United Nations agencies, Arab and international experts gathered in a consultative meeting aimed to prepare for the Arab-International Forum on Palestine Rehabilitation and Development to be hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) early next year, ended their discussions on July 30, at the UN House in Beirut.
Cosponsored by ESCWA, the League of Arab States (LAS) and the Palestinian Authority (PA), the two-day meeting was organized in cooperation with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), aiming at keeping the social and economic issues and needs in the occupied Palestinian territories on the agenda of the international community, in-spite of the lack of stability in the region. Its main task was to define the objectives of the Forum, to identify its specific themes for deliberations and to widen the preparatory process as much as possible.
Participants in the Meeting agreed that the Forum would aim to develop a Palestinian vision for reconstruction and development, intensify Arab efforts in support of reconstruction and development, integrate the efforts of regional and international organizations in reconstruction and development and call for the contribution of donors to achieve reconstruction and development.
At a press conference following the Meeting, ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy told reporters that due to the circumstances witnessed by the PA since the beginning of the "intifada" uprising there has been a lot of destruction as stated in the annual report prepared by ESCWA on the "Economic and Social Repercussions of the Israeli Occupation on the Living Conditions of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including Jerusalem and of the Arab Population in the Occupied Syrian Golan." Some 700,000 olive trees were eradicated and many prisoners and disabled have been reported", she pointed out.
Tallawy added that due to the fact that two thirds of the Palestinian people live under the poverty line, an ESCWA mission was delegated to Palestine to explore the needs of the people, and that the Israeli occupation was the major reason for the bad living conditions of Palestinians.
Asked about the outcomes of the Meeting, Tallawy said that the most important benefit was the remarkable presence of the invitees and the support of the PA as well as the LAS. "The presentation of the Palestinian plan in the economic and social sectors, the role of civil society organizations and the private sector, the link between the Palestinian economy and that of the Arab States and the role of regional-international organizations in the reconstruction process, will be the main agenda items of the upcoming Forum," she said.
On 11 May 2001, ESCWA Member States adopted a resolution calling for the "Rehabilitation of the Economic Sectors in Palestine". Since then, the situation has worsened with the systematic Israeli destruction of Palestinian institutions, infrastructure and homes reaching unprecedented proportions. The economy has been shattered while the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people has deepened, necessitating urgent action to address issues of rehabilitation of social and economic institutions in the occupied Palestinian territory.
ESCWA is the only UN institution where Palestine enjoys full membership. Therefore, the envisaged 2004 Arab-International Forum on Palestine Rehabilitation and Development would provide a necessary step towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian State. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )