Economic and Social Council Adopts Texts on Harmful Impact of Israeli Occupation, Rise in Opioid Overdose Deaths, Other Subjects, as Management Segment Begins

The Economic and Social Council today adopted decisions and resolutions on issues ranging from a rise in opioid overdose deaths to the social and economic consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands, as it continued its 2019 Coordination and Management meetings today.

The Council also considered reports presented by chairs and heads of its subsidiary and expert bodies, continuing its work from a previous round of Coordination and Management meetings, held 6 and 7 June.

In a recorded vote of 45 in favour to 2 against (Canada, United States), with 4 abstentions (Brazil, Cameroon, Togo, Ukraine), the Council adopted a resolution titled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”.

By its terms, the Council called for the full opening of the border crossings of the Gaza Strip, in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) to ensure humanitarian access, as well as the sustained, regular flow of person of goods, the lifting of movement restrictions on Palestinians and other urgent steps to alleviate the serious humanitarian situation in the Territory.  The Council demanded that Israel comply with the Protocol on Economic Relations it signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1994 and called upon Israel to restore and replace civilian property, vital infrastructure, agricultural lands and government institutions that have been damaged or destroyed due to its military operations.

Further, the Council reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan to all their natural and economic resources, calling upon Israel to immediately cease its exploitation of natural resources and its dumping of waste materials in the occupied areas.  resources.

Tarik Alami, Director of the Emerging and Conflict-Related Issues Section of the United Nations Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), who introduced the related ESCWA report, said that overall, the protracted Israeli occupation has had a detrimental effect on the living conditions of Palestinians and Syrians, making it nearly impossible for them to achieve the targets enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals.  Moreover, 2.5 million Palestinians – about half the population – require humanitarian assistance.

Pointing out that Gaza’s economy contracted by 6.5 per cent in 2018 – after shrinking 12.5 per cent in 2017 – he declared:  “Real de-development is unfolding there.”  Meanwhile, unemployment in the Gaza Strip is among the highest in the world.  In the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel’s actions intended to annex that land are illegal under international law and, therefore, remain null and void.  Citing more than 1,500 demolitions orders in the Syrian Golan, he said young Syrians are forced to seek employment opportunities elsewhere.

The representative of Israel, speaking before the action, said the ESCWA report is critically flawed and intended to hide real, on-the-ground facts.  Underlining its reliance on hearsay and lack of context, she said it paints the so-called “Great March of Return” in May 2018 as a sort of Palestinian family picnic at the border fence with Israel.  In reality, it was a demonstration intended to create a human shield behind which violent attacks were launched against her country.

Noting that a Hamas spokesperson admitted that the vast number of casualties on that occasion were in fact Hamas militants, and not civilians, she added that the report omits a single reference to the more than 600 rockets launched into Israel from Gaza over the reporting period.  “Welcome to the alterative universe of the United Nations, where this is standard procedure,” she said.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking after the vote, said the dire economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people are man-made and due to the occupation.  Today’s vote is confirmation of countries’ commitment to international law, human rights, sustainable development and just and lasting peace.

“Our nation has an unbelievable potential that, if unleashed by freedom and independence, would change the lives of millions of Palestinians, and the ensuing peace would change the entire region for the better,” he said.  “There is no better life without freedom, without sovereignty, without control over our land and access to our resources, and on that day, we may no longer need international assistance.  But, until then, your support and assistance are indispensable.”

The Council also adopted the related draft resolution “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women”, by a recorded vote of 40 in favour to 2 against (Canada, United States), with 9 abstentions (Brazil, Cameroon, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico, Romania, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom).  By its terms, the Council called for urgent measures to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and urged the international community to continue giving special attention to promote and protect the rights of Palestinian women and girls, including by, among other things, intensifying steps to improve their difficult living conditions.

Also today, the Council adopted decisions and resolutions related to:  science and technology; population and development; public administration; crime prevention and criminal justice; narcotic drugs; geospatial information; the United Nations Forum on Forests; Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples; non-governmental organizations; regional cooperation; and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In addition, it considered reports on human settlements and on coordination bodies and took note of several sections of the programme budget for 2020.

The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 24 July, to continue its work.

Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

ALENA KUPCHYNA (Belarus), Chair of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its twenty-eighth session, briefing the Council via videolink from Vienna, introduced the reports of the Commission (documents E/2018/30/Add.1 and E/2019/30).  She said cross-border transactions and information flows are prevalent in today’s world, as are cross-border crimes.  Besides its long-standing work in such areas as the treatment of offenders and prevention of violent crimes, especially against women, the Commission is increasingly addressing crimes of a cross-border nature.  Noting that a record 1,500 participants from 120 Member States and organizations attended the Commission’s recent session, she said they tackled such emerging issues as human trafficking, terrorism, wildlife crime and others.  The session’s overarching theme was the responsibility of effective, fair, humane and accountable criminal justice systems in preventing and countering crime motivated by intolerance or discrimination of any kind.

