Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6132
                                                                            20 July 2004

    Impact of Israeli Occupation, UN Assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories among Issues Addressed in Economic and Social Council

    Afternoon Panel Discusses Strengthened Cooperation between Functional Commissions, Council

    NEW YORK, 19 July (UN Headquarters) -- “The sustainable option for addressing the current economic and social deprivation [of the Palestinian people] lies in lifting the occupation -- an occupation that has only brought misery and suffering to the Palestinian people for more than 37 years”, the Permanent Observer of Palestine told the 2004 substantive session of the Economic and Social Council today.

    The Council was taking up its agenda item 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.

    The Palestine’s Observer said Israel, the occupying Power, had committed countless war crimes. Its policies of confiscating land and building illegal settlements had continued unabated. Another crime was the construction of Israel’s expansionist wall, despite international condemnations and contrary to the International Court of Justice’s conclusion.  Other violations included frequent collective punishment, confiscation of land, exploitation of water resources, home demolitions, restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinian persons and goods, administrative detentions and the harassment, physical mistreatment and torture of Palestinian detainees and prisoners.  Israel must be compelled to respect its obligations under international law.

    Israel’s representative, while acknowledging that the Palestinian people were suffering, said Israelis were suffering as well. Terror and its repercussions affected everyone.  More than 25 per cent of Israeli children now lived below the poverty line and, largely because of terror, foreign investment had turned away from the region. The “biased report in front of us” did not mention the devastation done to the Israeli economy in the past three years or the resulting pain and hardship.

    He said cooperation towards ending suffering was a more useful approach than arguing about the degrees of suffering. The Israeli disengagement plan was providing hope for a better future and should be welcomed as a step towards ushering in a new era of possibility and renewal. Before the onslaught of terrorism, the rate of unemployment among the Palestinian people had decreased by almost 50 per cent, and peace had drawn investment from throughout the world.  With the onset of terrorism, however, that trend was sharply reversed.

    Reacting to comments made, Mervat Tallawy, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), who also introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the issue, said the Secretariat had prepared the report according to a mandate to analyse the impact of the occupation on the social and economic situation of the Palestinian people, not to examine the suffering of the Israeli people. Nothing in the report’s allegations was meant to be against one party in favour of the other.

    Turning the Council’s attention to 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”, the representative of Papua New Guinea said the Special Committee on decolonization dealt with 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories, most of them small island Territories. In recent years, the United Nations system had continued to assist the Territories through projects in sustainable development, legal reforms, and trade policy, environmental management, health and education. The report on the issue was introduced by Tamara Pozdnyakova, Officer-in Charge, Decolonization Unit, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

    He said the conclusions and recommendations of a recent seminar of the Special Committee in Papua New Guinea had devoted a separate chapter to cooperation with the Council, including ensuring better access of the Territories to relevant United Nations programmes and projects and, in some cases, formulation of specific programmes for the Territories aimed at furthering self-government.

    In an informal meeting, the Council heard from a panel consisting of chairpersons of its functional commissions on the theme “strengthening cooperation and collaboration between the functional commissions and ECOSOC”, which concentrated on the upcoming events in 2005, including the September 2005 high-level segment of the General Assembly dedicated to the follow-up of the 2000 Millennium Summit.

    After panellists described their commissions’ work and their preparations for 2005, speakers stressed the importance of the joint meetings between the chairs of the functional commissions and the Council, and the need for adequate resources for such meetings. The link between the commissions’ work to next year’s review of the Millennium Development Goals was underlined, as was the importance of cooperation with other organizations, including regional groups. Some panellists noted that, as the commissions wished to have an impact on the big review events in 2005, it was important to hold high-level meetings in preparation for that event. One speaker made the point that commission members must adhere closely to their mandates, noting that there had been flagrant breaches of the principle of non-selectivity in the work of some commissions.

    Panellists were the chairs of the Commission for Social Development, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Population and Development, Commission on the Status of Women, Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Statistical Commission, United Nations Forum on Forests, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Commission on Sustainable Development, and the Commission for Science and Technology for Development.

    In other business, a number of draft resolutions was introduced. Regarding a text entitled “Commission on Human Rights resolution 2004/117 on human rights and human responsibilities” (document E/2004/L.21), the Council intends to seek advice as to the legal validity of the Council’s adoption of resolutions from the Commission on Human Rights.

    The Council also concluded consideration of its agenda item “Coordination, programme and other questions”, addressing such issues as information and communication technologies and tobacco control.

