Highlights

OIC Ministerial Committee Meets with U.N. Security Council: In accordance with the decision of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit, held at Doha, Qatar on 12-13 November 2000, a Ministerial Committee of the OIC visited New York to press the U.N. for more action, especially on the issue of providing protection for Palestinian civilians. The Committee was headed by the Foreign Minister of Qatar, who was joined by the Foreign Ministers of Morocco, Iran, Malaysia and Senegal. Mr. Abedrabbo of Palestine also participated in the meetings of the Committee, as did a representative of the OIC Secretariat.

The OIC Committee held a meeting with the U.N. Secretary-General and had a private meeting with the Security Council, during which a strong position by the Committee was expressed regarding protection for Palestinian civilians and a frank discussion took place with the members of the Council. The Committee also met with the members of the OIC before leaving U.N. headquarters in New York. Following the visit of the Committee, the Palestine Mission to the U.N. took the initiative of distributing its draft resolution on a U.N. Monitoring Force in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

ECOSOC Endorses Resolution of Human Rights Commission: The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the U.N. endorsed resolution S-5/1 (19 October 2000) adopted by the 5th Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights, which was entitled Grave and massive violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel. This endorsement was necessary in light of the procedural and financial implications of the resolution.

ECOSOC endorsed the Commission’s resolution in a decision adopted on 22 November 2000. The endorsement was arrived at by a vote of 21 in favor, 19 against and 11 abstentions, which was as close as the vote of the Commission on the resolution itself. The U.S. Mission to the U.N. lobbied heavily against the adoption of the decision by ECOSOC and even applied undue, direct pressure on the Council’s members to vote against it. However, this attempt to defeat the decision failed with the close vote in favor, and ECOSOC thus endorsed the relevant decisions in resolution S-5/1 of the Commission on Human Rights. In accordance with that resolution, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as Israel, Egypt and Jordan, from 8-16 November 2000 and presented a very important report following her visit. (See related article.)

UNRWA Emergency Appeal and Pledging Conference: On 30 November and 1 December 2000, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation convened a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. The meeting, which brought together representatives of UNRWA, 24 donor and host countries and the PLO, was convened to consider the emergency appeal issued in early November by UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Mr. Peter Hansen, and the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation among Palestine refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The current crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has had a very detrimental impact on the socioeconomic conditions of the Palestine refugees there and has caused a serious strain on the Agency’s limited resources. Problems regarding ongoing Israeli impediments to the mobility of the Agency’s staff as a result of the closures and military checkpoints were also discussed, and the importance of the unhindered mobility of UNRWA for the effective delivery of services and emergency humanitarian assistance was emphasized. According to the Agency, because of the extreme social and economic impact caused by the Israeli closures, more than 200,000 refugee families have already come to UNRWA for immediate food and cash assistance. UNRWA estimated urgent needs to be approximately $39.3 million for the provision of food, cash assistance, emergency medical needs, temporary employment, shelter repair and reconstruction. Several donors at the meeting stated that they would provide funds for the emergency appeal, which would be announced at the annual pledging conference.

The UNRWA Pledging Conference was convened in New York on 4 December 2000. At a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA, which was opened by the General Assembly President, Mr. Harri Holkeri, donor countries pledged contributions to the 2001 programme of UNRWA. Statements were made by 23 countries, of which 18 announced their pledges. The meeting was also addressed by Commissioner-General Hansen, who urged an increase in contributions considering the current crisis and stressed the continuing humanitarian responsibility of the international community to assist the Palestine refugees. The pledged contributions totaled about $38.5 million. Some traditional donors were unable to announce contributions because of the timing of their national budget cycles. During the Conference, 6 countries also announced pledges in response to UNRWA’s emergency appeal, with pledges totaling approximately $22 million towards the amount needed. At the end of the Conference, the delegation of Palestine delivered a statement to thank donors for their generous contributions and to express appreciation to the Commissioner-General and entire staff of UNRWA for their dedicated and tireless work on behalf of the Palestine refugees.