Outlining the various decisions and resolutions approved at that session, she said they focused largely on the nexus between crime and sustainable development.  Among other things, they underlined integrated sport and education into youth crime prevention strategies; crime prevention; illicit mining; the smuggling of commercial goods; and the illicit trafficking of wildlife; and the impact of cybercrime.  They also called for stronger education and awareness-raising around those issues, she said, spotlighting the mutually reinforcing nature of sustainable development – especially Goal 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies – and crime prevention efforts.  In that regard, she added that the Commission provided significant inputs to the Council’s annual High-Level Political Forum, including on the implementation of Goal 16, and that the body is leading preparatory activities for the next United Nations Crime Congress to be held in Kyoto, Japan, in 2020.

As the Council opened its discussion on that item, the representative of Turkey, noting that her delegation tabled the draft resolution, said the main objective is to promote one of the basic principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights related to the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.  The draft resolution also aims at promoting further awareness on the significance of transparency in the judicial process, she said, calling on Member States to take into consideration good practices and existing documents, including the Istanbul Declaration on Transparency in the Judicial Process, when formulating their programmes.  She also requested that relevant United Nations bodies, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), further support ongoing and new initiatives.

The representative of Belarus underlined the timely need for an overarching policy on crime prevention, as well as for stronger collaboration between the United Nations Geneva-, New York- and Vienna-based bodies.  Among other things, she said, Belarus’ resolution on strengthening the participation of all members of society on crime prevention allows the private sector to deepen its engagement in efforts to prevent criminal acts.

The representative of Japan said the Kyoto Congress will discuss the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 16, which is the bedrock of all the objectives.  The draft resolution will request the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to hold intersessional meetings to prepare a structure, short draft declaration with a robust political message addressing the main topics to be discussed at the Kyoto Congress and encourages Member States to finalize their negotiation of the outcome document in a timely manner.  Ahead of this, Japan will host a governmental expert meeting in September to review outcomes of the five regional preparatory meetings and discuss ideas on how to achieve a concise draft declaration.

The Council then took action on six drafts contained in chapter 1, section A of the report, approving each without a vote.  Those were titled, “Integrating sport into youth crime prevention and criminal justice strategies”; “Follow-up to the Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and preparations for the Fourteenth Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice”; “Education for Justice and the rule of law in the context of sustainable development”; “Promoting technical assistance and capacity-building to strengthen national measures and international cooperation to combat cybercrime, including information sharing”; “Countering child sexual exploitation and sexual abuse online”; and “Technical assistance provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime related to counter-terrorism”.

Turning to chapter 1, section B, the Council approved two draft resolutions contained therein, also without votes.  Those were titled, “Enhancing transparency in the judicial process” and “Combating transnational organized crime and its links to illicit trafficking in precious metals and illegal mining, including by enhancing the security of supply chains of previous metals”.  Acting again without a vote, it approved a draft resolution contained in chapter 1, section C – titled, “Appointment of two members and re-appointment of two members of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute” – and a draft decision, titled “Report of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice on its twenty-eighth session and provisional agenda for its twenty-ninth session”.

Narcotic Drugs

DUBRAVKA PLEJIC MARKOVIC (Croatia), Vice-Chair of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs at its sixty-second session, presented reports of its sixty-first session (document E/2018/28/Add.1), held 5 to 7 December 2018, and sixty-second session (document E/2019/28), held 14 to 15 March.  Providing a summary of the Commission’s sixty-second session, she said 140 Member States and more than 90 non-governmental organizations participated.  Among the session’s outcomes, the Commission adopted 14 decisions, including on specific substances covered by international drug control conventions.  It decided to postpone a decision on World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on cannabis and related substances, with a view to providing States with more time to consider this information and with intersessional meetings scheduled for Member States to interact with WHO on this issue.

The Commission also adopted eight resolutions, she said.  They addressed, among other things, strengthening international cooperation and frameworks for the control of precursors used in the illicit manufacturing of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and advancing progress on addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by the non-medical use of synthetic drugs, particularly synthetic opioids.  It also adopted the 2019 Ministerial Declaration, reaffirming the role played by UNODC, WHO and other key stakeholders, as well as charting the way forward to address the world drug problem.  At its intersessional meeting in June, the Commission decided to hold interactive meetings to address the stocktaking parts of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem, adopted in 2009.  The first round of thematic sessions is scheduled to be held in August to discussion the challenges ahead, she said, adding that the Commission’s work contributes to the 2030 Agenda, as it regularly addresses progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

CORNELIS P. DE JONCHEERE, President of the International Narcotics Control Board, presented its 2018 reports, containing an overview of findings and recommendations directed at Governments and international organizations.  As the world faces an increasingly complex world drug problem, the 2018 reports provide an analysis of the current situation and recommendations for improving drug control treaties, contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives.  Highlighting some of the challenges – from an increased prevalence of conditions requiring pain management in developing countries to high levels of consumption of opioids stemming from aggressive marketing and over-prescription and leading to rising numbers of overdose deaths – he said the Control Board is closely monitoring the global disparity in the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes.

