Statement by Ms. Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, Ambassador, before the UNGA, Agenda Item 73 (b): “Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance: Assistance to the Palestinian people”, 10 December 2015

Mr. President,

I am honored to deliver the statement of the delegation of the State of Palestine on this important agenda item on the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance, in specific with regard to assistance to the Palestinian people.

Today, I renew our appreciation to Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon and his team for the report on “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/70/76-E/2015/57), assessing the humanitarian and developmental support received by the Palestinian people and Government and its effective impact over the past year.  It has been a year that again witnessed the deterioration of the situation on all fronts, humanitarian and socio-economic as well as political and security, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, compounding the hardships being endured by the Palestinian civilian population living under Israel’s occupation, giving rise to even greater need and making international humanitarian assistance all the more imperative.

We reaffirm our deep gratitude to all of the UN agencies and programs, including UNRWA, UNDP, UNICEF, OCHA, WFP, OHCHR, WHO, UN Women, UN-HABITAT, UNMAS and UNFPA, that continue to provide vital assistance to the Palestinian people.  This assistance is helping to mitigate the serious challenges being faced by our people in the context of nearly half-a-century of foreign occupation, a situation long deemed as unsustainable as it is unjust and requiring not only urgent humanitarian remedies, but equally urgent political and legal remedies that will ensure the justice and peace essential for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to truly coexist and thrive in mutual security, respect and dignity.

Mr. President,

Until the realization of such a just, lasting and peaceful solution, such assistance remains critical and, as documented by the UN, is making a tangible difference in the lives of Palestinian children, women and men.  Indeed, in spite of the formidable obstacles of the occupation and the acute plight of the Palestine refugees in a region in turmoil, international support to the Palestinian people is alleviating suffering, giving opportunity and fostering hope.  This includes, for example, the half-million children receiving education in UNRWA schools in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine; the women receiving maternal healthcare; the farmers and herders receiving agricultural support; the families receiving food aid; the youth receiving vocational training; the children receiving psychosocial support; the displaced given temporary shelter; the men and women able to find decent work through job creation programs; the families receiving support to rebuild homes destroyed in war or punitively demolished; the abject poor provided with a social safety net; the injured receiving life-saving medical aid and rehabilitation; the communities saved from the scourge of unexploded ordnance; and other forms of assistance, including, of course, for the development, reform and strengthening of the institutions of our State and national capacity-building initiatives as we prepare for a future free of occupation and a future of Palestinian independence and self-reliance.

Such assistance is providing relief and dignity to our people as they await the emergence of the political horizon that will ensure the realization of their inalienable rights and legitimate national aspirations. We recognize this assistance as an integral part of the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine until it is justly resolved in all aspects in accordance with international law.  Once again, we stress that a just and comprehensive solution is the ultimate aim and that humanitarian assistance cannot be a substitute for this objective. Immediate and serious political action is required to salvage the two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative; words and intention alone cannot make it a reality.

As we continue to appeal to the international community, including the Security Council, to mobilize the political will to redress this injustice, bring an end to the Israeli occupation, and peacefully resolve this conflict, we acknowledge the importance of this assistance in the interim and reaffirm our sincere appreciation to all States, inter-governmental organizations, civil society and partners from around the world who are so generously supporting these UN agencies and programs, in addition to the bilateral assistance being provided by many of them to the Palestinian people and Government.

We recognize all donors – large and small, longstanding and new, regional and international – and express deepest gratitude for their support.  We also fully recognize the importance of the consensus position of the General Assembly on the resolution on “Assistance to the Palestinian people”, presented and cosponsored annually by the European Union along with other cosponsors, and we reaffirm our appreciation in this regard.  This support is ensuring the continuity of assistance that has helped sustain the Palestinian people, including over 5.5 million Palestine refugees, through decades of conflict and crisis. It has helped to foster resilience and promote the well-being and human development of the Palestinian people, including the most vulnerable in our society, among them children, women and disabled persons, to the extent possible under the heavy constraints of the occupation and in exile in the region for nearly seven decades.

