We share the view expressed in the High Commissioner’s annual report to the Council last session that “settlements affect all aspects of Palestinians' daily lives, including significant negative impact on freedom of movement, and access to work, education and healthcare.” A report by the Israeli group Peace Now found that Israeli authorities in the last decade built nearly 20,000 settlement units, while the population of settlements grew by some 120,000, not including East Jerusalem.
One of the most important global initiatives to counteract these policies is the OHCHR’s database of businesses facilitating Israeli settlements, mandated by this Council in a resolution adopted without opposition. The release of the database will underscore to businesses the systematic, serious violations of Palestinian rights inherent in settlement activities. We are concerned by delays in that release, which only embolden those seeking to further entrench settlements, which are illegal under international humanitarian law, and the two-tiered discriminatory system that stems from them.
We are aware that some states have argued the mandate can be fulfilled by issuing a report while suppressing the names of the companies engaged in listed activities. But the resolution creating the mandate is clear: it calls on the High Commissioner to produce a database of “all business enterprises involved in the [listed] activities” and to transmit “the data therein” in the form of a report to the Human Rights Council. There is no meaningful report without the database itself.
We note that the High Commissioner indicated in March that the database would be transmitted to the Council “in coming months.” The High Commissioner should fulfill the mandated entrusted to her by the Human Rights Council more than three years ago by releasing the data well before the September Council session. States should speak out collectively this session to support prompt release of the database and to reaffirm the international consensus on the illegality of settlements, as well as to defend the independence and credibility of the High Commissioner’s Office as it faces censorship pressure.
We regret that a number of Western states have declined to address these important issues because of their concerns about agenda item 7. At the last session though, when the lead sponsors tabled the accountability resolution under item 2, it received even less support from Western states than when presented under item 7, suggesting that their concerns may be less about the particular agenda item than about shielding Israel from accountability. Procedural concerns should not impede discussion of important human rights issues on their merits.