For information only - not an official document
26 March 2010
Recognition of the State of Palestine Called for as United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People Comes to a Close
Role of United Nations Also Addressed
(Received from a UN Information Officer)
VIENNA, 25 March (UN Information Service) - At the closing of the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, the Permanent Observer of Palestine at the United Nations called for recognition of the State of Palestine now that his Government had introduced an ambitious programme to end the occupation in two years.
In closing remarks, Riyad Mansour, addressing Government representatives present at the Seminar directly, said "It is unacceptable to say all the right things while Israel continues to do the wrong things," adding that Governments who supported the two-State solution should find practical ways to bring Israel into compliance. Although Palestinians were willing to participate in proximity talks, he said "we are not going to wait until they fail". Governments who had not yet done so should recognize the State of Palestine, and the Security Council should give Palestine its "birth certificate". After that, Palestine would apply for membership of the United Nations, so that in 2011 it could raise its flag as the 193rd Member State.
The two-day Seminar, held under the theme "Building institutions and moving forward with establishing the State of Palestine," was organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The Committee's Head of Delegation, Zahir Tanin, noted that during three plenary meetings, experts had analysed the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem and had made specific recommendations for the success of the Palestinian Authority's Programme, entitled "Palestine: Ending the occupation, establishing the State."
He also expressed appreciation for the presentation the previous day by Palestinian Authority Minister Ali Al-Jarbawi outlining the main points of the Programme. He assured participants that "we shall keep the focus of the international community on achieving the long-term goals for Palestinian economic and social development and, above all, achieving Palestinian statehood in accordance with international legitimacy."
During the third plenary meeting, preceding the closing session, four experts addressed the role of the United Nations in mobilizing and coordinating international assistance to the Palestinian people.
The Deputy United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process and United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Maxwell Gaylard, explained how the United Nations community in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, consisting of some 20 agencies, was working in the field. Matthias Burchard, a representative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), highlighted the Agency's many accomplishments in its work for Palestine refugees and addressed the many constraints it was working under.
Mike Bailey, who represented the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), stressed the need for respecting the human rights of the Palestinians.
The Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) in Ramallah, Ghania Malhis, analyzed the impact of the financial resources mobilized by the international community, in particular Arab States and Arab civil society, on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, concluding that the funds had been "wasted" as they had been utilized to fund a fading peace process rather than fund the very basis of a lasting peace.
MAXWELL GAYLARD, Deputy United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said that the Palestinian Authority had to deal with some 20 United Nations agencies, 60 donor countries or organizations, 150 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and numerous national NGOs. That entailed an enormous challenge.
During a workshop of the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority, five basic principles had been devised to revive aid effectiveness: ownership by the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority; harmonization in order to avoid duplication; alignment to what was being done by the Palestinians, including support for the Authority's Programme; accountability and transparency; and results.
The United Nations presence consisted of some 20 entities, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Representatives of those entities came together on a regular basis, and had concluded that there were five areas where the United Nations could start to work together to deliver to the Palestinian population and to support the Palestinian agenda. Those areas were: governance; rule of law and human rights; livelihood; education; health; and infrastructure. In each of those areas, six or seven agencies could come together and report to the Country Team.
The humanitarian country team had seven members, which also included international and national NGOs and the Red Cross, who were responsible for the yearly Consolidated Appeal. Regarding the debate on what was development and what was humanitarian, he said that the humanitarian perspective had elements of reconstruction and development.
Turning to Gaza, which, he said, had been reduced to a welfare society, the situation had been entirely man-made. The United Nations was big player there through UNRWA and some 10 other agencies, which dealt with the basic problem of a "mediaeval" siege that locked the strip in from the Israeli and Egyptian side as well as from the sea and the air. The reported pockets of growth in the West Bank just came from stimulus money. Closures had a great impact on the economy and Area C in particular was doing very badly, with 79 per cent food insecurity. The areas caught between the separation wall and the Green Line had experienced a catastrophic drop in living standards. Even in East Jerusalem there were pockets of poverty.
The role of the United Nations system in mobilizing and coordinating international assistance to the Palestinian people was to ensure that such assistance was not merely focused on strengthening the capacities of Palestinians who were making history but also on giving hope and a voice to all Palestinians, he concluded.
