The 25th Special Session of the General Assembly (Habitat II) Convenes

The 25th Special Session of the General Assembly for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), adopted the final "Declaration on cities and other human settlements in the new millennium" on Saturday, 9 June 2001, following all night negotiations, which were facilitated by the President of the General Assembly, on two paragraphs presented by the Group of 77.

The two proposed paragraphs dealt with the issue of illegal settlement activities and the transfer of civilian population into occupied territory, as well as the issue of the right of refugees to return voluntarily to their homes. The main opposition to the inclusion of these paragraphs came from the delegations of Israel and the United States. However, the outcome of the negotiations which allowed for the adoption of the final declaration by consensus, included three paragraphs dealing with the rights of people living under colonial and foreign occupation; the protection of civilians in conformity with international humanitarian law, in particular with the Fourth Geneva Convention, including Article 49, which prohibits the illegal transfer of civilian population of the occupying Power into occupied territory; and the right of the refugees to return voluntary to their homes. Moreover, a fourth paragraph was included as part of the compromise dealing with international terrorism. The three paragraphs of particular importance to Palestine are as follows:

  • " We resolve to take further effective measures to remove obstacles to the full implementation of the Habitat Agenda as well as obstacles to the realisation of the rights of the peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation, that are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and must be combated and eliminated."

  • "We also resolve to expand and strengthen the protection of civilians in conformity with international and humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in times of war, of 12 August 1949, including article 49 thereof."

  • "We resolve to strengthen international cooperation, including the burden sharing in, and the coordination of humanitarian assistance to, countries hosting refugees and to help all refugees and displaced persons to return voluntarily to their homes, in safety and dignity and to be smoothly reintegrated in their societies."