November 29, 2022
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
Seventy-five years ago, the situation in Palestine was the first major crisis to be faced by the newly established United Nations.
It was the General Assembly which declared that a two-State solution would bring a peaceful and sustainable end to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Members of this body thought they would soon see the two states living side by side in peace and security.
Three quarters of a century later, yes, three generations’ time later, after many wars, there are no two states. And, as of yet, no lasting peace.
The world today faces many interlocked crises with more looming on the horizon.
The world is suffering from a lack of trust.
We simply cannot revel in inaction.
This International Day, we must consider the Palestinians’ plight through the lenses of rights and solidarity.
I re-emphasise that the Palestinian people – as all people – have a fundamental and inalienable right to live in dignity, with liberty, freedom of movement, freedom from fear, and access to basic services.
In 1950, Ralph Bunche received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work as UN mediator in the Palestine conflict.
He said that “peace is not a matter of men fighting or not fighting. It must be translated into food, shelter, health, and education, as well as freedom and human dignity – a steadily better life”.
I can tell you from personal experience, living in the region as a young diplomat, the tensions in that region were – and still are – very high.
We must aspire to change this, to pioneer solutions. And you can pioneer solutions.
We know from experience that nothing drives insecurity and violence more than bleakness and despair.
We must find a way to restore hope among Palestinians – especially the young generation. To restore hope that all human beings are born equal and entitled to enjoy the same human rights. Let them be the citizens of Israel or not, live in the territories assigned by the GA partition resolution to Israel or Palestine, live in Yaffo, Tel Aviv, Akko, Galilee, West Bank or Gaza.
Hope that prosperity cannot be a result of a zero sum game, but better an outcome of a strategic endeavour based on historic compromise.
Hope that this conflict will not go on forever.
Hope that the right to development belongs to all. Hope that the political leaderships will be able to cater for them. Hope that there are solutions.
So, with what solutions will we leave this room?
How, as the international community, are we going to ensure the protection of the rights of Palestinians now and for future generations?
A fundamental element of solidarity is understanding the plight of others. Walking a mile in their shoes. Excellencies, I ask you today to walk a mile in the shoes of Palestinians.
I ask you to not only stand in solidarity. But to move so.
We must re-affirm our solidarity for their right to self-determination.
We are still living with some preliminary structures designed to ease the difficulties of the first couple of years after the partition. For the time being, we still need them. Not as a solution, but arrangements before the solution shaped, negotiated and implemented.
We must demonstrate this solidarity with concrete steps – by providing UNRWA with the necessary means it needs to do its lifesaving work.
Unfortunately, UNRWA currently faces a funding gap of over 600 million dollars, as it was highlighted by the chair.
At a time when the political will to find a long-term solution seems low, let us ensure at least the sufficient and reliable multi-year funding of UNRWA to enable it to perform its tasks.
I appeal to you all to use the leverage of your governments to seek compromise, direct dialogue and good-faith negotiations in the Middle East.
These are the only tools at our disposal to end this conflict with a just and sustainable solution that takes into consideration the legitimate aspirations of all sides to it.
As the saying goes: “there is no way to peace – peace is the way”.
Our aim is ultimately to no longer need this call for solidarity.
Our aim is to have a Middle East free of conflict, and able to fully use the enormous potentials of its peoples.
I thank you.