Background Release

9 February 2001



To Be Held in Vienna on 20 and 21 February

NEW YORK, 8 February (UN Headquarters) -- Convened by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People will be held on 20 and 21 February 2001 at the United Nations Office at Vienna. The Seminar is being organized in accordance with General Assembly resolutions 55/52 and 55/53 of 1 December 2000.

The Committee remains gravely concerned about the tense and volatile situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, which has an extremely damaging effect on the Palestinian economy and has led to a dramatic deterioration in the living conditions of the Palestinians. The Committee is of the view that, at this crucial juncture in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the international community should maintain its efforts aimed at meeting emergency needs and promoting sustainable economic and social development of the Palestinian people. The Committee’s position in this regard is that varied assistance by the United Nations system and by the international donor community constitutes an important form of support for and a critical underpinning of the peace process.

The Seminar's purpose is to review the state of the Palestinian economy and to examine efforts under way by governments and intergovernmental and civil society organizations to alleviate the current humanitarian emergency. While focusing on immediate priorities, the Seminar will also look at the broader factors that affect the Palestinian economy and its long-term prospects. Moreover, it will discuss ways to mobilize greater support for the attainment of the legitimate economic rights of the Palestinian people, thus, contributing to the broader peace-building efforts in the region.

The opening session of the Seminar will take place on Tuesday, 20 February, at 10.00 a.m., in Conference Room I of the United Nations Office at Vienna. The session will be addressed by senior officials from the Palestinian Authority, the Austrian Government and the United Nations, as well as by representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies. Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, will represent United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Palestinian Authority will be represented by Maher Masri, Minister for Economy and Trade. The Secretary-General of the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Albert Rohan, will represent the Government of Austria, while Ambassador Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, will speak on behalf of the organizers.

Panel I, entitled "The crisis of 2000-2001: The impact of Israeli policies on the Palestinian economy", will begin just after the opening session, at 11:45 a.m. on Tuesday, 20 February. The keynote address will be made by Maher Masri, Minister for Economy and Trade of the Palestinian Authority. It will be followed by a broader discussion with invited experts and other participants.

Panel II on "The role of the United Nations system: Assessments and efforts to alleviate hardships" will start at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 February. Speakers include high-level officials of United Nations system organizations operating in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, such as Francis Okelo, Deputy United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Gaza; D.S. Wijewardane, General Counsel, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Gaza; Salam Fayyad, Senior Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the West Bank and Gaza; and Mohammed Omar Daoudi, Senior Adviser and Team Leader of the Governance and Public Sector Unit, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jerusalem.

On Wednesday morning, 21 February, at 10 a.m., Panel III will be devoted to "Assistance by Arab States and intergovernmental organizations to the Palestinian people, including Palestine refugees". Presentations will be made by Mohammad Shtayyeh, Managing Director of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, Palestinian Authority; Said Kamal, Under-Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs of the League of Arab States; Abdelaziz Aboughosh, Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, as well as a representative of the Islamic Development Bank.

Panel IV, starting at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 21 February, is entitled "Efforts by international donors and other sectors of the international community to alleviate the economic hardships of the Palestinian people". Speakers include Ghania Malhis, Director of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute; Gil Feiler, Managing Director of Info-Prod Research (Middle East); and representatives of donor countries, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

The closing session of the Seminar will take place on Wednesday, 21 February, at 5:30 p.m. A summary report of the proceedings of the Seminar will be presented to the forthcoming sessions of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. The report will also be issued as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat.

Invitations to attend the Seminar have been sent to all United Nations Member States and observers, United Nations agencies, bodies and programmes, as well as interested intergovernmental organizations. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) accredited with the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and a number of other NGOs interested in the subject, have been invited to attend the Seminar, as well.

The working languages of the Seminar will be English and French.

Registration will be held in the foyer of the Conference building on Monday, 19 February, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; on Tuesday, 20 February, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and on Wednesday, 21 February, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kindly take advantage of the registration hours on Monday, 19 February, in order to avoid delays on Tuesday morning, prior to the opening of the Seminar.

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