A special report informed by responses from 130 Government authorities offers a way forward for Governments to take concrete actions, he said.  The thematic chapter of the 2018 Annual Report examined risks and benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical, scientific and “recreational” use.  Noting that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, he called for urgent assistance from United Nations bodies to help with drug control challenges, adding that efforts to stabilize the country hinge on addressing the illicit opiate economy.  Turning to other concerns, he said the Control Board condemned extrajudicial responses to suspected drug-related offences, emphasizing the importance of prevention and treatment initiatives.  Significant challenges also remain in addressing the availability of “designer” precursors and the spread of new psychoactive substances.

The Economic and Social Council then adopted the following draft decisions:  “Report of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs on its reconvened sixty-first session”; “Report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on its sixty-second session and provisional agenda for its sixty-third session”; and “Report of the International Narcotics Control Board”.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates, referring to the draft resolution “Report of the International Narcotics Control Board”, explained his delegation’s position, noting that its reservations were not considered.  As such, he called on the Control Board to consult with all countries during its sessions.

Science and Technology for Development

A MIN TJOA (Austria), Chair-designate of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development’s twenty-second session, introduced the report of that meeting (document E/2019/31).  Participants considered priority themes including the impact of rapid technological change on sustainable development, as well as other topics such as the contributions of citizen science, inclusiveness and equality in science and technology and a gender lens in the field.  Participants recognized that rapid technological change can provide new solutions to social, economic and environmental challenges, including establishing more sustainable methods of production, driving economic diversification and tackling environmental issues.  Noting that technological foresight can help policymakers and stakeholders in their implementation of the 2030 Agenda by allowing them to strategically identify and address obstacles, he also underlined its potential in empowering women and girls, mobilizing resources, improving infrastructure development and boosting employment and economic growth.

Noting that over half of the world’s population lacks access to the Internet, he said in many developing countries information and communications technology (ICT) and their applications remain unavailable to the majority of people – especially those living in rural areas.  Participants at the session addressed the need to bridge this growing digital divide, with a special emphasis on assisting least developed countries and those in special situations.  They also underlined the need to consider the quality of access and to prioritize ICT access through a range of multi-stakeholder approaches.  Meanwhile, they focused on such innovative approaches to trade and development as e-commerce.  Among the resolutions approved by the Commission were texts on harnessing rapid technological change for inclusive sustainable development and the potential of space technology, he said.

CHANTAL LINE CARPENTIER, Chief of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), then introduced the report of the Secretary-General on progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels (document E/2019/6), as well as related documents.  For the first time in 2018, she said, the number of people using the Internet exceeded half the world’s population.  Echoing concerns about a widening digital divide, however, she said that statistic reflects less than 20 per cent of the population of the planet’s least developed countries and addressing that gap requires stronger efforts to improve economic empowerment and gender equality.  Meanwhile, she said, a wide variety of occupations are becoming digitalized.

While online employment options provide new opportunities for people around the world, she said, they can also result in lower wages and less bargaining power for workers.  Automation also threatens some jobs, especially those in women-dominated sectors.  Recalling that UNCTAD joined the African Union in organizing the first-ever Africa e-commerce week in December 2018, she said frontier technologies offer both new opportunities and challenges.  The use of artificial and machine learning, as well as accelerations in genetics, and nanotechnology, may have unintended consequences.  Outlining efforts to develop a road map forward on such issues, she recalled that the Secretary-General established a high-level panel on digital cooperation, which drafted a report titled “The Age of Digital Independence”.  Among other things, the panel called for a strengthened global architecture for digital cooperation and proposed options for such a governance structure, which are currently under review by the Office of the Secretary-General.

The Council then took action on three drafts contained in the report.  It approved, without a vote, two draft resolutions contained in chapter 1, section A, respectively titled, “Assessment of the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society” and “Science, technology and innovation for development”.  Also without a vote, it approved a draft decision contained in section B, titled, “Report of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development on its twenty-second session and provisional agenda and documentation for the twenty-third session of the Commission”.

