Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6231
    25 July 2006

    Economic and Social Council Takes Action on Texts Concerning Consultative Status of Non-Governmental Organizations

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 21 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council today considered the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and took action on recommended texts in the report which, among other things, approved giving consultative status to a series of non-governmental organizations and approved the Committee's rejection of other applications.  The Council then discussed regional cooperation as well as 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.

    In the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on its 2006 regular session (E/2006/32), the Council approved decisions granting consultative status to 97 non-governmental organizations, referred back to the Committee the application of Geneva Call, approved the decision not to grant consultative status to the International Lesbian and Gay Association, rejected the decision not to give consultative status to the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians and then voted to adjourn the debate, approved the decision not to grant consultative status to People in Need, and withdrew the status of the Islamic African Relief Agency.

    The Council, acting on the excerpt from the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on its resumed 2006 session (E/2006/L.7), also decided to approve the decision by the Committee to give consultative status to 55 NGOs, not to give consultative status to the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany and the International Lesbian and Gay Association - Europe, and adopted by consensus the dates of the 2007 session of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations and provisional agenda. 

    Speaking while taking action on the texts were the representatives of Turkey, Canada, Greece, Iceland, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, United States, Iran, China, Pakistan, Sudan, Tanzania, South Africa, Haiti, Armenia, Cuba, Nigeria, Benin, Czech Republic and Guinea. 

    At the end of the day, the Council held a general discussion on regional cooperation 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; and coordination, programme, and other questions. 

    Kazi Rahman, Chief of the Regional Commissions New York Office, introducing the report of the Secretary-General on regional cooperation, said that the regional commissions carried out important work. The five regional commissions had structured their respective Commissions and a number of sessions had been held and the results had been submitted to the Council. 

    With regard to the note by 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 the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan, Mr. Rahman said the report before the Council today clearly indicated that the socio-economic situation inside the occupied Palestinian territory was deteriorating.  Continued settlement expansion and construction of the barriers by Israel in the West Bank had gravely compromised the establishment of a viable Palestinian State and the two State solution.  Economic indicators continued to show negative trends.  The Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan was generally unable to travel to Syria to visit family members on the other side of the line of separation.

    Speaking under this agenda item were representatives of Switzerland, Russian Federation, Syria and Pakistan.

    When the Council resumes its work at 10 a.m. on Monday, 24 July, it will resume its consideration and general discussion under a number of agenda items and then take action on decisions and resolutions.

    Document

    The report (E/2006/32 (Part 1)), entitled report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on its 2006 regular session, contains six draft decisions on matters calling for action by the Economic and Social Council.

    By draft decision I, the Council would:

    (a) Grant consultative status to 97 non-governmental organizations;

    (b) Reclassify two non-governmental organizations;

    (c) Note that the Committee took note of the quadrennial reports of 42 organizations;

    (d) Decide to close consideration of the applications of two non-governmental organizations.

    By draft decision II, the Council would decide not to grant consultative status to the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

    By draft decision III the Council would decide not to grant consultative status to the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians.

    By draft decision IV, the Council would decide not to grant consultative status to the non-governmental organization People in Need.

    By draft decision V, the Council would decide to withdraw the status of the Islamic African Relief Agency.

    By draft decision VI, the Council would take note of the present report. 

    The report also contains a statement by the Chairperson of the Committee brought to the attention of the Council on the reinstatement of status of the organization Indian Movement "Tupaj Amaru".

    Statements

    TURKEKUL KURTTEKIN (Turkey) said in the draft decision presented to the Council, 97 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had been recommended to be granted consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.  However, there was one NGO - the Geneva Call - that did not deserve that status.  Further consideration should be given to that issue before any decision was taken.  The name of that NGO should be withheld.

    CATHERINE BROWN (Canada) said that the amendment proposed by the European Union granting consultative status to a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was supported.  Canada strongly supported an inclusive United Nations, which allowed room for diverse voices to be heard, and recalled the Council's resolution on the consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, which clearly stated the need to take into account the diversity of such bodies.  The Council should follow its established process of dialoguing with candidates.  There was concern for the demonstrated discrimination shown with regards to NGOs based on sexual orientation.  It was legitimate for NGOs representing the diverse views of civil and political rights to have representation in the Council.  The Council should review its stance with regards to bodies dealing with sexual orientation in the future.

