Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., before the Annual Session of the UNICEF Executive Board, 25 May 1995:

At the outset allow me, Mr. President, to express the appreciation and thanks of the observer delegation of Palestine to the members of the Executive Board of UNICEF for their efforts in promoting the well being of the children of the world. I would like to take this opportunity to applaud you, Mr. President, for your capable leadership and efforts in this regard as well.

Further, on behalf of my delegation, I wish to welcome the new Executive Director of UNICEF upon her assumption of this important position and to wish her all the best. Let me also convey our appreciation to both the Regional Director and the Chief of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) section for the important roles they have played in assisting the children of the region and in promoting their general welfare, including that of the Palestinian children.

Mr. President,

The needs of the Palestinian children and women, whether in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, or in the neighboring Arab countries, have always been great given the historic background and the difficult circumstances they have been faced with. Recently, with the peace process in the Middle East gaining momentum with the signing of the Declaration of Principles on 13 September 1993 in Washington, D.C., hopes have increased for a dramatic improvement in the conditions of the Palestinian children. For such improvement to become a reality, however, it is necessary for the international community and the United Nations system, including UNICEF, to give their greatest possible attention to the Palestinian children during the present most critical transitional period. For that to happen additional resources are needed and new approaches should be adopted.

Mr. President,

We have listened carefully to the report and the in-depth presentation by the Director of the MENA section and we have also studied the recommended programs of assistance to Palestinian children and women, contained in document E/ICEF/1995/P/L.30, and the review paper document E/ICEF/1995/P/L.40, which was presented in response to the Board's decision 1994/R2/7. We would like now to share with you some remarks and observations in an effort to further improve the activities of UNICEF for the Palestinian children, with emphasis, at this stage, on those children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.

  • We have surely noticed the increase in attention given by UNICEF to the needs of the Palestinian children. This is illustrated in the recommended program cooperation for 1996-1997 for Palestinian children in Syria, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which reaffirms UNICEF's commitment to their well being. Certainly, we hope for the continuation and the increase of such programs, which would produce even more constructive results in the field of assistance for Palestinian children and women during this critical period of transition.
  • We do stress the importance of a unified and integrated approach by UNICEF in assisting the Palestinian children, including the need for one programme. We have noticed in this regard the undergoing process to integrate the recommended program cooperation in the four fields, as well as the intention of the Secretariat to produce one coherent document by the year 1997. This is compatible with the overall process of management reform now underway in UNICEF. Moreover, it will contribute to the specific and effective, as well as flexible, allocation of funding in response to the cases where assistance is most needed and in response to the changing situation, which would in therefore accommodate existing priorities during the stage in question.
  • In the relatively new developing circumstances, we believe that there is an increasing need for an official, legal framework of cooperation between UNICEF and the Palestine Liberation Organization. That would strengthen the work of UNICEF on the ground and would clearly define and organize its relationship with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). This would also help to clarify the role of UNICEF in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as vis-a-vis other United Nations agencies and the various concerned NGOs there, which will assist us in avoiding any overlap or unnecessary repetition of activities.
  • Finally, we believe that the language used in UNICEF documents in relation to assistance to the Palestinian children should be the same language used in the United Nations system as a whole, including the U.N. Secretariat. I am referring specifically to the need to describe the Palestinian territory as "the occupied territory" or "the occupied territories". No position is requested from the UNICEF Secretariat by itself or from the Board in this regard.

Mr. President,

The children of Palestine are among the main concerns of the Palestinian National Authority since they are the future of our country. In 1994, the Palestinian Authority began the process of developing a comprehensive national programme for the protection and sound development of the Palestinian children. Some of the objectives of this programme have been selected from the Convention on the Right of the Child and have been adapted to meet the specific concerns and needs of the Palestinian children. In general, the overall goals of this plan of action are geared towards the protection, development and survival of the Palestinian children.

The first step of this plan of action, setting the goals and strategies, has already been taken. This has been done through intense consultations between different ministers, NGOs and experts. A symposium on Palestinian children, which was coordinated by UNICEF and the PLO, with support from the Swedish Government, was held in Gaza on 5 and 6 April 1995. The aim of the symposium was to produce a set of constructive ideas on how to take the plan of action forward. The second step that must be taken in this regard is the preparation of a budget to ensure the implementation of the plan of action. It is estimated that this part will be completed by July of this year. In our view, this plan will be helpful for UNICEF to focus its programs, and the funding of these programs, in accordance with the outlined priorities and needs of the Palestinian children.

In this connection, Mr. President, I would like to take this opportunity to announce that, during the recent symposium in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority declared the 5th of April as the day of the Palestinian child. Also, I would like to express my delegation's gratitude to the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF for his personal contributions to the success of the symposium. We are also pleased that the first Palestinian UNICEF card produced by the GCO was presented to the President of the Palestinian National Authority.

Mr. President,

We are looking forward to continuing our dialogue and cooperation with UNICEF, through which we have been able to address most of the difficulties we have faced with regard to the programme in the past. It is our firm belief that any improvement in the programme in the future, great or small, will undoubtedly contribute to the advancement of our children, who have suffered so many hardships for so long a time. I thank you, Mr. President.