Statement to the Fourth Committee under Item 84 "UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)", 31 October 2000
Once again, the United nations and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), despite severe financial constraints, has performed its tasks admirably, and my delegation would like to commend the sterling efforts of the Commissioner-General, Mr Peter Hansen, and the dedicated staff of the Agency. We hope that this Committee would once again draw attention to the hardship of the Palestinian refugees as a result of displacement.
UNRWA performs a crucial function in providing essential services to Palestine refugees who experience economic and social hardship imposed by the long and difficult illegal occupation by Israel. Until all the United Nations resolutions related to Palestine refugees are implemented, the work of UNRWA serves to alleviate the immense daily suffering of the people, and goes a long way to restoring their fundamental human rights and dignity.
The humanitarian services provided by UNRWA constitute tangible results in the living conditions for the Palestine refugees, and thereby the underpinning for stability that is conducive to the pursuit of peace, and must be given the fullest financial support of Member States, UN agencies, and other organisations.
The services of UNRWA were in particular need by the Palestinians during this time of the recent tragic situation. It is thus disturbing to learn, from the report of the Commissioner-General, of the intensified restrictions of movement imposed on the UNRWA staff by Israel, thereby impeding these humanitarian efforts, in contravention of international law relating to UN personnel.
The Non-Aligned Movement has reiterated its support for the struggle of the Palestinian people to attain their inalienable rights, including the right to return to their homeland and to have their own independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital. NAM has also repeatedly called for the implementation of all UN resolutions related to Palestinian refugees, and we emphasise that Resolution 194 (1948) must constitute the basis for a just and durable settlement to the refugee question.
South Africa firmly believes that peaceful negotiation is the only means of ensuring lasting peace, security and stability in the region. Furthermore, we believe that the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence is pivotal to the achievement of a sustained and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
It is incumbent upon the international community, recognising that armed conflict endangers the lives of citizens, to take steps to ensure that all efforts are made to enhance respect for international humanitarian law defined for the protection of civilians in time of war, so that civilians can live as normal a life as possible and in accordance with their laws, their culture and their traditions.
My delegation, supporting the resolution before us, would like to reaffirm that it remains the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the Palestinian people until a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement is achieved on the basis of Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and on the basis of land for peace.
I thank you.