    ATHANASIOS KOTSIONIS (Greece) said the non-governmental organization (NGO) that was defending the so-called Turkish minorities in Greece should not be granted the ECOSOC status it had requested.  The Turkish Greeks were not Turks and the Lausanne agreement had already regulated their situation.  The NGO was disseminating propaganda that did not reflect the reality.

    EDDA MAGNUS (Iceland) said it welcomed the European Union statement on granting consultative status to four non-governmental organizations, as it would be discriminatory to exclude them, and they should be granted consultative status.

    FREDERICO S. DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) said that it supported these non-governmental organizations, and the representation of civil society in the United Nations, and supported what had been said by the European Union, Canada, and Iceland

    Decision

    The Council adopted decision I in the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organization by consensus, approving applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification received from 97 non-governmental organizations, with the referral back to the Committee in New York of the application of the NGO named Geneva Call.  The Committee also reclassified two NGOs, noted that the Committee took note of the quadrennial reports of 42 organizations, and decided to close consideration of the applications of two NGOs.

    Statements

    ALFREDO CABRAL (Guinea Bissau) said Guinea Bissau was not a member of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations of the Council.  However, it wanted to know the manner in which the Committee adopted the draft decision in New York and the discussion preceding the adoption.

    TERRY MILLER (United States) said it would be nice to have a representative of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to explain the rationale on these decisions.  There was no information in the report on the debate that had taken place in the meeting.  Was Turkey's comment based on any new information, he asked, as if this were the case, then it might be worth the Council's while to send an application back.  Issues that had been discussed in the NGO Committee did not need to be re-opened, but the Council should not make mistakes. 

    TURKEKUL KURTTEKIN (Turkey) said Turkey agreed that national delegates could have been informed about the debate in the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) through their representatives in the Committee.  The NGO whose name the Turkish delegation wanted to be withdrawn had been acting not in conformity with the Council's commitments towards non-governmental organizations.  A different approach should be applied to that particular NGO.

    SEYED MOHAMED S. NEJAD (Iran) said that with regard to the four non-governmental organizations, there had been a lot of discussion during the NGO Committee meetings in New York, and as a member of the Committee, Iran believed that it would not be appropriate to reverse the decision of that body just by making a simple decision here.  The speakers of the United States and Guinea-Bissau were correct in asking for an explanation of the Chairperson of the NGO Committee with regards to the events of that session in New York and the results reached there.  The proposal of Turkey with regards to a specific NGO and an explanation of their position should be taken up.

    LA YIFAN (China) said China shared the views expressed by previous speakers.  The decision by the NGO Committee to present the list of non-governmental organizations to the Council had been accepted by consensus. 

    TURKEKUL KURTTEKIN (Turkey) said that Turkey had very strong points which led it to suggest that the non-governmental organization (NGO) should be taken off the list.  Geneva Call was an NGO which had tailored itself a role in conjunction with the implementation of the Ottawa Convention on Landmines.  Turkey was a State party to the Ottawa Convention, and appreciated the efforts of NGOs to create awareness of the threats posed by landmines, but it did not think the Ottawa Convention attributed a specific responsibility to NGOs, unless it was approved by the States parties, as it was a legal document binding the latter, and giving them responsibilities and rights.  In this context, when the States parties reviewed the implementation of the Convention last year, in the progress report, a paragraph had been inserted which reflected the understanding of a number of States parties about the possible role of NGOs in getting non-state actors engaged in the process of implementation of the Convention.  This was Turkey's position.

    Geneva Call had said that the sensitivities of Governments would be kept in mind and its activities would be conducted in collaboration with Governments.  It was with this understanding that Turkey consented to the request for granting special status to the NGO, however, after that recommendation of the NGO Committee, and before the Council's meeting, information had been provided by the NGO that they had signed an agreement with an armed non-state actor, which was listed in the list of international terrorist organizations.  There were two dimensions to the issue: no consent of the State party concerned had been obtained; the NGO had engaged itself with an armed non-state actor which was in the list of terrorist groups by the European Union, NATO, and other organizations.  This was a very serious situation.  The United Nations was trying to combat terrorism, and the Council could not be used as a rubber-stamp for engagements which were contrary to this challenge, and this was why Turkey could not maintain its earlier position, and thought it would be worthwhile for this NGO's application to be returned by the Council to the Committee for further consideration.  

    TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan) said Pakistan strongly supported the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because of their activities within the UN.  The NGO - Geneva Call - to which the Turkish delegation referred had done much work on landmines.  Pakistan had been supporting the work accomplished by that NGO in the past.  However, Pakistan would support the position of Turkey to receive further information on that NGO before considering the decision to grant that NGO a special status.

    ABDUL RAHEEM SIDDIG (Sudan) said Sudan supported the NGOs to be incorporated into the work of the United Nations system, but with regard to the ongoing discussion, Sudan was with what Iran had said, that a decision taken by the Committee should not be reserved, because this would be a precedent that would undermine the work of the NGOs, as well as the work of the Council in general. 

    ALFREDO CABRAL (Guinea Bissau) said he was not feeling comfortable with the views expressed by the Turkish delegation to withhold the name of the NGO.  It was very disturbing to his delegation to reject a decision adopted by consensus in the NGO Committee.

    Decision

    The Council adopted decision II in the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (E/2006/32) on the application of the International Lesbian and Gay Association to not give consultative status to the NGO.  It was adopted subsequent to a long procedural debate which entailed a vote of no-action on a proposed amendment by Germany, which was adopted by a roll-call vote, with 25 in favour, 21 against, and five abstentions, which was followed by a roll-call vote of 22 in favour, 19 against, and nine abstentions which was therefore adopted.

    Statements

    AUGUSTINE MAHIGA (Tanzania) said Tanzania was not opposed to the individual freedom of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their participation in the work of the Council.  Tanzania valued the participation of NGOs in the Council and recognized the role played by many of them.  However, it believed that the NGO on lesbians and gays was not relevant and credible as such.  Tanzania had voted on the decision of the NGO Committee and was not in support of the NGO.  In Tanzania, homosexuality was immoral and a criminal act punishable by law.

    SHELDON MOULTON (South Africa) said it fully supported the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the United Nations and in the Council, but the issue before the Council in this situation was the procedures that had been followed in the NGO Committee, and its integrity and commitment should be honoured.  For this reason, South Africa had voted in favour of the decision

    ALFREDO CABRAL (Guinea Bissau) said Guinea Bissau upheld the sacrosanct principle of freedom for each individual to choose their sexual orientation: this was a divine right.  It was hoped that one day the right of all NGOs that had an activity that was in keeping with the spirit of the Council would prevail.  The principle of liberty and freedom and the full enjoyment of all human rights for all humans was the reason for which the vote, which had been in favour of the recommendation of the Council, should not be interpreted as any opposition to the interest of these groups.  When the Committee made a recommendation, then, a priori, this was on the basis of principles which the Council should be able to adopt. 

    Decision

    The Committee rejected decision III in the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (E/2006/32) to reject giving consultative status to the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians.  The Council had a vote of no-action on a proposed amendment by Germany, which was adopted by a roll-call vote with 23 in favour, 21 against, and six abstaining on whether to take action on the proposed amendment by Germany, followed by a roll-call vote on the decision itself, which was not adopted with 19 in favour, 22 against, and nine abstaining.  

    Further concerning the decision by the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations to reject giving consultative status to the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians, after a proposal was made to refer back to the NGO Committee its decision not to grant consultative status to the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians, the Council held a roll- call vote on the proposal with 20 in favour, 20 against, and nine abstentions, and therefore the matter was not referred back to the Committee. 

    A proposal was made by Germany on behalf of the European Union, to ask the Council to grant consultative status to the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians, subsequent to which the Russian Federation requested that this proposal be examined at a later date, after it was submitted in writing, in the official languages, and under the 24-hour rule.  Canada asked for a vote on whether to waive the 24-hour rule.  Mauritania requested an adjournment of the debate, and this took precedence over the other requests, and after a roll-call vote with 28 in favour, 20 against, and four abstentions, was adopted. 

    Statements

    ALFREDO CABRAL (Guinea Bissau) said the Council had now decided not to accept the recommendation of the NGO Committee and the matter should be referred back to the Committee.

    SHELDON MOULTON (South Africa) said South Africa fully supported the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the work of the United Nations and the Council in particular, but the issue before the Council in this situation was the procedures that had been followed in the NGO Committee, and its integrity and commitment should be honoured.  For this reason, South Africa had voted in favour of the decision.

    LÉO MÉRORÈS (Haiti) said Haiti endorsed the statement made by the delegation of South Africa.  Haiti had voted in favour as recommended by the NGO Committee.  The vote should not be interpreted as taking sides with regard to the NGO in question.

