Final Statement: 2008 Special Meeting of the Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition

Damascus, 20 December 2008

In light of the fact that the Coalition's 9th Annual Meeting in France was not held as scheduled due to unforeseeable circumstances, the Aidun Group-Syria hosted a Special Meeting from the 18th to the 20th of December 2008 with the participation of members and coordinators from Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Europe.

The meeting explored the challenges facing the Coalition as well as the dangers facing the Palestinian national movement in general and refugee rights in particular. Delegates focused their discussions on formulating strategies and action-plans for the coming period to develop the work of the Coalition on various levels:

I. Matters Concerning the Global Right of Return Coalition

Delegates committed to:

*Continue to push the work of the Coalition forward as a popular, national, and democratic body working to defend Palestinian refugees' right to return in the face of dangerous efforts against the implementation of this right that are being exerted at the Palestinian, Arab and international levels.

*Continue to meet annually and redouble efforts to work at the local and regional levels.

*Improve bilateral and multilateral coordination between Coalition member organizations.

*Ensure that the funds and resources needed for the work of the Coalition and its continuity are raised through payment of accrued membership fees and development of a comprehensive fundraising plan for the coming years.

Delegates decided that the Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps should continue to assume the role of Coalition Coordinator until the 9th Annual Meeting will be convened as planned and that the Coalition's Coordinating Committee should meet in the first half of 2009.

II. Strategy and Action Plan

Delegates discussed three focus areas for work in the coming period:

*Mobilizing for effective participation in Durban Review Conference to be held in Geneva in April 2009;

*Effective participation and coordination in the work of the European Coordinating Committee for Palestine (ECCP), particularly in the Russel Tribunal initiative to hold Zionist war criminals to account;

*Continue to build and expand the Campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it respects and implements international law, particularly by strengthening and developing the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)

Delegates stressed that the Coalition should work to increase the involvement of Arab and international solidarity networks to ensure the effectiveness and success of these three initiatives.

III. Palestinian Refugees and the Right of Return

Delegates discussed current threats to the Palestinian cause focusing particularly on the core issue of the Arab/Palestinian-Zionist conflict, i.e., the struggle of Palestinian refugees to return to their original lands and properties, and restitution of these lands and properties in accordance with their rights under international law. In their discussion, delegates stressed the following principles:

* Palestinians living in historic Palestine and in exile are one indivisible people; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and as such the PLO and its constitutive institutions should be rebuilt and revitalized on a democratic basis and founded on its political program for the implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people;

* The rights of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons to return, restitution and compensation are fundamental, inalienable and indivisible rights under international law; they cannot be abrogated, neither by bilateral, multilateral or international treaty or agreement, nor by referendum. The right to return is a collective and individual right held by every Palestinian refugee and internally displaced person. This right is passed on from one generation to the next and realized based on the individual's choice on whether or not to return;

* The right of return as a collective right is an integral part of the right to self-determination, which itself is a fundamental right of the Palestinian people;

*Rejection of all proposals and projects aiming to resettle Palestinian refugees in other countries and/or to place limitations on their right to return to their lands and properties;

*Rejection of any sort of referendum about the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, particularly the right of Palestinian refugees to return.

Other issues discussed included ongoing Israeli practices of settlement expansion, construction of the Wall, Judaization of Jerusalem and the closure regime. Delegates stressed the necessity of Palestinian political unity in order to face these challenges and highlighted the need to break the siege of the Gaza Strip as a matter of priority, calling on the United Nations and international humanitarian agencies to fulfill their obligations and pressure Israel to end this devastating and criminal policy.

Delegates also expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the exceptional work of Aidun Group-Syria to ensure the success of the meeting.

Participating Organizations:

Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps; Executive Office of the Popular Committees-West Bank; Union of Women's Activity Centers-West Bank; Committee for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights and Yafa Cultural Center; Aidun Group-Syria; Aidun Group-Lebanon; Forum of Palestinian NGOs in Lebanon; Palestine Right of Return Confederation - Europe.