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Fourth Committee deems United Nations 'indispensable foundation of a peaceful world', in package of three information-related texts approved without vote

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GA/SPD/416

Sixty-third General Assembly
Fourth Committee
22nd Meeting (AM)

Drafts Also Passed on Atomic Radiation Effects, Revitalizing Assembly's Work; Debate on Israeli Practices in Occupied Territories Hears More than 12 Speakers

The General Assembly would reaffirm the United Nations as the indispensable foundation of a peaceful world and that its voice should be heard in a clear and effective manner, according to an amended draft resolution -- one of three draft texts relating to information approved as a group today without a vote by the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).

The Committee also approved a draft resolution on effects of atomic radiation, as well as a draft resolution on the revitalization for the work of the General Assembly, concerning the Committee's proposed programme of work and timetable for the sixty-fourth session.

By the terms of the wide-ranging resolution on "United Nations public information policies and activities", which is contained in the report of the Committee on Information (document A/63/21), the Assembly would emphasize that the Department of Public Information's activities should be organized to promote an informed understanding of the United Nations work among the world's peoples.

It would, by further terms, request the Department to pay particular attention to such major issues as poverty eradication, conflict prevention, sustainable development, human rights, HIV/AIDS, combating terrorism and the needs of the African continent, as well as to implementing the internationally agreed development goals and raising public awareness of climate change. It would also request the Department to continue to evaluate its products and activities, with the objective of improving their effectiveness.

The Committee would also have the Assembly welcome the Department's ongoing efforts to enhance multilingualism in all its activities, and emphasize the importance of equitable treatment of the six official United Nations languages.

According to other provisions, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the network of United Nations Information Centres in enhancing the public image of the United Nations and in disseminating messages on the Organization to local populations, especially in developing countries. In that, it would stress the importance of rationalizing the network of information centres on a case-by-case basis in consultation with all Member States concerned.

In a section on the Information Department's news services, the draft would have the Assembly stress, as the services' central objective, the timely delivery of accurate, objective and balanced news and information, emanating from the United Nations system in print, radio, television and the Internet, and reiterate its request to the Department to ensure that all breaking news stories and news alerts were accurate, impartial and free of bias.

Regarding traditional means of communication, the Assembly would welcome the initiative of United Nations Radio, which remained one of the most effective and far-reaching traditional media available to the Information Department, to enhance its live radio broadcasting service.

Taking concurrent action on the information-related texts, the Committee also approved an amendment tabled by Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China to add two paragraphs to that expansive resolution. By their terms, the Assembly would request the Department of Public Information to continue publishing the UN Chronicle magazine until a decision was made on producing an alternative, academically-oriented journal entitled UN Affairs. The Assembly would also cconsider it necessary for the Information Department to clearly identify practical improvements intended by that change, taking into account parity of languages, editorial policy, potential qualitative gains and other improvements.

By the terms of the draft resolution on information in the service of humanity, the Assembly would urge all countries and organizations of the United Nations system to cooperate and interact, with a view to reducing existing disparities in information flows at all levels by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries. The Assembly would also urge, among other things, those countries and other entities to ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks and condemn all attacks against them.

By the terms of a draft decision that was also approved without a vote, the Assembly would decide to increase the membership of the Committee on Information, from 110 to 112, and to appoint Antigua and Barbuda, and Zambia as members.

The draft resolution oneffects of atomic radiation (document A/C.4/63/L.91) would have the Assembly reaffirm the decision to maintain the present functions and independent role of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. It would also request the Secretary-General, in formulating his proposed programme budget for the biennium 2010-2011, to consider all options, including the possibility of internal reallocation, to provide the Scientific Committee with the resources to discharge the mandate given it by the General Assembly. In that context, it would emphasize that those resources were needed in any case and before Member States could agree to a change in Committee membership. It would have the Assembly direct the Scientific Committee to continue to reflect on how its current and potentially revised membership could best support its work.

Also today, the Committee continued its general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the Occupied Territories, hearing from more than a dozen speakers who stressed that, through its siege and blockade of the Occupied Territories and its ongoing construction of the separation wall, Israel continued to flout international law.

