Statement by Mrs. Somaia Barghouti, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the Third Committee, 51st Session, 14 October 1996:

Mr. President,

On behalf of the Observer Delegation of Palestine, I would like to express our profound pleasure to be participating in this timely and important meeting on the occasion of the Tenth (10th) Anniversary of International Youth Year. Our gathering on this occasion is a testament to the magnitude of importance that should, of necessity, be attributed to the youth of our world. They are the future of our world and it is for the purpose of securing and enhancing this future and its potential that we must direct our work and daily efforts on a local, national and international scale.

It is clear that the development of any society is dependent, to a certain extent, upon the degree of emphasis placed on promoting and nurturing the well-being of the youth, both male and female, in all areas, particularly in the fields of education, employment and health. The advancement of youth and the promotion and protection of their human rights should, therefore, be one of our top priorities and all efforts required in this regard should be exerted as a matter of principle, as well as national survival and progress.

At this point, I wish to stress the importance of including girls and young women in this regard as they are often overlooked in national developmental policies. The improvement of the situation of female youth through the removal of obstacles to gender equality and policies for the advancement of young women is imperative for the overall success of any program of action for youth. My delegation agrees that specific initiatives must be taken to prepare them to actively and effectively participate with male youth at all levels of social, cultural, economic and political leadership.

Mr. President,

For the Palestinian people, the primary national resource is the human element. As such, both the present status and the future of our youth, who comprise a very high percentage of our population, are vital considerations in the preparation of our national programs of action. The establishment of the Ministry of Youth and Sport, as well as the Ministry of Social Affairs, during the early stages of organization of the Palestinian National Authority attests to the significance attributed to our youth and providing them with the necessary resources to promote their welfare and cultivate their future potential.

Mr. President,

The youth of Palestine is a generation that has known only life under Israeli occupation or in dispersion throughout the region, mainly in refugee camps. It is a generation of strugglers and survivors, similar to their parents and those before them. They are youth who have suffered from the discrimination and the injustices of an oppressive and harsh occupation, from economic hardships due high unemployment and crippling occupational policies, including the frequent closures, and from recurrent violent confrontations with the Israeli army and the settlers. But our youth have also learned from these difficult experiences and hardships and, as was so clearly illustrated by the intifada of the Palestinian people, in which the youth played an enormous role, hope and resilience were never lost and self-reliance and determination were instilled.

It is clear, however, that our youth must be assisted as they undertake the challenging task of reconstructing an infrastructure which has been virtually destroyed as a result of the prolonged occupation. Assistance in this regard is imperative, especially during this most critical period of transition for the Palestinian people. The improvement of the situation of the Palestinian youth, whether in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, or in neighboring Arab countries, necessitates the continued involvement and assistance of the international community through programs of action for youth, such as the important draft program before us. At this time, my delegation would like to express its deepest appreciation to the international community and the United Nations and its specialized agencies, in particular UNRWA, for their untiring and consistent work on behalf of advancing the welfare of our youth.

Mr. President,

The signing of the Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel, as well as the ensuing agreements reached, the latest being the interim agreement of 28 September 1995, have changed the dynamics and landscape of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and have provided the youth of Palestine with a new window of hope for progress, particularly through the realization of their human rights and improvement in the fields of education and employment, in an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence.

It is our hope that the momentum we have gained in this regard is not lost. We hope that the positive developments it brings will provide our youth with new opportunities for growth, learning and advancement as they are an important component in the reconstruction of our society towards the building of an independent, self-reliant Palestinian state, in which they will exercise their inalienable rights as human beings. It is our strong belief that the enjoyment of human rights, control over national resources and increased access to higher education, vocational training and employment will greatly enhance our programs for the advancement of youth for it is clear that without these resources, development in any society is extremely limited.

Mr. President,

The implementation of General Assembly resolution 49/152 (1994), entitled "International Youth Year", has produced the draft world programme for youth towards the year 2000 and beyond. We strongly hope that the draft world programme will be adopted by consensus. Following this, we look forward to the exertion of new, serious and concerted efforts, along with the required resources, to undertake concrete action towards the achievement of the stated goals and objectives of the programme for the benefit of our youth all over the world.

Mr. President,

As I stand here before you today in this august Assembly, it is clear that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Authority has already implemented certain proposals for action for youth in the draft world programme by promoting the participation of youth in international fora through the inclusion of youth representation in our national observer delegation to the General Assembly. In this regard, I can assure you that the promotion of the social, cultural and political participation of youth has had a long tradition in Palestinian society and we will continue to take the necessary steps to integrate youth at all levels in the development of our society, including their involvement in the democratic political processes as well, in the building of our future, independent state. I thank you, Mr. President.