    The representatives of Cuba, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Qatar (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Belarus, Jamaica and Japan spoke, as did representatives of the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

    The Council will continue its general segment at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 20 July.

    Background

    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.  Under coordination, programme and other questions, the Council would consider international cooperation in the field of informatics, mainstreaming a gender perspective, the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force, and tobacco or health.

    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.

    Regarding the coordination, programme and other questions, the Council had a report of the Secretary-General on international cooperation in the field of informatics (document E/2004/78), which summarizes action taken by the Secretariat to implement resolution 2003/48. In that resolution, the Council requested implementation of measures to get uncomplicated and unhindered access to the computerized databases and information systems and services of the United Nations, and to continue its efforts to act as a bridge between the needs of Member States and the actions of the Secretariat.

    The report reflects the various activities in the field of informatics reported by the Secretariat departments and includes the finding of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Groups on Informatics.

    According to the report, the working groups continued to work on a number of projects, including: a booklet on Internet services for delegates; the use of personal digital assistants; availability of wireless fidelity at Headquarters; access to the official document system database (ODS); blocking spam in mission  e-mail accounts; and upgrade of personal computer facilities for delegates.

    Over the coming months, the working group proposes to initiate a number of other projects, including: use of electronic mailing lists; updating and publicizing the site dedicated to the missions in New York (www.un.int); information security training sessions for Secretariat and mission personnel; and a new edition of the booklet “Internet services for delegates”.

    The Council also has before it the second annual report of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force (document E/2004/62), which details the two-year-old body’s successful efforts as a multi-stakeholder mechanism in facilitating and promoting collaborative initiatives to mobilize new public and private resources to support ICT for development projects.

    The report states that its ability to leverage extensive networks and to develop new models of collaboration to advance the global effort to bridge the digital divide and foster digital opportunity has established the Task Force as an effective and influential platform to mobilize worldwide support and action to harness the potential of ICT towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals. The report says that the Task Force also facilitated in the pooling of relevant experience of both developed and developing countries and the sharing of lessons learned in introducing and promoting ICT.

    According to the report, a review of the Task Force’s activities over the past two years proves its utility and shows both the potential and limitations of such a mechanism.  Although it is constrained by limited resources and its dependency on governments taking the ultimate responsibility for their national ICT and development environments, The Task Force has clearly demonstrated its ability to contribute to the development agenda, to build capacity among policy makers, to identify gaps in programmes or projects, and to stimulate action or coordinate collaboration as appropriate.  The challenge will be to build on this successful model for sustained results over the medium and long term.

    Finally, the Council had a report of the Secretary-General on the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control (document E/2004/55), which stresses that, as tobacco use has an adverse impact on health, poverty, malnutrition, education and environment, tobacco control should be recognized as a key component in efforts to reduce poverty, improve development and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. Having identified five areas of concern, namely, the impact of tobacco on health, economic growth, poverty, its fiscal impact and the impact of globalization on tobacco use at the country level, the Task Force recommends that the problems associated with tobacco use be addressed by multisectoral approach. Issues of tobacco control should also be included in the forthcoming activities of the United Nations Development Group, as well as in the agendas of the regional economic commissions.

    A number of draft resolutions were expected to be introduced today, including one on the role of the Economic and Social Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes of and follow-up to major United nations conferences and summits (document E/2004/l.24), submitted by Qatar on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  By the text, the Council would decide to merge the two agenda items entitled “Implementation of and follow-up to major United nations conferences and summits” and “Implementation of General Assembly resolutions 50/227 and 52/12B” at the next substantive session of the Council.  It would further decide to take the necessary steps for the effective implementation of the mentioned Assembly resolutions, as far as its provisions were relevant to the Council’s work.

    Cuba submitted a draft resolution on the question of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of international military operations launched to combat terrorism (document E/2004/L.17), by which the Council would demand that States and other actors in international military operations to combat terrorism prevent extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and take effective action to combat and eliminate any violation of that kind.

    The Council would condemns all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and any action or attempt by States or public officials to legalize or authorize them under any circumstances.  It would request the Commission on Human Rights to examine the issue as a matter of priority at its sixty-first session.

    The Observer for the Netherlands submitted a draft decision contained in document E/2004/L.21, by which the Council would decide to request the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights not to proceed with the actions requested by decision 2004/117 of 21 April of the Commission on Human Rights, expressing concern over the content of the pre-draft declaration on human social responsibilities, which “runs counter to the fundamental principles” of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Vienna Declaration on Human Rights.