    ZOHRAB MNATSAKANIAN. (Armenia) said Armenia was of the opinion that there was a question of due process undermined and his delegation would vote in favour of the motion.

    Decision

    The Council approved decision IV in the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (E/2006/32) not to grant consultative status to the non-governmental organization People in Need, which was adopted after a roll-call vote with 25 in favour, 18 against, and six abstentions. 

    Statements

    MARIA DEL CARMEN HERREA CASEIRO (Cuba) said the delegation of Cuba clearly supported the decision adopted by the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).  The delegation of Cuba would support the decision not to grant special status to the NGO called "People in Need".  The NGO did not comply with criteria for the granting of a status.  It was not an independent NGO, rather it was financed by individuals who were terrorists by nature.  The Cuban delegation fully endorsed the decision of the NGO Committee not to grant special status to that NGO; and other delegations in the Council should support the recommendation of the Committee.

    O.A. BAMGBOSE (Nigeria) said Nigeria was aligned with the position of the delegation of Cuba.  The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) had done a thorough job, and there was no need to reopen what had already been decided.  The Council had a duty to ensure it did not undermine in any way the work of the bodies that it mandated and which had spent precious time deliberating.  The Council was of course unaware of what took place during those deliberations, but it should endorse the decisions of the Committee. 

    LA YIFAN (China) said that the delegation of China took note of the financial resources of the non-governmental organization that it was receiving from Governments.  The Chinese delegation would go along with the statement made by Cuba and the Council should not open debate on the Committee' decision except accepting the recommendation.

    EDOUARD OHO GLELE (Benin) said it was greatly concerned, as when a recommendation was made by a subsidiary body, the Council assumed the body had had all resources available in order to make a recommendation.  Now the Council was being asked to go counter to that recommendation.  A delegation had said the NGO had terrorist links and supported terrorist activities.  This was a sufficient argument to indicate that the Council would not come back on this decision.  All States should be mobilised against terrorism. Why, he asked, after hearing this, was there still questioning of the decision of the NGO Committee.  Benin was concerned, and did not feel it was necessary to put this matter to a vote.  If there was a vote, Benin would vote firmly in favour of the NGO Committee. 

    G.J. MTSHALI (South Africa) said the delegation of South Africa fully supported the activities of non-governmental organizations.  South Africa had voted in favour of the decision as recommended by the NGO Committee.

    The Representative of the Czech Republic said the Czech Republic had been shocked in listening to certain partners, who had linked certain activities of the welfare society to other actions.  In New York, when the Committee had discussed this, the Czech Republic had noted that People in Need was one of the prominent players in the world welfare society, and it was unfortunate that some of its activities were unpopular with other Governments. 

    The Representative of Guinea said the delegation of Guinea had voted in favour of the decision as recommended by the NGO Committee not to grant consultative status to the People in Need NGO.  His delegation believed that today's vote would help the NGOs with status with the Council to fully enjoy their status.

    Decision

    The Council adopted by consensus decision V in the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (E/2006/32) in which it decided to withdraw the ECOSOC status of the Islamic African Relief Agency.

    Resolution

    A resolution (E/2006/L.7), which is an excerpt from the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on its resumed 2006 session, containing the decisions taken by the Committee at this session, and is entitled Matters calling for action by the Economic and Social Council or brought to its attention, includes a list of 55 NGOs seeking consultative status and requests for reclassification received from non-governmental organizations.  It also contains draft decisions on:

    • Applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification received from non-governmental organizations, which were adopted by consensus;
    • Application of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, in which the Council decides not to grant consultative status to the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, and which was rejected after a roll-call vote with 20 in favour, 23 against, and seven abstentions.

    Statements

    V.A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the delegation of the Russian Federation had voted in favour of the decision and regretted that it was not adopted.  He recommended that the application be sent back to the NGO Committee.

    G.J. MTSHALI (South Africa) said South Africa had voted in favour of the report, because South Africa fully supported the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the United Nations, but this was a matter of procedure, in that the NGO Committee, which had been mandated by the Council to deal with this matter, had done so, and therefore, South Africa had voted in favour of the resolution. 

    LÉO MÉRORÈS (Haiti) said the delegation of Haiti fully endorsed the statement made by the delegation of South Africa.  The delegation of Haiti voted in favour of the recommendations of the NGO Committee; and his country was not against the NGO itself. 

