News

Motion for a resolution on mercy killings in Uganda – B8-2018-0173

The European Parliament,

– having regard its previous resolutions

– having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

– having regard the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

– having regard to the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT))

– having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

– -having regard to the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement (‘Cotonou Agreement’)

– having regard to the Constitution of Uganda,

– -having regard the ACP – EU JPA report on the inclusion of people with disabilities in the developing countries of 23 November 2011, Togo

– having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted in 2006, and in particular to Article 32 thereof, which states that all parties must include disability and persons with disabilities in their international cooperation efforts,

– having regard to UN Human Rights Council’s latest resolutions on the human rights of persons with disabilities of 14/04/2014 and 14/07/2014,

– having regard to the EU Guidance Note on Disability and Development for EU Delegations and Services,

– having regard to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) press releases of 19 September 2017, entitled ‘Ground-breaking step to tackle impunity for witchcraft related human rights violations’,

– -having regard the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs adopted in New York on the 25th September 2015

– having regard to Uganda’s review report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda entitled “Ensuring no one is left behind” of July 2016 and presented to the HLPF (UN), New York

– having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.whereas ritual killings of children are taking place in Uganda each year ; whereas many, in particular among the rich elite, believe sacrificial rituals can bring quick wealth and health; whereas many women have been also brutally killed in the name of such a “sacrifice”

B.whereas witchdoctors perform the brutal ritual that destroys the lives of the children who are dying in agony and torture; whereas survivors are usually physically and mentally damaged for life as are their families;

C.whereas in Uganda, the false association between child sacrifice and wealth acquisition poses a severe threat to children’s life;

D.whereas the government of Uganda created a National Action Plan to stop the murders and approved a bill to regulate healers, some of whom were practising as real doctors; whereas the businessmen who pay thousands of dollars for the sick rituals are rarely prosecuted because witch doctors refuse to give up their clients; whereas the majority of the witchdoctors performing the ritual killings are not prosecuted either

E.whereas other countries in Africa reported to be practising child sacrifice include Tanzania, Nigeria, Swaziland, Liberia, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe; whereas albino children and multiple births are also considered in some ethnic groups as evil spirits

F.whereas outrageous cases of mercy killings of disabled children are also taking place in some areas of the country because of the belief that they are better off dead than having to endure a painful and incurable disability and are in particular seen as a burden for their parents who are marked by poverty and social stigma and rejected by the society;

G.whereas there are no official numbers available as neither the police nor the justice system in Uganda investigate the phenomenon, whereas the lack of data makes the fight against this practice difficult;

H.whereas according to the Uganda Population and Housing Census Report 2014, for the population aged 2 years and above the disability prevalence rate was 12.4 percent while the equivalent for 5 years and above was close to 14 percent;

I.whereas the government of Uganda has a number of general laws and policies that contain clauses on disability; whereas the country has disability-specific legislation;

J.whereas in April 2016, Uganda’s record on the implementation of the CRPD was reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, whereas the Committee expressed concerns about the fact that legislation and policies fail to provide protection for the rights of children with disabilities; whereas the Committee observes with particular concern harmful practices and sexual abuse of women with disabilities;

K.whereas there is a lack of information to make the general public aware of cultural practices that stigmatize and hinder the development of persons with disabilities to enjoy rights like all other persons in society;

L.whereas disability tends to disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, where the likelihood of disability increases with the incidence of poverty; whereas disability is therefore a development issue;

M.whereas Uganda has committed to the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals; whereas the country presented its voluntary implementation report to the HLPF in July 2016 in New York; whereas there are 11 explicit references to persons with disabilities in the 2030 Agenda, and disaggregation of data by disability is a core principle;

N.whereas despite the progress made Uganda still has significant room for improvement in the sustainable development agenda as its economy is still heavily reliant on natural resources and agriculture; whereas the current demographic structure implies a high dependency ratio and low domestic savings;

1.Expresses its utmost concern over the brutal ritual killings of children and “mercy” killings of disabled children in Uganda and calls for outrageous acts of violence, cruelty and torture towards children to be ended immediately;

2.Expresses its deep concern about persisting discrimination against persons with disabilities, including in particular persons with albinism, persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities, and on other grounds, such as gender identity and sexual orientation

3. Strongly urges the government to conduct an immediate investigation into those crimes and take legal action against those responsible, to bring them to justice and hold them accountable;

4.Calls on the authorities of Uganda and all countries affected by ritual and mercy killings of children to commit to tackling the harmful superstitious beliefs perpetuating the targeting of children

5.Recalls that the primary responsibility of a state is to protect its citizens, including vulnerable groups; calls the Ugandan authorities to protect all children on its territory , to ensure their rights are defended as well as to amend the Children’s Act in line with the CRPD in order to mainstream rights of children with disabilities across all programmes and provide necessary budget and resources for their protection;

6.Calls for quality support services to families of children with disabilities in both urban and rural areas, as well as for sufficient financial support and benefits for families to care for their disabled child and to ensure the availability and effective dissemination of information on services and benefits, and training courses for parents and care-givers of children with disability so they are equipped to facilitate children’s participation in the community ;

7.Stresses the importance of an increased awareness of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, especially families whose children are disabled, with the aim of combating stigma which can lead to discrimination against persons with disabilities among the public in general, and in particular in rural and urban areas;

8.Urges the government of Uganda to implement measures aimed at promoting the right of children with disabilities to be consulted in all matters concerning their lives and at enabling them to receive assistance appropriate to their age and disability; to provide essential community-based services, including accessibility to education and health care,

9.Urges the authorities to ensure registration of all children with disabilities at birth

10.Welcomes the creation in 2009 of the Equal Opportunities Commission Act that aims at promoting equal opportunities for marginalised groups, including persons with disabilities;

11.Welcomes the creation of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) under the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda; calls on the UHRC to develop a concrete national plan to guide the execution of its monitoring function

12.Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative/Vice-President for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the President of the Republic of Uganda, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, the East African Legislative Assembly and the African Union and its institutions.

News

General Assembly Adopts Resolution Seeking Alignment of Efforts to End Illicit Diamond Trade, Achieve 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The General Assembly, welcoming progress made by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to break links between the diamond trade and conflict, today adopted a consensus resolution aimed at intensifying that work and aligning it with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, introduced the draft resolution titled, “The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict:  breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts” (document A/72/L.41).  Noting that Australia was the outgoing Chair of the Kimberley Process — established by the United Nations in 2003 to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream market — she said that scheme had made a valuable contribution to international security, development and human rights.

“Fifteen years ago […] the global diamond trade looked very different than that of today,” she said.  At that time, diamonds were mined in conflict zones, while at the other end of the supply chain, customers had little or no way to know where the diamonds had originated.  The Kimberley Process cut the flow of diamonds to insurgencies and rebel groups, who would sacrifice peace and development for their own power.  By safeguarding the legitimate diamond trade, it improved the livelihoods of those relying on it to feed and educate their families.

Noting that young people today were three times more likely than older generations to avoid diamonds unless they had been responsibly sourced, she nevertheless emphasized that more work remained to be done.  The international community should examine new ways to align the diamond trade with the 2030 Agenda and sustaining peace, and should seek a diamond market free from human rights abuses and forced labour.  The resolution was a critical link between the Kimberley Process’ excellent work and its potential to contribute to the broader United Nations agenda by requesting the establishment of a dedicated secretariat and a multi‑donor trust fund to support broad‑based participation.

Antonio Parenti, speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that the bloc — which had been at the forefront of the Kimberley Process from since its inception — had been selected to Chair the certification scheme for 2018.  Welcoming the decision to set up an Ad Hoc Committee on Review and Reform, which would enhance administrative and financial support to the Process, he pledged to use the 2018 Chairmanship to promote open dialogue among the three pillars of the Kimberley Process:  Governments, industry and civil society.  Overall, the European Union would aim to strengthen the mechanism’s effectiveness in peacebuilding, conflict prevention and the promotion of in‑country due diligence.

Noa Furman (Israel) declared:  “Conflict‑free diamonds bring the world a step closer to ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity.”  The Kimberley Process intertwined with the 2030 Agenda, as the diamond industry provided almost 40,000 jobs in sub‑Saharan Africa alone.  Revenues had broadened access to education and health care.  What had appeared as an unprecedented goal in 2003 had today become a reality, with 99.8 per cent of the world’s diamonds being considered conflict‑free.  However, that 0.2 per cent must be addressed, she said, emphasizing that Israel had been the first to harness technology for use in the Kimberley Process by computerizing diamond imports, which were examined at customs, and leaving zero margin for error.

Charles T. Ntwaagae (Botswana) said his country had benefited from diamond‑related socioeconomic gains over the past century, having graduated from being one of the world’s poorest countries to a middle‑income nation.  Indeed, diamond sales had fostered the implementation of national development plans alongside the 2030 Agenda and the African Union Agenda 2063.  The proper management of diamonds was crucial to achieving peace.  Noting that Botswana was a founding member of the certification scheme, he cited a 2017 report detailing significant strides in regulating and monitoring the diamond trade.  However, there was an urgent need to reform and strengthen the Kimberley Process to address the emerging challenges of synthetic diamonds and Government capacity constraints in establishing regulation.

In other business, the Assembly took note of the decision by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States to appoint Brazil to the Committee on Conferences for a term beginning on 7 March 2018 and expiring on 31 December 2020, as well as Ecuador for a term beginning on 7 March 2018 and expiring on 31 December 2018.

The Assembly also took note of the letter from the Secretary‑General to the President of the Assembly (document A/72/713) and its addenda (documents A/72/713/Add.1, A/72/713/Add.2 and A/72/713/Add.3 ), in which he informed that Dominica, Grenada, the Marshall Islands and Suriname had made the necessary payments to reduce their arrears below the amount specified by Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.

[Article 19 states that a member of the United Nations which is in arrears in payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds that of its contributions due for the preceding two full years.]

The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

News

Daily News 05 / 02 / 2018

European Commission and European Court of Auditors meet to discuss their cooperation and the future of Europe

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the College are meeting Mr Klaus-Heiner Lehne, President of the European Court of Auditors, and Members of the Court of Auditors (“ECA”) in Luxembourg for the regular meeting between the two institutions. The meeting will begin with a working lunch chaired by President Juncker and President Lehne, followed by discussions between the Commissioners and the Members of the Court of Auditors that will be structured around the Commission’s Reflection Papers on the Future of Europe. The meeting will conclude with a plenary session chaired by President Lehne and First Vice-President Timmermans. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Apply now: Lorenzo Natali Media Prize for outstanding journalism in development

Applications for the European Commission’s 2018 Lorenzo Natali Media Prize, which recognises journalists doing outstanding reporting on sustainable development topics, are open from 5 February to 9 March for online, print and audio-visual works. Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said: “In an era of disinformation, fake news and digital algorithms, we need professional and fact-based journalism more than ever. The important work of journalists is not only crucial for democracy across the globe, but also gives visibility and a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard. Through their stories they inform, inspire, and call for much-needed change. With this prize, we thank them for their determination and encourage them to keep up the fight.”The Prize has two categories based on age groups and for each category there will be a winner from each region: Africa; the Arab World and the Middle East; Asia and the Pacific; Latin America and the Caribbean; and Europe. A “Grand Winner” will be selected among the regional winners, and an additional thematic prize will be awarded for work focused on the elimination of violence against women and girls. Find more information on the specific rules and criteria online and in our press release. (For more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

World Cancer Day: knowing more means helping more

Discussing cancer related issues is never easy. At the same time, given that the disease is still the second leading cause of death in the EU, there is a constant need for a robust, well informed response to it in order to contribute to the prevention, early detection, and adequate treatment. The European Cancer Information System (ECIS) website launched on the occasion of World Cancer Day by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science and knowledge service, allows experts and practitioners to explore geographical patterns and trends. It gathers data from around 150 European population-based cancer registries covering 25 EU Member States and 7 non-EU European countries providing valuable information on howwell national cancer programmes are actually working, and address shortcomings. Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, highlighted: “Reliable data is an important aspect of the EU’s approach to cancer, along with tackling risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol, pesticides and pollution, screening for diagnosis and treatment, research, and connecting expertise through the European Reference Networks and joint actions “.  “The European Cancer Information System is an excellent example of our support for decision-makers and researchers across the EU and beyond. It allows for the assessment and monitoring of the disease across regions and countries, following trends over time and helping to gather information that could lead to a further decrease of cancer rates.” explained Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, responsible for the Joint Research Centre. EU has been supporting research to fight cancer since 1985 through its research and innovation programmes. These efforts focus on developing patient-oriented strategies to prevent, cure and help people live with cancer. With funding totalling €2.4 billion since 2007, European #cancer research has been leading personalised medicine approaches and efforts to understanding cancer biology as well as better prevention, treatment and care solutions.You can find more information here and here. Read some of the success stories of EU funded cancer research here. (For more information: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel:+32 22967083; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel.: +32 229 87624)

Mozambique joins the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Southern African States

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) became the first regional EPA in Africa to be fully operational after its implementation by Mozambique. Mozambique was the last piece of the SADC-EPA jigsaw to fall into place. The other five countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South-Africa, and Swaziland – have been implementing the agreement since October 2016. Implementing the EPA means that Mozambique will not have to pay customs duties on its exports to the EU. The EU is the largest export market for Africa. Exports to the EU represent 22% of SADC EPA countries’ exports. The EU-SADC EPA provides opportunities for SADC countries to create jobs, attract more investment, industrialise, integrate into global value chains. On the EU side, European businesses are increasingly investing in the region. For its part, Mozambique will progressively, over the course of several years, reduce or eliminate customs duties for many of EU exports. Trade between the EU and Mozambique is currently about €2 billion annually. Mozambican exports to the EU include aluminium and raw cane sugar. For more information see here. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Kinga Malinowska – Tel: +32 229 51383)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of De Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij by Waterland

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of De Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij B.V. by Nuts Groep B.V, ultimately controlled by Waterland Private Equity Investments B.V. (“Waterland”), all of the Netherlands. Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij supplies electricity and gas to small customers in the Netherlands. Nuts Groep is active in the supply of electricity and gas to small customers in the Netherlands and Belgium. Waterland is an independent private equity firm. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the companies’ moderate combined market position resulting from the proposed transaction. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8781. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

Eurostat: Décembre 2017 comparé à novembre 2017 – Le volume des ventes du commerce de détail en baisse de 1,1% dans la zone euro, en baisse de 1,0% dans l’UE28

En décembre 2017 par rapport à novembre 2017, le volume des ventes du commerce de détail corrigé des variations saisonnières a diminué de 1,1% dans la zone euro (ZE19) et de 1,0% dans l’UE28, selon les estimations d’Eurostat, l’office statistique de l’Union européenne. En novembre, le commerce de détail avait progressé de 2,0% dans la zone euro et de 2,1% dans l’UE28. En décembre 2017 par rapport à décembre 2016, l’indice des ventes de détail s’est accru de 1,9% dans la zone euro et de 2,4% dans l’UE28. Par rapport à 2016, le volume moyen des ventes de détail a progressé en 2017 de 2,6% tant dans la zone euro que dans l’UE28. Un communiqué de presse est disponible en ligne. (Pour plus d’informations:Lucía Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Victoria von Hammerstein – Tel.: +32 229 55040; Maud Noyon – Tel. +32 229-80379)

 

Eurostat: Consommation d’énergie en 2016 – La consommation dans l’UE est au-dessus de l’objectif d’efficacité énergétique

L’Union européenne (UE) s’est engagée à réduire sa consommation d’énergie de 20% par rapport aux projections d’ici à 2020. Cet objectif est également connu sous le nom d’«objectif d’efficacité énergétique de 20%». En d’autres termes, l’UE a pris l’engagement de parvenir à une consommation d’énergie primaire inférieure ou égale à 1 483 millions de tonnes équivalent pétrole (Mtep) et une consommation d’énergie finale inférieure ou égale à 1 086 Mtep en 2020. Un communiqué de presse est disponible en ligne. (Pour plus d’informations: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.:+32 229 52589)

STATEMENTS

Joint Statement on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

On International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, HighRepresentative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioners Johannes Hahn, Neven Mimica, and Vĕra Jourová, made the following statement:”We confirm our firm resolve to put an end to this practice which is painful, traumatic and causes long-term health consequences. A practice that is nearly always carried out on children. A practice that is a fundamental human rights violation and an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. Despite the efforts of the EU and its partners, 200 million girls are still suffering from this violation, which occurs in all parts of the world. […] In Europe itself, girls are still today subject to this illegal practice. […] We have put laws in place, to ensure that there can be no impunity in Europe for this practice. Female genital mutilation is a crime in all EU Member States […]. At the international level, together with the United Nations, we have launched an unprecedented initiative – the Spotlight Initiative – to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. […]. Through these actions we provide direct and targeted support to the victims of such harmful practices. The EU will […] continue building strong partnerships through bilateral, as well as multilateral cooperation. […] We want a society where women are free from violence and free to change the world.” Please read the full statement here and find more information on EU actions to counter Female Genital Mutilation in a memo here. (for more information: Christian Wigand- Tel.: +32 229 62253; Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

News

Full Participation of Youth in Decision-making Key to Shaping Brighter Future for All, Social Development Commission Hears as General Debate Continues

Younger generations must have readily available tools enabling their full participation in decision‑making arenas to better shape a brighter future for all, the Commission for Social Development heard today as it continued its general debate.

