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The IPED was created by the Secretary-General of the UN at the recommendation of the General Assembly. The approximately 15 members of the IPED are a diverse geographical and multi- disciplinary panel of recognized experts from the areas of climatology, soil science, pastoral systems, agro-forestry, geographical information systems, biodiversity, water resource management, historical geography, dryland ecology, land resource planning, alternative energy systems, socio-economics, water conservation and protection of cultural resources. The members of the panel serve in their own capacity and not as representatives of their governments or any UN agency. The IPED, which met for its organizational session in March, held its first substantive session in Geneva in April to discuss the format of the general convention to be presented at the first substantive session of the INCD. The IPED provided the INCD Secretariat with the substantive and technical input that is the basis of document A/AC.241/7, "The Format of the Convention." The IPED has created four sub-groups that need to be addressed in the convention: global environmental issues and their linkages to desertification; connections to the Climate Change and Biological Diversity Conventions; socio-economic issues; and alternative sources of energy. The IPED will meet several weeks before each of the remaining substantive sessions of the INCD to give guidance to the Secretariat in the preparation of documents and the drafting of the convention.