    The draft has been sponsored by Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States.

    A draft text 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 E/2004/L.23) was sponsored by Algeria, Cuba, Indonesia, Papua new Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Syria and the United Republic of Tanzania. By its provisions, the Council would request the United Nations family and regional organizations to strengthen existing measures of support and formulate appropriate programmes of assistance to the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, and to examine and review conditions in each Territory so as to take appropriate measures to accelerate progress in the economic and social sectors.

    The Council would request the administering Powers to facilitate, when appropriate, the participation of appointed and elected representative of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the meetings and conferences of agencies and organizations of the United Nations system.

    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.

    Introduction of Drafts

    The Economic and Social Council then heard several introductions of drafts, with the representative of Cuba introducing the text on the “Question of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of international military operations launched to combat terrorism” (document E/2004/L.17).

    The representative of the Netherlands then introduced a draft resolution entitled “Commission on Human Rights resolution 2004/117 on human rights and human responsibilities” (document E/2004/L.21), after which Council Vice-President JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) announced that he would seek advice as to the legal validity of the Council’s adoption of resolutions from the Commission on Human Rights.

    Next, the representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution on the “Role of the Economic and Social Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits”.

    Discussion on Non-Self-Governing Territories, Repercussions of Israeli Occupation

    TAMARA POZDNYAKOVA, Officer-in-Charge, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on 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.

    Next, 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”.

    ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea) said the Special Committee on decolonization dealt with 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories, most of them small island Territories.  Big or small, rich or not so rich, all the Territories had one thing in common: they remained on the United Nations list as entities that had not yet achieved a full measure of self-government, as provided for in the United Nations Charter. The Special Committee and the Council had an important role to play in assisting the remaining Territories in exercising their right to self-determination and to complete the process of decolonization.

    He said in recent years, the United Nations system had continued to assist the Territories through projects in sustainable development, legal reforms, trade policy, environmental management, health and education.  Giving a positive example of progress made, he drew attention to Tokelau. He commended New Zealand as an administering Power for its efforts to bring Tokelau closer to self-determination and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for assisting the Territory. In a recent seminar of the Special Committee in Papua New Guinea, Tokelau had been used as a case study.

    The conclusions and recommendations of the seminar had devoted a separate chapter to cooperation with the Council, including ensuring better access of the Territories to relevant United Nations programmes and projects and, in some cases, formulation of specific programmes for the Territories aimed at furthering self-government. The role of the United Nations system in the Territories could be further enhanced, and the Special Committee was open to cooperation and consultations with the Council on the ways and means to make the assistance to the Territories more focused on their specific needs.

    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.”

    MOSHE SERMONETA (Israel), acknowledged that the Palestinian people were suffering.  But, so were the Israeli people.  Despite the impressive success of preventative measures, terrorist acts continued to be attempted.  Terror and its repercussions damaged everyone.  More than 25 per cent of Israeli children now lived below the poverty line, and largely because of terror, foreign investment had turned away from the region, stripping it of desperately needed funds. He said the “biased report in front of us” did not mention the devastation done to the Israeli economy in the past three years, or the resulting pain and hardship.

    Cooperation towards ending suffering was a more useful approach than arguing about the degrees of suffering. The Israeli disengagement plan was providing hope for a better future and should be welcomed as a step towards ushering in a new era of possibility and renewal. That could only by accomplished by combating terror and corruption in all their forms. He said the report failed to mention the sacrifices and risks that Israel had undertaken to ensure a continuing infusion of income to the Palestinian people. Trade with Israel accounted for more than 80 per cent of the trade of the Palestinian Authority. In fact, despite the continuing campaign of terror, trade between Israel and the Palestinian Authority increased by 16 per cent from 2002 to 2003.  Before the onslaught of terrorism, the rate of unemployment among the Palestinian people had decreased by almost 50 per cent, and peace had drawn investment from throughout the world. With the onset of terrorism, however, that trend had been sharply reversed.

    HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) said the present report had added new, dark chapters to the history of Israel, showing the continued suffering of the Palestinian people and the population of the Syrian Golan. Noting that Israel continued to flout United Nations resolutions from all three main bodies -- the Security Council, General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council -- he stressed that the report showed a growing number of victims of Israeli violence, particularly among children. The situation continued to worsen, despite repeated appeals from the international community and the Secretary-General.

