At 3:00 pm the Committee reconvened for an informal session to exchange views on the programme of work. Kjelln began the discussion by outlining some of his own ideas. He commented that experience has shown that the Committee will need subsidiary organs (working groups) to negotiate a convention of this kind. However, there should never be any more than two working groups meeting at one time and these groups should not meet between sessions. The mandates of these working groups should be fixed in Nairobi, so that the working groups could start to operate during the second session. He added that the purpose of the Committee is to negotiate a convention to combat desertification and that all the other elements in the title, including the special concern for Africa, should be in the form of an annex or protocol, as this regional aspect is an important part of the convention. While the Committee is giving specific attention to Africa at this stage, other parts of the world should have specific protocols or annexes in the future.
The afternoon's discussion was a productive one. Mauritania suggested that there should be only two working groups, to decrease pressure on small delegations. Furthermore, he suggested that the groups be established and their bureaus elected during this organizational session. He also added that the terms of reference for the working groups should be thematic rather than geographical.
The US proposed that the working groups meet sequentially to deal first with the convention and then address the protocol. Benin supported the idea of two working groups that would meet simultaneously. He also suggested that there be no more than three people in each bureau -- a Chair, a Vice-Chair and a Rapporteur. He added that the Chair of one working group should be from the north and the Chair of the other group should be from the south. Algeria proposed that the Committee give its Bureau the mandate to hold consultations to determine the terms of reference to these working groups.
Peru agreed that at least the Chairs of the working groups should be elected at this session and proposed that since there would be six positions (three for each working group) and there are five regional groups that maybe the African Group could nominate a Chair for one working group and a Rapporteur for the other. A number of other delegates, including Denmark, Colombia, France and Venezuela supported these proposals.
The discussion then shifted to the scientific panel of experts. Resolution 47/188 established a "multidisciplinary panel of experts" to assist the Secretariat. Diallo explained that its budget will allow the Secretariat to establish a 12-member group that will include natural scientists, social scientists and experts on drought and desertification, from as broad a geographical distribution as possible. The Secretariat is currently creating the panel and Diallo expressed hope that the first meeting will take place in late February. In response to questions about nominations and the logistics of the panel, Diallo said that all of the meetings of the panel would take place in Geneva. The members of the panel will be appointed privately and not necessarily be employed by their governments. The Secretariat is asking relevant UN agencies for recommendations and will make the final appointments soon. A number of delegates said that their governments would like to make nominations to this panel. Concern was expressed by some that this panel not become an intergovernmental body, but remain an independent panel of scientific experts.
Kjelln then adjourned the informal meeting and, after consulting with the Bureau, convened the third meeting of the INC-D at 5:30 pm. He summarized the consensus reached during the informal discussion:
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