ABF-huset, Stockholm 1 mars 2010
Gunilla Carlsson, Biståndsminister
Anförande av Gunilla Carlsson vid Gaza Accountability Conference 2010 (på engelska)
Let me start by thanking for inviting me to this conference.
A year has now passed since the Gaza conflict.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza was already difficult before the conflict - which itself caused the Palestinian people additional suffering. Many lives were lost, including those of a large number of children. Many people were injured, both physically and mentally. Violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law were committed by both parties to the conflict. Scars remain that are hard to heal. This is also one of the reasons why we should work towards bringing justice to those who have suffered injustice.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza has not really improved since the conflict. The crossings are still basically closed, except for very limited humanitarian goods. That concerns me. I am concerned, because without building material, houses and factories cannot be rebuilt. I am concerned, because without books and paper, children cannot learn. I am concerned, because without seeds, crops cannot grow.
I am also concerned because at the same time as Hamas is strengthening its position in Gaza, making financial gains from the tunnel economy, daily life for the majority of Gazans are getting more difficult, and their human rights situation and prospects of democracy are getting worse.
And I am particularly concerned, because the young in Gaza are losing hope, more than half of them are children [around 850 000]. Many of them are in acute need of hope and prospects for the future. As in all conflicts, the children and young are the most vulnerable. The children of Gaza were already growing up in an environment where violence was part of everyday life. They were already growing up in an environment with high levels of unemployment and a high level of dependence of food assistance. For many children, the conflict led to new horrors - the loss of family members, the loss of homes. Many children today are suffering from traumatic experiences.
One year ago, together with the former UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd, I outlined ten key steps for improving the situation of the children in Gaza. Looking at that list today, I am very sad to say that, due to the continued closure policy, a great deal remains to be done. It has not been possible to return to normality, which is what the children would need. Just a normal life - with safety, food, home, school and prospects for the future.
An important part in going back to normality is also to restore the economy. Gaza, with its proud history of farmers, fishermen and handicraft people, can never develop without private initiatives, free trade and economic interaction. For all these reasons the Gaza crossings must be opened unconditionally and immediately, for goods and persons, for aid and trade.
I am also concerned about the lack of progress in the peace process. I am convinced that the best guarantee for peace and security in the region is a two- state solution, with an independent, contiguous, viable and democratic Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Therefore, the EU and Sweden fully support the American efforts to resume peace negotiations and pursue the goal of a comprehensive peace. We are looking forward to credible and result-oriented negotiations which include all final status issues.
At the same time, the work on the ground must continue. Palestinians, together with joint international efforts, must continue to prepare for statehood. Sweden has consistently been one of the largest donors to the Palestinian people and to Palestinian state-building. Our support goes where it is most needed - to state building, including strengthening the rule of law, water, infrastructure, health, psychosocial support and civil society.
Sweden was able to give rapid response to Gaza to support early recovery within the limits prescribed by the closure, and through partners we had already worked with. Also, as the third largest donor to UNRWA, I would like to take this opportunity to express our strong support for UNRWA's work.
We will continue our support to the Palestinians, using the Palestinian government plan - Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State - as a guiding document. The Palestinian Authority, under Prime Minister Fayyad's government, has made great efforts to build up the institutions and put its finances in order. But many challenges remain. We will continue to assist the Palestinian Authority in meeting these challenges.
Respect for international law, including respect for human rights and respect for international humanitarian law, is a guiding principle for Swedish foreign policy on the Middle East conflict. This is also why it was important for Sweden that the EU outlined its fundamental positions in the December Council conclusions:
- that negotiations should be based on the 1967 borders;
- that all final status issues should be part of negotiations (borders, Jerusalem, refugees, security and water);
- that settlements are illegal and constitute an obstacle to peace; and
- the conviction that if there is to be genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as a future capital of two states.
The EU was also clear that the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem must be united and that reconciliation is necessary for the future of the Palestinian people.
Respect for human rights and international humanitarian law is also fundamental to our view of the Gaza conflict and the Goldstone Report. We believe that it is a serious report that deserves serious consideration. As holder of the Presidency of the EU in 2009, we emphasized the EU's position, namely that all parties have the responsibility to prevent, investigate and remedy violations. Again on Friday, Sweden together with a majority of the EU countries, voted in favor of a General Assembly resolution, calling on the parties to conduct independent and credible investigations in accordance with international standards. The resolution also extends the time limit for the Secretary General to report to the General Assembly with five months. We also stressed that the principle of accountability requires that all allegations of serious human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law must be thoroughly investigated. And that principle applies to all parties and all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, (whether they are committed by Israel, Hamas or the Palestinian Authority). We will continue to argue this.
And we will continue to argue for peace and a two-state solution. We will continue to argue that an independent, contiguous , viable and democratic Palestine must be created. We will continue to argue that the crossings of Gaza must be opened. And we will continue to argue that justice should be brought to those who have suffered injustice.
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