Statement by Mr. Muin Shreim, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the Second Regular Session of the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 29 March 1996:

Madame President,

I would like to take this opportunity to express the appreciation and thanks of my delegation to you and to the members of the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In specific, I also wish to express our most sincere appreciation to the Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (PAPP) for all the work and efforts exerted in support of the Palestinian people. The program has grown steadily over the last few years and is becoming one of the main instruments of the international community in providing developmental assistance to the Palestinian people during this time of great need.

Further, we would like to convey our appreciation to Mr. Rafeeuddin Ahmed, Associate Administrator of the UNDP Executive Board, for his introduction of the Report of the Administrator of UNDP's Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People and for his visit to the Palestinian territory, where he inaugurated the UNDP's office in Gaza and witnessed first-hand the operational activities of the program as well as its various requirements and its uniqueness. We also wish to express our thanks to Mr. Timothy Rothermel, Director of PAPP, and Mr. Edward Wattez, Special Representative of the Administrator, for their serious and dedicated work on behalf of PAPP, as well as to all others working for the program.

Madame President,

It is ironic that, while we hail one of the success stories of international assistance to the Palestinian people, we must witness, at the same time, the destruction of all that has been achieved in the economic field in the occupied territory. This destruction is the result of the harsh and illogical Israeli policies and measures being carried out against the Palestinian people. We strongly believe that it is time for the international community to take the steps necessary to prevent their assistance to the Palestinian people from being wasted by such policies and to call upon Israel, the Occupying Power, to stop this strangulation of the Palestinian economy as a pretext for its security concerns. The situation in the occupied territory is worsening every day and it is clear that we are now at a very critical stage, which bears the risk of causing permanent damage to the peace process.

The Israeli policy of closure has been the cause of great damage to the Palestinian economy since it is applied in most cases to both persons and goods, even those destined for, or originating from, a third party. It has become a source of extreme hardship for a large segment of the population, especially the Palestinian workers who depend on Israeli jobs. Throughout the years of occupation, Israel used Palestinian workers as a source of cheap labor on a large scale to augment Israeli economic benefits. Preventing those workers from reaching their jobs now constitutes a denial of Israel's continuing responsibilities until a different Palestinian economy is built. In addition, the closure is the cause of suffering and hardship in various other fields such as that of medical service and treatment. The whole practice, while carried forth by the Israelis on the grounds of security concerns, violates the agreements between the two sides and it is destructive and cannot be seriously justified.

In addition, another aspect of this closure policy has been the closure of the borders of the West Bank and Gaza with Jordan and Egypt respectively, including the movement of persons and goods which are legally being imported by Palestinian merchants, severing any links between the Palestinian territory and the outside world and effectively isolating it from neighboring countries. Also, such measures terminate any existing trade potential and, coupled with the above-mentioned closure, have resulted in serious shortages in essential daily living materials, such as foodstuffs and medicines. This outrageous Israeli policy is totally contradictory to the agreements reached and has no relation whatsoever to the concept of making peace.

Madame President,

With regard to the report of the Administrator, we agree in general with the substance of the report, but we would like to make a few remarks in this regard.

1) We believe that the core resources should be increased substantially. In comparing the core resources that the PAPP received from the UNDP budget to the actual expenditure of the program, we notice that the UNDP put little money from its own budget into this successful program. We are happy to see that the program, to a very large degree, is self-financing, but we still believe that the UNDP could do more in this area, bearing in mind that the closure of the occupied territory will have a negative impact on the ability of the program to generate more income.

2) We acknowledge, with appreciation, that Japan, Norway and Sweden pledged additional money for employment and income-generation projects because of the closures and economic hardships being experienced by the Palestinian people. However, although we think that a lot of effort should be devoted to these projects, we want to stress that, in executing these projects, the UNDP should choose ones that have a productive output of a developmental type so that sustainable jobs can be created and not merely short-term service oriented projects. In this regard, we urge the international community to contribute additional resources to help the Palestinian Authority seriously address the problem of unemployment, which in the Gaza Strip alone reached over 75%.

3) We would also like to see more attention applied to the strengthening of the administrative, finance and management capacity of the Palestinian Authority.

Madame President,

We believe that PAPP should be strongly supported and, from our behalf, we pledge to continue to cooperate with the UNDP and provide the program with the necessary support to achieve its objectives. Lastly, we would like to take this prime opportunity to express our sincere thanks to the donor countries which have been supporting the work of the PAPP, including Japan, Italy, Norway, Sweden, United States, France and Finland. Thank you.