    The report had also referred to restrictions on movement and travel, including on humanitarian agencies, he added, and had shown that the occupation authorities had engaged in repression and terror against the Arab inhabitants of the Syrian Golan, persecuting those who attended Syrian universities and preventing them from returning to their families. Moreover, in its construction and expansion of settlements, Israel continued to defy the international community and international law. The construction of the separation wall further demonstrated Israel’s expansionist aims. All States were called upon not to remain silent on the tragic economic and social situation of the Palestinian people and the people of the Syrian Golan.

    In response to comments made, Ms. TALLAWY said year after year, the Israeli delegation had blamed the report and the Secretariat for not taking into consideration the suffering of the Israeli people and using incorrect data. The Secretariat, however, was preparing the report according to a mandate to analyse the impact of the occupation on the social and economic situation of the Palestinian people, not to examine the suffering of the Israeli people or the corruption in the Palestinian Authority. Nothing in the report’s allegations was meant to be against one party in favour of the other.

    ABDULLAH AL-RASHEED (Saudi Arabia) said the report placed things in context, showing the suffering of the Palestinian people resulting from the arbitrary acts and repression of Israel.

    The representative of Cuba introduced the draft resolution entitled “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 E/2004/L.23).

    Then, the representative of Tunisia introduced the draft resolution entitled “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).

    Rights of Reply

    Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Mr. SHREIM, of the Observer Mission of Palestine, said the Israeli representative had tried to distort the present debate.  It was not true that the misery suffered by the Palestinian people should be laid at the door of the Palestinian leadership. It properly belonged at that of the brutal occupation, which had kept the Palestinian people from achieving the freedom to which they were entitled.

    While it was true that the Israeli people suffered too, he acknowledged, their suffering resulted from the Israeli Government’s policies, which insisted upon colonizing other peoples’ land and a refusal to resolve the conflict on the basis of international law and legitimacy. Thus, with regard to Israel’s statement that no one had the monopoly on misery, he stressed that one should not try to equate the victims with the victimizers. The Palestinian people did not have the monopoly on suffering, but neither were the Israeli people their equal. The Palestinians had been under occupation for 37 years and had suffered the greatest. They had been denied their basic rights and forced to leave their homes. Israel could end the suffering of both peoples by ending their immoral occupation today, not tomorrow.

    Mr. SERMONETA (Israel), speaking in right of reply, said it was easy to paint in black and white victimizers and victims and to lay the blame on one side, but he was surprised that the selective vision of the Observer failed to recognize some basic facts. It was only a question of how far back one wanted to go. Terrorism was not born after the so-called occupation. Occupation was only a pretext. How could the victimizers be denied the same rights the victims were calling for? he asked. The dehumanization was reflected by somebody wishing one’s own death, as long as someone else died, as well. It was waste of time, resources and a lot of people’s hopes. As long as there was a relentless attempt to vilify, dialogue could not be considered a viable option.

    “And still we try”, he said, continuing, “Despite four years of terrorist campaigns, the majority of Israel was still interested in settling the dispute.” He did not see that fact recognized by the Palestinian side.  He saw only finger-pointing, he said, and regretted that.

    Mr. SHREIM, Permanent of the Observer Mission of Palestine, said the Israeli representative might “try to justify the occupation as long as he wants”. The Palestinian side wanted to solve the issue based on international law and a two-State solution. He asked the Israeli Government to end the occupation and recognized the right of both States to live side by side within secure and internationally recognized borders. Israel had the right to live, he said, but the current debate was about Palestinians’ right to live. The prolonged and immoral occupation had a negative impact, on the Israeli side, as well, because it corrupted them. It was for the benefit of both peoples to bring the issue to a resolution based on the two-State solution. He noted that there were parties in the Israeli coalition calling for transferring Palestinians from the occupied territories to Jordan.

    Resumed Discussion of Coordination, Programme, Other Questions

    ULADZIMIR A. GERUS (Belarus) reviewed ICT training programmes that had been carried out and expressed support for the proposal to update the sites of the permanent missions in New York and to hold courses on computer use for mission staff and the Secretariat. Also welcomed was the rapid issuance of General Assembly, Security Council and Economic and Social Council resolutions on compact disks. The ICT Task Force should continue to work on monitoring and guiding the harmonization of the system’s computer system and should ensure that system was used for the best possible accessibility for all.