Egypt's representative called attention to the acceleration of settlement activities in the West Bank and the related expansion of bypass roads, aimed at creating new realities on the ground that could last beyond the illegal de facto annexation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The time had come, he said, for the international community to "deviate from its silence" and firmly compel Israel to stop its violations of human rights.

Underlining the long shadow cast over the whole region by the Palestinians' humanitarian tragedy, the representative of Jordan said the human rights of the Palestinian people could not be suspended. He similarly underscored the need for Israel to end all activities aimed at creating new realities on the ground, in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions.

Throughout the morning debate, many speakers said that achieving a comprehensive and just peace would, among other things, require the implementation of Security Council resolutions -- which Kuwait's representative said had been "in deep freeze" -- and a commitment to abide by them.

The representatives of India, Bangladesh, Iran, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Tunisia, Sudan, Bahrain, Malaysia and Indonesia also spoke during the general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the Occupied Territories.

Introducing the amendment to draft resolution B on information was the representative of Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

The representative of Canada introduced the draft resolution on effects of atomic radiation.

Commenting on the draft resolution on the effects of atomic radiation were the representatives of Belarus, Finland, Brazil and Pakistan.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 6 November to continue its general debate on Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

Background

As the Fourth Committee met this morning to take action on information-related draft texts, it had before it two draft resolutions, A and B, and a draft decision contained in the report on the thirtieth session of the Committee on Information (document A/63/21, chapter IV). For a summary of those resolutions, please see Press Release GA/SPD/408 of 22 October.

It also had before it an amendment to draft resolution B (document A/C.4/63/L.8) submitted by Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, by which two paragraphs would be inserted after paragraph 77 of that text.

The first paragraph would read: "77 bis. Considers it necessary for the Department of Public Information to clearly identify practical improvements intended by the change from the UN Chronicle to 'UN Affairs', taking into account parity of languages, editorial policy, potential qualitative gains and other improvements and urges the Department of Public Information that, while considering these aspects, emphasis be placed on cost-effective measures and the present budgetary constraints, and welcomes any other alternative in line with the mandate of the Department of Public Information for the consideration of Member States."

The second paragraph would read: "77 ter. Requests the Department of Public Information to continue the UN Chronicle until a decision is taken on 'UN Affairs' or any other alternative in line with the mandate of the Department of Public Information."

It also had before it the Secretary-General's report on questions relating to information (document A/63/258). For a summary of that report, please see Press Release GA/SPD/405 of 17 October.

The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on effects of atomic radiation (document A/C.4/63/L.91), by which the General Assembly would reaffirm the decision to maintain the present functions and independent role of the Scientific Committee. It would also note with appreciation the Scientific Committee's work and the release of its extensive report to the General Assembly, with scientific annexes, which provides the scientific and world community with the Committee's latest evaluations.

By further provisions, the Assembly would note with concern that the Committee cannot initiate work immediately on topics which make up half of the entire programme, due to the lack of resources within the professional secretariat. It would endorse the Committee's longer-term strategic plan for its work. It would also take note of the comprehensive report of the Secretary-General on the financial and administrative implications of increased membership of the Committee, staffing of its professional secretariat and methods to ensure sufficient, assured and predictable funding.

It would, further by that text, recognize the conclusion, outlined in paragraph 48 of the Secretary-General's report, on the need for strengthened human resources for the professional, scientific secretariat, in order to support the Scientific Committee in a more predictable and sustainable manner with a longer-term perspective, to effectively facilitate the use of the invaluable expertise offered to the Committee by its members and to enable the Committee to discharge the responsibilities and mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly. It would emphasize in this context that these resources are needed in any case and before Member States can agree to a change in Committee membership. The Secretary-General would be requested, in formulating his proposed programme budget for the biennium 2010-2011, to consider all options, including the possibility of internal reallocation, to provide the Scientific Committee with the resources outlined in paragraphs 48 and 50 of his report.

