(18 November 2020) UNGA 75th Session: BADIL welcomes the decolonization committee’s reaffirmation of Palestinian refugees’ inalienable rights

PR/EN/181120/40

As part of the UN General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session of October 2020, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization, hereinafter Decolonization Committee)[1] adopted draft resolutions addressing Palestinian refugees’ inalienable rights to humanitarian protection and durable solutions, including return. The three draft resolutions were approved by an outstanding majority of member states.[2] 


BADIL takes note of the adoption of such resolutions concerning Palestinian refugees by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, whose mandate notably aims to call attention to Israeli practices in violation of international law, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Decolonization Committee is moving in the right direction of addressing the predicament of Palestinian refugees and IDPs within the broader context of the protracted and ongoing colonization of Mandatory Palestine. Nonetheless, BADIL reaffirms the urgent need to turn such resolutions into practical measures, involving third states interventions, to bring Israeli into compliance with international law, and accountable for its crimes towards the Palestinian people. 

UNRWA and Palestinian Refugees’ Right to Protection During Forced Displacement

In its resolution on Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine in the Near East, the Decolonization Committee underlines the urgent need to sustain UNRWA in its essential protection of Palestinian refugees and its provision of humanitarian and development assistance, pending a durable and just solution. BADIL joins the Decolonization Committee in expressing its concerns in face of unabated attacks against UNRWA in an attempt to undermine its financial capacities, the effective implementation of its core programs, and therefore the continuity of its mandate for the furtherance of Palestinian refugees’ resilience.

Right to Durable Solutions Including Return to Places of Origin

The resolution related to Assistance to Palestine refugees “notes with regret that repatriation or compensation of the refugees [...] has not yet been effected [...].” The resolution carries on by stating “that the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) has been unable to find a means of achieving progress in the implementation of paragraph 11 of the General Assembly resolution 194(III) [...],” entrusting the UNCCP with the fulfillment of Palestinian refugees’ right of repatriation, resettlement and rehabilitation and/or compensation. BADIL wishes to emphasize the dangerous shift in terminology illustrated by the alternative (or) between repatriation and compensation. The right of return for refugees is a well-entrenched right under international law,[3] and the General Assembly resolution 194 does not consider repatriation and compensation as alternate solutions.[4] Such a semantic shift must absolutely be prevented as it seriously infringes on Palestinian refugees’ legitimate and recognized rights.

The resolution on Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues “reaffirms that the Palestine refugees are entitled to their property and to income derived therefrom, in conformity with the principles of equity and justice.” The resolution further appeals to the “protection of Arab [Palestinian] property, assets and property rights in Israel.” BADIL gladly receives such a step towards the achievement of Palestinian refugees’ legitimate right to just and durable solutions, as recognized under international law. Protection of Palestinian refugees’ properties and assets in their lands of origin is an essential feature in the fulfillment of their rights to voluntary repatriation and to reparations that were explicitly marginalized by the US Deal of the Century.

The Decolonization Committee’s resolutions consistently recall and reinforce Palestinian refugees’ inalienable rights to return and reparations that BADIL has consistently been advocating for. BADIL reiterates that no durable and just solution to the Palestine Question would be sought without due regard to Palestinian refugees’ inalienable rights to full reparations, including their legitimate right to return to their place of origin and habitual residence.

Therefore, BADIL calls upon:

  1. The UN General Assemby and its member states to reinforce efforts made by UNRWA to provide continuous and unimpeded services and temporary assistance to Palestinian refugees, in particular by developing a mandatory funding mechanism that would ensure the continuity of funds to the UNRWA until Palestinian refugees and IDPs are able to exercise their right of return;
  2. The UN Secretary General to follow up on the right to protection of Palestinian refugees’ properties and assets, in particular by requesting Israel to provide information concerning the properties and assets thereof, in collaboration with the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine.
  3. The UN General Assembly to reinforce its resolutions with practical measures to bring Israel in line with international law and ensure Palestinian refugees and IDPs access to durable solutions, in line with UNGA Resolution 194 (III), particularly their right to voluntary repatriation.
 

[1] The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) is one the six main committees of the United Nations General Assembly. All UN member states participate in its work that runs from late September to mid-November. The Fourth Committee examines issues related to decolonization, prepares recommendations and draft resolutions and decisions to be considered by the General Assembly plenary. About 30 draft resolutions and decisions are adopted annually.

[2] “Assistance to Palestine refugees” adopted by a recorded vote of 153 in favor, to 2 against (Israel and the United States) and 12 abstentions; “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East adopted by a recorded vote of 151 in favor, to 5 against (Israel and the United States) and 9 abstentions; “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” adopted by a recorded vote of 151 in favor, to 6 against (Israel and the United States) and 8 abstentions. 

[3] “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country,” Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, 217 A(III), Article 13(2), available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf ; “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country,” International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, 999 UNTS 171, Article 12(4), available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx [accessed 13 November 2020]

[4] “Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property [...],” UNGA, 194(III). Palestine - Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator, 11 December 1948, A/RES/194, available at: https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/0/C758572B78D1CD0085256BCF0077E51A [accessed 13 November 2020]  

[5] See BADIL, “Trump’s So-called Vision/Deal of the Century: A Move to End the Palestinian Refugee Issue Through Serious Breaches of International Law” (May 2020), available at: http://www.badil.org/phocadownloadpap/badil-new/publications/research/in-focus/Deal-of-the-Century-Refugee-Issue(PositionPaper-May2020).pdf .