    The past year had been a period of intensive work for the Task Force, he added, which, among its other activities, aimed to create new partnerships between the United Nations and private business, donor countries and other interested parties.  Furthermore, the Task Force’s activities in preparation for World Summit on the Information Society deserved support, as it was necessary to use the results of the technology revolution to ensure the effective implementation of internationally agreed development goals.  The ICT constituted an effective factor for economic and social development, he concluded, and should be incorporated into all development activities.

    MOHAMED FADHEL AYARI (Tunisia) said his delegation was pleased with the work done by the ICT Task Force since its establishment and supported extending its mandate. The ICT Task Force was an independent institution to help development, and it was in good position to ensure that the digital revolution would contribute to social and economic development.

    The Task Force had set up initiatives leading to the increased use of ICT, and he stressed the importance of projects to promote ICT in education, health and capacity-building.  He noted that the report stressed the need for the World Summit’s activities to focus on development, rather than information technology, and said those should be at the heart of the action plan.  The ICT Task Force had given due importance to the development dimension of the Summit, and he called on the ICT Task Force to attach importance to South-South cooperation.

    STAFFORD O. NEIL (Jamaica) welcomed the ICT Task Force’s progress in reducing the “digital divide”, but stressed that the most critical area for focus remained capacity-building and resource mobilization.  Those priorities should not be limited to improvement of human resource capacity, but must also include improvements in hardware and the technological infrastructure, which constituted serious constraints for developing countries. ICT capability must be extended into remote areas of developing countries.

    Also expressing support for the establishment of digital diaspora networks, particularly that for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), he welcomed the proposed launch of an enlarged initiative for Latin America and the Caribbean.  However, he cautioned, it remained necessary to emphasize the importance of devoting attention to the region’s smallest economies, which remained at a distinct disadvantage when it came to investment flows for ICT.  Finally, the Chief Executives Board (CEB) and Task Force proposal on a system-wide strategy for use of ICT as a tool in the system’s development strategy was welcomed.  Its provisions should be shared with the wider United Nations membership prior to the triennial comprehensive policy review, so as to be included therein.

    NAOKO YAMAMOTO (Japan) said her country appreciated the significant work of the Task Force on Tobacco Control.  Tobacco control was a means to achieve better health for all. She expected the convention to provide a balanced framework for tobacco control and hoped that many countries, including the major producer and consumer countries, would approve and accept the convention. 

    She said there was no question of the negative impact of tobacco on health, education and the environment, among other things. Tobacco control required a comprehensive and sector-wide approach, which should be mainstreamed.  She supported the recommendations of the Task Force.  Because of the economic and social impacts, it was important that the Council would be kept informed about the activities of the Task Force.

    CALRE FLEMING, World Bank, said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control had been analysing the link between tobacco and poverty, which had helped in providing a clear road map for addressing that link.  Priority actions included reducing smoking among poor people, deterring youth from smoking, and protecting vulnerable populations, including women and children, from second-hand smoke.

    She said poor smokers had been caught in a vicious cycle, as their high smoking rates raised health risks, worsening their poverty. Once addicted, poor smokers had to devote a significant percentage of scarce household income to tobacco products.  If a smoker got sick, the family suffered from foregone income and out-of-pocket health-care costs.  New evidence also indicated that tobacco farmers faced increasing risks of poverty, due to a saturated world tobacco market, environmental problems, insufficient technical and financial support for crop diversification, and declining soil fertility, among other factors.

    Governments must come on board with the global movement and help change the social norms on the acceptability of smoking by informing populations about the health and economic facts on tobacco use, she continued.  Many smokers were still not aware of the risks associated with second-hand smoke.  Smokers, especially poor smokers, should be helped in their attempts to quit.  Potential smokers, especially young ones, should be deterred from taking up smoking.  Governments should also understand the difficulties tobacco farmers were facing and help them with appropriate policies.

    FLORENCE CHENOWETH, of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said her organization supported measures to curtail smoking, in particular through the Task Force on Tobacco Control.  Among the projects undertaken by the FAO, two publications had been prepared, the first of which had been directed at providing a view of likely developments in the world tobacco economy, which contained a review of developments in trade and consumption since 1970. The second publication provided a clear outlook at the tobacco economy of countries in which tobacco played significant role, including the likely impacts of effective tobacco control on production and export. The countries included in the report were Brazil, China, India, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

    The publication indicated that, given a continuation of present policies, global production and consumption of tobacco would continue to grow, she said. By 2010, tobacco consumption would amount to 7.1 million tonnes, as compared to 6.5 million at the end of the 1990s.  Consumption per person in developing countries would also continue to rise, although contracting in developed countries. However, strong and effective measures to reduce consumption would have a variable impact on the economies of tobacco-producing countries, depending on the switch to alternative products and the degree to which control measures were implemented in the producing countries and their trading partners.