Mr. President,

The Secretary-General’s report presents a brief snapshot of the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people.  As Israel, the occupying Power, persists with systematic breaches of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention, the situation has further deteriorated and humanitarian needs have further risen, a toxic cycle corroborated by numerous other relevant UN reports.

The Israeli occupation in all manifestations constitutes an inherently illegal situation, affecting all spheres of Palestinian public and private life and undermining development, indeed causing the de-development of Palestinian society.  Whether the eight-year blockade of the Gaza Strip; the unprecedented devastation caused by the Israeli war on Gaza in 2014 and the wars preceding it; the daily military raids and escalating violence, particularly in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; the colonization of Occupied Palestine through the settlements and the wall; the destruction of Palestinian homes, property and infrastructure; the confiscation of Palestinian land; the exploitation of natural resources; the arrest and detention of thousands of Palestinian civilians; or the numerous other human rights violations and measures of collective punishment – the negative impact is vast, with short and long-term consequences for the population, for the contiguity and viability of our State, and for the prospects for peace and stability.

As the report indicates, unemployment remains extremely high, reaching nearly 43% in Gaza, where youth unemployment is a shocking 60%, as reported this year by the World Bank, which determined this to be the highest unemployment rate in the world and assessed that the economy of Gaza is on the “verge of collapse”.  Following the July/August 2014 Israeli military aggression, more than 100,000 Palestinian civilians are still displaced, living in temporary shelters or in the ruins of their homes, more than 100,000 of which were destroyed or damaged; lengthy electricity black-outs are endured every day; water and sanitation problems are extreme with over 90% of the water unfit for human consumption; and an entire population remains traumatized.  Notwithstanding the commitments made at the Cairo Conference, reconstruction in Gaza remains painfully slow, obstructed by the Israeli blockade and ongoing restrictions on the entry of construction materials, despite the “Temporary Reconstruction Mechanism” facilitated by UNSCO, and delayed by the unfulfilled pledges of some donors.  As a result, thousands of Palestinian families in Gaza face yet another cruel winter of dire humanitarian need and deepening despair.

Likewise, in the midst of escalating aggression and violence by the Israeli occupying forces and settlers against Palestinian civilians and Israel’s continued imposition of a regime of severe movement restrictions, the humanitarian situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remains critical. There unemployment hovers at above 17%; the Territory’s fragmentation by the settlements and wall is gravel impairing socio-economic life, with more livelihoods lost, access to education and social services denied and economic opportunity paralyzed; and the hundreds of Palestinian families forcibly displaced in the past year, particularly in so-called “Area C” and East Jerusalem, also face the onset of winter homeless and dispossessed, all ensuring rising frustration and hopelessness.

Mr. President,

Considering this reality, the necessity and urgency of assistance by and through the United Nations to the Palestinian people cannot be underestimated. As outlined in the report, this assistance – which is administered under the auspices of the Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process/UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, in collaboration with the numerous donor and UN forums, including the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – addresses nearly every aspect of civilian life and governance and is aligned with the priorities of the “Palestinian National Development Plan for 2014-2016: State-building to Sovereignty”.  We are grateful for all efforts in this regard, recognizing the partnerships fostered among the UN, Palestinian Government and broader donor community, while underscoring that the Palestinian people are not just passive recipients of aid, but rather active partners in this endeavor.

As the international community embarks on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, recognizing the special challenges faced by peoples living under foreign occupation and colonial domination, we insist that the Palestinian people cannot be left behind in this crucial global undertaking. We thus renew our appeal for continuation of the principled assistance extended to the Palestinian people by the United Nations, reaffirming that this support remains essential for as long as their inalienable rights, including to self-determination, are denied and such severe humanitarian and developmental challenges are imposed on them.  We also stress the need for unhindered and safe humanitarian access and respect for humanitarian principles and norms in all circumstances.

With the support of the international community and through the resilience of the Palestinian people, we strive to fulfill our national aspirations and rights and overcome all of these challenges in an independent, sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel and all of its neighbors within recognized borders in peace, security and prosperity. Despite the immense odds, it is a goal that we hope will soon be realized and we urge the international community to exert all efforts to that end.

I thank you, Mr. President.