“We live in a non‑linear and non‑static world,” said a young delegate, briefing the Commission on discussions at the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum held 30‑31 January.  (See Press Release ECOSOC/6881.)  “We are left with two options:  Submit or reinvent.”

While many young people had chosen the latter option and were now formulating new solutions across a range of sectors, she underlined the urgent need for more investment to involve youth in advancing the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In the Youth Forum’s current deliberations, participants had called for improving the use of science, technology and innovation, greater involvement of young people at the grassroots level, more transparent Governments, reducing the voting age and stronger efforts to prevent radicalization, among other things.

Boosting youth participation in efforts to shape a better world for all based on 2030 Agenda principles was a recurrent theme during the Commission’s day‑long general debate.  Many representatives and their youth delegates highlighted pressing concerns, from clean water access to quality education.  Some warned of new challenges to food and water security, given that by 2030 about 60 per cent of the world’s population would live in cities, and over half of those urban dwellers would be under age 18.

Imagine a world in which every person supported the vision of the 2030 Agenda because they had the knowledge and skills to do so, one of Germany’s youth delegates told the Commission.  To make that happen, he asked Member State representatives to take action in three areas — guarantee human rights for all, establish a youth delegate programme and support youth organizations to provide young people with the skills they needed today to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including preparing them for jobs that did not yet exist.

His peer reminded delegates that young people’s inspirational visions could in fact guide policy in significant ways, as they largely believed in intercultural dialogue and equal gender rights.

“We all want to live in richer societies, have better access to education and better jobs; this aspiration of ours makes us firm believers in the [Sustainable Development] Goals and staunch promoters of their [2030] Agenda,” Serbia’s youth delegate said, emphasizing the role young people could play in implementing 2030 Agenda targets related to education and poverty eradication.

Some young representatives described how they were already involved in development efforts, with some calling for further action to make them true agents of change.  Youth engagement in Bulgaria’s national and global processes had become a tradition, with young people having an important role to play in mobilizing their local communities to initiate action that would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, said youth delegates from that country.

Including youth at all levels of decision‑making was crucial for fostering positive social change and creating sustainable societies, they went on to say, calling on Member States to ensure their inclusion.  They underlined that young people must be enabled to act as agents of positive social change, contributing to promoting awareness of the 2030 Agenda and using sports and intercultural dialogue as tools to enhance tolerance and respect for human rights.

Throughout the day, many delegates voiced their recognition of the power and potential of younger generations.  Afghanistan’s representative said because his country recognized the critical role youth would play in its sustainable development, a national youth policy was now working to address high youth unemployment rates and bolster investments in young Afghans.  Similarly, Senegal’s delegate said a national fund had invested $411 million to enhancing youth employment opportunities, and Qatar’s representative said a recently signed memorandum of understanding between his Government and the United Nations aimed at combating terrorism and protecting young people, in particular from recruitment by violent extremists.

Also participating were representatives and youth delegates of Morocco, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Romania, Finland, Cuba, Mali, Cabo Verde, Botswana, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Italy, Monaco, Maldives, Cameroon, Benin, Brazil, Turkey, China, Zambia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, Myanmar, Honduras, Iraq, Iran, Austria, Nepal, Ecuador, Republic of Moldova, Colombia, Sweden, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Libya, Nigeria, United States, Azerbaijan and Jamaica, as well as the Holy See.

Representatives of Soroptimist International and the International Federation on Ageing also spoke.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 2 February, to continue its work.

Briefing by Youth Delegate

RUXANDA RENITA, a youth representative speaking on behalf of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, briefed the Commission on the ongoing United Nations Youth Forum, stressing:  “We live in a non‑linear and non‑static world.”  More than 50 million young people around the world were migrants or refugees in search of a new home, she said, adding that for many of them basic services, such as the right to safe water, seemed a distant dream.  “We are left with two options:  Submit or reinvent,” she said, noting that many young people had chosen the second option and were now formulating new solutions, especially in the social and environmental arenas.  As an immigrant herself, she had jumped from continent to continent in search of a home where all her human rights would be realized.

In the Youth Forum’s current deliberations, young people had reaffirmed the basic right to safe water and sanitation, identifying the excessive burden women faced in those areas due to social taboos around menstrual hygiene, she said.  Participants had identified a need to improve energy access to all populations and enhance the flexibility and effectiveness of energy systems in remote areas around the world.  Cities also needed to become more youth- and gender‑responsive, enhanced efforts to combat social exclusion and ensure the safety of women and young people.  A breakout session on Sustainable Development Goal 12 had spotlighted the role of social entrepreneurs, and youth present for that discussion had underlined the need to use both formal and non‑formal education, as well as better knowledge‑sharing, to improve the world’s consumption and production patterns.

Among other things, participants had called for improving the use of science, technology and innovation, greater involvement of young people at the grassroots level, more transparent Governments, reducing the voting age and stronger efforts to prevent radicalization.  Within the United Nations system, youth participation had increased in recent years, as had the awareness of the important role young people would play in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  However, she said, more investment in such initiatives was still urgently needed.

Statements

SIDY GUEYE, Permanent Secretary of Ministry for Family, Women and Gender of Senegal, associating himself with the statements previously delivered on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the African Group, outlined programmes aimed at reorienting Senegal’s strategies to achieve a minimum 75 per cent health care coverage and the reduction of outward migration.  A national fund devoted $411 million to enhancing employment opportunities for youth, and would be increased in upcoming years.  National funds also offered support to entrepreneurs, and the country had declared 2018 a year of social development.  The “National Agency of the Green Wall” had established a programme against decertification, working to reduce poverty and create jobs.  Other Government ministries and agencies worked to ensure that rural populations remained independent and successful in their production activities.

MIRWAIS BAHEEJ, Director General of Planning and Consolidation of the Ministry for Economy of Afghanistan, said the threats of violent extremism and terrorism in his country continued to hamper efforts to combat poverty.  However, the Government and people remained committed to move Afghanistan forward towards sustainable development, peace and prosperity.  Among other priorities, the Government was working to boost women’s control over economic assets, create 1 million new jobs across various sectors, and increase production in order to substitute Afghanistan’s imports with domestic products.  Noting that returning refugees and displaced persons were migrating in large numbers to the country’s’ cities, putting more pressure on local governments, he said the national Government had responded through accelerated efforts to increase job opportunities for returnees, and thereby improve their self‑reliance.  It was also working to provide every Afghan village with access to basic services and the mechanisms for their delivery, as well as critical infrastructure, which would also create many new jobs.  Afghanistan recognized the critical role youth would play in its sustainable development, and had therefore put in place a National Youth Policy that was now working to address the country’s high youth unemployment rates and bolster investments in young Afghans.

ABDESSAMAD LAURANI, Director of Social Development, Ministry for Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development of Morocco, said national progress over the last 15 years had been seen in areas such as human rights due to better investments in infrastructure and targeted programmes.  Poverty had been reduced, basic services now reached all citizens and youth had been integrated into social development policies.  Industrial, tourism and artisanal sectors had been developed alongside gains seen in agricultural and fisheries, with job creation that encouraged youth to undertake a spirit of entrepreneurship.  Water resources had been addressed through waste management and renewable energy efforts.  Vulnerable groups had benefited from policies addressing gender equality, child protection and protections for persons with disabilities.  A new social registry aimed at combating poverty, institutional reform was improving coordination to ameliorate social assistance programmes and national plans considered youth, literacy and immigration.

A youth delegate from Germany said young people’s inspirational visions could guide policy in significant ways, as they believed in intercultural dialogue and equal gender rights.  Asking delegates how they viewed the world when they had been young themselves, for instance, dreaming of a bright future or falling in love with someone whom they should not have due to various forms of discrimination, she wondered whether they would have liked the international community to help them realize their visions.

A youth delegate from Germany asked Member State representatives to imagine a world in which every person supported the vision of the 2030 Agenda because they had the knowledge to do so.  He then asked them to take action in three areas — guarantee human rights for all, establish a youth delegate programme and support youth organizations to provide young people with the skills they needed today to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including preparing them for future jobs that did not exist today.

PATRYCJA PUZ, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Poland, aligning herself with the European Union, said family development and security form pillars of the Government’s policies.  A flagship scheme of family allowance had allowed extended investments in children’s education while a housing subsidy programme was reaching those in need.  Social policy on older persons was being developed to set standards for assistance from welfare institutions.  Medium- and long‑term actions aimed at advancing progress on responsible development were expected to decrease the number of people living in poverty.  Actions also aimed to improve health care services.

PASCAL FOUDRIERE, Deputy Head of the European and International Affairs Unit of the Ministry for Solidarities and Health of France, associating himself with the European Union, said many countries had seen accelerated ageing in their populations and some remained unable to adapt their policies accordingly.  Europe in particular must adapt its Government programmes to the needs of the twenty‑first century, he said, describing poverty eradication as a central goal and underlining the need for commitment at the highest level.  National level social policies must be mutually strengthening and fully aligned with other measures, including economic ones, and such fully integrated approaches must also involve researchers, civil society, entrepreneurs, farmers, and others on the ground.  New approaches must be identified to overcome the failures of past policies, he said, also calling for more equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.  Ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games to be hosted in France in 2020, the country had invested some 870 million euros in improved transport and accessibility, and was increasing job creation and hiring.

NAJAT DAHAM AL ABDALLAH, Director of Family Affairs of Qatar, expressing her country’s commitment to inclusive social development and poverty eradication, said it promoted the creation of environments conducive to youth skills development and their participation in public life.  Among other things, Qatar had recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations aimed at combating terrorism and protecting young people in particular from recruitment by violent extremists.  Underlining efforts currently under way to ensure that the 2020 Football World Cup — to be held in Qatar — would be inclusive for all people, including those with disabilities, she went on to note that the country’s Vision 2030 plan was fully aligned with the global 2030 Agenda.  Nevertheless, Qatar faced serious challenges following the June 2017 application of unjust, unilateral economic sanctions against it.  Describing those measures as major violations of the economic, social and human rights of the Qatari people, she said they had disproportionately affected women and children, prevented students from continuing their university studies, and restricted the critical travel of Qatari citizens to other countries.

RALITSA DIKANSKA and ASSYA PANDZHAROVA, youth delegates of Bulgaria, said they were proud their country included youth empowerment and participation as one of its four main priorities in its political agenda.  Youth engagement in national and global processes had become a tradition for Bulgaria, with young people having an important role in mobilizing their local communities to initiate action that would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Their involvement was essential to eliminate poverty and all forms of inequalities and discrimination.  Young people must be enabled to act as agents of positive social change, helping to promote awareness of the 2030 Agenda and using sports and intercultural dialogue as tools to enhance tolerance and respect for human rights.  Including youth at all levels of decision‑making was crucial for fostering positive social change and creating sustainable societies, they said, calling on Member States to ensure their inclusion.

JAHKINI BISSELINK, youth delegate from the Netherlands, said by 2030 about 60 per cent of the world’s population would live in cities, 60 per cent of which would comprise people under age 18 who would face new challenges such as food and water accessibility.  Empowering youth as agents of change would help to address those challenges, she said, suggesting ways to do so, including stimulating cross‑cutting youth participation, promoting inclusive dialogue and enabling local talent development.  Elaborating on those recommendations, she urged all State and non‑State actors to start organizing and stimulating youth participation from local to global levels.  As a young person who had been a news reporter at age 11 and a museum employee at age 16, she said such opportunities in rural and urban areas, especially for girls, stimulated talent development.  Urban and rural areas needed vibrant local youth participation to realize their full potential to create resilient communities.

SAMEDIN ROVCANIN, youth delegate from Serbia, said youth inclusion was critically important in efforts related to the 2030 Agenda, pointing at the dreamers who had first conceived of the Millennium Development Goals.  “We all want to live in richer societies, have better access to education and better jobs; this aspiration of ours makes us firm believers in the [Sustainable Development] Goals and staunch promoters of their [2030] Agenda,” he said, emphasizing the role young people could play in implementing the Goals related to education and poverty eradication.  Commending the United Nations and its Member States for including his peers in related discussions, he said Serbia had taken important steps to address national challenges, including creating a road map for strategic cooperation in improving good governance, reducing poverty and protecting the environment.

IOANA COVEI, youth delegate from Romania, said that to address the Commission’s theme of inclusive, resilient and sustainable development, her country looked to an expanded definition of what it meant to be poor, one that looked not only at income or basic needs, but also at empowerment.  As the definition of a dignified life had evolved, poverty had come to include not only access to material resources but also to culture, political participation and the life of the community in general.  Youth was a time when people made important decisions in their lives.  For example, they could decide whether education was worth pursuing.  Increased financial support for young people with lower incomes was important, so that poverty was not an obstacle to accessing a universal right.

VLAD MACELARU, youth delegate from Romania, said that for young people with disabilities, unequal access to education could lead to a significantly higher rate of unemployment, and it was important to stress that much more should be done in terms of accessibility.  More training for teachers so that they could work with children with disabilities was essential to foster development.  Ethnic identity was another layer that could lead to income poverty and poverty in terms of access.  Obstacles to social development were connected and interdependent, and focusing on them separately diminished the potential for change.

KAI SAUER (Finland), associating himself with the European Union, said recent global crises had shown that economic approaches had negatively affected not only social rights but also long‑term fiscal and economic policies.  In contrast, new momentum towards more integrated policies should lead to improved social conditions and poverty eradication.  Calling for determined and integrated action to implement the 2030 Agenda — and for more attention to the follow‑up processes and the full use of indicators — he said Finland was currently carrying out several major reforms and pilot programmes related to economic and social rights.  A basic income experiment, started at the beginning of 2016, had selected 2,000 random persons as a sample to receive basic income as a substitute for some basic benefits including unemployment allowance.  That basic income — fixed at 560 euros per month — was tax-free, and meant to encourage people to accept temporary and part‑time work, allowing for a more empowering and streamlined employment incentive system.  Based on its results, Finland would consider introducing basic income as a tool in its renewed social security system.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that in many countries, extreme poverty was still growing, and prospects for complying with Goal 1 were discouraging.  Political will was not enough, she said, emphasizing the need for material and financial resources, technology transfer and human resource training.  Developed countries must honour their commitments vis‑à‑vis official development assistance (ODA) and the international community must develop a genuine culture of solidarity.  A just international order must be promoted, protectionist and discriminatory trade policies against countries in the South must cease and developed countries must assume their historic responsibility for a serious environmental crisis.  She went on to note the progress Cuba had made in social development despite an economic, commercial and financial blockade that had gone on for nearly six decades.

ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the social needs of Mali’s people were a priority for its Government, which focused in particular on water, education, energy, health care and rural roads.  It was also focused on the social integration of older persons, persons with disabilities, women and children, as well as those who were victims of natural disasters or otherwise in need of humanitarian assistance, and broader efforts were also under way to reduce social risks.  Noting that 15 per cent of Mali’s national budget had been allocated to support the agricultural sector, surpassing the percentage mandated by the African Union, he said part of those funds were allotted as subsidies to farmers.  In 2016, the Government had adopted a strategic framework aimed at economic recovery and sustainable development in a Mali that was unified and at peace.  Included in that plan was a wide expansion of health insurance coverage and the establishment of a month of solidarity, to be celebrated annually in October, as well as additional efforts to support the most vulnerable.

JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde) said the world had recently seen progress in eliminating poverty, but “a long journey is ahead of us” in reducing the many inequalities that had emerged.  His country was committed to reducing poverty rates and had already made substantial progress during the Millennium Development Goal period.  The country’s strategic plan for the period 2017‑2022 was aligned with the 2030 Agenda, and prioritized inclusive economic and social development.  The needs of specific groups, including women, persons with disabilities and youth, were taken into account in that strategy as well as in national legislation.  Government measures also aimed to ensure the universal access to health care and social protection for elderly persons.  While domestic resources were central to funding all those measures, external partnerships also remained critical to helping Cabo Verde address its social issues and eradicate poverty.  In that context, he expressed concern that the country’s graduation from the least developed country category had excluded it from receiving much‑needed aid, and called on partners to continue to support the development efforts of graduated small island developing States.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that 1.1 billion people had been lifted out of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2013.  Of the estimated 768.5 million people in the world living in extreme poverty, 390.2 million were in Africa.  In Botswana, it was estimated that 5.8 per cent of the population lived in abject poverty.  His Government had adopted several strategies, policies and programmes aimed at promoting sustainable development and eradicating extreme poverty.  A comprehensive social protection system that targeted the vulnerable and needy persons was also in place.  The Government had also created a Technical Devices Fund Levy, which promoted investment in the creative industries as an engine for job creation, poverty alleviation and economic diversification.  Funds had been allocated to promote arts, crafts and performances by local artists.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), citing his country’s progress in various social and economic development areas, said that as the world considered the future of social development, poverty eradication and the situation of least developed countries would be of particular concern.  Ensuring quality jobs, food security and nutrition and empowering people would be critical, he said, pointing out that Bangladesh had been enjoying a gradual but significant reduction in poverty, having seen a 6 per cent economic growth rate for more than a decade.  Bangladesh aimed to become a middle‑income country by 2021 and a developed nation after that.  Noting that its latest five‑year development plan was fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda, he said top priorities included the reduction of inequality through enhanced education programmes and social safety nets.  The country’s inclusive and “whole‑of‑society” approach targeted vulnerable groups and families in order to ensure that no one was left behind.  However, the major recent humanitarian crisis emerging from Myanmar — with over 1 million Rohingyas having arrived in Bangladesh, most since August 2017 — was posing considerable challenges that threatened to negatively impact Bangladesh’s development efforts.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), associating herself with the Group of 77, warned that increasing vulnerability and exclusion, the persistence of unaccountable institutions and continuing conflicts and violence all threatened global development efforts.  That was even more true at a time when “the monster of social discrimination and exclusion based on religion, race, gender and ethnicity is raising its ugly head once again,” she stressed, adding that only realistic and determined social and economic policymaking and implementation could effectively combat poverty.  The Government of Pakistan had put in place people‑centred policies aimed at lifting people out of poverty, promoting fiscal inclusion, boosting agricultural growth, accelerating rural development and providing education opportunities.  The Pakistan Vision 2025 plan aimed to create new and better opportunities for the country’s people, and such initiatives as the Benazir Income Support Programme — a nationwide social safety net plan — provided support to vulnerable people.  Citing gender empowerment as another crucial element, she also drew attention to robust regional partnerships and examples of South‑South cooperation, such as the China‑Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said national efforts were advancing progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including through poverty eradication programmes and multisector projects guided by policies boosting job opportunities, increasing skills and ensuring women’s empowerment.  Government strategies and policies would continue to focus on health, education, housing and employment, she said, emphasizing that human rights‑centred approaches were shaping future efforts.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍS (Bolivia), endorsing the statement made by the Group of 77, said a global context of social crisis, exclusion, migration, climate change consequences and youth unemployment had demonstrated rapidly increasing income gaps nationally and globally.  Public policies in Bolivia had significantly reduced extreme poverty levels over the past decade, with a gross domestic product (GDP) that had more than doubled since 2005 alongside steady declines in school dropout levels and child mortality rates.  Laws, policies and efforts were addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, and gains had been made in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Emphasizing Bolivia’s generous social spending programme, he said that before 2005, 82 per cent of the country’s oil wealth rested with transnational corporations and 18 per cent in national hands.  Today, those figures were reversed, which could serve as an example to others.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) commended the work and priority themes of the Commission in regard to helping States implement the 2030 Agenda.  Eradicating poverty would help to address the other Sustainable Development Goals and targets, he said, adding that Italy fully supported efforts to address the needs of groups such as women, migrants and children.  The vicious cycle of poverty must be overcome by building resilience and ending a culture of dependency.  Italy invested in young people as key drivers of change, including education programmes focused on human rights and the importance of intercultural dialogue.  Citing other efforts, he said persons with disabilities enjoyed protection under laws and innovative projects.

ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco), noting that the 2030 Agenda goals had been based on the 1995 Copenhagen Programme of Action, raised three areas of concern — poverty eradication, health care and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  While progress had been achieved on the former, a new type of poverty in the form of nutritional or sanitary deprivation was emerging.  Access to education and decent work would help to reduce inequalities, particularly between rural and urban populations, by investing in the most disadvantaged.  Monaco also placed great importance on building effective health care systems that reached the most vulnerable.  Turning to the needs of older persons, she said Monaco supported inclusive societies to foster sustainable development.

GEORGINA GALANIS, Soroptimist International, speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Global Citizenship 2030, said members promoted the values of the United Nations.  The 2030 Agenda aimed at freeing the world of poverty and the correction of current inequalities in a sustainable manner.  Global citizens aimed at empowering themselves in their communities, she said, emphasizing the need to take action on eliminating poverty and meaningfully addressing related pressing concerns.  The root causes must be addressed, including the impoverishment of values that had led to, among other things, militarism and greed.  To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, actions must centre on respect for one another, she said.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said poverty was a common enemy of civil society and eliminating it should be a shared goal.  Turning to the 2030 Agenda targets, he said national investments in education, housing and health were part of efforts to ensure that no one was left behind.  Providing some examples, he said a national elderly policy provided financial and emotional support to older persons and the 2016 Gender Equality Act was addressing related objectives.  Eradicating poverty required investing in the greatest resource:  people, he said, adding that the most vulnerable must be reached with effective partnerships to craft shared solutions for a shared goal.

PAULINE IRENE NGUENE, Minister for Social Affairs of Cameroon, said a “light of hope” was now emerging against the backdrop of numerous critical challenges around the world.  Those were due, in part, to important recent international agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030 and the 2030 Agenda, among others.  The latter recognized that continued poverty was a “ticking time bomb”, she said, adding that Cameroon was taking a cross‑cutting approach within the context of people‑centred sustainable development.  Its projects aimed to create behaviour change, empower citizens, reduce poverty, improve solidarity, and boost the provision of social security to the most vulnerable.  Efforts were also targeting key sectors such as transport, infrastructure, housing and the extractive industries in order to create new jobs.  Social inclusion programmes were also in place, she said, noting that a wave of refugees fleeing attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist group — along with a food crisis resulting from climate change — were creating obstacles to Cameroon’s social development and its eradication of poverty.  “We must respect the commitments promised to poor countries,” she added, calling for international support and solidarity, and for all nations to overcome barriers to the eradication of poverty worldwide.

ZELMA YOLLANDE NOBRE FASSINOU (Benin), agreeing with other speakers that poverty eradication was one of the 2030 Agenda’s central goals, associated herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group.  The Secretary‑General’s report noted that the absolute number of persons affected by hunger around the world had increased in the last year, following about a decade of reductions.  Progress was even more hindered in least developed countries, and the eradication of extreme poverty required transformed economies, food security, safety and stability.  The “Benin Revealed” programme tackled the structural factors that impacted the most vulnerable.  Noting that some 41 per cent of her country’s population still lived below the poverty line, she pledged to permanently reverse that trend, including through bolstered job creation and better basic services.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said that, in his country, a central register with disaggregated data covering millions of families had helped to identify poverty and design universal programmes, policies and measures to combat it.  In particular, the Unified Social Assistance System had been created to support at‑risk families, and the Bolsa Família programme worked to empower women and enhance their participation in social and economic life.  Meanwhile, a minimum salary was guaranteed to all older persons and persons with disabilities whose own incomes did not cover their basic needs, and a new Happy Child Programme aimed to break the cycle of poverty.  Among other concrete proposals, he recommended the creation of a binding international instrument on the rights of older persons and a specific Sustainable Development Goal target on the promotion and protection of their rights.  Also voicing support for the family unit as a critical element of sustainable social development, he said the Government continued to fund additional programmes such as one seeking to end the violence that primarily affected young men of African descent.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), stressing that decent work and social protection policies were fundamental tools for the eradication of poverty, said ensuring access of persons with disabilities to basic social services and legal support were of paramount importance.  In addition, there was a need to raise awareness about the rights of older persons and to consider the new demographic realities of the ageing population.  Social development must also further women’s empowerment and ensure gender equality, while paying particular attention to Africa and the least developed countries.  Turkey was committed to building a more dignified and prosperous future for those countries, he said, noting that science, technology and innovation as well as the transfer of technology would play a crucial role in that regard.  Spotlighting the role of the dedicated Technology Bank, to be inaugurated this spring in Turkey, he went on to outline several national policies including its open door and non‑refoulement policies towards refugees such as those from Syria.

WU HAITAO (China) said that countries should incorporate the idea of inclusiveness and benefit‑sharing in their development strategies, as well as continuously improve institutional mechanisms that balanced efficiency and fairness.  His country advocated for and promoted the global endeavour to eradicate poverty.  Since 1978, it had lifted 700 million people out of poverty.  China supported the Commission in holding a symposium on persons with disabilities to monitor the implementation of the 2030 Agenda targets related to that matter.  Population ageing should be dealt with to enable every elderly person to enjoy life, and efforts were needed to mobilize society to cultivate the custom of respecting and caring for the elderly.  Guidance should be given to youth so that they could contribute to and benefit from social development, while the role of the family as the basic unit of society should be given full play in social development.  Family played a positive role in poverty eradication, employment promotion and social integration.

CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said over 700 million people lived in poverty globally, the majority of whom were in sub‑Saharan Africa and South Asia.  Her country remained committed to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which was anchored on the eradication of all forms of poverty.  In order to address the limited access to education experienced by girls, the Government of Zambia continued to undertake measures to promote gender equality and the empowerment of young women, by ensuring equitable access to quality education.  In partnership with stakeholders, it also continued to prioritize the well‑being of persons with disabilities by enhancing accessibility and participation, as well as the mainstreaming of disability issues in national policies.

KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines) said her country’s people envisioned a future where no one was poor and everyone lived long, healthy lives in safe, vibrant and diverse communities.  Policies aimed at improving the overall quality of life and translating gains of good governance into direct benefits that empowered the poor and marginalized segments of society.  Providing examples of projects, she said efforts included cash transfers, engaging and empowering youth and addressing the needs of older persons and those living with disabilities.  Part of a campaign against illegal drugs included intervention services for illicit drug users and their families and communities, transforming those users into community volunteers, advocates and productive members of society.

CHULL-JOO PARK (Republic of Korea) said development gains had been uneven across countries and regions, with those remaining under the poverty line now even harder to reach.  In an effort to end poverty, the Government had addressed national challenges with efforts aimed at making improvements in various sectors by implementing measures such as an established minimum wage, protections for labourers and tailored social protection services such as childcare subsidies, expanding affordable university accommodation and pension benefits.  Among other projects, efforts targeted youth employment, which was an essential poverty eradication strategy, and policies served the needs of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  Globally, the Republic of Korea, through United Nations agencies, had funded health‑related projects in developing countries around the world.

PHAM ANH THI KIM (Viet Nam), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that to resolve the root cause of poverty, her country had instituted a national programme on sustainable poverty reduction, as well as a programme on new rural development.  Those efforts looked to raise income and ensure better access to health care, education, housing, clean water and sanitation for all of Viet Nam’s people.  New laws had also been enacted or amended to better promote social welfare for vulnerable groups, she said.  Like many developing countries, Viet Nam still faced numerous challenges in poverty eradication, including lack of resources.  As it was among the top five countries most affected by climate change, its people living in the most vulnerable areas faced the risk of returning to poverty.

HMWAY HMWAY KHYNE (Myanmar) said poverty eradication was inextricably linked to the achievement of sustainable development.  For its part, Myanmar had experienced decades of conflict and was still grappling with challenges.  Yet, the Government was focused on a development agenda that created an environment conducive to business and investments.  In social sectors, investments were being directed to provide health care, education and other programmes.  A new youth policy was enacted, a national electrification plan was being laid out and efforts were ongoing to build a prosperous, democratic nation.  Turning to the issue of Rakhine State, she said the Government had formed a committee on development and was carrying out recommendations to address concerns about the situation on the ground.

IRMA ALEJANDRINA ROSA SUAZO (Honduras) said ongoing efforts to achieve goals set out in the 2030 Agenda were tackling challenges related to eradicating extreme poverty.  A multidimensional approach must consider a range of issues, not just income.  In cases of middle‑income countries, many sectors in those populations faced similar challenges.  A national plan was addressing issues from renewable energy to infrastructure development.  Projects were improving the quality of education, reaching rural populations and addressing the needs of persons living with disabilities.  A national youth policy guided programmes aimed at improving the lives of the nation’s younger generations.

MOHAMMED SAHIB MEJID MARZOOQ (Iraq), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said poverty eradication was a development priority.  While Iraq’s national development programme aimed at reaching those goals, conflict and instability had affected results and stymied efforts.  Acts of war and terrorist attacks were forcing the displacement of persons and destroying natural resources.  Moving forward, Iraq had based its poverty reduction strategy on human rights, the provision of job training and the creation of a social safety net that included the private sector and civil society.  Iraq’s development strategy had adopted programmes aimed at boosting food production, improving health care coverage and quality and ensuring that services reached refugees and those returning home to Iraq.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Copenhagen Declaration and the 2030 Agenda had contributed to progress in social development.  Ending poverty was crucial to achieving all other development goals, he said, expressing concern that poverty remained and had even risen in recent years.  Political instability and war had led to a new emergence of poverty, especially among women and children, as was the case in the Middle East.  “Social development must not fall prey to political pressure,” he stressed, adding that the application of sanctions hindered all progress towards development.  Iran’s national development strategies focused on poverty eradication and the empowerment of women and female‑headed households.  Among other things, the Government was obliged to support provinces where per capita income was below the poverty line.  Iran’s experience demonstrated that adopting regional development plans that were tailored to meet local needs could effectively substitute older policies based on social assistance, he said, citing the Barakat Foundation — which sought to strengthen the self‑sufficiency of local populations — as one example.

