There is a sensitive subject that UN officials don’t often talk about: Palestinian refugees. But Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary General of Public Information and Communication, proved to be an exception to that rule. “Palestinian refugees and their plight should be a main concern in any future arrangement, and in any peace process,” he told us in an interview on the first day of the UN DPI Training Programme for Palestinian Media Practitioners.
There are 6.6 million Palestinian refugees and 67 percent of all Palestinians worldwide are refugees or internally displaced persons. 4,766,670 refugees are officially registered with United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
Mr. Akasaka made it clear that one of the basic goals of the United Nations is the protection and promotion of human rights. The role of DPI, as is the case with any public information department, is to highlight these activities. Helping refugees, women and children in particular, as Mr. Akasaka made clear, should be a priority for the United Nations.
I truly appreciated Mr. Akasaka’s statement about Palestinian refugees. Other officials we have spoken to have not been willing to comment on the refugee plight, even though the United Nations has resolutions related to that subject in particular.
The problem with the refugee issue is that Israel refuses to negotiate, and the Palestinian leadership will never be able to convince its population to drop the subject. That’s why the refugee issue was left for the final status negotiations along with other subjects, including Jerusalem and the settlements.
Mr. Akasaka encouraged us to make the best out of our time in New York, and wished us all the best. He hopes that the experience we will gather during this training course will be helpful in our careers. We appreciated his willingness and candor.
*What do you think? How can we encourage official dialogue about the Palestinian refugee issue?