New York, 12th Feb 2017
On Friday, 10th of February, the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) attended the 55th Session of the Commission for Social Development and hosted a side-event titled “Palestinian Refugees: Poverty, Challenges and Prospects”. This event, which was chaired by Deputy Ambassador to the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the UN in New York Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, looked at the socio-economic conditions faced by Palestinian refugees and the challenges they face to living a dignified life, focusing on the poverty levels which continue to worsen as a result of the ongoing conflicts taking place in the region.
The first speaker, Mr Matthias Schmale, is current Director of the UNRWA’s Representative Office in New York and holds a PhD in Development Economics from the Free University of Berlin. Mr. Schmale has over 24 years of professional experience in international humanitarian and development organisations, much of which is at senior management level. Mr. Schmale shared UNRWA’s perspective on the challenges faced by refugees in Syria and Lebanon in particular.
Mr. Pietro Stefanini, Researcher and Advocacy Coordinator at the PRC, spoke next. As well as being co-editor of the Journal of Palestinian Refugee Studies, Mr. Stefanini has recently presented the findings of his research and given talks at the European Parliament in Strasburg, in the UK Parliament and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. He focused on the socio-economic challenges faced by Palestine refugees who are living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
The third speaker, Ms. Anne Irfan, is a PhD student at London School of Economics, where she is researching the historical development of UNRWA’s work in the Palestinian refugee camps. In addition to this, she has been involved in a London-based campaign by NGOs to highlight the plight of Palestinian refugees from Syria, speaking on the subject in UK Parliament last year. Ms. Irfan looked at the role of education in tackling poverty among Palestinian refugees.
Finally, Ms. Leila Hilal, an independent researcher and writer on Middle East affairs and a former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team on refugees, concluded the session. Ms. Hilal, who has led numerous research missions on human rights and post-conflict scenario building and transitional justice in the Middle East, explored the topic of Palestinian refugee rights and solutions.
Many missions to the UN were in attendance, including Canada, Belgium and Argentina. Cuba was also in attendance and participated by commenting and asking questions. International NGO Human Rights Watch was present, among many other individuals and representatives.
Chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), Majed al Zeer, presented a lecture on International Relations and the role of NGOs for a number of students in the Gaza Strip.
The lecture discussed the current International community stance on Palestine and the best methods to bring more support through the work of civil society. The online lecture delivered by Al Zeer focused on the role of pro Palestinian NGOs in promoting the Palestinian rights and attracting the support of International community on the basis of International law and the UN resolutions.
Al Zeer discussed also the work of PRC and its role in preserving Palestinian rights, particularly the issue of refugees.
On the 25th of October, the Palestinian Return Centre hosted the launch of the Balfour Apology Campaign inside a packed out room in the House of Lords. The event was hosted and chaired by Baroness Jenny Tonge.
Balfour Apology Campaign is a UK based campaign launched by the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in 2013 to urge the British establishment to apologise for the 1917 Balfour Declaration. Britain’s legacy in Palestine marked an historical breach against the aspirations of the people of Palestine and shattered its hopes for freedom and self determination.
Baroness Jenny Tonge introduced introduce the evening stating “Tonight is the beginning of the apology” as she provided some background on the origins of the campaign and its significance for Palestinians.
First speaker of the evening was Majed Al-Zeer, President of the Palestinian Return Centre. Mr Al-Zeer. In regards to the launch of the Balfour Apology Campaign, he stated that “We want official recognition of Palestinian suffering”. Mr Al-Zeer continued “We are committed to fight for the self-determination of Palestinians”.
The next speaker, Karl Sabbagh, British Palestinian Historian and Writer, discussed the three conditions that need to apply in order to seek an apology - harm caused, responsibility of the apologiser, and whether the original event was avoidable.
Last speaker of the evening was Betty Hunter, Honorary President of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign discussed the importance to unite works towards changing British policy on Palestine. For Hunter it is fundamental to do so because “The Palestinian catastrophe is still ongoing” and the “International community must stand with Palestinian refugees”.
On October 10th 2016 the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) organized an event inside the Attlee Suite of the UK Parliament to discuss the prospects of Palestinian refugees in Jordan. The event was hosted and chaired by Dr. Paul Monaghan MP of the Scottish National Party.
On September 22nd 2016 the Palestinian Return Centre organised a side event at the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council focusing on Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The event was co-sponsored by Human Rights Watch, which also brought copies of their recently published report Occupation, Inc. The event was attended by various representatives of member states, United Nations and other international human rights NGOs.
First speaker Marina Mattirolo, Legal Advisor for Diakonia IHL Resource Center Jerusalem discussed the legal framework of the settlements. She discussed the grave violations of international law by the Occupier Power Israel, which completely disregards international norms. Mattirolo provided data on the number of current settlements and talked about the various UN recommendations that Israel continues to ignore.
John Fisher, Director of Advocacy at Human Rights Watch’s Geneva office, introduced their recently published report from the floor. He highlighted the impact that the settlements have on Palestinian development and economy depriving them of an extraordinary amount of resources.
Tricia Rich, Acting Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, discussed the role of businesses in causing human rights violations by engaging with the settlements activities. She also talked about the continuous expansion of settlements as building Palestine out of existence.
Pietro Stefanini, Researcher and Advocacy Coordinator at the Palestinian Return Centre, provided the audience with recent data on the expansion of the settlements. He also assessed what impact the settlements had on Palestinians. The settlements are effectively preventing the emergence of a Palestinian state and is maintaining exile for Palestinian refugees living outside the OPT. He also touched upon the role of settler NGOs and their success in driving the state to support them violating international law.
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