The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on the revitalization for the work of the General Assembly-proposed programme of work and timetable of the Fourth Committee for the Assembly's sixty-fourth session (document A/C.4/ 63/L.10).

As the Committee continued its consideration of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arab peoples in occupied lands, it had four documents before it: a note of the Secretary-General transmitting the thirty-ninth report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/63/273); the Secretary-General's report on the work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/63/483); the Secretary-General's report on Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories (document A/63/484); and the Secretary-General's report on the Occupied Syrian Golan (document A/63/482).

Action on Draft Texts

Turning to its information-related draft texts, the Committee took up draft resolutions A and B and the draft decision contained in the report on the thirtieth session of the Committee on Information (document A/63/21, chapter IV), as well as the amendment to draft resolution B (document A/C.4/63/L.8).

Introducing the amendment to draft resolution B, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing nations and China, explaining the amendment's proposal to add two paragraphs to resolution B, said those would then become paragraphs 78 and 79 of the text. By those paragraphs, the Assembly would consider it necessary for the Department of Public Information to clarify its intentions on the transformation of the UN Chronicle into UN Affairs, taking into account parity of languages. It would request the Department to continue publishing the UN Chronicle until a decision was taken on UN Affairs. The Group hoped the amendment would be adopted by consensus.

Committee Chairman JORGE ARGÜELLO of Argentina proposed that the Committee take action on these texts as a group.

Next, making a general statement, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, expressed his particular delight at the work and progress made in delivering a sound resolution. Member States had contributed their personal and collective leadership to produce a bold but agreeable draft resolution to lead to a more effective Public Information Department that was greater than the sum of its parts.

Noting that his Group was aware of the Information Department's intention to transform the UN Chronicle into the UN Affairs, he underlined the fact that this transformation had yet to find favourable agreement among all partners. The Group believed that any transformation of the UN Chronicle into the UN Affairs should meet in full the criteria of the principle of parity of languages. The United Nations had adopted six languages as its working languages, and, on that premise, the Group had built its argument that any deviation from that was unacceptable. He urged the Information Department not to disregard that principle.

He further requested the Information Department to outline a concrete editorial policy on UN Affairs to provide guidance to contributing authors and to safeguard the interests of the Organization and Members States. Also critical was the continued publication of the UN Chronicle in the absence of a decision on the future publication of UN Affairs. The Information Department, therefore, was requested to strengthen the content of UN Chronicle and to devise areas where it could be reformatted to better use of its resources.

Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved draft resolutions A and B, the amendment to draft resolution B and the draft decision, as a group.

The Committee then turned to a draft resolution on effects of atomic radiation (document A/C.4/63/L.9).

The representative of Canada, speaking on behalf of the draft's co-sponsors, introduced the text, which was similar to the various texts on that topic that had been approved in the past. The draft addressed the desire of several Member States to become members of the Scientific Committee and it provided a plan for those requests to be addressed in a helpful manner over the next year. That plan would stress the need to address the Scientific Committee's lack of resources, as well as the concerns that an expanded membership would hamper that Committee's efficiency. It also outlined the participation of those delegations who wished to join the Scientific Committee in the intervening time before the membership was expanded. He thanked all Member States who had participated in the negotiations on the text and requested that it be approved by consensus.

The representative of Belarus said that the Scientific Committee had a lack of appropriate resources. Considering the Secretary-General's report pointing to those insufficient resources (document A/63/478), he said it was important to maintain budgetary discipline. His delegation also had some doubts about the need to introduce criteria to evaluate the requests to join the Scientific Committee. It was a better idea to have a discussion on ways of overcoming weaknesses in proposing national experts to make up the membership of the Scientific Committee. Such proposals for membership should be done on the basis of a comprehensive and critical analysis. Expanding the Scientific Committee's membership had been addressed, and nowa road map existed, which would contribute to enhancing the Scientific Committee's effectiveness.