    Many cultivators produced tobacco because it was the most remunerative product available, she added, which made them unlikely to switch unless the price dropped. Yet, some degree of switching away was necessary to minimize losses if demand were to weaken.  Alternative crops could be grown on current tobacco land, and alternative sources of employment could be found.  A gradual adjustment to a lower level of tobacco production would be possible and would entail only fairly limited economic consequences. Moreover, assistance would allow those countries most dependent on tobacco production to make the transition more effectively and less painfully.

    Dialogue with Functional Commissions

    Mr. KOONJUL, Vice-President of the Council and moderator of the panel, said the panel on the theme strengthening cooperation and collaboration between the functional commissions and the Economic and Social Council featured the chairpersons of the functional commissions.  The panel discussion was an excellent opportunity to consider how to strengthen achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the events planned in 2005.  The need of strengthening policy coherence was of the utmost importance.  Ways and means of strengthening coherence could include, for instance, joint meetings and reports.  The implementation of measures to strengthen collaboration would have a positive effect on the work, not only of the commissions, but of the Council, as well.

    DUMISANO KUMALO (South Africa), Chairperson of the Commission on Social Development, said his Commission carried out, among other things, the follow-up of “Copenhagen plus 10” and the 2000 special session of the Assembly in Geneva. His Commission had agreed to review further implementation of the World Summit for Social Development in February 2005.  He had submitted a resolution calling for a high-level plenary meeting on Copenhagen plus 10 at that time, and had recommended participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Bretton Woods institutions and United Nations agencies.

    He said the high-level plenary was critical to elevate the debate of the Commission and of the major Summit expected to be held in September 2005. He called on the Council to request participation of NGOs in the high-level commission meetings in 2005, even though he was aware that many delegations were concerned about keeping the intergovernmental processes separate.  However, the year 2005, with the preparations for the September 2005 event, might be the most important year to receive input from NGOs.

    KYUNG-WHA KANG (Republic of Korea), Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, said her Commission’s mandate extended to providing input for gender mainstreaming throughout other functional commissions and United Nations system entities. One of the oldest functional commissions, it had, since the Beijing Conference, focused on monitoring and evaluating progress in implementation of the objectives agreed there and at the “Beijing plus 5” meeting.  Next year, the theme of the Commission’s session would be an overall 10-year review of Beijing and “Beijing plus 5”, for which purpose two texts were already in circulation. The first concerned the holding of a General Assembly segment on the status of women; the second, expanding the participation of NGOs beyond those with consultative status to include those present at Beijing and “Beijing plus 5”.

    Throughout, the Commission on the Status of Women had tried to play a catalytic role, she added, including through proactively establishing close collaboration with other commissions for the integrated follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits. Among other activities, that had taken the form of joint bureau meetings and the transmission of relevant conference outcomes to other functional commissions and meetings of the United Nations system.

    KATHERINE WALLMAN (United States), Chairperson of the Statistical Commission, said the focus of her Commission had always fallen on improving collection of statistics -- harmonizing international statistics and methods for improvement in the availability and comparability of data.  The work had had tangible results; agreements on census methodologies and national accounts had been reached. That consensus on methods facilitated the exchange of practical experiences and technology transfers from one country to another.  The statistical harmonization achieved by the Commission had greatly benefited developing countries.

    Having undertaken significant, direct collaboration with the Commission on the Status of Women, which had been labelled “unprecedented”, she said that cooperation had led to interesting and productive exchanges between the users and producers of statistical information. Next year, the Commission would examine the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development.  In regard of its review of working methods, the Commission had already incorporated the four-year rolling work plan and re-election of bureau members for continuity purposes.  She also noted that the Commission had been asked to serve as the intergovernmental focal point in reviewing conference indicators, which was crucial as Member States continued to be overburdened with requests for data information.

    MIKE SMITH (Australia), Chairperson of the sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights, said this year’s session involved some 5,000 delegates and heard nearly 2,000 statements.  It adopted 120 resolutions, decisions and chair’s statements, and heard 88 ministerial level speakers. The Commission had evolved into an annual global human rights convention addressing a range of human rights issues.  He said the Commission had developed a strict procedure of work that supplemented the normal rules of the functional commissions, including the election of the Bureau two months prior to the session and regular meetings of the Bureau with NGOs, among others.