Human Settlements

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS, Director of the New York Liaison Office of the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat), introduced the report of the United Nations Habitat Assembly of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme first session, held in Nairobi from 27 to 31 May (document A/74/8), on behalf of UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Sharif.  Recalling that the General Assembly’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial) mandated a new governance structure for UN-Habitat and called for the establishment of the United Nations Habitat Assembly, she outlined the outcomes of the Assembly’s first session.  Its five outcomes included:  The UN-Habitat Strategic Plan (2020-2023); a set of United Nations System-Wide Guidelines on Safer Cities and Human Settlements; enhanced capacity-building for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda for Sustainable Development; calls for the achievement of gender equality through the work of UN-Habitat; and calls for enhancing urban-rural linkages for sustainable urbanization and human settlements.  The three decisions emerging from the UN-Habitat Assembly’s first session included:  Rules of procedure of the Assembly; rules of procedure of the Assembly’s Executive Board; and transitional arrangements towards UN-Habitat’s new structure.  Meanwhile, the session also adopted a Ministerial Declaration focused on the accelerated implementation of the New Urban Agenda, she said.

Population and Development

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica) presented the report on the fifty-second session of the Commission on Population and Development (document E/2019/25), providing highlights of meetings held from 1 to 5 April under the special theme “Review and appraisal of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and its contribution to the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.  The session saw the consensus adoption of a commemorative political declaration marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Cairo Conference, held in 1994.  During the general debate, delegations reaffirmed their support for the Programme of Action, underscored the importance of integrating population into development planning, stressed that gender equality and women’s empowerment are central to achieving sustainable development and highlighted the need for universal access to quality education and health care, including for sexual and reproductive health.  Delegations also noted the importance of properly managing international migration.

The session also featured a keynote address by United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Ashley Judd and a high-level panel of experts, he said.  In its report, the Commission on Population and Development recommends to the Economic and Social Council the adoption of two draft decisions:  to take note of its report on the fifty-second session and to approve its provisional agenda for its fifty-third session.  The Commission adopted two decisions:  on the special theme for its fifty-fourth session in 2021 – “Population and sustainable development, in particular sustained and inclusive growth” – and to take note of the Secretary-General’s report “Programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2018”.  The consensus reached at the fifty-second session demonstrated that Member States can come to agreement around the Programme of Action’s enduring principles.

The Council them turned to a draft decision contained in chapter 1, section A of the report of the Commission on Population and Development on its fifty-second session, contained in document E/2019/25.

The representative of the United States said her delegation’s position remains the same, referring those interested to consider its statement made during the General Assembly’s commemorative meeting to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Cairo Conference.

The Economic and Social Council then adopted a draft decision contained in chapter 1, section A of the report of the Commission on Population and Development on its fifty-second session, contained in document E/2019/25.

Public Administration and Development

GERALDINE FRASER-MOLEKETI (South Africa), Chair of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration’s eighteenth session, introduced the report of that session (document E/2019/44) whose theme was “Building strong institutions for equal and inclusive societies”.  The 2030 Agenda and support to its implementation process, as well as the process of reviewing progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, were at the centre of its work.  A key message of the session was that building equal and inclusive societies and leaving no one behind requires addressing the deep inequalities that exist in many countries.  That, in turn, may require institutions at all levels to play a greater role in promoting and enforcing non-discriminatory laws and policies, for example through more effective social protection programmes, more effective taxation systems and administration, and temporary special measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination.

In taking stock of progress on Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies, she said, the Committee emphasized the critical role of institutions in achieving all the Goals and identified prospects for action at the national and subnational levels.  In addition, the Committee underlined that peaceful and inclusive societies and effective and accountable institutions of justice are associated with the legal empowerment of the poor and spotlighted the importance of non-linear and process-oriented approaches to security sector reform and peacebuilding.  “These approaches can be more effective in solving the root causes of conflict, ensuing inclusive transitional justice and upholding the rule of law in the long-run,” she said.  Meanwhile, strengthening fiscal management at the national and subnational levels is crucial to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and entails, among other things, reducing illicit financial flows and corruption, ensuring fiscal decentralization and putting in place participatory and performance-based budgeting.

The Council then approved, without a vote, one draft resolution and one draft decision contained in the report.  Those were titled, respectively, “Report of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration on its eighteenth session” and “Dates and provisional agenda of the nineteenth session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration”.

Geospatial Information

The Council adopted six draft decisions contained in the report of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names on its 2019 session (document E/2019/75).

United Nations Forum on Forests

As the Council turned its attention to the next topic, the report of the recent session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, a discussion emerged about a proposal made earlier in 2019 to establish a satellite office of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network in Beijing, China.

The representative of the United States, noting that his country has always been a supporter of the Forum on Forests, raised concerns about the proposed Beijing branch.  Underlining the need to maintain a balanced, transparent and effective approach to all of the Forum’s work, he said such an office should remain under the leadership of the Forum on Forests secretariat.  Stressing that leadership at the proposed branch must not outrank the authority of the secretariat, he added that functions for such an office must be carefully chosen to ensure they are practical and cost-effective.  Member States should be able to review and comment on the Memorandum of Understanding drafted to govern such an office, he said, adding that the funding for the proposed branch must be extrabudgetary in nature.  Turning to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs reform process, he called for efficiency and effectiveness.  He also reiterated the importance of filling the vacant position of Forum on Forests director and of transparency and information-sharing as the process moves forward.