    Further Action on Resolution E/2006/L.7

    On the application of the International Lesbian and Gay Association- Europe in decision III, the Council decided not to grant consultative status to the Association with a roll-call vote with 22 in favour, 22 against, and 6 abstentions.

    Statements

    V.A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the delegation of the Russian Federation had voted in favour and regretted that it was rejected.  He however recommended that the draft decision be sent back to the NGO Committee.

    G.J. MTSHALI (South Africa) said South Africa had voted in favour of the report, because South Africa fully supported the work of NGOs in the United Nations, but this was a matter of procedure, in that the NGO Committee, which had been mandated by the Council to deal with this matter, had done so, and therefore, South Africa had voted in favour of the resolution. 

    Further Action on Resolution E/2006/L.7

    The Council approved decision IV which included the dates of the 2007 session of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations and the provisional agenda, by consensus. 

    Document on Repercussions of Israeli Occupation on Palestinian and Arab People

    A note (A/61/67- E/2006/13) by the Secretary-General 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 of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan, contains in annex a report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia 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. This report says the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel continues to deepen the economic and social hardship of Palestinians. The Israeli closure system remains a primary cause of poverty and humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, and restricts Palestinian access to health and education services, employment, markets and social and religious networks. Israeli restrictions also impede humanitarian services to the occupied territory. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East alone incurred over $10 million in losses in 2005. While the Palestinian gross domestic product grew in 2005 by some 6 per cent, economic indicators continue to show negative trends. Unemployment and poverty rates remained high, estimated at 23 per cent and 62 per cent respectively. Israel's confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources for settlements and the construction of the West Bank barrier accelerated during 2005. Israeli settlements, land confiscation and the construction of a barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory, contrary to the Geneva Convention and other norms of international law, isolate occupied East Jerusalem, bisect the West Bank and curtail normal economic and social life.  Refugees, women and children bear a significant brunt of these measures. Malnutrition and other health problems afflict a growing number of Palestinians at a time of curtailed access to needed services. There are 350,000 children under the age of five who suffer from chronic malnutrition.

    Documents on Regional Cooperation

    The documents on the Regional Dimension of Creating an Environment Conducive to Generating Full and Productive Employment include the report of the Secretary-General entitled Regional Cooperation in the Economic, Social and Related Fields (E/2006/15 and Add.1); the report entitled Economic Trends, as well as Risks and Opportunities, for the Economies in the Economic Commission for Europe Region (E/2006/16); the report entitled Overview of the Economic Report on Africa 2006: "Recent Economic Trends in Africa and Prospects for 2006"  (E/2006/17); the report entitled Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2006, (E/2006/18); the report entitled Latin America and the Caribbean: Economic Situation and Outlook, 2005-2006 (E/2006/19); and the report entitled Summary of the Survey of Economic and Social Developments in the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia Region, 2005-2006 (E/2006/20).  Summaries of the documents can be found in ECOSOC/06/12 of 6 July 2006.

    Discussion on Regional Cooperation and Repercussions of Israeli Occupation on Palestinian and Arab People

    KAZI RAHMAN, Chief of the Regional Commissions New York Office, introducing the report of the Secretary-General on regional cooperation, said that the regional commissions carried out important work. The five regional commissions had structured their respective Commissions and a number of sessions had been held and the results had been submitted to the Council.

    With regard to the note by 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 the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan, he said that the Council had stressed the importance of reviving the Middle East peace process on the basis of concerned Security Council resolutions and the principle of land to peace, as well as compliance with the agreements reached between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.  The Council had reaffirmed the applicability of the Geneva Convention; and stressed 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 person and goods.  The Council also stressed that the wall being constructed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, was contrary to international law. 

    The report before the Council today clearly indicated that the socio-economic situation inside the occupied Palestinian territory was deteriorating.  Continued settlement expansion and construction of the barriers by Israel in the West Bank had gravely compromised the establishment of a viable Palestinian State and the two State solution.  Economic indicators continued to show negative trends.  The Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan was generally unable to travel to Syria to visit family members on the other side of the line of separation.  Recent events in the Middle East, the continuation of the conflict as well as the suffering of the Palestinian and Syrian populations under occupation only proved that there was no military solution.  The only path remained that of a negotiated settlement that would achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement, based on relevant UN resolutions and international law.

