Most of the work of the Department of Political Affairs aims at preventing and mediating conflicts and assisting electoral processes around the world. Three of the Department’s divisions, however, have a distinct role: they help the Security Council and two General Assembly panels – all member-state bodies -- do their work. These divisions are the Security Council Affairs Division (SCAD), the Decolonization Unit and the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR). On the occasion of the commemoration of International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, we take a closer look today at the DPR’s work.
DPA’s Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR) was established in 1977 to service the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Right of the Palestinian People. The Committee, created in 1975 through General Assembly resolution 3376, aims to promote a just and peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to Israeli occupation which began in 1967; realize a two-state solution, meaning Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders; and enable the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights to self-determination without external interference, national independence and sovereignty and to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced, in accordance with UN resolutions and international law.
“The Committee is neither anti-Israeli nor pro-Palestinian”: that’s how Committee Chair Cheikh Niang, Senegal’s Ambassador to the UN in New York, described the panel recently. “It is pro-peace and pro-international law.”
Elio Tamburi, head of DPR, explains that his office supports the Committee as its Secretariat, assisting in the substantive and logistical preparation of meetings, conferences and country visits and organizing capacity-building and training programmes for civil servants of the State of Palestine. To date, over 170 Palestinian officials have benefitted from the capacity-building programme in areas as diverse as international diplomacy and climate change. Furthermore, the Committee, with support of the Division of Palestinian Rights, has built a network of over 1,000 Palestinian and other civil society organizations active on the question of Palestine. The Division also assists in undertaking historical, legal and other pertinent studies on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and maintains the world’s largest online repository of UN documents on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) with over 36,000 documents, the oldest of which dates back to pre-UN times in 1915 (see sidebar).
“The Division for Palestinian Rights is a microcosm of the UN,” says Vladimir Shveitser (Team Leader Monitoring, Research, Publications and UNISPAL). “We do reports, statements, research, advocacy, we organize meetings and conferences, we organize field visits for Committee members, and implement capacity building programmes. We’re like a miniaturized version of the UN.”
In addition to mobilizing support through meetings, briefings film screenings, cultural exhibits and other events at UN Headquarters, the Committee organizes conferences and delegation visits throughout the year to focus the attention of Governments, intergovernmental and civil society organizations and the public on the urgency of bringing about the two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and mobilizing assistance to the Palestinian people. In 2018, for example the Committee visited Uganda and Panama to hold discussions with the two countries’ governments.
DPR will remain a part of the Department of Political Affairs following the restructuring of the UN’s peace and security work.