The representative of Canada, also speaking on behalf of Australia, underscored the importance of resolution 13/1 relating to the Forum’s mandate.  Echoing the importance of filling the vacant position of Forum director, he expressed concern about attempts to downgrade that posts’ “D-2” level status.  Member States have recognized the need for the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network to carry out its work in a balanced and transparent manner, he said, stressing that such considerations must be paramount in the establishment of any proposed satellite office.  The establishment and management of any such office must be funded by voluntary contributions, and Member States should be able to comment on its governance structure.  In addition, he said, any satellite office must be fully open to all Member States, civil society and other partners.

The representative of Switzerland, joining with the statements delivered by the representatives of the United States and Canada, said the present budget does not sufficiently take into account previous resolutions on the United Nations Forum on Forests.  Moreover, it seems to change its terms of reference by putting indicators only on six projects in six countries, therefore transforming the Forum’s role and mission into that of a project agency.  Stressing that the Forum was in fact established as an intergovernmental subsidiary body charged with serving as a permanent policy and political forum – with the main objective of promoting the management, conservation and sustainable development of all kinds of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to those ends – he added that the Council in 2015 decided to strengthen the international arrangements on forests and extend it to 2030.  “These two points are not adequately reflected in the present budget document, which we deeply regret,” he said.

The representative of Japan, echoing those concerns, urged the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to consider them promptly.

The representative of the Russian Federation raised several questions about planned changes for the Forum’s secretariat, including lowering the post level of its director from “D-2” to “D-1”.  He also sought clarity on how merging it with another department would affect its work.  Efforts should also be made to maintain the secretariat’s independence.

The representative of Romania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Department of Economic and Social Affairs reform efforts should not affect the Forum secretariat’s ability to function.  He requested more details on these and other developments, highlighting the importance of transparency, particularly on plans to open an office in China.

A representative of the United Nations Forum on Forests secretariat, responding to those queries, said nothing has been finalized about the new office in China, including staffing tables.  Ongoing consultations are considering Member States’ concerns, he said, noting that the budget would come from extrabudgetary funding coming from the Government of China.  In terms of financial and administrative matters, he said the office will be managed under United Nations Rules and Regulations, including the recruitment of international staff.  The role of the Secretariat is aimed at strengthening the capacity of Member States to access funds at the international level.

The representative of China said nothing about the proposed office has yet been finalized.  If such an office is indeed to be hosted in China, she said the principles of high efficiency and transparency would be fully respected.

Acting without a vote, the Council then adopted a draft decision – titled “Report of the fourteenth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests” – contained in a report by the same name (document E/2019/42).

Indigenous Issues

ANNE NUORGAM (Finland), Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at its eighteenth session, presented its report (document E/2019/43), highlighting recommendations made during its session, held from 22 April to 3 May on the theme “Traditional Knowledge”.  Among its recommendations, she said the Forum declared that efforts must focus on protecting indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge and reiterated a concern that many languages are in danger of disappearing.  The Forum was also concerned that indigenous peoples are not participating in all stages of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  It was equally concerned about the lack of implementation of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  In addition, the Forum called upon Member States to take a zero-tolerance approach to violence targeting indigenous human rights defenders and to prosecute those responsible to the full extent of the law.

The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of a number of countries who are members of the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, recognized the Forum for making valuable contributions to the international community.  Moving forward, he considered that the nineteenth session would continue to work towards improving the dialogue between the Forum, experts and Member States.

The Council then adopted draft decisions on:  “Peace, justice and strong institutions:  the role of indigenous peoples in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16”; “Venue and dates for the nineteenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues”; and “Report of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on its eighteenth session and provision agenda for its nineteenth session”.

Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples

ANA SILVIA RODRIGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), Vice-Chair of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, presented, on behalf of its Chair, the Secretary-General’s related report (document A/74/80), which lists specialized agencies charged with implementing relevant resolutions.

She also drew attention to the “Report of the President of the Council on information submitted by the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system on their activities with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations” (document E/2019/61), which includes a list of eight entities providing support to Non-Self-Governing Territories alongside information regarding recovery assistance provided to those affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.  Echoing a request made by the General Assembly, she called on these entities to intensify their engagement with the Special Committee’s work, strengthen existing measures of support and formulate appropriate programmes of assistance within the framework of their mandates.

The representative of Cuba then introduced the draft resolution “Support to Non-Self-Governing Territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations” (document E/2019/L.27), emphasizing the vulnerability of small island developing States.  She said “L.27” calls on specialized agencies and international and regional organizations to strengthen existing support measures to colonial territories on a case-by-case basis and on the administering Powers to continue their cooperation.

