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The work programme adopted by the Committee placed the definition of concepts as the first item for discussion by Working Group II. However, it was deferred to the second week to avoid holding up work, in the hope that the concepts would emerge as discussion progressed. It was agreed in principle that the definition on desertification as stipulated in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 would be used. As it became clear that no distinct definitions were emerging, Brazil supported by Malaysia, raised the issue of definitions twice during the second week. After a brief discussion, the Group agreed not to have a discussion on definitions at all.


I. STRUCTURE AND NATURE OF COMMITMENTS: Mali presented the draft proposals of the African Group. These include: scope of the Convention; strategy; measures to implement strategy; key elements of strategy; commitments; and linkages to global environmental conventions. Many delegates endorsed this structure and some suggested that this could serve as the basis for further negotiation in New York. There was general consensus that commitments are central to the Convention and that commitments must be taken at different levels: local, national, regional and international. There was also a call for clear, specific commitments that can be implemented.

Canada stressed that there must be criteria against which commitments can be tested and clearly defined roles and responsibilities for implementation. Gambia added the need to link the various sections of the document, especially the principles and the commitments sections. Bolivia said that the commitments should address the physical and environmental aspects of desertification, as well as the economic, social and human aspects. Mongolia said that the commitments must be specific and must respond to the realities facing different countries. Chad and the Central African Republic called for priority commitments for least developed countries. Togo, supported by C“te d'Ivoire, said that commitments are also important with regard to countries that are not yet affected by, but in danger of, desertification. Armenia stressed the need for commitments aimed at poverty eradication. Finland stressed the importance of commitments relating to land use. Bolivia and Uganda said that developed countries should make the commitments to provide the necessary financial resources and technology.

On the format, two alternatives were put forward: one based on the Climate Change Convention, which contains a separate section on commitments, and one based on the Biodiversity Convention, which includes a part on commitments within each section of the Convention. Finland suggested that the text of Agenda 21 should form the basis for the negotiations on the format.

Many delegates mentioned the complementarity of commitments by countries affected by drought and desertification on the one hand and the donors, industrialized countries and international organizations on the other. The need for political commitment, support, and financial, scientific and technical assistance from the international community was also stressed by a number of developing countries.

Many recognized that local communities, especially NGOs, indigenous populations, women and youth, should play an important role in implementing the commitments. China, Syria and Australia mentioned the need for education and public awareness.

The EC and Malaysia agreed that the commitments in this convention should not overlap with those in other environmental conventions. Saudi Arabia specifically mentioned that there should be no overlap with the Climate Change Convention.

Canada proposed that the Secretariat should produce an initial draft structure and format for this section of the Convention to serve as the basis for informal discussion. The Secretariat did in fact prepare such a paper but, due to lack of time, informal discussion never took place. [Return to start of article]