MATTHIAS BURCHARD, Head of the Geneva Office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said that his Agency served as a useful illustration of how effective the United Nations could be as a means for addressing humanitarian and human development needs of an important segment of the Palestinian community, namely the refugees. Over the decades, UNRWA had directly delivered essential services to Palestine refugees at reasonable standards of quality in a reliable, predictable way, in close cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, communities and the United Nations system.
Citing accomplishments in the provision of knowledge and skills, he said that the Agency had provided elementary, preparatory, vocational and technical training to some 260,000 pupils in over 315 educational institutions, while employing 10,600 educational staff. Gender equity enrolment had been sustained since the sixties. UNRWA's work in the field of primary health care had had a considerable impact in ensuring long and healthy lives among refugees. The Agency had also established services that dealt with the consequences of protracted violence and insecurity, including mental health care and physiotherapy. UNRWA had addressed poverty and also provided micro-finance loans to stimulate self-reliance.
"However, many of these outcomes are also a sad witness of the urgent and pressing needs resulting from crises that have started to cripple what has so proudly been achieved," he said. In Gaza, the overarching concern remained the closure of its borders since June 2007. He hoped that the recent Israeli approval to allow the entry of the necessary materials to continue and finish humanitarian projects, frozen in June 2007, would now actually commence and that the generous pledges of some $5 billion to rebuild Gaza might now be allowed to be put to use.
In the West Bank, despite reports of some improvement, poverty rates among the refugees were very high. That was mainly attributed to the continuing extension of the barrier and the associated closure regime, and restriction on development of land and water resources in Area C, as well as settlement expansion, house demolitions and evictions, also in East Jerusalem. "After more than forty years of occupation, the West Bank is splintered to a point where its integrity as a viable economic and social unit is deeply compromised," he said.
UNRWA's work was limited by a lack of funds and faced a budget gap of $141 million, nearly 25 per cent of its core budget. The greatest challenge to humanitarian and development work, however, was the absence of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ultimate assistance that Palestinian and Palestine refugees needed was a just and lasting resolution of the conflict - a solution which delivered a viable Palestinian State existing in peace with its neighbours.
MIKE BAILEY, representing the Executive Committee of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), said his organization concurred with and supported the principles and aspirations of the Palestinian people encapsulated in the Palestinian Authority Programme. Consisting of 90 international NGOs, AIDA worked through the Occupied Palestinian Territory in supporting farmers and local cooperatives and in promoting economic development. It also worked with national and local authorities and service providers to develop and consolidate reliable and affordable access to basic services, such as water, health and education, always with an overriding concern for humanitarian rights and justice.
Turning to the Palestinian Authority Programme, he said the key guiding principle in translating the Programme into the foundations of a viable Palestinian State was accountability to the Palestinian people. That was true for all actors, and the international NGO community would continue to seek improved cooperation and collaboration with the Authority and Palestinian civil society. AIDA hoped that the Authority, in its pursuit of the goals of the Programme, would be mindful and vigilant that the space for advocacy and free expression by Palestinian civil society organizations and the Palestinian people was protected.
Highlighting the situations in Area C and East Jerusalem, he said the Palestinian Authority did not control the rights, security or access to justice of the Palestinian people living there and encouraged the Authority to take steps to politically and diplomatically support the changes needed in Area C and East Jerusalem. The current insistence of the Israeli Government that Jerusalem was wholly and exclusively the capital of Israel added significantly to the uncertainties and fears of the East Jerusalem Palestinians. AIDA was also gravely concerned about the blockade imposed on the people of Gaza.
He said that whatever problems the Palestinian people faced in their daily lives because of the Israeli occupation or the lack of a Palestinian state, none was so serious as the continual abuse of their human rights and the obstacles they encountered when seeking justice for those abuses. Palestinians had been detained without proper access to legal representation, charge or trial. They told of attacks and detention by Israeli settlers as they went to school or worked their land. AIDA therefore called for support of the human rights of the Palestinian people.
GHANIA MALHIS, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) in Ramallah, said international assistance to the Palestinian people continued to grow. From 1994 to 2000, the annual contribution averaged at $500 million and jumped to an average of $1 billion during the years 2001-2005. It was expected to reach almost $2 billion in 2010. Arab assistance, apart from its contributions to UNRWA, had come to some 25 per cent of the contributions. Those numbers included contributions from national campaigns in the Arab region, NGOs and other informal channels.