    The Commission distinguished itself from other commissions in the extent to which civil society was involved in its work, and regional groups have become the principal coordinating mechanisms for the views of States on working methods issues. He said that cooperation between the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women via the participation of chairs had increased in recent years and was valuable. Likewise, contact with the Economic and Social Council at the bureau level were useful.

    ALFREDO CHUQUIHUARA (Peru), Chairman of the Commission on Population and Development, said that the past decade had been one of substantial progress.  However, progress had not been universal. Continued commitment was needed to mobilize human and financial resources, to strengthen institutional capacities, and to nurture partnerships among governments, the international community, NGOs and civil society.

    The theme for the 2005 Commission on Population and Development would be “population, development and HIV/AIDS, with a particular emphasis on poverty”. Among the items at next year’s session would be the contribution of the implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action, to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals.

    ALFRED MOLEAH (South Africa), Chair, Commission on Narcotic Drugs, said the joint meetings provided a venue to inform the Council on the outcome of the Commission’s work. Careful consideration should be given to further expanding coordination and information meetings, with clear outcomes. However, there were also logistical questions to be addressed.  The already heavy schedule of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs might make it difficult for the bureau to absorb an additional burden in absence of further resources. The Commission monitored the twentieth special session of the General Assembly of June 1998 and assessed government efforts to implement that session’s outcome.

    He stressed that reporting on follow-up to major conferences and summits should remain manageable and not become a goal in itself.  Otherwise, resources would be diverted from achieving those recommendations and goals.  He recommended that incoming chairpersons participate in the joint meetings.  He also suggested that bureau members of other commissions might participate in commission meetings on issues that cut across the mandate of one commission, provided that human and financial resources were available. 

    FRANCIS BUTAGIRA (Uganda), Vice-Chair of the United Nations Forum on Forests, said forests provided a wide range of goods and services for meeting human needs, such as wood, food, water and medicine. They also contributed to employment and economic development. The Forum was established in 2002 to address sustainability of forests at the global level.  The forum promoted sustainable management and forest issues in a holistic, comprehensive and integrated manner.  It had provided inputs to the Johannesburg Summit and followed up on its Plan of Implementation.  It also addressed issues of the Millennium Declaration.

    THOMAS STELZER (Austria), Vice-Chairperson of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, said his Commission formulated international policies and recommended activities in the field of crime control.  It provided a global forum for promotion of international cooperation and exchange of information on crime prevention and criminal justice.  Among the work undertaken during its most recent session, the Commission considered texts on coordinated action against transnational crime, terrorism and corruption, as well as combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in criminal justice, pre-trial and correctional facilities.  It had also conducted a senior-level discussion on progress made in regard of criminal justice aspects of terrorism and international cooperation, and to the universal conventions and protocols thereon.

    In terms of collaboration with other commissions, he noted that the Commission’s current activities concerned human rights in the administration of justice, in which regard coordination with the Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations had bee undertaken.  Having adopted a multi-year programme of work in 1998, the Commission had also complied in choosing a theme for each session.  The most recent had concerned “the rule of law and development:  the contribution of operational activities in crime prevention and criminal justice”.  Furthermore, the Commission served as the preparatory body for the United Nations Congresses on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the eleventh of which would be held in Thailand in April 2005, themed on “synergies and responses:  strategic alliances in crime prevention and criminal justice”.

    OLE HENRIK MAGGA (Norway), Chairperson of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said that, as the Permanent Forum’s mandate included promotion of cooperation, integration and mainstreaming of indigenous issues throughout the United Nations system, he looked forward to the present discussion.  Noting that the Forum had cooperated with the Forum on Forests with regard to traditional knowledge and the Millennium Development Goals, he also stressed that the Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women had addressed the Permanent Forum during its 2004 session, the theme of which had been indigenous women.

    Although the Forum’s mandate was broad, its resources were limited, he said.  The Forum remained keen to engage the United Nations system and other intergovernmental institutions on indigenous issues. Improving the situation of indigenous people entailed more than additional resources -- it also concerned how things were done. Dialogue could contribute to improved situations.  Moreover, he stressed that the Forum tried to maintain synchronicity with the themes being discussed in the wider United Nations system, in which regard it had decided to devote the themes of both its 2005 and 2006 sessions to the Millennium Development Goals, to ensure that indigenous peoples would not be left behind.  Having also noted the Forum’s capacity to serve as a catalytic point around which side events could be organized, he said he viewed the Forum’s future sessions as creating opportunities for positive work, which would lead to ripple effects throughout the United Nations system.