Finland's representative thanked the Secretary-General for his report on the financial and administrative implications of increased membership of the Scientific Committee, staffing of its professional secretariat and methods to ensure sufficient, assured and predictable funding (document A/63/478). The report showed that additional funding was clearly needed, and she urged the Secretary-General to provide those resources in the biennial budget 2010?2011. Finland was pleased to continue as an observer in the Scientific Committee's coming session and hoped to become a full member in the 2010 session.

The representative of Brazil said that resource issues facing the Scientific Committee should be resolved prior to any expansion of its membership. Brazil regretted that the Secretary-General's report had been released only after the Fourth Committee had considered the Scientific Committee's work. While recognizing the efforts of the negotiators in facilitating discussions, it was regrettable that no flexibility that would have allowed full consensus on the final draft had been shown. As a result, Brazil had refrained from co-sponsoring the draft text.

She stressed that that decision did not detract from Brazil's support for the Scientific Committee's work. Brazil would not oppose the approval of the draft, but her delegation wished to state for the record that the criteria for membership in the Scientific Committee should take into account an equitable geographic representation of participating scientists, particularly from developing countries.

Pakistan's representative, expressing his delegation's pleasure at co-sponsoring the draft text, said that operative paragraph 17 on criteria for membership was an internal process of the Committee, which should be equitably applied to present and future members, alike. That discussion would be held next year. He thanked Canada's transparent leadership of the draft text's negotiations.

The Committee then approved that text without a vote.

It next approved the draft resolution on the revitalization for the work of the General Assembly (document A/C.4/63/L.10) without a vote.

Report of Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices

E. M. SUDARSANA NATCHIAPPAN ( India) said that the serious deterioration of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Syrian Golan, as noted in the report, arose from the Israeli occupation. The peoples of those territories continued to suffer from military action, resulting in a loss of life and property. Cumulatively, restrictions on access, the expansion of settlements and the continued construction of the separation wall, isolation of territories, deprivation of energy and water, and continued violence against civilians bred frustration, rage and privation.

He said that the report and its predecessors clearly outlined the measurable failure to raise human rights standards of the people in the Occupied Territories. Measures should be taken by all parties -- but especially by Israel -- to stop the policy of confiscation of Palestinian land. Israel must also restore the freedom of movement of Palestinians, expand access, end closures ,especially in Gaza, and ensure respect for international law. It must cease mass arrests and arbitrary detentions, and curtailments of basic services.

At the same time, all Palestinian parties must comply fully with the requirements of the Road Map, as elaborated by the Quartet ( United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, European Union). He welcomed efforts by regional States to address the division in Palestinian polity and society. His delegation unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism, as well as provocation and incitement to violence, in the strongest terms, and equally criticized the harsh and disproportionate retaliatory measures by Israel. The goal was to achieve, in a reasonable timeframe, a sovereign, independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian State with well-defined and secure borders, living side by side and at peace with Israel.

SHARKE CHAMAN KHAN ( Bangladesh) said that Israel continued to impose sweeping restrictions to Palestinian movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Increasing numbers of blockades, continued construction of the separation wall in deviation from the armistice Line of 1949, and expansion of Israeli settlements were worsening the humanitarian situation. Additionally, there had been a marked increase in Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes, and 608 closure obstacles erected by Israel in the West Bank alone.

She said that Israel's actions had broken all known international humanitarian norms, and recent military operations, which mostly targeted civilians, had totally isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world and led to the re-occupation of some areas. Denial of access to emergency humanitarian assistance had resulted in a high death toll among civilians, including women and children. The situation in the Occupied Territories had deteriorated during the past year in the face of relentless violence, destruction, torture, killing, curfews, closures and systematic violations of human rights and legal norms by the Israeli forces.

The relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention stipulated the responsibilities of the occupying Power, she said, adding that Israel could not legally or morally absolve itself of its responsibility to guarantee the basic human rights of the people under its occupation. Her delegation was gravely concerned about Israel's practices in the Occupied Territories, and reiterated full and unwavering support for the legitimate and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to a sovereign and independent homeland. Construction of the wall should be stopped, and those segments already built should be dismantled. In closing, she called on Israel to exercise maximum restraint and halt all its "grisly policies and practices".

