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January 2019

PALESTINE LOOKS FORWARD TO AN EXCEPTIONAL YEAR AS G77 CHAIR

Taking note of the Group of 77's decision to elect the State of Palestine as its chair for 2019, the UN General Assembly took steps to make way for Palestine's participation in the UN’s activities.


By Ramesh Jaura

            NEW YORK (IDN) – 2019 is slated to be an exceptional year for the State of Palestine, not least because it will preside over the Group of 77 (G77) – the largest bloc at the United Nations – comprising 134 developing countries representing some 80 percent of the world population.

            Though 71 years since the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 in 1947 an independent and sovereign State of Palestine state has yet to be realised. But according to Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, as chair of the Group of 77 and China, "we will be negotiating on behalf of 135 countries," including his own delegation in the count.

            The group was originally founded in 1964 with 77 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Thailand and India. Over the years it has grown to include countries such as South Africa, Qatar, Cuba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Singapore, and Angola.

Palestine – which is not a member state of the UN but has observer state status – was chosen in July 2018 to head the so-called Group of 77 developing countries and China. The UN General Assembly therefore decided to provide additional rights and privileges of participation to the State of Palestine.

            The Assembly set out those terms in a resolution (document A/73/L.5) adopted by a recorded vote of 146 in favour to 3 against (Australia, Israel, United States), with 15 abstentions.

            Taking note of the Group of 77's decision to elect the State of Palestine as its chair for 2019, the Assembly decided to adopt several modalities for the State of Palestine's participation in the Assembly's sessions, work and the international conferences convened under its auspices or other organs of the United Nations.

            These include the right to make statements, submit proposals and amendments and introduce them on behalf of the Group; to co‑sponsor proposals and amendments; and to raise procedural motions, among other rights.

            Aware that the State of Palestine is a full member of the League of Arab Statesthe Movement of Non‑Aligned Countries, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Group of Asia‑Pacific States and the Group of 77, the Assembly also requested the Economic and Social Council and other relevant organs, specialized agencies, organizations and entities within the UN system to apply the above‑mentioned modalities for the duration of the State of Palestine's Group of 77 chairmanship.

            "Today's vote represents multilateralism at its best," said the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, Mansour who spoke after the draft’s adoption. The State of Palestine will "spare no effort to prove worthy of this trust in its capacity to represent and defend the interests of the Group of 77", he said, adding that his delegation will engage constructively with all partners to "advance cooperation and mutually beneficial agreements for the common good of humanity”.

            Representatives of Israel and the United States took the floor ahead of the vote to voice their opposition to the draft resolution.

            The Israeli representatives said the Group of 77 is an important player in the development sphere of the United Nations and warned the Assembly that the resolution before it "only serves the interests of one delegation". She said constant attempts to change rules of procedure invariably weaken the Organization and added that it is ironic that the draft was considered under the agenda item on 'Strengthening of the United Nations system'.

            For his part, the representative of the United States said his country does not recognize that there is a Palestinian State and therefore strongly opposes this decision to make Palestine the Chair of the Group of 77.

            The United States has long opposed enhancements of Palestinian status at the UN and has consistently opposed Palestinian accession to treaties the United States is party to. Achieving real peace requires the courage to sit down at the table and make compromises. "This is the exact opposite," he stressed.

            At the outset, the representative of Egypt, in his capacity as Chair of the Group of 77, introduced the draft by saying that since the Group's inception it has "championed multilateralism to foster cooperative and harmonious relations towards the achievement of equality and prosperity for all".

            The Group strives to promote the economic interests of developing countries and its legacy is inextricable from that of the United Nations. Much of what the Organization has achieved in the development sphere is inspired and shaped by the Group of 77, he stressed.

            A General Assembly resolution is required to avail the State of Palestine the rights and capacity to perform the functions and the usual practices undertaken by the chair of the Group., the representatives of Egypt said.

            Speaking after the adoption of the resolution, the representatives of Germany, Netherlands and Britain said they voted in favour of the draft to enable the State of Palestine to carry out its duties as Chair of the Group of 77. At the same time, they stressed that their vote did not construe recognition of a Palestinian State.

            "The only way to give the Palestinian people the State they deserve and the Israelis the peace they are entitled to is through a negotiated two‑State solution," said the representative of Britain.

            Explaining her vote against the draft resolution, the representative of Australia said unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood will not result in peace. Australia remains firmly committed to a two‑State solution, she said, urging all parties to return to negotiations.

            During its annual debate November 29-30 on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, the UN General Assembly adopted six resolutions, including one calling for a final peace settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

            The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine welcomed the Assembly’s support as a sign of global consensus on how to resolve the Palestinian question. Israel’s delegate, however, said it is a "shame" that the United Nations passes biased resolutions at a time of so many global crises. Syria's representative said the Assembly's position is in line with the Security Council’s stance, which rejects Israel’s unilateral decision to annex Palestinian Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan.

            Marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on November 28, a two-State solution where Israel and Palestine live side-by-side as sovereign nations is still "the only option" for lasting peace, and "containing the situation is not sufficient".

            Guterres called on Palestinian and Israeli leaders "to restore faith in the promise of Resolution 181, of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, fulfilling the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples, with borders based on the 1967 lines and Jerusalem as the capital of both states – East Jerusalem being the capital of the Palestinian state."

            This, he said, was "the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people."

            President of the General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés highlighted the role of the United Nations in the peace process. She reminded all in attendance of the theme of the 73rd session of the General Assembly: "Making the United Nations Relevant to All."

            "I would like to emphasize this point, 'relevant to all,'" she said. "Our solidarity with the Palestinian people must not be rooted just in sympathy. As worthy as that is, the Palestinian people are entitled to more than that."

            Part of the UN pledge to leave no one behind, Espinosa said, means doing "everything in our power to end their current nightmare." She said it was "not enough" to advocate on behalf of the Palestinian people, "if we don’t exercise the political will needed to make the stand count."

            Calling on world leaders, the Assembly President declared the need for an urgent response to the longstanding and complex humanitarian crises arising from the decades of conflict and mistrust. "The state of the Palestinian people remains a scar on our collective conscience," she said, "and we all have a responsibility to press the urgency of the need for an expeditious resolution."

            Of the 193 member states of the United Nations, 137 (71%) have recognised the State of Palestine as of August 3, 2018. Besides, the State of Palestine is a party to several multilateral treaties, registered with five depositaries: the United Kingdom, UNESCO, United Nations, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

            The ratification of the UNESCO conventions took place in 2011/2012 and followed Palestine becoming a member of UNESCO, while the ratification of the other conventions were performed in 2014 while negotiations with Israel were in an impasse.

            In an objection of May 16, 2014, Israel informed the Secretary General of the United Nations that it did not consider that "Palestine" (parenthesis added by Israel) met the definition of statehood and that it's ratification had was "without effect upon Israel's treaty relations under the Convention". The United States and Canada lodged similar objections.

            However, Palestine participated in the negotiation of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and voted in favour of its adoption on July 7, 2017.

            Besides, the Palestinian Authority has been resolutely pursuing its strategy of seeking statehood through intergovernmental organizations that are a part of the UN system.

            The latest in a series of such bids was Palestine's membership of the Vienna-based United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) cautiously announced in a press release on May 25, 2018.

            It pointed out that on May 17 "the State of Palestine deposited its instruments of accession to the Constitution" of the UNIDO "with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is the depositary of the UNIDO Constitution, at the Treaty Section of the Legal Office of the UN Secretariat in New York."

            The UNIDO Constitution stipulates that "States members of the United Nations or of a specialized agency or of the International Atomic Energy Agency" may become members of the Organization by depositing instruments of accession.

            The press release concluded that the UN Treaty Section informed UNIDO on May 18 that "its Constitution entered into force for the State of Palestine" on May 17. "The State of Palestine has therefore automatically become a member of the Organization."

            The UNIDO Constitution stipulates that "States members of the United Nations or of a specialized agency or of the International Atomic Energy Agency" may become members of the Organization by depositing instruments of accession.

            The press release concluded that the UN Treaty Section informed UNIDO on May 18 that "its Constitution entered into force for the State of Palestine" on May 17. "The State of Palestine has therefore automatically become a member of the Organization."

            It has also applied to be part of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons  (OPCW).

            The Palestine Authority has also used its upgraded 'Non-Member Observer State' Status in the UN to become members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in April 2015. On May 22, 2018 it urged the International Criminal Court to immediately carry out a full investigation into what it described as the successive and continuing Israeli crimes against Palestinians since 2014.

            The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, handed over at the court's headquarters in The Hague a so-called referral to prosecutors that also calls for the court to investigate Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

            According to a Palestinian statement, the referral document reinforces the Palestinian view "that there is sufficient compelling evidence of the ongoing commission of grave crimes to warrant an immediate investigation."

            While the ICC Prosecutor said that "a referral . . . does not automatically lead to the opening of an investigation," Israel immediately slammed the Palestinian move as "legally invalid."  – Third World Network Features.

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The above article is reproduced from IDN-InDepthNews, 31 December 2018.

When reproducing this feature, please credit Third World Network Features and (if applicable) the cooperating magazine or agency involved in the article, and give the byline. Please send us cuttings. And if reproduced on the internet, please send the web link where the article appears to twn@twnetwork.org.

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