Advocacy Group for Right of Return Established in Lebanon: Statement of Purpose

LEBANON
'A'idun (those who will return)
Advocacy Group for Right of Return Established in Lebanon: Statement of Purpose

A number of academics, social activists, and intellectuals have organized a forum for devising ways of advocating for the right of return for Palestinian refugees. An advocacy group for the right of return has been formed under the name 'A'idun (those who will return). 'A'idun is a community group, which is completely unaffiliated with any political contingent, and membership is open to all Palestinian and Lebanese activists. The struggle for the right of return is a concern shared by members of societies hosting the Palestinian refugees, and it touches the interests of the host societies, especially Lebanese society.

The group adheres to the following principles:

We insist on the principle of the unity of the land and people, which has been neglected by the agreements and treaties concluded as part of the peace process. This goes along with the insistence on the unity of the Palestinian refugee problem, whether in the Diaspora, the West Bank, Gaza, or within the borders of mandatory Palestine.

In connection with the legal debate about Resolution 194 and its position on return and compensation, we insist on the fact that the right of return is an unconditional individual and collective right. Compensation for lost property and reparations in recognition of psychological and social distress are additional rights that accrue to refugees (whether or not they return to their land), and are separately endorsed by international conventions.

We insist on the importance of the struggle for civil rights, given the current conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which are the worst among the refugees of the Diaspora because of the denial of their civil rights. The granting of civil rights would help to alleviate the psychological and social distress of the refugees, it would thwart attempts at resettling the refugees in Lebanese official circles and on civil society to distinguish between the issue of civil rights and the issue of resettlement. We also call on the various Palestinian organizations to give the issue of civil rights due importance because it is intimately connected to the harsh living conditions of Palestinian refugees, as well as to attempts to induce the emigration of Palestinian refugees, which would undermine their right to return.

In this context, we also realize that the appalling social conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are the direct result of their dispossession and dispersal, and the denial of their historic right to return to their homeland. Meanwhile, we do not deny the responsibility borne by the international community (represented by UNRWA) and the host country for the dire realities of the situation and for alleviating their misery.

We insist on the importance of UNRWA's continuing to perform its humanitarian mission in assisting the Palestinian refugees in all its areas of operation. Its continued performance of this role constitutes an economic and social safeguard for the refugees, and provides a political and moral commitment by the international community to resolve their problem on the basis of return. That is because UN General Assembly Resolution 302 (1949) which established UNRWA refers specifically to paragraph 11 of Resolution 194, and requires UNRWA to perform its humanitarian role until the refugees return to their homes.

In this context, we would like to point out that UNRWA lacks a clear mandate to provide legal and political protection to the refugees, as found in the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Therefore, we demand that Palestinian refugees everywhere be included within the scope of the Geneva Convention concerning refugees (1951), the Additional Protocol (1967), and the protection of the UNHCR. We also demand that they be included within the scope of the Special Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954), the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966), and the international Convention on Civil and Political Rights (1966).

The group intends to achieve its aims by the following means:

1. Consciousness raising among the Palestinian refugees (in cooperation with all parties concerned), with the aim of fostering adherence to the right of return, enabling their voices to be heard, and voicing their legitimate demands by bringing them before the international community.
2. Close cooperation with all other groups, associations, and committees concerned with the right of return, which are active among Palestinians in the refugee camps, with the aim of unifying the voices of refugees and of giving them greater importance both locally and internationally.
3. Following up developments relating to the issue of return on the Palestinian, regional, and international scene, and taking appropriate measures which would serve the cause of return, for example by way of statements, press releases, seminars, and participation in conferences.
4. Coordination with committees and associations struggling for the right of return in the Diaspora and in Palestine, in order to support this right, and in line with the group's vision of the unity of the refugee question and the unity of the Palestinian people.

The group will also consider undertaking any other activities, which serve the above goals.
 

Initiative Group 

Mohammad Ali El-Khaldi       University Professor 
Mahmoud Hammoud             University Professor 
Jaber Sulieman                     Independent Researcher 
Zeinab Sakallah                    Community Activist 
Ahmad Othman                    Community Activist 
Saker Abu Fakher                 Journalist Writer 
Ali Zeidan                             Engineer 
Mahmoud Al Ali                    Independent Researcher 

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