AMR EL SHERBINI ( Egypt) said that Israel's violation of international law was of growing concern, particularly the refusal since 1967 to allow the Special Committee to visit the Occupied Arab Territories to investigate the human rights situation there. The occupation itself was a violation of human rights, and those systematic violations increased the feelings of frustration among Palestinians and drove their disappointment in the protection provided by the international community. The applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention concerning the protection of civilians in times of war must be ensured through the cessation of policies of excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings of Palestinians, as well as Israel's destruction of Palestinian land, property, and infrastructure.

He called attention to the acceleration of settlement activities in the West Bank, and the related expansion of bypass roads, aimed at creating new realities on the ground that could last beyond the illegal de facto annexation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory before the beginning of the final status negotiations. Israel's "constant building" of the separation wall in order to sustain settlements also changed the political border of the Palestinian State, isolated the Palestinians and destroyed their unity and territorial integrity. Furthermore, Israel's persistent attempts to annex the Occupied Syrian Golan, change its character and judicial position and use its natural resources, was in violation of Security Council resolution 497 (1981).

Egypt renewed its rejection of all Israeli measures and practices in the Golan, and emphasized that a just and comprehensive peace would not be achieved in the Middle East without Israel's full withdrawal from all Occupied Arab Territories and the return of the Golan to the Arab Syrian sovereignty up to the borders of June 4, 1967, he said. The time had come for the international community to "deviate from its silence" and firmly compel Israel to stop its violations of human rights and comply with its international law commitments.

TALAL AL SHATTI ( Kuwait) said that the plight of the Palestinian people remained regrettably unresolved, their human rights grossly violated, their territories occupied, and relevant Security Council resolutions "in deep freeze". Despite intensive efforts by the international community to revive the peace process, the Israeli Government continued its inhumane practices and excessive use of military force against unarmed Palestinians. Additionally, Israel continued to build the separation wall, which damaged thousands of hectares of fertile land and water wells in the West Bank.

He said those practices were a clear and direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and Kuwait condemned all military attacks launched by Israeli forces against Palestinian territories. He demanded an immediate cessation of the attacks against the civilian population. He renewed his delegation's total support for the struggle of the Palestinian people to gain their legitimate political rights by establishing their own independent State on their own territory, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The international community should assume its responsibilities in the field of security to deter and halt the practices of the Israeli Government, through the implementation of its resolutions and the adoption of immediate measures to protect civilians and guarantee that such brutal practices were not repeated, he said, calling for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the Occupied Syrian Golan. He demanded that the Israeli Government cooperate with the Special Committee. He appealed to the international community to pressure the Israeli Government to stop its gross violations of the international humanitarian law inside the Occupied Territories, and implement United Nations resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), and 1515 (2003), as well as execute the principle of land for peace, and accept the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map, in order to reach a just and durable peace in the Middle East.

Aligning his delegation with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, AMIR HOSSEIN HOSSEINI (Iran) said that the highest priority should be accorded to the act of illegitimate and forceful occupation, which served as the first and foremost cause of decades of gross violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Among those grave violations were the killing of children, torture and mass arrests.

He said that the report noted, once again, that the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in the Occupied Syrian Golan had deteriorated, and that the Palestinians' right to self-determination remained elusive. The occupation was the most flagrant violation of essential and inalienable human rights and had always been condemned by the international community. In order for the Special Committee to effectively discharge its mandate, it must elaborate the ways and means that the peoples of the Palestinian Territories could exercise their right to self-determination.

Although Israel had prevented the Special Committee from visiting the Occupied Territories since 1968, it had nevertheless gathered findings that revealed the depth of the inhumane practices of the Israeli regime against the defenceless people living in Palestine and the other Occupied Territories, he said. The policy of isolation and collective punishment had led Gaza to the brink of a humanitarian crisis, and humanitarian personnel of the United Nations and other organizations had been prevented from carrying out their functions. All of Israel's actions to alter the legal, physical and demographic condition of the Occupied Syrian Golan were null an