The Council then adopted “L.27” by a recorded vote of 26 in favour to none against, with 22 abstentions.

The representative of the United States said “L.27” is identical to the similar drafts, including the resolution the Council adopted in 2018.  While United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies can provide support to territories that are not members of the Organization, the sole authority of the conduct of foreign relations rests with the country involved.  His delegation does not agree with some of the provisions of the draft resolution and thus abstained.

Economic and Social Repercussions of the Israeli Occupation

The Council then turned its attention to the next item, titled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”.

TARIK ALAMI, Director of the Emerging and Conflict Related Issues Division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced a note by the Secretary-General on that topic (document A/74/88-E/2019/72), which covers the year-long period ending March 2019.  Recalling that Israel took several administrative actions during that period aimed at expanding its jurisdiction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said its discriminatory planning and zoning policies in Area C leave many Palestinians no choice but to build settlements without proper permits, making them vulnerable to seizure and demolition.  Noting that hundreds of Palestinians were killed or injured during the reporting period, he said Israel’s decision to terminate the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron also raises questions about the protection of Palestinian civilians.  Also citing the continued use of administrative detention and ill-treatment of detainees – including women and children – he said those actions have regularly been condemned by international organizations.

Such practices have also led Palestinians to leave Area C, he continued, and may amount to a practice of forcible transfer.  Seizures and demolitions increased in 2018, and Israel’s settlement activities saw a significant increase in construction starts.  Meanwhile, mobility restrictions against Palestinian civilians continued, the most severe of which is the ongoing blockade against the Gaza Strip where a complex system of physical, economic and social barriers obstructs humanitarian aid and degrades living conditions.  Noting that a fifth of Palestinians lack access to clean water, he said Israeli policies are also leading to the emission of hazardous pollution, the uprooting of trees and the denial of access to farmers to care for their lands.  Some 2.5 million Palestinians – about half the population – require humanitarian assistance, he said, noting that investment in the Palestinian economy remains low.  Pointing out that Gaza’s economy contracted by 6.5 per cent in 2018 – after shrinking 12.5 per cent in 2017 – he declared:  “Real de-development is unfolding there.”  Meanwhile, unemployment in the Gaza Strip is among the highest in the world.

Stressing that such conditions have resulted in high food insecurity rates, he noted that disease and mental health disorders continue to spread in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and casualties remain high.  The lack of access to electricity, in particular, puts lives at risk.  Turning to the Syrian Golan Heights, he said Israel’s actions intended to annex that land are illegal under international law and, therefore, remain null and void.  Citing more than 1,500 demolition orders in the Syrian Golan, he said young Syrians are forced to seek employment opportunities elsewhere.  Overall, the protracted Israeli occupation has had a detrimental effect on the living conditions of Palestinians and Syrians, making it nearly impossible for them to achieve the targets enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals, he said.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, raised concerns about the violations of the administering Power in the Syrian Golan and Palestinian lands, including discriminatory housing, water and freedom of movement policies.  He condemned Israel’s manipulation and use of indiscriminate, extreme force against women and the elderly, as well as settlers attacking civilians in occupied areas.  In the last few days, more violations have occurred, including demolished Palestinian houses in Jerusalem.  In light of the international consensus on Palestine’s right to self-determination, there is no justification for these violations, especially since Arab States have expressed their will to have peace with Israel.

The representative of Syria said the Secretary-General’s report demonstrates the discriminatory practices of Israel in the occupied Syrian Golan.  Recent violations include Israeli authorities seizing more land from Syria under the pretext of a wind farm project, a power-generating initiative to supply the illegal Israeli settlements, violating relevant resolutions.  Raising concerns about the report, she said the authors turned a blind eye to the dire conditions of prisoners in occupied areas.  These and other detrimental actions run counter to the principle of “leaving no one behind”.

An observer for the State of Palestine said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is deteriorating and despair is rising.  The 52-year-long Israeli occupation is compounding socioeconomic hardships and severely undercutting any efforts towards sustainable development, she said, stressing that illegal occupation violates international law and intentionally kills civilians.  Among other things, she outlined the illegal expansion of settlements and walls, the forced displacement of civilians, the imprisonment of more than 5,000 men, women and children, and the vandalism of holy sites, as well as the collective punishment of the entire Palestinian population.  The report before the Council today documents many of those practices and reflects clearly, with specific figures, the suffering of the Palestinian people.  “This unjust situation and the consequent loss of hope is totally unsustainable and highly volatile, requiring urgent remedy to stem further deterioration and desperation,” she stressed, noting that unless Israel is held accountable, its impunity and depravity will be further emboldened.  In that context, she appealed for international aid to alleviate humanitarian suffering and address the deplorable socioeconomic conditions they are currently enduring, calling on Council members to fully support the draft resolution.