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria) said that social cohesion was the main tool to tackle poverty and social exclusion.  It required secure living conditions and the prospect of participation for all population groups, which in turn could be guaranteed through an active welfare State.  The Austrian welfare State aimed to ensure that those conditions were met, by supporting eligible beneficiaries with targeted benefits.  The Austrian social model also relied on a long‑standing tradition of involving all relevant stakeholders in policymaking processes.  Austria had implemented the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in 2012, a comprehensive national action plan on disability was enacted.  Concerning ageing, Austria had several priorities, including the active participation of older persons, which was essential to social inclusion.  On families, Austria provided an established system of parental leave regulations.  On youth policy, his country followed the Organization’s World Programme of Action for Youth.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the current session’s theme was appropriate given the past unsatisfactory progress in reducing poverty, especially in least developed countries.  “All the countries of the world must redouble their efforts,” he said, calling for a strong political commitment to eradicate poverty.  The number of people living in poverty in Nepal had dropped from 38 per cent in 2000 to about 21 per cent in 2016, he said, adding that the Government sought to further reduce it to 17 per cent in the next few years.  Work was under way to promote inclusiveness and provide special support to women, children and other vulnerable groups.  Nepal valued the importance of social protection floors, and its own scheme supported older persons and persons with disabilities in particular.  It was also committed to promoting universal education, especially among girls.  Nepal’s least developed and landlocked status — coupled with its emergence from conflict and natural disasters, its difficult topography and vulnerability to climate change — put it in a special position, he said, noting that support from the international community would be needed to address those challenges.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), associating herself with the Group of 77, said strategies to eradicate poverty were imperative, and emphasized that no one should be left behind.  The 2030 Agenda had reiterated those goals, which still required political will and capacity.  More work was needed to achieve social objectives, she said, calling for a better distribution of income and wealth and policies that put human beings above profits.  Implementing an integrated, ambitious and sustainable global development programme must be based on lessons learned as well as commitments undertaken — and some still pending — under the Copenhagen Declaration.  Ecuador’s development programme considered the need to bring all people together along the same path.  Its pillars were to fight poverty in all its dimensions; put the economy at the service of society; and work towards a participatory system with good governance that provided quality services.  Significant progress had already been made towards eliminating extreme poverty, she said, noting that Ecuador hoped to meet that goal by 2021, well ahead of the global 2030 deadline.

CAROLINA POPOVICI (Republic of Moldova), outlining a number of concrete social development policies in her country, said child protection and family support policies were at the top of its list of priorities.  National laws protected children from violence, abuse and other risks, while Moldova’s child birth allowance was regularly reviewed to ensure that it effectively supported childbirth, education and related costs.  Noting that the proportion of the elderly was expected to increase dramatically by 2050, she said immediate measures would be needed to address those changes.  However, “an ageing society is not necessarily an inactive one,” she said, noting that older adults could contribute to public life in Moldova in many ways.  In the context of the global wave of migration, Moldova worked through bilateral agreements with other countries and concentrated on creating conditions conducive to the return of migrants to the country and helping them effectively reintegrate into society.

Mr. CORREAL (Colombia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the 2030 Agenda recognized the need to respect all people regardless of their economic condition, age, sexual orientation or other factors.  Innovative approaches were needed in the eradication of poverty, he said, noting that “no one size fits all” and urging countries to mobilize resources to those ends.  However, international resources were also needed to help coordinate such efforts at the global level.  While the Commission should bear in mind recent achievements made under the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, it must not disregard the commitments undertaken under the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  Calling for greater efforts towards social data collection, he said Colombia had based its family polices around such priorities as social protection and good governance; a national action plan for families was currently being developed with concrete targets, and would be put in place by 2022.

Ms. NORDLANDER (Sweden) said people’s empowerment was central to social development and her country had taken several steps toward that end.  To combat poverty, social protection mechanisms were essential and had a role to play in addressing the needs of vulnerable groups.  As people were living longer than a century ago, new challenges must be addressed.  For its part, Sweden had invested in social protection systems since the mid‑twentieth century.  But, globally, all stakeholders needed to step up efforts in building such systems.  Swedish society had undergone many changes in the past two decades, including single parent families that were facing economic challenges.  Among areas that needed attention, she said protecting children was critical, in fostering healthy societies and for achieving most development goals.  With regard to international development programmes, Sweden had adopted a new strategy, recognizing, among other things, that reproductive rights were not an option, but part of a package of services.

YOSHIAKI KATAYAMA (Japan) said that the key principle of the Sustainable Development Goals, “no one left behind”, reflected the concept of human security, of which his country had been a leading advocate.  Regarding persons with disabilities, it was imperative to ensure their full and active participation in society.  Leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Japan had made nationwide efforts to reform its infrastructural systems, making it accessible for everyone.  Concerning ageing, he noted that Japan faced a declining birth rate and an aging population, and believed it was crucial that each country shared its experiences on how to tackle that problem.  It was also important to promote quality infrastructure investment, which included such concepts as gender equality and barrier‑free access.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said strengthening development efforts to eradicate poverty was now more significant than ever before.  Emphasizing the need for a people‑centred strategy that moved beyond a one‑size‑fits‑all approach, he said national Governments were responsible for those efforts.  For its part, India’s objectives were in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  Citing several examples, he said Government initiatives were developing the agricultural sector, building millions of toilets while improving sanitation services and educating girls.  In addition, authorities were implementing information and communications technology projects to expand the reach of a range of public services.

MADHUKA SANJAYA WICKRAMARACHCHI WICKRAMARACHCHIGE (Sri Lanka), noting that some of the most dramatic reductions in poverty over the last decades had been seen in East and South‑East Asia, said the World Bank had described Sri Lanka in particular as a “success story”.  Since its internal conflict ended in 2009, the economy had grown at an average rate of 6.2 per cent per year, reflecting a peace dividend and a commitment to reconstruction and growth.  The economy was transitioning from a predominantly rural‑based one to an urbanized one, oriented around the manufacturing and service sectors.  Its Vision 2025 programme aimed to further strengthen democracy and reconciliation, as well as inclusive and equitable growth, and to ensure good governance.  Social indicators in Sri Lanka were already among the highest in the region, and unlike other countries it had increasingly begun to support its ageing population.

INASS A. T. ELMARMURI (Libya), associating herself with the Group of 77, said combating multidimensional poverty would have a positive impact on the achievement of all other Sustainable Development Goals.  Noting that half of the 800 million extremely poor people in the world lived in Africa and that thousands were perishing while trying to migrate, she urged countries to work in line with the 2030 Agenda and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to ensure the continent’s security, stability and prosperity and lift millions out of poverty.  Education, decent work and access to technology must be core priorities, she added, calling on development actors to take lessons learned into account.  Despite her country’s conflicts, the Government was working to unify its institutions and better utilize resources, including those funds that had been sent abroad.  It had amended national laws, such as those ensuring the equality of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  Concluding, she underscored the importance of the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and expressed hope that United Nations agencies would return to Tripoli to once again take up their work in her country.

ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his Government had launched an ambitious three‑year development plan based largely on investing in infrastructure and people.  In January, the National Senior Citizens Act was signed into law, which would establish senior citizen centres to provide care and strengthen intergenerational solidarity.  The National Social Investment Office had also been created to expand broader social benefits to all segments of society.  Monthly cash transfer stipends were provided to the poor and a national register was set up to capture biometric and demographic data of the stipends’ recipients.  School feeding programmes sought to provide at least one meal to all students in 20 states throughout the country, utilizing local produce, thereby supporting the agriculture sector and creating many new jobs.  Support was also being provided to small- and medium‑sized business entrepreneurs, he said, adding that pensions were being provided in a more streamlined manner to those retiring from public service and that free treatment was provided to elderly patients in many hospitals across Nigeria.

HECTOR BROWN (United States), focusing his statement on the work of the Commission itself, said it as crucial for the voices of older persons, youth, persons with disabilities and other groups in special situations to be heard at the United Nations.  Noting that several other bodies and agendas had been created across the system in recent years, he said the Commission’s relevance should be reconsidered in that context and against the backdrop of the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts.  In that regard, he voiced support for various elements of the draft resolution presented by Mexico, including the proposal to hold shortened sessions; negotiate a single document each year on the session’s main theme, instead of various texts; and focus on a single annual theme, thereby allowing for a more relevant policy debate.  Those reforms would be consistent with the United States position in support of efforts to reduce duplication and overlap in the work of the United Nations bodies, he said, asking delegates to be bold in considering whether the Commission was still needed in the current context.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said that despite poverty reduction achievements, more than 10 per cent of the global population remained under the extreme poverty threshold.  Eliminating extreme poverty was the greatest challenge facing humanity and efforts must aim at areas from supporting agricultural sectors and creating jobs to boosting the quality of education.  Keeping children in school would also contribute to eradicating poverty, as would conflict prevention and resolution.  For its part, Azerbaijan had invested in reducing poverty and unemployment and in building more schools, hospitals and housing.  The Government had also focused efforts on developing entrepreneurship and improving transportation routes.  By 2020, Azerbaijan aimed at reaching many goals, including to further reduce poverty, promote gender equality and improve food security and the quality of health care.

TYESHA O’LISA TURNER (Jamaica) said that while some efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda objectives had borne fruit, much remained to be harvested through a collective commitment and drive for a better standard of living for current and future generations.  Great investments in human capital would lead to exponential returns for national development, and with that in mind Jamaica had established a social investment fund to mobilize and direct resources, with assistance from international partners, to finance community‑based socioeconomic infrastructure and social services projects to foster an empowered, healthy and productive society.  A national multi‑stakeholder approach aimed at implementing poverty reduction activities.  Yet, more was needed at all levels to eliminate inequalities and reach those most in need.  Citing a range of national efforts, she said strategies were addressing social protection issues, education and health, with targeted projects reaching persons with disabilities and older persons.  To ensure hard‑won gains were not reversed by limited fiscal space and high debt burdens, she called for special attention to be given to the plight of highly indebted middle‑income countries.

FRANCES ZAINOEDDIN, International Federation on Ageing, said the third review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing must be considered within the framework of the 2030 Agenda.  Poverty in old age was often acute, with discrimination in access to economic and other development opportunities growing over time.  In addition, about 80 per cent of older persons had no pension, relying instead on labour and family for income.  The human rights of older persons must be reaffirmed, she said, adding that social development efforts must combat ageism, address inequality of opportunity for older persons and employ life course approaches towards eradicating poverty.  The diversity of older persons must also be recognized, she said, calling on the Commission to focus on social justice for all ages, including older persons.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the poor were not a barrier to sustainable development, but rather one of its greatest resources.  Decent work, productive employment, education, health and social protection were essential pathways to inclusion, which was among the best ways to eradicate poverty.  He underscored the connection between impoverishment and other major challenges, including the migrant and refugee crisis.  Human traffickers were exploiting the logic of exclusion, leading to a rise in modern slavery.  Everyone must become dedicated abolitionists of forced labour and of the economies of exclusion, he said.

News

Commission for Social Development

Note: Complete coverage will be available at the conclusion of today’s meetings.

Briefing by Youth Delegate

RUXANDA RENITA, a youth representative speaking on behalf of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, briefed the Commission on the ongoing United Nations Youth Forum, stressing:  “We live in a non‑linear and non‑static world.”  More than 50 million young people around the world were migrants or refugees in search of a new home, she said, adding that for many of them basic services, such as the right to safe water, seemed a distant dream.  “We are left with two options:  Submit or reinvent,” she said, noting that many young people had chosen the second option and were now formulating new solutions, especially in the social and environmental arenas.  As an immigrant herself, she had jumped from continent to continent in search of a home where all her human rights would be realized.

In the Youth Forum’s current deliberations, young people had reaffirmed the basic right to safe water and sanitation, identifying the excessive burden women faced in those areas due to social taboos around menstrual hygiene, she said.  Participants had identified a need to improve energy access to all populations and enhance the flexibility and effectiveness of energy systems in remote areas around the world.  Cities also needed to become more youth- and gender‑responsive, enhanced efforts to combat social exclusion and ensure the safety of women and young people.  A breakout session on Sustainable Development Goal 12 had spotlighted the role of social entrepreneurs, and youth present for that discussion had underlined the need to use both formal and non‑formal education, as well as better knowledge‑sharing, to improve the world’s consumption and production patterns.

Among other things, participants had called for improving the use of science, technology and innovation, greater involvement of young people at the grassroots level, more transparent Governments, reducing the voting age and stronger efforts to prevent radicalization.  Within the United Nations system, youth participation had increased in recent years, as had the awareness of the important role young people would play in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  However, she said, more investment in such initiatives was still urgently needed.

Statements

SIDY GUEYE, Permanent Secretary of Ministry for Family, Women and Gender of Senegal, associating himself with the statements previously delivered on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the African Group, outlined programmes aimed at reorienting Senegal’s strategies to achieve a minimum 75 per cent health care coverage and the reduction of outward migration.  A national fund devoted $411 million to enhancing employment opportunities for youth, and would be increased in upcoming years.  National funds also offered support to entrepreneurs, and the country had declared 2018 a year of social development.  The “National Agency of the Green Wall” had established a programme against decertification, working to reduce poverty and create jobs.  Other Government ministries and agencies worked to ensure that rural populations remained independent and successful in their production activities.

MIRWAIS BAHEEJ, Director General of Planning and Consolidation of the Ministry for Economy of Afghanistan, said the threats of violent extremism and terrorism in his country continued to hamper efforts to combat poverty.  However, the Government and people remained committed to move Afghanistan forward towards sustainable development, peace and prosperity.  Among other priorities, the Government was working to boost women’s control over economic assets, create 1 million new jobs across various sectors, and increase production in order to substitute Afghanistan’s imports with domestic products.  Noting that returning refugees and displaced persons were migrating in large numbers to the country’s’ cities, putting more pressure on local governments, he said the national Government had responded through accelerated efforts to increase job opportunities for returnees, and thereby improve their self‑reliance.  It was also working to provide every Afghan village with access to basic services and the mechanisms for their delivery, as well as critical infrastructure, which would also create many new jobs.  Afghanistan recognized the critical role youth would play in its sustainable development, and had therefore put in place a National Youth Policy that was now working to address the country’s high youth unemployment rates and bolster investments in young Afghans.

ABDESSAMAD LAURANI, Director of Social Development, Ministry for Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development of Morocco, said national progress over the last 15 years had been seen in areas such as human rights due to better investments in infrastructure and targeted programmes.  Poverty had been reduced, basic services now reached all citizens and youth had been integrated into social development policies.  Industrial, tourism and artisanal sectors had been developed alongside gains seen in agricultural and fisheries, with job creation that encouraged youth to undertake a spirit of entrepreneurship.  Water resources had been addressed through waste management and renewable energy efforts.  Vulnerable groups had benefited from policies addressing gender equality, child protection and protections for persons with disabilities.  A new social registry aimed at combating poverty, institutional reform was improving coordination to ameliorate social assistance programmes and national plans considered youth, literacy and immigration.

A youth delegate from Germany said young people’s inspirational visions could guide policy in significant ways, as they believed in intercultural dialogue and equal gender rights.  Asking delegates how they viewed the world when they had been young themselves, for instance, dreaming of a bright future or falling in love with someone whom they should not have due to various forms of discrimination, she wondered whether they would have liked the international community to help them realize their visions.

A youth delegate from Germany asked Member State representatives to imagine a world in which every person supported the vision of the 2030 Agenda because they had the knowledge to do so.  He then asked them to take action in three areas — guarantee human rights for all, establish a youth delegate programme and support youth organizations to provide young people with the skills they needed today to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including preparing them for future jobs that did not exist today.

PATRYCJA PUZ, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Poland, aligning herself with the European Union, said family development and security form pillars of the Government’s policies.  A flagship scheme of family allowance had allowed extended investments in children’s education while a housing subsidy programme was reaching those in need.  Social policy on older persons was being developed to set standards for assistance from welfare institutions.  Medium- and long‑term actions aimed at advancing progress on responsible development were expected to decrease the number of people living in poverty.  Actions also aimed to improve health care services.

