Statement by Mrs. Somaia Barghouti, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the Third Committee, Item 93: Elimination of racism and racial discrimination, Item 94: Right of peoples to self-determination, 49th Session (1994):

Mr. Chairman,

On behalf of the observer delegation of Palestine, I would like to extend to you my warmest congratulations upon your election to the chairmanship of this important committee. I wish to take the opportunity at this time to also congratulate the other members elected to the bureau. I am confident that your skill and rich experience, Mr. Chairman, will guide our deliberations to a successful conclusion.

Mr. Chairman,

The items under discussion - "Elimination of racism and racial discrimination" and "Right of peoples to self-determination" - are probably the most important issues on the agenda of our committee, requiring the serious attention of the international community. Peace and stability and the existence of democracy throughout the world are threatened by the prevalence of countless forms of racism and discrimination and the denial and violation of human rights. The existence of these phenomena contradicts the principles and provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, various human rights conventions and covenants and most recently, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. As such, combating racism, discrimination, oppression and all human rights violations is an imperative task that must be urgently pursued by the international community.

The recent developments leading the way to the remarkable achievement of a non-racial, democratic South Africa have given humanity new and great hope for the prospects of eradicating all forms of discrimination and oppression. It is our strong hope that similar positive developments will be achieved in the peace process we are engaged in, resulting in the granting of the inalienable right of self-determination to the Palestinian people and the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace for all peoples of our region.

Mr. Chairman,

Among the purposes and principles of the United Nations, as defined in its Charter, is the development of "friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples". The importance of the right to self-determination has been reaffirmed in other relevant instruments of international law. In fact, the right to self-determination is considered by the international community to be a fundamental human right to which all people are entitled. This right is rooted in the general principle that all people should determine their own destinies. The denial of the right to self-determination therefore constitutes a grave human rights violation.

In this regard, the international community must bear its responsibility, especially with regard to people under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of June 1993, in paragraph 2 of part 1, states this principle with the following:

"All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status, and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."

It is this right that the Palestinian people have for so long been seeking to fulfill in the face of continued denial.

Mr. Chairman,

The Middle East has witnessed important progress in the peace process, the most important of which has been the mutual recognition between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel and the signing of Declaration of Principles between the two parties, which explicitly recognize the Palestinians as a people, with a distinct representative. There is no reason therefore for anyone not to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination as a matter of principle. This right could be exercised within the current peace process, and its recognition does not prevent any party from pursuing its preferences with regard to the outcome of the peace process.

It is our strong belief that the international community and the General Assembly should always uphold the United Nations Charter, international law and international humanitarian law. As such, the General Assembly has to uphold its positions with regard to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, especially the right to self-determination. We therefore hope that the draft resolution, which my delegation will submit to the members of the committee, will be adopted by consensus. The contents of the draft reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, based upon the principles and provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and other relevant instruments of international law. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.