    KHALED ELBAKLY, Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission of Sustainable Development, said he was pleased that in 2003 the Commission had dedicated a session to a reform agenda.  The first year focused on review, and the second year on setting policy.  During the review year, the main objective was to identify obstacles to implementation, which included a session on the sharing of best practices, capacity-building and dialogue.  During the second year, the session focused on making policy decisions on issues.  The Commission had brought about and seen other examples of success, including a debate on the participation of major groups in its session.  He stressed, however, the need for more debate in the Council.

    In the process of reform, Member States had agreed to add value and enhance development.  During its session, the Commission had addressed issues of water, sanitation and settlements and had taken an integrated approach to these issues, noting that progress in one area contributed to progress in another area.  He encouraged partnerships and noted that the Commission had been able to bring in the perspectives of others, including those at the Secretariat level. Collaboration between commissions was necessary, as was positive collaboration among international agencies and outside partners, regional commissions and specialized agencies. He added that collaboration with financial institutions in development should also be sought.

    ROLANDA PREDESCU (Romania), Vice-Chair, Commission on Science and Technology for Development, representative of the Chairperson, said the 33-member Commission’s mission was to develop a common vision on science and technology and the important role they played in development.  It was a kind of “think-tank” for the United Nations. It also gave guidance and support by disseminating information and expertise on scientific and technological issues to international organizations, including the Bretton Woods institutions, national governments and NGOs.

    She said, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, concerted efforts were needed for restructuring national development policies using science and technology. National policies regarding science and technology should also be reoriented, so that they ensured an effective service to the needs of development. The Commission had identified the means to promote the use of science as a development tool, to strengthen scientific and technological capacity and promote universal access to Internet.  Through science and technology, for instance, least developed countries might be helped to alleviate poverty and improve health and literacy.  Science and technology could be used to shift from trade competitiveness patterns based on low labour costs, to competitive patterns based on technology and innovation, or to shift from technology transfer to technology development patterns. 

    Interactive Dialogue

    Starting off the dialogue, one speaker asked the representatives of the functional commissions what kind of practical measures would be taken to link the work of their commissions to next year’s five-year review of the Millennium Development Goals.

    In response, the representative of the Commission on the Status of Women said her Commission had requested that part of the General Assembly’s meeting next year concern the status of women as part of the 10-year review of Beijing.  Moreover, more time would be spent on high-level interactive round tables and panel discussions.

    In regard of how to coordinate implementation of the decisions taken by the functional commissions, the representative of the Commission on Human Rights stressed that implementation was provided for through “special procedures” -- which comprised the 35 special rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups of the Commission, who reported back on developments concerning their mandates.  He also noted that the Commission had insufficient resources to cover all its special procedures, if the current rate of proliferation continued.

    On strengthening the linkages between the functional commissions and other organizations, the representative of the Statistical Commission noted that cooperation with regional groups was fundamental to achievement of that body’s mandate.  Another commission head stressed the importance of linkages with United Nations funds and programmes, which allowed them to coordinate better interaction at both the field and headquarters levels for assessment of progress made on objectives.

    Asked how the high-level meetings contributed to the mandates of the functional commissions, one commission head pointed out that the content of statements had shifted since the adoption of the high-level segment.  At first, standard statements had been delivered, but more recently, States had begun to discuss their own situations, which gave others a better idea of the challenges to be faced.

    Other commission heads noted that the opportunity to share experiences allowed delegates to consider what issues existed to be considered, and how to address gaps in statistics and indices for progress.  However, such segments could only be participative if the commissions’ members took active part.

    Another commission head noted that, as the commissions wished to have an impact on the big review events in 2005, it was important to hold high-level meetings to get ready for the event.

    Among other points raised, several commission heads addressed the political nature of their respective bodies, acknowledging that while treatment of issues was sometimes too political and contentious, how objective and non-selective a commission could be was, in the end, up to its members.

    However, another speaker stressed, the various commission members must cleave closely to their mandates.  There had been flagrant breaches of the principle of non-selectivity in the work of some commissions.  For example, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues had highlighted certain countries in reference to its work, yet a political attitude was inappropriate to the work of such bodies.

    In response, the head of the Permanent Forum agreed that impartiality was necessary to the work of the commissions, but stressed that the Forum was composed solely of experts, who acted in their personal capacities.  However, he would convey the comments to the Forum’s experts.

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