She said the initial analysis of the impact on the ground of the contributions had led to two conflicting conclusions. The good news was that the international community and Arab countries had managed to mobilize substantial resources to assist the Palestinian people. But the second conclusion was that it had been almost impossible to trace any positive impact on the ground. The Palestinian 2009 GDP was 13 per cent lower than that of 1999. International support was required to address a budget deficit equivalent to 39 per cent of the Palestinian GDP.
Based on those numbers, the mobilized resources had been wasted, she said. They had been utilized to fund a fading peace process rather than fund the very basis of a lasting peace. The approach taken was a reactive one, where donors responded to crisis after crisis rather than build a stable environment through which crises could be pre-empted. The resources resulted in an always negligible impact, no matter the size of the investment. The Palestinians, specifically the Palestinian Authority, carried a great responsibility, as it had failed to invest the mobilized funds in development and used them instead to cover running expenditures.
Israel's responsibility was a colossal one, she continued. Since the 1993 peace treaty, Israel had continued its colonial practices: isolating the Gaza Strip and the West Bank from each other and from East Jerusalem; confiscating Palestinian lands; building settlements; and building a separation barrier. Among material losses, Israel had confiscated 85 per cent of Palestinian water and had uprooted more than one million trees.
She said that in order to find a way forward, efforts must be translated into massive reforms and visionary partnerships between donors, the Palestinian Authority and key sectors of Palestinian society. A main component of a paradigm shift in developmental strategies must be a capable and innovative workforce. A responsible private sector and civil society must be engaged in order to create the needed infrastructure for a flourishing Palestinian economy that nurtured creativity and innovation. All those efforts would be of zero significance, however, unless they were coupled to a political solution that would end the Israeli occupation.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said the Palestinian Authority had brought representatives, experts and academicians from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. United Nations agencies had also sent representatives. They were helping the Palestinians not out of charity or because the Palestinians could not help themselves, but because the United Nations, from its inception, had been mandated to be involved in the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects. NGOs had also been present.
He said that his Government had introduced an ambitious programme to end the occupation in two years by building institutions under the difficult circumstances of occupation. Experts had analyzed that programme in a critical way. The situation of Palestinian women had been exposed, even though it was embarrassing. That reality, however, had to be addressed. Welcoming the criticism, he said, "We - living under occupation - are not afraid."
He said that ending the occupation was not only the responsibility of the Palestinian people, who were at the forefront of the problem. Governments and United Nations agencies also had responsibilities. Addressing Government representatives directly, he said, "It is unacceptable to say all the right things while Israel continues to do the wrong things." Palestinians expected the right things to be implemented. Palestinians were "sick and tired" of listening to hearing the right things being said without anybody offering any practical way to bring Israel into compliance.
The Palestinian Authority was willing to participate in proximity talks, although they were not likely to succeed, he said, "but we are not going to wait until they fail". There was global consensus about the two-State solution. In that context, he urged European countries and other countries around the world who were supportive of the two-State solution to recognize the State of Palestine within its 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Then the Palestinians could "march" to the Security Council to get a "birth certificate" that would recognize the State of Palestine. If some countries wanted to add a caveat with some adjustments, the Palestinian Authority might be willing to consider it. After such a resolution, Palestine would ask for membership at the United Nations and raise its flag as the 193rd Member State in 2011.
In closing remarks, ZAHIR TANIN, Head of the Delegation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Right of the Palestinian People, and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, noted that during three plenary meetings, experts had analysed the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem and had made specific recommendations for the success of the Palestinian Authority's Programme, entitled "Palestine: Ending the occupation, establishing the State." He thanked them for that.
He also expressed appreciation for the presentation the previous day by Palestinian Authority Minister Ali Al-Jarbawi outlining the main points of the Programme. Many speakers had backed that forward-looking programme, which called for Palestinians to unilaterally build the administrative, economic and institutional foundation of an independent State in spite of the Israeli occupation.
He noted that, during the current Seminar, experts had reviewed the current socio-economic situation on the ground and had looked at ways to advance the Palestinian State-building agenda. Participants had also highlighted the imperative of achieving economic independence and sustainable growth through responsible governance and the development of domestic capacities and resources. Other speakers had emphasized the continued crucial role of international assistance in support of the Palestinian economy.
He said that the two days of deliberations had been most informative, insightful and inspiring. The accounts of the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people were disheartening. Yet, they had strengthened the determination to provide relief to the Palestinian people. "Simultaneously, we shall keep the focus of the international community on achieving the long-term goals for Palestinian economic and social development and, above all, achieving Palestinian statehood in accordance with international legitimacy," he said.
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