PASCAL FOUDRIERE, Deputy Head of the European and International Affairs Unit of the Ministry for Solidarities and Health of France, associating himself with the European Union, said many countries had seen accelerated ageing in their populations and some remained unable to adapt their policies accordingly.  Europe in particular must adapt its Government programmes to the needs of the twenty‑first century, he said, describing poverty eradication as a central goal and underlining the need for commitment at the highest level.  National level social policies must be mutually strengthening and fully aligned with other measures, including economic ones, and such fully integrated approaches must also involve researchers, civil society, entrepreneurs, farmers, and others on the ground.  New approaches must be identified to overcome the failures of past policies, he said, also calling for more equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.  Ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games to be hosted in France in 2020, the country had invested some 870 million euros in improved transport and accessibility, and was increasing job creation and hiring.

NAJAT DAHAM AL ABDALLAH, Director of Family Affairs of Qatar, expressing her country’s commitment to inclusive social development and poverty eradication, said it promoted the creation of environments conducive to youth skills development and their participation in public life.  Among other things, Qatar had recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations aimed at combating terrorism and protecting young people in particular from recruitment by violent extremists.  Underlining efforts currently under way to ensure that the 2020 Football World Cup — to be held in Qatar — would be inclusive for all people, including those with disabilities, she went on to note that the country’s Vision 2030 plan was fully aligned with the global 2030 Agenda.  Nevertheless, Qatar faced serious challenges following the June 2017 application of unjust, unilateral economic sanctions against it.  Describing those measures as major violations of the economic, social and human rights of the Qatari people, she said they had disproportionately affected women and children, prevented students from continuing their university studies, and restricted the critical travel of Qatari citizens to other countries.

RALITSA DIKANSKA and ASSYA PANDZHAROVA, youth delegates of Bulgaria, said they were proud their country included youth empowerment and participation as one of its four main priorities in its political agenda.  Youth engagement in national and global processes had become a tradition for Bulgaria, with young people having an important role in mobilizing their local communities to initiate action that would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Their involvement was essential to eliminate poverty and all forms of inequalities and discrimination.  Young people must be enabled to act as agents of positive social change, helping to promote awareness of the 2030 Agenda and using sports and intercultural dialogue as tools to enhance tolerance and respect for human rights.  Including youth at all levels of decision‑making was crucial for fostering positive social change and creating sustainable societies, they said, calling on Member States to ensure their inclusion.

JAHKINI BISSELINK, youth delegate from the Netherlands, said by 2030 about 60 per cent of the world’s population would live in cities, 60 per cent of which would comprise people under age 18 who would face new challenges such as food and water accessibility.  Empowering youth as agents of change would help to address those challenges, she said, suggesting ways to do so, including stimulating cross‑cutting youth participation, promoting inclusive dialogue and enabling local talent development.  Elaborating on those recommendations, she urged all State and non‑State actors to start organizing and stimulating youth participation from local to global levels.  As a young person who had been a news reporter at age 11 and a museum employee at age 16, she said such opportunities in rural and urban areas, especially for girls, stimulated talent development.  Urban and rural areas needed vibrant local youth participation to realize their full potential to create resilient communities.

SAMEDIN ROVCANIN, youth delegate from Serbia, said youth inclusion was critically important in efforts related to the 2030 Agenda, pointing at the dreamers who had first conceived of the Millennium Development Goals.  “We all want to live in richer societies, have better access to education and better jobs; this aspiration of ours makes us firm believers in the [Sustainable Development] Goals and staunch promoters of their [2030] Agenda,” he said, emphasizing the role young people could play in implementing the Goals related to education and poverty eradication.  Commending the United Nations and its Member States for including his peers in related discussions, he said Serbia had taken important steps to address national challenges, including creating a road map for strategic cooperation in improving good governance, reducing poverty and protecting the environment.

IOANA COVEI, youth delegate from Romania, said that to address the Commission’s theme of inclusive, resilient and sustainable development, her country looked to an expanded definition of what it meant to be poor, one that looked not only at income or basic needs, but also at empowerment.  As the definition of a dignified life had evolved, poverty had come to include not only access to material resources but also to culture, political participation and the life of the community in general.  Youth was a time when people made important decisions in their lives.  For example, they could decide whether education was worth pursuing.  Increased financial support for young people with lower incomes was important, so that poverty was not an obstacle to accessing a universal right.

VLAD MACELARU, youth delegate from Romania, said that for young people with disabilities, unequal access to education could lead to a significantly higher rate of unemployment, and it was important to stress that much more should be done in terms of accessibility.  More training for teachers so that they could work with children with disabilities was essential to foster development.  Ethnic identity was another layer that could lead to income poverty and poverty in terms of access.  Obstacles to social development were connected and interdependent, and focusing on them separately diminished the potential for change.

KAI SAUER (Finland), associating himself with the European Union, said recent global crises had shown that economic approaches had negatively affected not only social rights but also long‑term fiscal and economic policies.  In contrast, new momentum towards more integrated policies should lead to improved social conditions and poverty eradication.  Calling for determined and integrated action to implement the 2030 Agenda — and for more attention to the follow‑up processes and the full use of indicators — he said Finland was currently carrying out several major reforms and pilot programmes related to economic and social rights.  A basic income experiment, started at the beginning of 2016, had selected 2,000 random persons as a sample to receive basic income as a substitute for some basic benefits including unemployment allowance.  That basic income — fixed at 560 euros per month — was tax-free, and meant to encourage people to accept temporary and part‑time work, allowing for a more empowering and streamlined employment incentive system.  Based on its results, Finland would consider introducing basic income as a tool in its renewed social security system.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that in many countries, extreme poverty was still growing, and prospects for complying with Goal 1 were discouraging.  Political will was not enough, she said, emphasizing the need for material and financial resources, technology transfer and human resource training.  Developed countries must honour their commitments vis‑à‑vis official development assistance (ODA) and the international community must develop a genuine culture of solidarity.  A just international order must be promoted, protectionist and discriminatory trade policies against countries in the South must cease and developed countries must assume their historic responsibility for a serious environmental crisis.  She went on to note the progress Cuba had made in social development despite an economic, commercial and financial blockade that had gone on for nearly six decades.

ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the social needs of Mali’s people were a priority for its Government, which focused in particular on water, education, energy, health care and rural roads.  It was also focused on the social integration of older persons, persons with disabilities, women and children, as well as those who were victims of natural disasters or otherwise in need of humanitarian assistance, and broader efforts were also under way to reduce social risks.  Noting that 15 per cent of Mali’s national budget had been allocated to support the agricultural sector, surpassing the percentage mandated by the African Union, he said part of those funds were allotted as subsidies to farmers.  In 2016, the Government had adopted a strategic framework aimed at economic recovery and sustainable development in a Mali that was unified and at peace.  Included in that plan was a wide expansion of health insurance coverage and the establishment of a month of solidarity, to be celebrated annually in October, as well as additional efforts to support the most vulnerable.

JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde) said the world had recently seen progress in eliminating poverty, but “a long journey is ahead of us” in reducing the many inequalities that had emerged.  His country was committed to reducing poverty rates and had already made substantial progress during the Millennium Development Goal period.  The country’s strategic plan for the period 2017‑2022 was aligned with the 2030 Agenda, and prioritized inclusive economic and social development.  The needs of specific groups, including women, persons with disabilities and youth, were taken into account in that strategy as well as in national legislation.  Government measures also aimed to ensure the universal access to health care and social protection for elderly persons.  While domestic resources were central to funding all those measures, external partnerships also remained critical to helping Cabo Verde address its social issues and eradicate poverty.  In that context, he expressed concern that the country’s graduation from the least developed country category had excluded it from receiving much‑needed aid, and called on partners to continue to support the development efforts of graduated small island developing States.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE(Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that 1.1 billion people had been lifted out of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2013.  Of the estimated 768.5 million people in the world living in extreme poverty, 390.2 million were in Africa.  In Botswana, it was estimated that 5.8 per cent of the population lived in abject poverty.  His Government had adopted several strategies, policies and programmes aimed at promoting sustainable development and eradicating extreme poverty.  A comprehensive social protection system that targeted the vulnerable and needy persons was also in place.  The Government had also created a Technical Devices Fund Levy, which promoted investment in the creative industries as an engine for job creation, poverty alleviation and economic diversification.  Funds had been allocated to promote arts, crafts and performances by local artists.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), citing his country’s progress in various social and economic development areas, said that as the world considered the future of social development, poverty eradication and the situation of least developed countries would be of particular concern.  Ensuring quality jobs, food security and nutrition and empowering people would be critical, he said, pointing out that Bangladesh had been enjoying a gradual but significant reduction in poverty, having seen a 6 per cent economic growth rate for more than a decade.  Bangladesh aimed to become a middle‑income country by 2021 and a developed nation after that.  Noting that its latest five‑year development plan was fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda, he said top priorities included the reduction of inequality through enhanced education programmes and social safety nets.  The country’s inclusive and “whole‑of‑society” approach targeted vulnerable groups and families in order to ensure that no one was left behind.  However, the major recent humanitarian crisis emerging from Myanmar — with over 1 million Rohingyas having arrived in Bangladesh, most since August 2017 — was posing considerable challenges that threatened to negatively impact Bangladesh’s development efforts.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), associating herself with the Group of 77, warned that increasing vulnerability and exclusion, the persistence of unaccountable institutions and continuing conflicts and violence all threatened global development efforts.  That was even more true at a time when “the monster of social discrimination and exclusion based on religion, race, gender and ethnicity is raising its ugly head once again,” she stressed, adding that only realistic and determined social and economic policymaking and implementation could effectively combat poverty.  The Government of Pakistan had put in place people‑centred policies aimed at lifting people out of poverty, promoting fiscal inclusion, boosting agricultural growth, accelerating rural development and providing education opportunities.  The Pakistan Vision 2025 plan aimed to create new and better opportunities for the country’s people, and such initiatives as the Benazir Income Support Programme — a nationwide social safety net plan — provided support to vulnerable people.  Citing gender empowerment as another crucial element, she also drew attention to robust regional partnerships and examples of South‑South cooperation, such as the China‑Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said national efforts were advancing progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including through poverty eradication programmes and multisector projects guided by policies boosting job opportunities, increasing skills and ensuring women’s empowerment.  Government strategies and policies would continue to focus on health, education, housing and employment, she said, emphasizing that human rights‑centred approaches were shaping future efforts.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍS (Bolivia), endorsing the statement made by the Group of 77, said a global context of social crisis, exclusion, migration, climate change consequences and youth unemployment had demonstrated rapidly increasing income gaps nationally and globally.  Public policies in Bolivia had significantly reduced extreme poverty levels over the past decade, with a gross domestic product (GDP) that had more than doubled since 2005 alongside steady declines in school dropout levels and child mortality rates.  Laws, policies and efforts were addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, and gains had been made in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Emphasizing Bolivia’s generous social spending programme, he said that before 2005, 82 per cent of the country’s oil wealth rested with transnational corporations and 18 per cent in national hands.  Today, those figures were reversed, which could serve as an example to others.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) commended the work and priority themes of the Commission in regard to helping States implement the 2030 Agenda.  Eradicating poverty would help to address the other Sustainable Development Goals and targets, he said, adding that Italy fully supported efforts to address the needs of groups such as women, migrants and children.  The vicious cycle of poverty must be overcome by building resilience and ending a culture of dependency.  Italy invested in young people as key drivers of change, including education programmes focused on human rights and the importance of intercultural dialogue.  Citing other efforts, he said persons with disabilities enjoyed protection under laws and innovative projects.

ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco), noting that the 2030 Agenda goals had been based on the 1995 Copenhagen Programme of Action, raised three areas of concern — poverty eradication, health care and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  While progress had been achieved on the former, a new type of poverty in the form of nutritional or sanitary deprivation was emerging.  Access to education and decent work would help to reduce inequalities, particularly between rural and urban populations, by investing in the most disadvantaged.  Monaco also placed great importance on building effective health care systems that reached the most vulnerable.  Turning to the needs of older persons, she said Monaco supported inclusive societies to foster sustainable development.

GEORGINA GALANIS from Soroptimist International, speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Global Citizenship 2030, said members promoted the values of the United Nations.  The 2030 Agenda aimed at freeing the world of poverty and the correction of current inequalities in a sustainable manner.  Global citizens aimed at empowering themselves in their communities, she said, emphasizing the need to take action on eliminating poverty and meaningfully addressing related pressing concerns.  The root causes must be addressed, including the impoverishment of values that had led to, among other things, militarism and greed.  To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, actions must centre on respect for one another, she said.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said poverty was a common enemy of civil society and eliminating it should be a shared goal.  Turning to the 2030 Agenda targets, he said national investments in education, housing and health were part of efforts to ensure that no one was left behind.  Providing some examples, he said a national elderly policy provided financial and emotional support to older persons and the 2016 Gender Equality Act was addressing related objectives.  Eradicating poverty required investing in the greatest resource:  people, he said, adding that the most vulnerable must be reached with effective partnerships to craft shared solutions for a shared goal.

News

Create Conditions for Resumed Talks, Special Coordinator Urges Security Council Ahead of Day-Long Debate on Middle East Peace Process

United States Decision to Cut Funds for Palestine Refugee Agency, Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital Draws Concern, Fear of Further Backsliding

Twenty-five years after the historic Oslo Accords, the United Nations had fallen into a pattern of managing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than resolving it, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today, underscoring the Organization’s responsibility to help the sides return to negotiations and quickly show results.

“Now is not the time to give up on Oslo,” said Nickolay Mladenov via video link from Jerusalem, but rather, to push for policies that rebuilt trust.  The lack of political will to resume negotiations had elicited a heavy price:  violence, settlement expansion, Palestinian political divide and the dire situation in Gaza under the control of Hamas.  “Taken together, these elements kill hope,” he said.

Absent a credible proposal to underpin final status negotiations, the international community must build the conditions for resumed talks, notably by bolstering consensus around the two-State solution.

However, the United States’ 6 December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had led to protests and low-level violence across the West Bank and Gaza, he said, while its greatly reduced $60 million pledge to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had heightened anxieties for 5.3 million refugees.  Allowing the Palestinian national project to backslide risked destabilizing a precarious situation, he stressed, and the recent funding cuts to UNRWA only reinforced those concerns.

In the ensuing open debate, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said the world had borne witness to decisions made in 2017 that denigrated Palestinians’ rights and dismissed the global consensus prevailing for decades.  To the United States, he said:  “We reject this unilateral, provocative decision, which directly contravenes the Charter and United Nations resolutions on the matter.”  It was an understatement to say that Palestinians faced an existential crisis.  He appealed for collective action in following up on the explicit calls made in resolution 2334 (2016).

Israel’s delegate, in turn, said the real threat came from Iran, which allocated $1.5 billion to its proxies, including in Judea and Samaria.  More than $800 million was sent each year to Hizbullah alone, which was then used to terrorize Israel and southern Lebanon.  “These are hard facts that cannot be refuted,” he stressed.  Iran sought to destroy Israel, destabilize the region and threaten the world.  The Council must fully implement resolution 2231 (2015).

Iran’s delegate said “Iran-ophobia” had become a kind of obsession for the United States and Israeli regimes.  The United States’ provocative recognition of Al-Quds Al‑Sharif as the capital of the Israeli regime revealed its complicity in depriving Palestinians their right to an independent State.

Throughout the day, delegates likewise took issue with the United States decision, with the representative of the Russian Federation stressing that the emotional response reflected how delicate the question of Jerusalem truly was.  The solution lay in a prompt resumption of dialogue on all contentious issues.  Long-term and fair agreements that dovetailed with previous decisions of the international community were required, reflecting the interests of both sides.

