United Nations Seminar on Assistance to Palestinian People Concludes, as Speakers Explore Ways to Bolster Efforts to Provide Relief, Reignite Economic Development

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Permanent Observer for State of Palestine, Rights Committee Chair Deliver Closing Remarks

VIENNA, 1 April — The United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People this afternoon commenced its third plenary on strengthening cooperation by all parties to provide relief, promote reconstruction and reignite economic development, and concluded the session with statements by the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations and the Chairperson of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

During the meeting, participants discussed the role of the Government of the State of Palestine, ways of empowering it on the ground and the National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza. Some speakers drew attention to the pledges made at the Cairo Conference and challenges related to donor coordination. The role of the United Nations and its entities was also discussed, as was that of intergovernmental organizations, key donors, civil society, aid organizations and the private sector.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, President of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, said the situation in the Gaza Strip was catastrophic and that the figures spoke for themselves. With each of its consecutive wars, Israel targeted a certain aspect of Gaza’s infrastructure. The destruction was, as usual, followed by a donor conference to raise money to pay for the reconstruction, but the $5.4 billion pledged at the Cairo Conference was an inflated figure whereas the real amount pledged was no more than $2.7 billion.

Dana Erekat, Head of the Aid Management and Coordination Directorate, Ministry of Planning and Administration Development, State of Palestine, spoke about the differences between budget, development and humanitarian support. Similarly, she said that of the $5 billion announced at the Cairo Conference, only $2.5 billion was new funding earmarked specifically for Gaza.

Frode Mauring, United Nations Development Programme, Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People, spoke about reconstruction in Gaza for non-refugees and related infrastructure. Long-term development hinged on the ability of the Government of National Consensus to take control in Gaza, he said.

Nasser Qatami, Deputy Minister of Labour of the State of Palestine, said the best case scenario was that it would take 10 years to rebuild everything that had been destroyed, but at the current rate of progress, that reconstruction would take 100 years. Financial support and freedom of movement were essential to enable the reconstruction and the implementation of the National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza.

Rachid Bencherif, of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development, said strengthening resilience in Gaza should be a clear objective of the donor community, particularly to develop a diversified energy mix to produce electricity via both renewable energy sources and natural gas or diesel. Youth employment also was of paramount importance, as was the need to foster synergies with all parties. Capacity-building was a key enabler of development.

In the ensuing discussion, representatives of the League of Arab States, Ecuador and Egypt, as well as a number of other participants, including representatives of United Nations and civil society organizations took the floor to make comments and put questions to the speakers.

In concluding remarks, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations, said the tragedy in Gaza was not just humanitarian; it was political. The blockade was immoral, illegal and a crime against humanity: 1.8 million Palestinians were held in a huge prison and told to provide for themselves, and then every few years, everything that they had achieved was destroyed. Today, States unanimously supported the two-State solution. If the international community did not have the will to say yes to the independence of the State of Palestine the alternative would be one State in which the majority were Palestinians, not Jews. The Palestinians were not going away.

In concluding remarks Fodé Seck (Senegal), Committee Chairperson, said the United Nations Seminar had provided a very personal insight into the dire situation in Gaza following the war in mid-2014. Although the appalling situation endured, signs of progress had been described during the session and the temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism was said to be making a difference. The people of Gaza needed our support, now more than ever, he concluded.

This afternoon’s meeting concluded the United Nations Seminar, which had taken place from Tuesday, 31 March, to Wednesday, 1 April, at the United Nations Office at Vienna. Copies of statements and presentations delivered, meetings coverage, and press releases relating to the Seminar are available on the UNISPAL website, where the outcome document of the Seminar would also be published.