Statement by Dr. Saeb Erekat, Minister of Local Government, Head of the Observer Delegation of Palestine to the 19th Special Session of the General Assembly for the Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of Agenda 21, 24 June 1997:

Mr. President,

The era of the nineties witnessed the convening of several international conferences under the auspices of the United Nations, which were attended by Heads of State and Government, to discuss various persistent and serious problems and important international issues of concern to world leaders and all peoples on earth. All of these conferences generated an increase in awareness on the specific issues of focus and resulted in the conclusion of important international agreements and an increase in the international commitment for cooperation and joint efforts towards the achievement of sustainable development and the establishment of the necessary environment for the growth of stability and prosperity and of peaceful and amicable relations between nations.

Those conferences also reflected the correlation and integration of these various issues and the importance of guaranteeing the widest participation within a comprehensive and multi-dimensional framework in order to improve the quality of life for all human beings by means of collective responsibility towards future generations. To secure and safeguard the right of the child in life, development and education; to guarantee the rights of women and provide them with the means for effective participation in political, economic and social development; and the respect human rights, including the right of peoples to self-determination and sovereignty over their natural resources are agreed upon axioms, contained in the documents and declarations of the conferences.

Mr. President,

Since the convening of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, there have been certain achievements and progress with regard to the implementation of Agenda 21 in several fields on national, regional and international levels. However, the situation of the international environment continues to deteriorate, poverty is on the rise and the gap between the developing and industrialized nations is widening. At the same time, the trend of globalization has not left a positive impact on sustainable development, in spite of the fact that a limited number of developing nations are actually benefiting from these trends.

Nevertheless, there are a number of other nations which have not achieved the aims set forth to benefit from the process of globalization and their marginalization continues. The majority of developing nations are still in need of international aid to assist these countries in sustainable development and in this regard developing nations have voiced their disappointment regarding the commitment of industrialized nations in transferring technology and providing an increase in official development assistance, which has drastically decreased since 1992.

Mr. President,

Undoubtedly wars and armed conflicts prevent the attainment of economic, social and human development and directly contribute to the destruction of the environment and the depletion of natural, financial and human resources. Further, the continuation of foreign occupation and the resulting denial of the basic rights of peoples under occupation and the exploitation of their natural resources all result in the destruction of the social and economic environment of occupied territories. The Palestinian people have suffered from such a situation for thirty years and still continue to suffer from the mentality and policies of the Israeli occupation, which are embodied in the continuation of the occupation, the expansion of colonial settlements, the judaization of Jerusalem, the closure policy and the denial of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and control over their natural resources.

Israel, the occupying Power, has for the past thirty years exploited the natural resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and confiscated land and uprooted trees, with the aim of expanding the settlements and building bypass roads and transferring the water to the settlements and to inside Israel. It has also used the Occupied Palestinian Territory as backyard to dispose of its waste. Furthermore, Israel's nuclear program, which is not subjected to international supervision and regulations, threatens the region with a dangerous environmental disaster, in addition to the fact that its possession of nuclear weapons will force the region into a destructive nuclear race.

The Rio Declaration contained principle 23, which states "The environment and natural resources of peoples under oppression, domination and occupation must be protected". This principle, in addition to other international documents and relevant United Nations resolutions, affirms the responsibility of the international community and the United Nations towards the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and towards the Palestinian people and their rights. It is unreasonable for the international community to allow Israel to continue its intransigent stance, rejecting compliance with resolutions of international legitimacy and international agreements for more than thirty years, and particularly now more than ever under the peace process in the Middle East.

The latest Israeli position, which obstructed the mission of the Secretary-General in accordance with resolution ES-10/2, adopted by the General Assembly in its Tenth Emergency Special Session, is considered a flagrant defiance of the will of the international community and debilitates efforts aimed at achieving stability and peace in the Middle East region. In this context, we will request the resumption of the Tenth Emergency Special Session to review the report of the Secretary-General and to urge the international community to exercise its responsibilities to force the Israeli government to cease its policies and its illegal practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and to comply with the implementation of the agreements reached.

The Palestinian people look forward to the day when they, in their own independent state, can undertake their roles and responsibilities in the implementation of Agenda 21 like all other peoples of the world.