Lebanon’s delegate, meanwhile, said Israel’s claim of exclusive control of Jerusalem, and the United States’ recognition of that city as Israel’s capital, buried any hope of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace.  Israel’s stated intention to build a wall along the Blue Line and in sensitive occupied areas could lead to conflict.

Jordan’s delegate said decisions about Jerusalem taken outside a comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue were unacceptable.  Jordan would continue to engage with the international community to reject any attempt to change Jerusalem’s historical status.  She called on States to fully support UNRWA, stressing that implementation of relevant Council resolutions was the only way to create the conditions for balance in the region.

Stressing the need for direct negotiations through both parties — rather than through unilateral resolutions of major donors of the peace process — the speaker from the League of Arab States said the United States decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital flouted all international agreements governing the Middle East peace process.

For her part, the representative of the United States said her country had done nothing to pre-judge the final borders of Jerusalem or alter the status of the holy sites.  Rather, it remained committed to the possibility of a two-State solution, if agreed to by both parties.  Recalling that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had recently declared the Oslo peace accord “dead”, she said such words were not those of someone willing to work towards peace.

On that point, Norway’s delegate said his country and the European Union would convene an extraordinary ministerial session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels on 31 January.  That meeting would address measures that could help restart final status negotiations, and sought to assist the Palestinian Authority in reinstating control in Gaza, as outlined in the Cairo agreement of 12 October 2017.

Egypt’s delegate similarly advocated support for Egyptian efforts to foster Palestinian unity, which itself was one of the best means for building a strong, Palestinian society capable of being a partner for peace.

Also speaking today were representatives of China, Netherlands, Kuwait, Sweden, France, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Poland, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Peru, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Liechtenstein, Cuba, Pakistan, Indonesia, Japan, Venezuela, Botswana, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Estonia, Argentina, Syria, Brazil, Morocco, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Arab Group), Iraq, Iceland, Qatar, Bangladesh, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Malaysia, as well as the European Union and the Holy See. 

A representative of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People made a statement, as well.

The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 4:28 p.m.

Briefing

NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said “we have all fallen into the paradigm of managing, rather than resolving the conflict”.  There were those who believed it could be solved through peaceful bilateral negotiations, addressing final status issues and the status of Jerusalem on the basis of prior agreements and United Nations resolutions, and that there must be two States, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.

He said others believed in making unilateral moves that could only lead to a one-State reality.  Still others believed in violence.  They did not recognize that Palestinians and Israelis both had legitimate national, historic and religious connection to the land.  The international community had a duty to prove that they were wrong — and to work with both sides to return to the negotiation table.

As this year would mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Oslo Accords, he said:  “now is not the time to give up on Oslo”, but rather, to push for policies that rebuilt trust, engage on final status issues on the basis of international consensus, and show political leadership to remove obstacles to a sustainable solution.  The lack of political will to restore confidence and resume negotiations had been there for years.  Peace efforts had floundered.  The paralysis had elicited a heavy price:  violence; expanding settlement activity; a Palestinian political divide; and a deteriorating situation in Gaza under the control of Hamas.  “Taken together, these elements kill hope,” he said.  “We either take urgent concrete steps to reverse this perilous course or risk another conflict”.

Expressing deep concern about funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) this year, he said the United States’ $60 million pledge was a significant reduction of its traditional contribution, increasing anxieties for the 5.3 million Palestinian refugees supported by UNRWA.

He said protests and a low level of violence across the West Bank and Gaza continued to follow the United States recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  Since 18 December 2017, seven Palestinian civilians had been killed by Israeli security forces during protests.  On 9 January, an Israeli civilian was shot dead in a drive-by shooting near Nabulus, and on 18 January in Jenin, one Palestinian was killed during an Israeli military raid, reportedly seeking perpetrators of the 9 January attack.  During the reporting period, Palestinian militants had fired eight rockets and mortars from Gaza, with three falling inside Israel, he said, and Israeli Defense Forces targeting Hamas military sites in Gaza, and destroying a tunnel from that area into Israel and Egypt under the Kerem Shalom crossing. 

Turning to settlements, he said that, on 10 January, Israeli planning authorities advanced plans for more than 1,400 housing units in Area C, while one plan for nine units in Psagot had been approved for construction.  Four tenders were published for 500 units that had been processed in 2017.  Further, on 31 December 2017, the Central Committee of the Likud party passed a resolution calling for “unhindered” settlement-building and to “extend Israeli law and sovereignty in all areas of liberated settlement in Judea and Samaria”.  Days later, the Knesset passed an amendment to the “Basic Law: Jerusalem”, which would likely make any peace agreement difficult for Israeli to transfer control over areas currently within the area it defined as Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction to Palestinian authority.  Sixteen Palestinian structures had been demolished due to the lack of building permits that were nearly impossible to obtain, while four other structures were destroyed during a military operation in Jenin.

On the Palestinian political front, he said the Palestinian Central Council, having met in Ramallah on 14 and 15 January, rejected the United States as a partner until it cancelled its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and rescinded the designation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as a terrorist group and closure of the PLO office in Washington, D.C.  It also declared that the Oslo process was no longer valid, and tasked its Executive Committee to suspend recognition of Israel until it recognized the State of Palestine and annulled its annexation of East Jerusalem.

In Gaza, he said implementation of the Egyptian-brokered intra-Palestinian agreement had ground to a halt over issues of tax collection, payment of salaries to public sector employees, the return of Government administration to ministries, and security control.  Norway and the European Union would convene an extraordinary session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on 31 January to discuss ways to accelerate efforts towards a two-State solution, and enable the Palestinian Authority to resume full control over Gaza.  In Lebanon, efforts continued to consolidate stability following the return of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and the situation of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operations was generally quiet, he added.

“We are at a critical point in the peace process,” he said, with the current volatility hardening positions, which played into the hands of extremists.  The international community must build conditions for resumed talks.  It was vital to support strengthening Palestinian institutions and enhancing service delivery in the West Bank and Gaza.  “We can wait no longer to reverse the negative trajectory of this conflict”, he said.  Every illegal settlement, every person killed and every failed effort in Gaza made it more difficult to overcome divisions.  It was time to break that destructive pattern.

Statements

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said that 2017 ended on a disheartening note as the world bore witness to decisions denigrating the Palestinian people’s rights and national aspirations, dismissing the global consensus that had prevailed for decades.  Nevertheless, he found solace and hope in the resounding rejection of such decisions and the unequivocal reaffirmations of, among other things, respect for the legal, political and historic status of the city of Jerusalem.  Palestine’s position rejecting the 6 December 2017 decision on Jerusalem by the United States had been fully conveyed to the Council and remained unwavering, he said, adding:  “We remain insistent on respect for the law and our rights, and we reject this unilateral, provocative decision, which directly contravenes the Charter and United Nations resolutions on the matter.”

That position was not intended as disrespect and should not be translated as such by anyone, he said.  On the contrary, it was a position rooted in full respect for the law, for the principles of justice and equity and for the decades‑long international consensus on the parameters of a peaceful solution.  It was a position of respect for the legitimate national aspirations of the Palestinian people who had been so patient and steadfast despite the grave injustices they continued to endure.  “No price tag can be put on the rights and dignity of any people”, who would not be quashed by threats, intimidation or punitive action.  Palestinians remained resolute in calling for the application of international law to the question of Palestine.  Nothing that the Palestinians had ever done should be misconstrued or cynically portrayed as a rejection of peace.  It was, therefore, appalling to witness the resurgence of claims by the Israeli Prime Minister and other Government officials that the President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, was not a man of peace.  History and facts spoke for themselves and such claims could not be farther from the truth.

Against that backdrop and the ever-worsening situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it was an understatement to say that the Palestinian people were facing an existential crisis, he said.  Palestine had rung the alarm bells before to no avail; yet it was compelled to do so again due to the gravity of the situation.  The world was witnessing in shocking detail the dehumanization of the Palestinian people, their subjugation and deprivation, attempts to erase their history, heritage and identity, and the systematic decimation of their communities and of their will and hope.  “It is a crisis unquestionably about our very existence in our homeland, our rights, including to self-determination and return, and our survival as a people,” he stressed.  Palestinians were openly degraded and demonized by the occupying Power and the public was being incited against them to the point of outright extremism and terror.

Such actions not only contradicted international law and human rights, but set a dangerous precedent in the Council far beyond the confines of the Palestinian question, he said.  He appealed for compassion and the upholding of humanitarian law and principles of collective responsibilities, urging donors to enhance support to UNRWA.  In the span of a year, Palestinians had seen their hopes for peace rise up, only to be suddenly dashed.  Now was the time for collective action in following up on the explicit calls made in resolution 2334 (2016).  It was also time for the international community to mobilize the political will to implement the relevant resolutions and revive the peace option, averting the grave impact the continued unravelling of the situation would have regionally and globally.  He reiterated calls for a collective peace process under international auspices aimed at achieving a just solution and fulfilling the long-denied rights of the Palestinian people.

DANNY DANON (Israel) said the real threat came from Iran.  Brave people had marched through Iranian streets demanding a better life and chanting:  “Not Gaza, not Lebanon.  I give my life for Iran.”  He praised their moral fight against their Government.  Detailing dangerous Iranian regime activities, he said Israel had warned of “Iranian tentacles of terror”, cited evidence of its build up in Lebanon through its proxy, Hizbullah, and its efforts to sneak into Israel.  In fact, Iran had invested $35 billion in Syria.  He then shared classified information demonstrating the extent of Iran’s military build-up in Syria, so the world would understand the growing threat posed by that country.

He said there were 82,000 fighters under direct Iranian authority in Syria, including 3,000 members of its Revolutionary Guard, 9,000 from Hizbullah and 10,000 violent Shia militants from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Iran also commanded 65,000 local Syrian fighters.  “These are hard facts that cannot be refuted,” he stressed.

Moreover, Iran claimed that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Syria was on the run, he said.  If that were so, then why did Iran keep sending in its forces, recruiting extremists and building bases to house fighters for the long run, he wondered.  The answer was so that it could destabilize the region, threaten Israel and terrorize the free world.  Iran was building missile factories in Syria, turning innocent people into human shields.  It was turning Syria into the largest military base in the world, seeking to control that country, which it required in order to destabilize the region.  “The Shiite Crescent has reached our doorstep,” he warned.  Iran was ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

He said Israel faced that risk on its northern border, through Hizbullah and Iranian-Syrian efforts.  “We can no longer distinguish between Lebanon and Syria,” he said.  Israel supported the 1974 agreement on the engagement in Syria and it would take action to protect its citizens.  The Shiite Crescent was more powerful than ever.  The international community should be concerned about Iran, as the Iranian presence in Syria would spill into Europe and across the globe.

Major European corporations and countries had signed multi-billion-dollar deals with Iran in 2015, he said, citing a $720 million solar deal in that context.  Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran had increased its military spending.  In 2014, 17 per cent of Government spending went to the military, in 2017, it jumped to 22 per cent, or $23 billion.  In 2018, Iran’s military budget would only grow.  The money earned from “your economic deals” would be spent on ballistic missile testing and promoting terror, he said.

Moreover, Iran allocated $1.5 billion to its proxies in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Judea and Samaria, he said, among other places.  More than $800 million was sent each year to Hizbullah alone, which was then used to terrorize Israel and southern Lebanon.  The lifting of sanctions under the Plan of Action had released $100 billion of frozen assets, which Iran was using to increase its “slush fund” for terror.  Iran sought to destroy Israel, destabilize the region and threaten the world.  “When Iran takes control, we are all in danger,” he said, pressing the Council to fully implement resolution 2231 (2015).  “You cannot allow Iran to fund worldwide terror,” he said.  The Council must unite to confront that menace to international stability.

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said that there was a lack of courageous leaders who were willing to step forward, acknowledge hard truths and make compromises in order to achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.  In a recent speech to the PLO Central Council, Palestinian President Abbas declared the landmark Oslo peace accord “dead”, rejected any United States role in peace talks, insulted the United States President and invoked an ugly and fictional past that painted Israel as a colonial project engineered by Europeans.  President Abbas’ speech had gotten little attention in the media, despite the fact that it invoked outrageous and indulgent conspiracy theories.  Such words were not those of someone who was willing to work towards peace.  The United States had done nothing to pre-judge the final borders of Jerusalem or alter the status of the holy sites, rather, the United States remained committed to the possibility of a two-State solution, if agreed to by both parties.  Peace required compromise that took into account the core issues of both sides, which was her country’s primary goal.  Hate-filled speeches and end runs around negotiations took the issue nowhere, she said, stressing that peace would not be achieved without courageous leaders.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that the relaunching of the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue had been made considerably more difficult due to settlement activity and inflammatory rhetoric.  Rather than advancing a viable plan, the international community had borne witness to well-known decisions on Jerusalem, which had been met by categorical rejections.  The emotional response to those decisions reflected how delicate the question of Jerusalem truly was, he said, expressing further concern about the decision to cut financing to the Palestinians, including to UNRWA.  The solution to the situation lay in a prompt resumption of dialogue on all contentious issues, including the status of Jerusalem.  Long-term and fair agreements that would dovetail with the previously adopted decisions of the international community were required, reflecting the interests of both sides.  The Russian Federation would continue to support efforts to break the deadlock of the peace process, including through contact with the relevant States.  The conflict would only be resolved through collective efforts.  The Russian Federation believed that any inter- or intra-Palestinian disputes must be resolved through direct dialogue.

In Syria, territory in the northern part of the country had been cleansed of ISIL/Da’esh, setting the stage for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said.  Under the Geneva format, constitutional reform and elections would take place in Syria, under the auspices of the United Nations.  He called attention to the persistent, difficult situation in Libya, calling for a political settlement to that situation, while also expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, which could only be alleviated through a political settlement.

