20 July 2006

Palestinian Rights Committee Briefed by Chair on Recent Events, Including Vienna International Meeting

NEW YORK, 19 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met today to hear an update on recent activities by the Committee's Chairman, with several members expressing frustration that the meeting, absent the usual briefing on the situation by the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, had not been able to consider the events on the ground in the region, and develop proposals for consideration by the General Assembly.

Mali's representative, commending the Committee's overall effectiveness over the years, said there seemed to be a "lag" between the work it was undertaking and the prevailing circumstances on the ground.  He wondered why there had been no "space" in today's work programme for the unfolding situation in the region.  After all, the Committee's raison d'être was to address Palestinian issues, and ensure that they remained on the United Nations agenda.  The Committee was duty-bound to inform the General Assembly and to submit proposals to it on the best way forward.  The Committee was intended not only to address structural issues pertaining to the Palestinian question, but also to take timely action in view of evolving events on the ground.  Several members echoed the sentiment.

The Committee Chairman, Paul Badji (Senegal), acknowledged that the Committee "might be somewhat behind" in its consideration of the situation on the ground.  The Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations always provided a briefing on the situation, but, at the last minute, he had been unable to attend the meeting.  The exclusion of the item from today's agenda, however, in no way meant that the Committee was not addressing the situation.  The Division for Palestinian Rights took stock of events through a daily briefing.

Mr. Badji reminded members that the Committee, as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, had a clear mandate to protect and achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, which must be done through a cessation of hostilities and a resumption of talks.  Other than that, what was the Committee able to do? he asked.  Even the Security Council had been unable to act on the current situation, including through imposing a ceasefire.  Perhaps the United Nations as a whole was lagging behind with respect to unfolding events.

Responding to what he called "criticisms" of the Committee, namely that it was not functioning as a subsidiary organ of the Assembly, but acting under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority, he acknowledged that the Committee's mandate was difficult to fulfil, given the nature of the Palestinian question.  That highly sensitive and challenging work might lead to frustration at times.  Resolution of the question was difficult to foresee, but, once resolved, the Committee would cease to exist; it was not meant to be permanent, but to advance the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinians.  As for members' suggestions that the Committee request an emergency session of the General Assembly, he did not think that such a request was in the Committee's mandate.

In other business today, members were apprised of some of the activities that had taken place since they last met on 22 May, including the two-day United Nations international meeting in support of Palestinian peace that had been held in Vienna, in June.  They also took note of the failure to adopt a draft resolution in the Security Council on 31 July, which would have called for, among other things, the immediate and unconditional release of all detained Palestinian ministers, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and other officials, as well as other illegally detained Palestinian civilians.  The text would have also had the Council call on Israel to halt its military operations and its disproportionate use of force, and to withdraw its forces to their original positions outside the Gaza Strip.  The text was not adopted, owing to the negative vote of one permanent Council member.

Also today, preparations were reviewed for the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People, to be held in Geneva from 7 to 8 September.  The Conference would provide civil society groups from all regions of the world with an opportunity to discuss different campaigns in support of the Palestinian people, develop action-oriented proposals for initiatives in the year to come, and coordinate their activities.

Members also considered applications of non-governmental organizations for accreditation to the Committee, as contained in working paper No. 4, accrediting four of them and granting observer status to two others.

Additional speakers in today's meeting were Malaysia, Guyana, Tunisia and Venezuela.

The Palestinian Rights Committee will meet again at a date to be announced.

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