Statement by H.E. Riad Malki, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine, before Asia Cooperation and Dialogue
It gives me great pleasure to deliver the State of Palestine’s statement before this important forum, and to express our commitment to achieving the vision of Asia Cooperation and Dialogue as a “partner in progress.” As the most recent member of the ACD, Palestine is eager to contribute to the strength and resilience this forum and advance its goals.
ACD convenes this year under special circumstances in which the world is united in facing one common enemy that threatens our communities and economies. It is important for us to harness our collective energies to rescue the most affected sectors by capitalizing on our geographical proximity and shared objectives while providing support to fellow member in facing their unique challenges.
In addition to the crushing economic fallout of the pandemic, Palestine had had already been struggling to achieve sustainable development under occupation. Our economy was already jeopardized long before the pandemic’s arrival to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In particular, the tourism sector suffered immeasurably due to the travel restrictions imposed by the majority of the world’s countries. Already, Palestine´s boundless tourism revenue potential was always depressed due to the occupying power’s illegitimate of our borders and territory and usurpation of the tourism industry. Yet, the Palestinian tourism sector was flourishing and demonstrating promises of growth and prosperity in 2018 and 2019 despite the odds.
The impact of this complex and daunting situation dramatically escalated in 2020. During last year, at least 30,000 people lost their jobs in the tourism sector, including workers in restaurants and hotels. Currently, the tourism sector functions at no more than 30% of its capacity. It is estimated that the tourism sector losses in 2020 amounted to $1.15 billion dollars.
Like in the rest of the world, COVID-19 caused the efforts of the Palestinian People and their institutions in order to achieve sustainable development to be paused, or even to take a few steps backwards in 2020. It is estimated that our direct and indirect economic losses will range between 7%-35% of GDP.
The world is just beginning to breathe a cautious sigh of relief with the authorization of various vaccines to counter the pandemic. However, this relief is uneven and as the World Health Organization warned, morally problematic. In this connection, I would like to point out that Israel’s colonial enterprise takes this moral dilemma a step further, by willfully refusing to respect its obligations as an occupying power while intently entrenching its unlawful. As such, while the occupying power reportedly ranks first globally in vaccination per capita. However, it had not undertaken any effort whatsoever to make vaccination available for the Palestinian People it occupies and denies basic rights, leaving them exposed to the pandemic and its impacts on public health and overall sustainable development. These strategic inequities will have a direct impact on our individual and collective ability to achieve economic recovery and development goals. As such, it is in our collective interest to collaborate on finding a more efficient, moral, and widespread approach.
Allow me to conclude with this thought: as ACD members, we are committed to respect international law and the UN Charter in our economic, trade and cooperative measures. But we must aim higher than this standard. We should also provide an inclusive vision that reinforces and strengthens international law for the benefit of the pan-Asian populations and advances their national rights, including not to be left behind sustainable global development. We call on our “partners in progress” to ensure that our efforts for cooperation and development in Asia adhere to our moral obligations towards the peoples of the continent, and to reject morally corrupt dealings that only serve to legitimize and normalize actions and policies that perverse our common values and shared goals.