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2012 MEDIA SEMINAR ON MIDDLE EAST PEACE CLOSES IN GENEVA
13 June 2012

The 2012 Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information in cooperation with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, closed in Geneva, Switzerland this afternoon.

The general feeling of the Seminar was that the two-State solution was in jeopardy, and that the continuous settlement enterprise might force the international community to question the viability of this solution, said Alexandre Fasel, Assistant Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his concluding remarks. The Arab Awakening brought new perceptions, hopes and fears; establishment of democracies in the Arab world would bring peace and stability to the region, but it would be a long-term process marked with setbacks and sometimes violence, as was the case in Syria. The most stimulating ideas heard during this Seminar came from the young generation and women and Switzerland would continue its support to this vital part of society.

There had been some fascinating and timely discussions over the last couple of days, said Maher Nasser, Acting Head of the Department of Public Information of the United Nations, starting with the reality check provided by the United Nations Special Coordinator’s frank and detailed assessment of the status of international mediation efforts approaching the twentieth anniversary of the Oslo accords. It became obvious that building confidence towards democracy and lasting peace was a challenge that could be tackled on many fronts, including through strengthening the bonds created by like-minded civil society activists, many of whom were finding compelling ways to cover the ‘common experience’ that their work represented through film and in the media.

The annual two-day Seminar, launched by a 1991 General Assembly resolution, provides a forum for dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian journalists and others from the region with the participation of the international community, aimed at enhancing understanding between peoples and achieving a just and lasting peace based on a two-State solution.

Closing Statements

ALEXANDRE FASEL, Assistant Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations Office in Geneva, in concluding remarks, said that the general feeling of the Seminar was that the two-State solution was in jeopardy, while the continuous settlement enterprise might force the international community to question the viability of this solution. The Arab Awakening brought new perceptions, hopes and fears. On the one hand, the establishment of democracies in the Arab world would bring peace and stability to the region; still it would be a long-term process marked with setbacks and sometimes violence, as was the case in Syria. The comments heard during the Seminar pointed out that the waiting game was over and that the push towards peace must be made. The role of civil society could not be emphasized enough, particularly those of women and youth; the most stimulating ideas heard during this conference came from the young generation and women. Switzerland would continue its support to this vital part of society. It was not to be forgotten that the protests had spread so quickly because of the political landscape and the connections between people created by the use of new information and communication technology, which could also be used to bring some cohesion to fragmented societies.
MAHER NASSER, Acting Head of the Department of Public Information of the United Nations, in his closing remarks thanked many who contributed to this event, including the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs for its generous support and the participants from many parts of the world. There had been some fascinating and timely discussions over the last couple of days, said Mr. Nasser, starting with the reality check provided by the United Nations Special Coordinator’s frank and detailed assessment of the status of international mediation efforts approaching the twentieth anniversary of the Oslo Accords, and the assessment that quick fixes would no longer worked.

It became obvious that building confidence towards democracy and lasting peace was a challenge that could be tackled on many fronts, including through strengthening the bonds created by like-minded civil society activists, many of whom were finding compelling ways to cover the ‘common experience’ that their work represented through film and in the media. Participants discussed how the Arab Spring had affected coverage of the question of Palestine and had heard first-hand accounts of pioneering women’s activism in Israel and Palestine, as well as the wider region. There was also a truly fascinating discussion about youth activists in the Middle East and North Africa which had opened eyes to the possibilities that accelerating digital technologies and social media platforms would offer journalists and activists in the future. All discussions had been enriched by the inspiring accounts from individuals’ own experiences in trying to forge a more democratic, humane future for their people.

Sadly, these positive and constructive two days had been held against the backdrop of continuing violence and suffering in Syria, as well as the continuing stalemate between Israel and Palestine. As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had said, a regional awakening based on the ideals of freedom, dignity and non-violence could not be complete without a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Finally, Mr. Nasser expressed sincere hope that by the time this Seminar gathered again in 12 months there would be an end to the tragic situation in Syria and progress towards peace between Israel and Palestine.


For use of the information media; not an official record

M12/020E