The representative of Israel said the ESCWA report is critically flawed and intended to hide real, on-the-ground facts.  Underlining its reliance on hearsay and lack of context, she said it paints the so-called “Great March of Return” in May 2018 as a sort of Palestinian family picnic at the border fence with Israel.  In reality, it was a demonstration intended to create a human shield behind which violent attacks were launched against her country.  Noting that a Hamas spokesperson admitted that the vast number of casualties on that occasion were in fact Hamas militants, and not civilians, she added that the report omits a single reference to the more than 600 rockets launched into Israel from Gaza over the reporting period.  “Welcome to the alterative universe of the United Nations, where this is standard procedure,” she said, warning that omission of such information only encourages further attacks and sends the message that political points are more important than facts.  Noting that every time Israel has engaged with its neighbours it has built stronger and better relationships, she urged the Palestinians to “look at history differently” and reconsider what is possible.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolutions “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women” (document (E/2019/L.25) and “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document E/2019/L.26).

The draft resolution “L.25” reaffirms that the Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women, he said, calling on Israel, the occupying Power, to cease all measures contrary to international law.  The draft resolution also calls for urgent measures to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and urges the international community to give special attention to the promotion and protection of the human rights of Palestinian women and girls.  “L.25” stresses the need to increase the role of Palestinian women in decision-making, he said, anticipating the adoption of the draft by consensus.

Draft resolution “L.26” expresses grave concerns about the serious repercussions of the prolonged occupation and its associated regime and resulting violations of economic and social rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to work, health, education, property, an adequate standard of living and freedom of access and movement.  It also expresses grave concern about the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza as a result of the prolonged Israeli blockade, calling for the full opening of border crossings in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) and international humanitarian law.  The draft further stresses the urgency of achieving a lasting peace settlement and the need for renewed international efforts in this regard.

The representative of Israel, speaking before the action, said the text on Palestinian women blames all of the challenges facing Palestinian women – many of which are cultural in nature – on Israel.  Noting that alternative and more balanced reports on the situation on the ground exist, he outlined diplomatic outreach efforts by his Government, which Palestinian leaders have repeatedly ignored.  Describing that pattern of inaction as destructive, he said the text encourages taking no responsibility on a primarily domestic topic, instead putting all the blame on a foreign actor.  The issues faced by Palestinians will only be resolved when they are ready to look in a mirror, he stressed, urging Council members to vote against the texts before them.

The representative of the United States, underscoring his delegation’s long-standing concerns about draft “L.25” – which is regularly considered in the Commission on the Status of Women and is this year also being considered by the Council – expressed concern about the insertion of one-sided and unhelpful language in the latter’s work.  Pointing out that Hamas has recently limited women’s ability to move freely and appear in public, he stressed that politicized efforts at the United Nations will do nothing to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Any resolution of that conflict must be the result of direct negotiations between the parties, he said.

The representative of Brazil voiced concern about the precarious economic and social conditions in Palestine, which disproportionately impact women.  Reiterating his delegation’s support for the rights of Palestinian women, he expressed concern that the “L.25” still has elements that render it biased and unbalanced.  Among other things, the text only reflects some challenges on the ground, and not others.  Noting that it fails to contribute to peace in the region, he said that for those reasons Brazil will abstain in the vote.

The Council adopted “L.25” by a vote of 40 in favour to 2 against (Canada, United States) with 9 abstentions (Brazil, Cameroon, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico, Romania, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom).

The representative of the United Kingdom said that while it supports language in “L.25” on women and girls’ participation, his delegation has concerns about references to Israel’s occupation.  While positive changes in the draft during this session have made his delegation move to abstain from the vote instead of voting against it, his delegation still has concerns about omissions, including references to all authorities that are hampering the rights of women and girls.

As the Council turned its attention to draft resolution “L.26”, the representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the use of the term “Palestine” in the text cannot be construed as a recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the bloc’s member States.  The European Union has not expressed itself on other legal terms in the resolution, including the legal qualification of the term “forced displacement”, yet it supports the draft and will vote in favour of it.

The representative of the United States expressed his delegation’s disappointment over the one-sided biased draft resolution.  Concerned about the bias against Israel at the United Nations, he said such a stance does nothing to foster progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace.  As such, his delegation will vote against “L.26”.

The Council then adopted “L.26” by a vote of 45 in favour to 2 against (Canada, United States) with 4 abstentions (Brazil, Cameroon, Togo, Ukraine).

The representative of Brazil said that in abstaining, his delegation recognized the difficult situation faced by Palestinian people, but also its view that the text before the Council is politicized and singles out Israel.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said the vote is confirmation of countries’ commitment to international law, human rights, sustainable development and just and lasting peace.  The dire economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people are man-made and due to the occupation.  “Our nation has an unbelievable potential that, if unleashed by freedom and independence, would change the lives of millions of Palestinians, and the ensuing peace would change the entire region for the better,” he said.  “There is no better life without freedom, without sovereignty, without control over our land and access to our resources, and on that day, we may no longer need international assistance.  But, until then, your support and assistance are indispensable.”  He said the vote also is a sign of solidarity with Palestinian women, who for nearly a century have fought for the rights of their people and themselves.

