the ensuing panel presentations and discussions helped to identify more clearly the destructive impact of the ongoing Israeli offensive on the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority, to appreciate the challenges at hand and, in that light, to evaluate current efforts at peacemaking. The participants strongly reaffirmed the solidarity of the governments and peoples of Africa with the plight of the Palestinian people, their support for the resumption of political negotiations leading to a compre- hensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestine question and the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

    At the closing of the meeting, he said, a final communiqué was issued, in which participants agreed that the Israeli occupation remained the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They called on the Govern- ment of Israel to honour its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, immediately terminate all acts of violence against innocent civilians, and cease all other illegal activities, including settlement activity and construction of the system of barriers designed to separate arbitrarily the West Bank from Israel.

    He said they expressed their belief that peacemaking efforts by the United States, the Russian Federat- ion, the European Union and the United Nations, working within the framework of the "Quartet", as well as by other international and regional actors, should be intensified. In particular, they expressed the hope that the European Union’s June 22 "Declaration on the Middle East" and the 24 June statement by the United States President would lead to the realization of the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders.

    In addition, he continued, the participants viewed the peace initiative put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as a very positive and constructive contribution to the achievement of peace. They endorsed the idea of deploying an international presence to monitor an eventual ceasefire and restore confidence in the security and political fields. Also, the participants reaffirmed their recognition of the sovereign right of the Palestinian people to democratically elect their leadership without interference.

    The United Nations Workshop of African NGOs on the Question of Palestine followed the main meeting and was characterized by broad civil society participation and lively discussion, he said. Participating African NGOs submitted different ideas which led to the adoption of an NGO Plan of Action.

    He said the report of the meeting, summarizing the proceedings of both the meeting and the NGO Workshop, would be issued as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights. A copy of the final communiqué had already been posted on the UNISPAL and the NGO Network Web sites maintained by the Division on the Internet.

    Statements

    SOMAIA S. BARGHOUTI, observer for Palestine, expressed appreciation to the Committee for its efforts to reach a successful conclusion of the meeting and Workshop. The Workshop was one of the most successful events in terms of media coverage and civil society participation. In addition, the final communiqué of the meeting was strong and addressed the main issues pertaining to the question of Palestine. She also expressed gratitude to the King and Government of Morocco for hosting those events.

    MEHIEDDINE EL KADIRI (Morocco) thanked all speakers who had spoken of his country with such kindness, saying it would attach very great importance to the Committee’s work. Morocco would continue in its constant devotion to the Palestinian cause and to the recovery of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Morocco stood ready to support all the efforts of the international community aimed at bringing about a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian problem.

    Mr. FALL, reporting on his attendance at the meeting of the Ministerial Council of the OAU, which took place in Durban, South Africa, from 30 June to 11 July, said the leaders of some 53 nations participated and elected the African Union’s first bureau. It included South Africa (President), Ethiopia (First Vice-President), Egypt (Second Vice-President), Gabon (Third Vice-President), and Benin (Rapporteur).

    Continuing, he said that as usual the Ministers focused much of their discussion on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian question. All delegations denounced the Israeli occupation, the de- struction of Palestinian infrastructure and the humiliation to which the Palestinian people were constantly subjected. Frustration was also expressed at the Security Council’s inability to take any decisive action to ease the tensions in the region and in the occupied Palestinian territories, in particular.

    He said that, as part of the outcome of their work, the Ministers reaffirmed solidarity with and support for the just cause and legitimate right of the Palestinian people and called for the immediate cessation of the Israeli military siege on the Ramallah headquarters of Yasser Arafat. They also condemned the destruction of holy places, as well as the denial of access to refugee camps. They repeated their appeal for a resumption of negotiations between Israel and Palestine, on one hand, and Israel and Lebanon, on the other, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions.

    The Ministers also welcomed the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General and the Quartet, he said. Finally, they agreed to establish a 10-member committee to relaunch the peace process in the Middle East.

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