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The INCD is a product of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). While the idea of a convention to combat desertification had been discussed throughout the UNCED preparatory process, it was only in Rio where language was adopted requesting the General Assembly to establish an intergovernmental negotiating committee for the purpose of negotiating a convention.

The General Assembly, during its 47th session in 1992, adopted resolution 47/188 calling for the establishment of the INCD, which will hold five sessions, with a view to finalizing a convention by June 1994.

The organizational session of the INCD was held in January 1993. At that meeting delegates elected Bo Kjell‚n Chair of the Committee, elected the Bureau, adopted the rules of procedure, set the schedule of meetings and established the two working groups.

The first session of the INCD was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 24 May - 3 June 1993. The first week of this session focussed on the sharing of technical information and assessments on various aspects of drought and desertification. Divided into seven sections, the information sharing segment provided an opportunity for scientists, technical experts, delegates and NGOs to share relevant experiences and learn more about the scourge of desertification and its global dimensions. The second week focussed on the structure and elements to be contained in the Convention. As well, delegates exchanged ideas about the Convention and its objectives.

Several areas of consensus appeared to have been reached. These include the need for a bottom-up approach that reinforces local participation and action, NGO activities, the full participation of women, and the significance of indigenous technologies and practices. The idea of national and sub-regional action programmes also received overwhelming support. Delegates also supported the need for commitments to improved research and development, data collection and analysis, exchange of information, capacity building, and transfer and adaptation of technology.

While agreement was reached on the mandates of the working groups, negotiations stalled in Nairobi over the elaboration of related regional instruments while still giving priority action to Africa. Kjell‚n proposed that an instrument on Africa, such as an annex, be negotiated once the main structure of the Convention had been defined and that similar instruments for other regions be negotiated subsequently. This proposal met with resistance from a few countries in regions other than Africa that believed their own problems with desertification deserved attention and that similar instruments for their regions should be negotiated simultaneously with the instrument for Africa.

The Chair finally proposed text that invited the 48th session of the General Assembly to consider extending the negotiating process so that the Convention and the African instrument would be adopted by June 1994 and the other instruments would enter into force according to modalities to be specified in the Convention. Four delegations, Brazil and Mexico, later supported by Peru and Pakistan, could not accept this text. The decision on this matter was deferred to the second session.

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