Non-Governmental Organizations

The Council then considered the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on its resumed 2019 session (document E/2019/32 (Part II)).

The representative of Nigeria then introduced the draft decision “Applications of the non-governmental organizations Association Against Women Export, West Africa Coalition for Indigenous People’s Rights and Women in Politics Forum for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council” (document E/2019/L.22), by which the Council decided to return the applications of these groups to the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.  Pointing out that the groups are not registered in Nigeria, he called on Member States to support “L.22”.

The representative of the United States said returning the applications is unnecessary, hence his delegation’s request for a vote on “L.22”.  Having raised previous concerns about the Council returning such applications, he said the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations is capable of thoroughly reviewing and recommending applicants.  To date, the United States and other Member States have not been provided with a justification for further review, he said, calling on all Council members to vote against “L.22”.

The Council then adopted draft decision “L.22” by a recorded vote of 27 in favour to 19 against, with 4 abstentions (El Salvador, Mexico, Turkey, Uruguay).

The Council then took action on recommendations contained in the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on its resumed 2019 session, adopting the following seven draft decisions on:  applications for consultative status, requests for reclassification, requests for a change of name and quadrennial reports received from non-governmental organizations; withdrawal of consultative status of the NGO Global Spatial Data Infrastructure; suspension of the consultative status of NGOs with outstanding quadrennial reports, pursuant to Council resolution 2008/4; reinstatement of the consultative status of NGOs that submitted outstanding quadrennial reports, pursuant to Council resolution 2008/4; withdrawal of the consultative status of NGOs, pursuant to Council resolution 2008/4; dates and provisional agenda of the 2020 session of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations; and Report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on its 2019 resumed session.

The representative of Armenia said one Member State was delaying the application of an Armenian NGO, whose chair travelled to New York with hopes that the Committee of Non-Governmental Organizations would have all their questions answered.  But the representative of Turkey kept asking questions and the application was postponed yet again.  She encouraged the delegation of Turkey to refrain from creating artificial barriers against NGOs representing the Armenian diaspora.

Regional Cooperation

The Council next considered a report of the Secretary-General on regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields (document E/2019/15) and its addenda (documents E/2019/15/Add.1 and E/2019/15/Add.2), as well as summaries of the work of the regional commissions (documents E/2019/16, E/2019/17, E/2019/18, E/2019/19 and E/2019/20).

AMR NOUR, Director of the Regional Commissions New York Office, introduced the Secretary-General’s report and its addenda, saying the recently concluded High-Level Political Forum provided a critical chance for countries, as well as the regional commissions, to take stock of progress achieved in implementing the 2030 Agenda.  Noting that the report before the Council today provides insights from the perspectives of the regional commissions – namely the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), ESCWA and the Economic Commission for Europe (ECA) – he cited some examples of sustainable development efforts in those regions.  Among those, he said ECA is supporting its member States to achieve regional cooperation and integration – especially against the backdrop of the new African Continental Free Trade Agreement – and assists them in curbing illicit financial flows.  In Europe, ECE is assisting States to improve their natural resource management and road safety.  Meanwhile, in Western Asia, ESCWA supported the region’s first data portal with some 100 million data points, helped create an Arab multidimensional poverty index and is supporting efforts to prevent the relapse of conflict, he said.

The representative of the United States, commending ECE’s work on transboundary water courses and international lakes, nevertheless cautioned that such activities might reduce the effectiveness of the Commission’s work by overstretching its resources.

The Council then approved, without a vote, two draft resolutions contained in the Secretary-General’s report and its addenda.  Those were titled, “Developing the work of the Technical Committee on Liberalization of Foreign Trade, Economic Globalization and Financing for Development”, as recommended by ESCWA, and “Review of the intergovernmental structure of the Economic Commission for Africa pursuant to Commission resolutions 943(49) and 957(51)”, as recommended by the Economic Commission for Africa.  Action on a third draft resolution titled “Implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes at the global level” was postponed until 24 July.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The representative of Malta, also speaking for Burkina Faso and Iceland, introduced the draft resolution “Enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” (document E/2019/L.20).  Underlining those delegations’ support for multilateral approaches to international issues, she said that with refugees on the rise in the three respective countries and globally, membership of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is the appropriate track to follow.

The Council then adopted “L.20” without a vote.

Reports of Coordination Bodies

The Council took note of the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination at its fifty-ninth session (document A/74/16).

Proposed Programme Budget for 2020

The Council then took note of the relevant sections of the United Nations proposed programme budget for 2020 (document A/74/6).

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