    BARBARA EKWALL (Switzerland) speaking on regional cooperation, said Switzerland welcomed the reforms of the UNECE, saying the reform was necessary and pressing to avoid marginalisation in the context of a rapidly changing environment in Europe.  The reforms allowed the Commission to remove some obsolete items from its work, and had strengthened its capacity to respond to requests and the primary needs of States.  The cohesion of the region would be strengthened.  With its new working programme and the modernisation of its management, the body was better equipped to deal with the challenges of coming years or that were already being faced.  The Council should now guarantee a context with appropriate conditions for the regional commissions to meet the challenges of each region, and to seek complementarity and synergy with other parts of the United Nations and other bodies.

    NIKOLAY CHULKOV (Russian Federation) said the report of the Secretary-General deserved consideration.  The regional economic committees worked to the specificities of different regions, and were able to carry out specific measures geared towards each particular State and region.   It would be expedient, on the basis of the regional commissions, to work with the active participation of the ILO and other national and regional structures to identify countries with similar labour market problems, and develop common policies on how to adjust their employment policies.  There should be close interaction between all the regional commissions on this issue. 

    The UNECE reform was aimed at improving transparency and accountability, and restructuring the programme of work as per the priorities of the Member States.  Given European Union enlargement, this Committee should help to eliminate the dividing lines in Europe, and foster a common European economic area.  The work of ESCAP was also appreciated.  Russia was prepared to contribute to a new energy layout in the Asia-Pacific region.  The regional economic commissions needed to continue to function as the regional outposts of the United Nations system, and with the United Nations funds and programmes to assist in the adaptation of the Member States to the continuing challenges of the globalised world. 

    ABDULMONEN ANAN (Syria), speaking on the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan, said the situation of the population in the occupied Syrian Golan should be permanently on the agenda of the Council, as the world seemed to have forgotten that part of Syria had been occupied for some 40 years.  In the Golan, over recent years, there had been crimes against humanity, which had occurred through Israel's actions.  This was not surprising, given the long list of Israeli practices in the region, and given what was being seen now on television.  There was the assassination of hundreds of children, and major breaches had been committed by Israel, in the use of forbidden weapons, targeting civilian convoys, ambulances, and Red Cross convoys in Lebanon.  Air raids had targeted the civilian population and orphanages. 

    As to the Golan, this year's report had not paid enough attention to figures. The number of colonies was 44, not 33.  There was no mention of racial discrimination against the Syrian population in the area.  Discrimination in employment, access to water and in access to all services was not mentioned, and this was unjustified.  Nor did it mention the imprisonment of dozens of people who had been detained and unjustly sentenced, nor the use by Israel of certain border areas to dump nuclear waste, with a concomitant possible major ecological disaster in the future.  Israel was refusing international monitoring of the situation.  Israel continued to flout all international conventions, including the Geneva Conventions. The situation of the Arab population could not be ignored, and there were thousands of refugees in Syria waiting to return home.  It was unfair for Israel to be the only country in the world to be exempt from implementing United Nations resolutions, with the United States carrying out political and economic cover for the country.  This was organised State terrorism, under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

    MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan Heights, said foreign occupation was in itself a major impediment to the promotion of better standards of life in larger freedoms as the United Nations Charter envisioned.  The Palestinians and other Arab populations had been under occupation for almost 40 years.  In recent years, hope had been generated by the vision of a two-State solution, and the implementation of the Road Map to Peace.  Unfortunately, the implementation had been impeded and delayed by continued violence and attacks, including against Palestinian civilians, the construction of the illegal separation wall, restrictions in the movement of Palestinians, and the continued decline in their social, economic and humanitarian conditions.  While the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza had raised hopes, these had been quashed, ironically, following the democratic elections held in the occupied Palestinian territories.  These led to a halt in the flow of revenues and finances for the Palestinians, and the revival of violence, including aerial attacks and targeted executions.

    The discussion today took place at a poignant moment for the whole Middle East.  The economic siege of the Palestinian people had worsened conditions immeasurably, and this could be seen clearly in many ways.  All these actions were in gross violation of the rules of international humanitarian law, including in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Such violations could not be allowed to continue with impunity.  The latest Israeli aggression against Palestinian territories and Lebanon had undermined hopes for peace in the region.  The situation demanded restraint and a return to negotiations.  The United Nations and the major powers should respond immediately in order to end the attacks and the spiralling violence, and put the Peace Process back on track.  It was hoped that the attacks would end soon, and that peace would be restored. 

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