WU HAITAO (China) said the question of Palestine was at core of Middle East peace.  The humanitarian situation in Gaza was grim.  The Council must remain united and promote a political solution with urgency.  The two-State solution was the right approach and the international community must remain committed to relevant United Nations resolutions and the land-for-peace initiative, among others.  China supported the just cause of Palestinians to restore their legitimate national rights, as well as their right to a fully sovereign independent State based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  “This position will not change,” he said, citing China’s four-point proposal which called for a political process based on the two-State solution; adherence to durable security; coordinated international efforts; and a holistic approach to promote peace through development.  China would proceed from that basis.  Efforts to resolve the status of Jerusalem should adhere to the principles of respect for diverse history, equity and fairness, implementation of the international consensus and peaceful coexistence.  He called for greater support for UNRWA and for countries hosting Palestinian refugees.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that a two-State solution was the only viable way of fulfilling the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike, to live in peace, security and dignity.  He expressed concern about developments on the ground, with tensions increasing over the past two months, and condemned all acts of violence, including the firing of rockets from Gaza, the killing of an Israeli citizen in the West Bank on 9 January and the cynical use by militants of the crossing at Kerem Shalom/Karm Abu Salem as a cover for building a tunnel.  He was also concerned by the high number of Palestinian casualties in protests and confrontations in the past months.  The Netherlands strongly opposed the recent Israeli announcements on settlement expansion.  Settlements were illegal under international law and were an obstacle to peace.  Both parties should urgently take significant positive steps to build confidence and improve the situation on the ground.  A political horizon for the two-State solution was needed, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said today was the first time since becoming a Council member that his country was participating on the Palestinian issue.  No party must be allowed to avoid implementation of binding Council resolutions through unrealistic excuses.  Yet, Israel was in breach of resolution 2334 (2016), as it continued its aggressive policies, unilateral measures and provocations in the absence of any serious call by the Council to end its aggressions and comply with its 1949 Geneva Convention obligations.  Its unprecedented settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had become a daily routine for Palestinians, confirming the need to end that situation through a two-State solution.  He welcomed the demand by the General Assembly and the Council to end the occupation, reaffirming the importance of the land-for-peace initiative and the Arab peace initiative.  He cited United Nations principles, including not to infringe on Jerusalem’s special status, and regarding the importance of measures that sought to do so.  It was unacceptable to think that unilateral decisions would ease the conflict.  He encouraged all donor States to provide UNRWA with funding, noting that Kuwait had offered $7.9 million in December 2017 and January 2018.  He reaffirmed East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, and expressed support for all legal and peaceful efforts by the Palestinians at the national and international levels to exert sovereignty over Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said that only a two-State solution, based on known parameters, international law and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, could fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians and achieve the security and peace they deserve.  Developments on the ground continued to deteriorate.  The rapid settlement expansion, challenges to the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem and the shrinking space for civil society in Israel and Palestine continued to undermine the prospects for peace.  He was also concerned by Israeli legislative initiatives and policies that risked prejudging future negotiations and undermining the prospects for a two‑State solution.  That was particularly true with regard to legislation and policies that would undermine the status of Jerusalem, including the continued Israeli policy of revoking the residency rights of Palestinians, in violation of international humanitarian law.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said deadly crises in the region had neither normalized nor marginalized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and escalation carried the risk of unbridled regional conflict.  Having taken note of the United States’ commitment to seek resumed negotiations with a view to a final status agreement, he anticipated proposals to be made in that regard, notably within the international framework.  On 22 January, the Palestinian President had reaffirmed his commitment to peace rooted in a two-State principle and he recalled the parameters as:  two States living in peace and security along secure 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land exchanges and Jerusalem as the future capital of both States.  A regional approach with economic incentives could foster a peace agreement, but could not supplant one.  The parties were at a crossroads, where each parameter was imperilled.  Also, there were 600,000 settlers — 200,000 of them in East Jerusalem — and he condemned settlements as illegal, confirmed by resolution 2334 (2016).  The status of Jerusalem must be determined by the parties in an agreement, where it would become the capital of both Israel and Palestine.  France recognized no sovereignty over Jerusalem and denounced the United States’ announcement which departed from international consensus and especially Council resolution 478 (1980).  He expressed regret that Israeli law was making it difficult to share Jerusalem under a future peace agreement.  Until a fair solution to refugee question was reached, UNRWA’s provision of services would be indispensable.  The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting on 31 January should reaffirm the financial and political commitment to the two-State solution.  “We need a commitment from all, beginning with the United States partner,” he said.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said that peace and security in the Middle East remained a matter of serious concern.  Issues ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Syrian and Yemeni crises and the situation in Libya had dominated much of the Council’s discussion for the past year.  The geostrategic importance of the Middle East region was well known, but for the Horn of Africa, the situation had a direction implication on its peace and stability.  It was already witnessing the impact of the Gulf crisis, and the fallout from the Yemeni conflict was being felt across the Red Sea.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the core of the dangerous situation that had defined the Middle East for the past several decades.  As much as Ethiopia supported the right of Israel to exist in peace and security, it also supported the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the right of Palestine to exist as a free and independent State.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) regretted that there were 5 million Palestinian refugees and that those living in the Gaza Strip were suffering under an inhumane blockade.  It was discouraging that there were efforts to expand settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, while Palestinian children were being abducted and held in Israeli jails.  Bolivia rejected the obvious intention of the Israeli Government regarding the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian lands, which was a clear violation of several resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly.  He expressed dismay regarding the decision by the United States to cut funding to UNRWA and believed that decision would have a significant impact on the humanitarian assistance the Agency was able to provide to needy people.  The reduction in funding would mean the denial of access to basic services, including education and health care, to people who had been stripped of their lands, livelihoods and history.  His country condemned the decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, said that her country strongly supported all initiatives aimed at strengthening security and stability in the Middle East.  The international community should seek to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian question by reviving the peace process, which was the only way to resolve all final status issues.  Poland believed the aspirations of both parties regarding Jerusalem must be fulfilled through negotiations, adding that the status quo put in place in 1967 pertaining to the holy sites must be upheld.  Her delegation supported a two-State solution that took into account national aspirations, including the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and independence and Israel’s right to ensure its security.  She expressed deep concern about the deteriorating financial situation of UNRWA, which could result in serious security and humanitarian consequences.

STEPHEN BENEDICT HICKEY (United Kingdom) said his country envisioned Israeli and Palestinian States living side by side within secure recognized borders, and Jerusalem as their shared capital.  The United Kingdom would contribute to all credible efforts to restart the peace process.  Statements that demonized the Jewish people were unacceptable and he encouraged Palestinian leaders to implement recommendations from the Quartet report on incitement.  Both sides must adhere to previous agreements.  The Palestinian Central Council’s recommendation to de‑recognize Israel were non-binding and unconstructive, and he welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s recognition of Israel and support for the two-State solution.  Settlements and demolitions must be halted, and humanitarian efforts supported, especially in Gaza and including for the full return of the Palestinian Authority to that area.  Progress must also be made on reconciliation, in line with the Quartet principles.  UNRWA must become more efficient and must be able to continue to carry out its functions, he said, stressing that unexpected reductions in donor disbursements could undermine regional stability.  The United Kingdom shared the United States’ desire to end the conflict and its efforts to submit proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.  It would contribute to refugee compensation and enable trade and investment among the United Kingdom, Israel, a future Palestinian State and neighbours.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said his country favoured a solution based on dialogue to any conflict.  It was essential for Palestinians and Israelis to engage in direct frank dialogue without preconditions.  The only just solution was one in which aspirations were fulfilled in the framework of two States living in peace and security.  Negotiations must be held in the context of the Arab peace initiative and Council resolutions, as must efforts to address the status of Jerusalem.  A just solution based on dialogue meant that none would see their aspirations fulfilled entirely.  While Israel was entitled to live in peace and security, Palestinians’ right to a State could not be denied.  Violence should cease immediately, he said, with parties adhering to international law and refraining from unilateral actions.  The international community should promote dialogue while the Council should take all efforts necessary to that end.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) deplored the entrenchment of positions seen since the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and decision to transfer its embassy to that city.  The bogging down of the peace process and stiffening of positions were liable to permanently undermine efforts to create two States living side by side in peace and security.  He reaffirmed support for the two-State solution, noting that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated in the framework of United Nations resolutions.  Israeli and Palestinian actors must engage in dialogue and abandon any unilateral action that could alienate prospects for a peaceful political solution.  He expressed regret over the United States’ reduced contribution to UNRWA, encouraging Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to continue dialogue, and the Authority in particular to show an openness to dialogue with neighbouring countries, especially over the welcoming of Palestinian refugees.  On Syria, he urged the fact-finding mission to shed light on circumstances surrounding the use of chemical weapons and favoured a consensus-based mechanism to ensure accountability for the perpetrators.  He also welcomed France’s 23 January launch of an international partnership against impunity for the use of chemical weapons, as well as the extension of the mechanism to deliver assistance across borders to besieged areas, calling for an end to hostilities in de-escalation areas.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) expressed support for a two-State solution based on 1967 borders and negotiated by Israel and Palestine, stating that there was no alternative and no “Plan B”.  It was important to act in conformity with international law and the United Nations Charter.  Peru urged parties directly involved to end, investigate and punish any violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.  Hate speech, anti-Semitism and discrimination in all their forms must be rejected, and relevant Security Council resolutions complied with.  Noting the Secretary-General’s readiness to contribute to a resumption of negotiations, he said it was important for UNRWA to have sufficient support and predictable financing.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), Council President for January, speaking in his national capacity, said the eighth international meeting on Syria, held in Astana on 22 December 2017, had produced several documents promoting confidence-building with the aim of combating terrorism and consolidating the political process in that country.  Kazakhstan would cooperate closely with the Syrian national dialogue in Sochi, Russian Federation, from 29 January to 3 February, he added.  In Yemen, he said the coalition must keep all ports open to facilitate humanitarian assistance.  Emphasizing his country’s support for the two-State solution and the work of UNRWA, which must continue without financial cutbacks, he endorsed the call by the United States’ representative for leaders with political will, great vision, conviction and commitment to peace.

MOHAMED ASIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said that his country had always believed that an independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, established on the 1967 borders, living in peace and harmony with Israel, was the only solution to the seven-decade conflict.  He called on Israel to fully implement the decisions of the Council and to respect the legal obligations of the United Nations Charter.  On Syria, he said that, while he recognized the progress being made in finding an end to the conflict, with the all-Syria congress expected to be convened at the end of January, much more needed to be done.  On Yemen, he said that it had suffered the worst famine in years, while violence still prevailed in Libya.  Peace was a prerequisite and consequence of development, and constructive and lasting solutions must be found in those countries.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said peace in the Middle East seemed more remote than ever.  Israel’s claim of exclusive control of Jerusalem, and the United States’ recognition of that city as Israel’s capital, buried any hope of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace.  “It is making our people despair, and desperate people do desperate things,” she said.  A failure by the international community and the Security Council to reaffirm the core principles of peace could plunge the Middle East into more conflict, with dire global implications.  On southern Lebanon, she said Israel’s stated intention to build a wall along the Blue Line and in sensitive occupied areas threatened to destabilize the situation and could lead to conflict.  It also reflected Israel’s total disregard for Council resolution 1701 (2006), she said, urging the Council to prevent further Israeli provocations.  She went on to say that, despite Lebanon’s economic, social and security challenges, the conflict in Syria and the heavy burden of hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon’s leaders were committed to holding parliamentary elections in May.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that the repeated failure of the Council to act on the most serious crimes in Syria was particularly apparent as chemical weapons attacks continued unabated, in blatant disregard of the most fundamental rules of international law and with horrific consequences for that country’s people.  Liechtenstein deplored the discontinuation of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, whose investigative capacity and preventive dimension was urgently required.  The Council had a crucial responsibility to protect civilians from the most serious crimes under international law, he said, calling attention to the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen which had reached unprecedented dimensions.  His country was concerned about the already-fragile peace process in the Middle East that had been further jeopardized by recent developments that put at risk the possibility of a two-State solution, which was the only promising avenue for achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed her deep concern about the situation in the Middle East and the lack of progress in finding a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  She rejected the unilateral statement made by the President of the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  That was a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and international law.  The Security Council must uphold the responsibility entrusted to it by the Charter in the maintenance of peace and security.  It must call on Israel to end the occupation of the Palestinian territory and to comply with resolutions adopted by the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.  The blockade of Gaza must end immediately.  Cuba would continue to support a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-State solution.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that the global peace and security landscape remained plagued by challenges.  In fundamental ways, the world had gone into reverse.  Nowhere was that fraught situation more apparent than in the Middle East.  The two-State solution was in peril.  That morning, there had been a glaring flight from reality, with some speakers trying to deflect attention from the tragedy of the Palestinian people.  Occupiers had no option but to present alternative facts.  The decision by certain countries to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem had inflamed the situation.  The legal status of Jerusalem was unambiguous.  When principles were trumped by self-serving interests, reason was supplanted by threat and intimidation.  The Middle East could only seek the dividend of peace if it was built on the foundation of justice.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that he hoped that in 2018 there would be a final end to the conflict in Syria and the beginning of a political transition process that was accepted by all parties, which would make it possible for its entire population to be part of a better life.  He remained deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Yemen that had continued to deteriorate because of ongoing conflict, collapsing basic services and economic decline.  Yemenis had suffered for too long.  They needed the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law by protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure, and by facilitating rapid, safe and unfettered humanitarian access.  He called on all parties to cease hostilities and engage meaningfully within the United Nations to achieve a lasting political settlement.  The subject of Jerusalem was widely known by the international community to be a very sensitive one, and the legally binding status of Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem under the United Nations Charter was unquestionable.

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, European Union, reiterated its firm commitment to the two-State solution.  The aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem must be fulfilled, and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both States.  The European Union was also stepping up its efforts to provide a political horizon for solving the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.  The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement and construction and related activities, including recent evictions in East Jerusalem and plans leading to the forced transfer of Bedouin communities in the West Bank, was clear and had not changed.  The European Union remained strongly opposed to Israel’s settlement policy, which was illegal under international law.

He also expressed concern over the recent significant reductions of funding for UNRWA.  Reduced support would have serious security and humanitarian consequences not only in the West Bank and Gaza but also in neighbouring countries.  He stressed that the European Union had provided extensive and reliable support to UNRWA since 1971.

SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan) said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the main source of instability in the Middle East, and failure to achieve a comprehensive and just settlement would significantly contribute to regional tensions and continued violence.  Implementation of relevant Council resolutions was the only way to create the conditions for balance in the region.  Progress could not be made through unilateral measures, she said, adding that decisions about Jerusalem taken outside a comprehensive resolution of the Israel-Palestinian issue were unacceptable.  Jordan would continue to engage with the international community to confront and reject any attempt to change Jerusalem’s historical status.  Quoting the King of the country, she said Jerusalem must be open to all followers of all Abrahamic religions.  She went on to call on the international community to extend full support to UNRWA, adding that, in Syria, the priority was to find a political settlement.  Hopefully, the ninth round of Geneva talks would pave a way to peace and stability in Syria.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that, to restore peace in the Middle East, it was urgent that the Council applied solutions envisioned by the Charter to put an end to the humanitarian crises that continued to ravage ancient peoples, religions and cultures.  The Palestinian-Israeli peace process was at the centre of the maelstrom sweeping the region and was one of the longest-standing conflicts on the Council’s agenda.  He reiterated the urgent need to resume negotiations between the parties of the central issues of the conflict, on the basis of all relevant Council resolutions.  He underscored that there could be no doubt that the Holy City of Jerusalem had a very special place not only in the hearts of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but also for worshippers of the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions everywhere.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the United States’ provocative decision to recognize Al-Quds Al‑Sharif as the capital of the Israeli regime revealed the complicity of the Israeli and United States regimes to deprive the Palestinians of their basic right to establish their own independent State with that city as its capital.  Illegal settlements were both a grave breach of the fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime which clearly indicated that the Israeli regime never had any interest in peace, he said.  Emboldened by impunity provided by the United States, the Israel regime had shamelessly and flagrantly violated at least 86 Council resolutions since 1948.  The United States was never an honest partner for Middle East peace and it never would be.  He said the Council had failed to act on genuine issues such as the occupation of Palestinian territory and the indiscriminate bombing of Yemen.  Promoting and spreading “Iran-ophobia” had become a kind of obsession for the United States and the Israeli regime, perpetrated by those who sold or bought United States he added.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that his country intended to strengthen its political engagement to stabilize the Middle East.  During a visit to Israel and Palestine in December 2017, his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs reiterated Japan’s support for a two-State solution and urged both parties to engage constructively in negotiations, in which the United States would still play an important role.  Japan would continue to support UNRWA, he said, adding that the international community must be united in upholding a two-State solution through negotiations on the basis of United Nations resolutions and agreements previously reached by the parties.  The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting at the end of January would be a good opportunity to that end.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, League of Arab States, affirmed its support for Middle East peace efforts.  The Council’s meeting today was taking place against the background of the United States decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and transfer its embassy there.  That decision flouted all the international agreements that governed the Middle East peace process.  In order to have global peace, direct negotiations were needed through both parties and not through unilateral resolutions of major donors of the peace process.  The League of Arab States had rejected the United States’ 6 December 2017 position on Jerusalem, and had done so during a meeting of the League of Arab States in Cairo on 9 December 2017.  The statement by the United States had undermined the peace process.  On the vote on Jerusalem in the General Assembly, he noted that the United States had used economic threats to get countries to change their stance on that matter.

SAMUEL MONCADA ACOSTA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed that organization’s abiding solidarity with the Palestinian people.  The ongoing Israeli occupation and the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a whole remained a serious threat to international peace and security that required urgent attention.  Emphasizing that the Council must fulfil its duties under the United Nations Charter, he said resolution 2334 (2016) was the most viable path to peace.  Provocations, unilateral actions and the escalation of tensions were incompatible with the pursuit of peace, he said, adding that contempt for the Council and disregard for its resolutions would exacerbate the situation.

Addressing the decision by some Governments to move their embassies to Jerusalem, he said unilateral actions taken in flagrant disrespect of Council resolutions, including resolution 478 (1980), jeopardized prospects for a two‑State solution while having a negative impact on the situation on the ground.  He called for an immediate halt to settlement activities and a complete lifting of the blockade on Gaza, adding that threats against UNRWA could lead to a humanitarian disaster in Gaza with potentially destabilizing effects.

NAME TO COME (Botswana), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that he supported the search for a peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East and expressed concern that the question of Palestine had remained unresolved for many decades.  He was also concerned about the escalation of violence, which had undermined all international efforts for a lasting solution.  His country supported the principle of self-determination, and in that respect, supported the Palestinian people in their quest for sovereignty and independent statehood.  There was no alternative to the two-State solution of two sovereign States living side by side.  He urged all Member States to avoid taking unilateral actions that would jeopardize peace in the Middle East.  He regretted the decision of the United States on 6 December 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

EDGAR SISA (South Africa) said that another year could not be allowed to proceed without progress on the Middle East peace process.  New challenges, as had been seen with the developments pertaining to the status of Jerusalem, had compounded existing negative developments such as the continuing Israeli illegal settlement activity.  The best option for the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict was premised upon the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence, which entailed a principled position against the military occupation of the Palestinian people and their land.  It was also premised on the right of both the peoples of Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace in their own States, and the belief that there could be no military solution to the conflict.  His country was deeply concerned that unilateral action by some Member States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel undermined the revival of a peace process.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Arab Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said Jerusalem was the mother of all cities which, for 1,400 years, had been an Arab and Muslim city, open to all religions.  It was the eternal historical capital of Palestine and so it would remain, he said.  Over 50 years, the Security Council had adopted several resolutions which emphasized that unilateral decisions affecting Jerusalem’s status were null and void, and those resolutions cannot be ignored.  In that vein, the transfer of any embassy to Jerusalem would be null and void, fuel tension, undermine trust in the peace process and affect any chance for peace based on the two-State solution.  He went on to say it was high time for the Security Council to take a firm position against Iran, which had continued its flagrant interference in the internal affairs of Arab States while spreading and supporting terrorism.  On Syria, he noted Saudi Arabia’s efforts to unify that country’s opposition factions, and called for immediate humanitarian access nationwide, the prompt release of detainees and the dignified return of refugees.

SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria) said that as the international community continued to seek avenues to advance the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian question, efforts must remain focused on paving the way for Israel and Palestine to return to meaningful negotiations.  There was no substitute to an agreed multilateral approach for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum in a sustainable manner.  Achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the question of Palestine was imperative for the attainment of durable peace and security in the Middle East.  It was for that reason that he acknowledged the adoption of the General Assembly resolution on the status of Jerusalem on 21 December 2017, and called upon all parties to respect relevant United Nations resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) said that a just and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the two-State solution, must be worked towards.  The regional context, including the ongoing radicalization and the spread of terrorism, made it even more urgent to end the conflict.  The status quo was not an option, as the viability of the two-State solution was constantly being eroded by emerging new facts on the ground.  He affirmed their country’s position that the status of Jerusalem had to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant United Nations resolutions.  Estonia was also concerned about the funding cuts to UNRWA, which had been an essential lifeline for many Palestinians for decades, providing basic services, including food and support as well as children’s education and health care.  Humanitarian aid should not be politicized, he said.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said that his country supported all efforts aimed at achieving peace and security in the Middle East.  He called for unilateral provocative action to be avoided.  Turning to the question of Palestine, he reiterated his country’s firm support for a lasting solution to the Palestinian question based on the two-State solution.  He reaffirmed his support for the inalienable right of the Palestinian people for self-determination.  Settlements ran counter to international law and weakened the possibility for a two-State solution, and led to a continued unsustainable status quo.  Jews, Muslims and Christians must have access to sacred sites, and any attempt to minimize that was unacceptable and would not contribute to finding a solution to the conflict.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) said the unilateral decision by the United States to relocate its embassy to the occupied city of Jerusalem was a flagrant violation of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  That country’s action had no value whatsoever and would not alter the city’s legal status.  The United States veto of a draft Council resolution on the status of Jerusalem demonstrated that country’s total disregard for international law and its unlimited support to the racist, expansionist and Zionist Israeli regime at the expense of the Palestinian people.  The Assembly’s related resolution, meanwhile, showed how limited United States influence could be.  Despite years of war, Syria had never lost its moral compass, always maintaining its principled position on the Palestinian question, he said, called for the State of Palestine to be given full membership in the United Nations.

It was regrettable that the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General had disregarded the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan, he said.  Israel had continued to confiscate territory in the Syrian Golan, expanding settlements, exploiting resources, distorting history and destroying culture.  Responding to the statement by the representative of Saudi Arabia, he said that to reach a settlement to the conflict in Syria, the regime of the Saudi royal family must stop issuing fatwahs that fuelled terrorism.  It must also stop giving support to more than 100 armed terrorist groups in Syria, including the supply of toxic chemical substances.  Saudi Arabia had been spreading terrorism for decades, he said, calling for a decisive international response.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said that at the heart of the situation in the Middle East was the need to work towards a Palestinian State that was fully sovereign, economically viable and territorially contiguous.  His country believed that the moment had arrived to bring about a political process that would put an end to the war in Syria, while the military victory achieved in 2017 against extremism in Iraq should be followed by a successful process of reconstruction, economic recovery and national reconciliation.  Without a cessation of hostilities, the humanitarian tragedy in Yemen would continue, and in that context, Brazil called on all actors in a position of influence to help bring the parties to the negotiating table and put an end to the fighting as soon as possible.

HICHAM OUSSIHAMOU (Morocco) said the King, as Chair of the Committee on Jerusalem, attached great importance to Palestinians’ rights to an independent State along 4 June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The Government had always sought to achieve just peace in the Middle East based on relevant resolutions and the Arab peace initiative, and made efforts to revive the stalled political process.  Israel’s illegal Judaization activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory allowed no prospects for solutions in the near future.  Jerusalem was a symbol of coexistence for the Arab region.  As Chair of the Committee, the King had expressed the concern of Arab and Muslim countries about the United States decision, and on 6 December 2017, sent a letter to the Secretary-General stressing that any attempt to alter the historic status of Jerusalem would lead to a religious conflict.  Morocco called for preserving the city’s legal and historic status and encouraged the Council to push for a final settlement of the conflict based on international resolutions.

FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the United States decision violated international law.  It demonstrated a blatant disregard of Palestinians’ historic, legal and natural rights, and further, a painful affront to the religious rights of Christians and Muslims worldwide, as well as universal values.  He called on States to refrain from recognizing that decision and to implement resolution 478 (1980).  Al-Quds Al-Sharif was a holy city for all three monotheistic religions, he recalled.

As such, he said all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of East Jerusalem were illegal, stressing that OIC was appalled by the actions of violent settlers and occupation forces in occupied Al‑Khalil/Hebron, which threatened to transform a solvable political conflict into a never ending religious war.  “This must be urgently averted,” he said.  Implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) was paramount to advancing peace and States must uphold their obligations for accountability for any violations.  He reiterated calls for lifting Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, and in light of the recent United States decision to reduce funding to UNRWA, underscored the need for funding to that Agency.

Speaking in his national capacity, he described Turkey’s efforts in fostering peace in Syria.  At the last round of Astana talks, confidence-building measures had been adopted, he said, adding that the Astana and Sochi platforms were complementary to the United Nations process.  Turkey’s resolve to fight terrorism was firm.  Terrorism could have no religious or ethnic justification.  On 21 January, Turkey had launched counter-terrorism operation “Olive Branch”, in line with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, targeting terrorists, hideouts, weapons, vehicles and equipment.  All protections were being taken to protect civilians.  Among its goals was to neutralize terrorists in Afrin, he said, stressing that Turkey would take all measures to protect its national security.

SAUD HAMAD GHANEM HAMAD ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates), speaking for the Arab Group, said that Security Council resolution 242 (1967) laid the foundation for any acceptable settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which would require Israel’s withdrawal from the Arab territories.  The resolution remained the only way to address the question of Palestine.  The Arab Peace Initiative presented an historic opportunity for Israel to have normal relations not only with its Arab neighbours, but also with other Muslim countries.  The Amman Summit reiterated last March that the initiative was a strategic option for Arab States.  Unfortunately, Israel proposed only one alternative:  the continuation of its occupation, the perpetuation of its colonization and diminishing Palestinian sovereignty.  Israel had also succeeded in burying the 1993 Oslo Accord and practically ended it by enforcing the brutal apartheid system in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and converting the Gaza Strip into one big prison.

He also addressed final status issues and affirmed the Arab Group’s firm rejection and strong condemnation of the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the occupying Power, and the decision to move its embassy to that city.  The Group considered that action to be null and void, and a serious and dangerous breach of international law and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  Even though the policy did not have any legal impact that would change the status of Jerusalem, the Arab Group considered it a clear violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, and an attack on both Arab and Muslim nations, as well as on Christians around the world.  It was also a dangerous development that undermined the peace process and the two-State solution.  The Security Council and Member States should not recognize any unilateral measures that targeted Jerusalem’s character or its demographic composition, and should refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

TORE HATTREM (Norway) said that settlement activities undermined prospects for a two-State solution, and should stop.  With the support of relevant parties and stakeholders, Norway and the European Union had decided to convene an extraordinary ministerial session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels on 31 January.  That meeting would address measures that might have a positive impact on the efforts to restart final status negotiations.  It would also discuss efforts to assist the Palestinian Authority to reinstate its control in Gaza, as outlined in the Cairo agreement of 12 October 2017.  Delivery of essential services by UNRWA was crucial to addressing the basic needs of Palestinian refugees.  The financial situation of the Agency was critical and there was a risk that it would not be able to deliver on its mandate.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said it was, more than ever, important to have peace on the horizon in the Middle East.  Iraq was particularly concerned by the Palestinians’ dire humanitarian situation.  He called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities, and for those countries which had not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so soon.  Doing so would be an investment in peace.  Renewed interest in the Palestinian issue was an opportunity to renew direct negotiations under the aegis of the United States, European Union and Arab States, he said, welcoming also the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative.

EINAR GUNNARSSON (Iceland) said more attention should be paid to the conflict in Yemen, where civilians were paying a huge price in a senseless war.  Compared to other conflicts in the Middle East, the Israel-Palestine conflict should be soluble, he said, emphasizing that actions which led away from the two‑State solution, or which risked undermining trust, enflaming passions and sparking violence, must be avoided.  That applied equally to violence by Palestinians and to disproportionate Israeli military responses, as well as the latter country’s settlement policy.  He added that failure to address the humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees could potentially breed extremism among young people, and that undermining UNRWA now would undermine Middle East peace and stability.

MOHAMED OMAR MOHAMED GAD (Egypt) said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was worsening:  Palestinians could no longer enjoy their freedom, exercise their right to self-determination, create an independent State or live in peace and security.  The international community was on the horns of a dilemma, as people watched the United Nations closely.  Indeed, any country could allow itself to leave the international community or sign treaties with perfect impunity.  All actors must do their utmost to end the occupation, as regional tensions were growing.  “Institutions are failing,” he said, opening the door for some to practise aggression and violence, and disseminate extremist and racist ideologies.  “We have to act,” he said.  Egypt had always been looking for ways to balance the humanitarian situation in Gaza, efforts that did not absolve the occupying Power of its responsibilities related to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Checkpoint measures must be eased and construction activities restarted.  Stressing that any action that was not aligned with international law had no legal status, he said Egypt had regularly called on parties to return to the negotiating table on the basis of the two-State solution.  Any alternative not agreed by the parties would only increase tensions.  He advocated support for Egyptian efforts to foster Palestinian unity, which itself was one of the best means for building a strong, Palestinian society capable of being a partner for peace.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) renewed support for all efforts aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, expressing support for two States living side by side, and a Palestinian State established along 1967 borders, in line with Council resolutions and the Arab peace initiative.  The parties must deal with Al-Quds Al‑Sharif as part of comprehensive settlement of the Middle East question, she said, citing Council resolution 478 (1980). Indeed, Al-Quds Al‑Sharif was a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations.  Qatar did not recognize any efforts to change the legal position or demographic structure of that city.  She underscored need to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians.  More broadly, she called for stabilizing situation in Syria, in line with the Charter and international law.  Also, illegal unilateral measures against Qatar had grave impacts on regional peace and security, affecting the campaign to combat terrorism.  She rejected any violation of Qatar’s sovereignty, emphasizing that her country had a legitimate right to maintain national security.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country was deeply concerned by unilateral decisions and actions which compromised the standing of East Jerusalem as a final status issue.  The legal status of Jerusalem must be preserved within the framework of relevant United Nations resolutions, he said, urging the Council to prevail upon Israel to immediately halt its illegal settlement activities, lift the blockade on Gaza and end all forms of occupation and violence.  Enhanced, predictable and sustainable financing for UNRWA must be ensured, he said, urging Member States to help uphold the Agency’s ability to make a difference in the lives of Palestinian refugees.  Concluding, he said Bangladesh expected the Council to show unity of purpose in finding peaceful, just and lasting solutions to all protracted conflicts and related humanitarian situations worldwide, including the Palestinian question.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, stressed the Committee’s deep concerns that Israel was continuing the process of imposing game-changing realities on the ground.  Earlier in January, Israel’s Parliament passed a bill that would make it next to impossible for any future Israeli Government to cede any part of Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem, to an independent Palestinian State as part of peace negotiations.  The Committee deplored all human rights violations against the Palestinian people and the breaches of international humanitarian law that continued to be perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Until the occupation of that territory ended and Palestinians gained full control over their resources, the Committee called upon the international community to continue supporting the Palestinian people.

JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), recalling the General Assembly’s resolution in December 2017 on the status of Jerusalem, said the decision by the President of the United States to recognize Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of Israel, and to move the United States embassy to that city, deserved global condemnation.  It represented an insult to international legitimacy and the unanimous will of the international community.  The United States and Israel should pay due attention to international efforts to resolve Middle East issues, including the question of Palestine, and participate in the peace process with honesty and diligence.  He reiterated his country’s firm support for the Palestinian people and emphasized the need to end the Israeli military occupation.  He added that the Syrian issue should be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, with no foreign intervention.

SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia), associating himself with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said a resolution of the question of Palestine remained elusive due largely to Israel’s defiance of Council resolutions.  Israel must stop all violations and illegal activities, and fully comply with all its obligations.  The United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would only embolden Israel, as the occupying Power, to continue with its repressive policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.  Malaysia called on the United States to consider rescinding its decision and to work with all parties involved towards a comprehensive and lasting peace, based on the two-State solution.  Noting with serious concern dwindling financial backing for UNRWA, he said his country would continue to extend assistance to that the Agency, within its means, and urged all Member States to do likewise.

HADAS MEITZAD (Israel) referred to the statement by Lebanon’s representative and noted that the President of that country had referred to Hizbullah as a legitimate armed power in Lebanon.  Lebanon should focus its energy on the full implementation of all Security Council resolutions.  She said that the representative of Syria had debased the forum of the Council with conspiracy theories, noting that it was difficult to comprehend how they had the audacity to take the floor when they were targeting their own civilians.  The Syrian Government was perpetrating a siege against its own people in eastern Ghouta using chemical weapons.  Israel, meanwhile, was providing aid to Syrians.  Directing her comments to the representative of Venezuela, she said that country was in a state of moral bankruptcy.  Regarding the statement made by Bolivia’s representative, she said it was disappointing that it was one sided and did not reflect the true situation on the ground.  Concerning the statement by Kuwait’s representative, she said that restricting freedom of expression and jailing citizens who criticized the Government were common practices for Kuwait.