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PLENARY: The fourth session of the INCD will formally convene this morning at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The first item on the Committee's agenda is the adoption of the agenda, as contained in document A/AC.241/18. The Plenary will then hear statements from ministerial representatives of a number of States and Heads of UN Agencies who will be in attendance at the opening session. INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n will also make an opening statement about the status of negotiations and his expectations for this session.

After these opening statements, the Executive Secretary of the INCD Secretariat, Hama Arba Diallo, will introduce the revised negotiating text of the Convention (A/AC.241/15/Rev.1) and the negotiating text of the regional implementation annex for Africa (A/AC.241/19). The Committee is also expected to consider an additional list of NGOs recommended for accreditation to the negotiating process (A/AC.241/9/Add.6).

WORKING GROUP I: Working Group I will convene this afternoon under the chairmanship of Ahmed Djoghlaf (Algeria). After adopting its provisional work programme, the Working Group is expected to begin a reading of the Preamble. The lengthy 24-paragraph Preamble was the subject of three days of negotiations at INCD-3. Eleven paragraphs still contain brackets:

Paragraph 7 considers the impact of trade and other aspects of international economic relations.

Paragraph 8 currently reads: "Conscious that [sustainable] economic growth, social development and poverty eradication are the first priorities of affected [developing] countries, particularly in Africa, are essential to meeting sustainability objectives."

Paragraph 9 refers to desertification as both a cause and consequence of important social problems and has two possible formulations in brackets: one that emphasizes social problems (poverty, poor health and nutrition, migration, etc.) and one that emphasizes trade.

Paragraph 11 calls for a new approach to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought.

Paragraph 14 mentions the sovereign right of States to exploit their own natural resources.

Paragraph 15 refers to the national and local responsibilities for combatting desertification.

Paragraph 16 recognizes the importance and necessity of international cooperation and partnership.

Paragraph 17 reaffirms the UN target of 0.7% of gross national product (GNP) for official development assistance (ODA).

Paragraph 20 addresses the relationship between desertification and other environmental problems. Problem areas include: the use of the term "global;" are these problems faced by both the international and national communities; and should specific problems, such as climate change, biodiversity, freshwater, land degradation and demographic pressure, be listed.

Paragraph 21 mentions the relationship among the objectives of the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions and desertification.

Paragraph 22, a paragraph proposed by the US, recognizes the key role of international cooperation, donor coordination and consistency with national priorities.

According to the provisional work programme, Working Group I will try to proceed this week as follows: Tuesday -- Principles, Objectives and General Obligations; Wednesday -- Action Programmes; Thursday -- Capacity Building, Education and Public Awareness; and Friday -- Financial Resources and Mechanisms.

WORKING GROUP II: Working Group II will convene this afternoon under the chairmanship of Anne de Lattre (France). After adopting its provisional work programme, the Working Group is expected to proceed with a discussion of definitions.

This section is one of the most heavily bracketed of the text. One important issue that must be addressed is the definition of "countries in a position to provide assistance," which also includes "developed and other countries." At INCD-3, the Latin Americans and Asians saw this as a blatant attempt to bind the economically well-off developing countries to provide financial assistance, despite assurances from many developed countries that assistance is a broader term that also includes technical assistance. The other problem relates to the proposal to provide three annexes listing: affected countries; affected countries needing assistance; and countries in a position to provide assistance. The problem lies in the fact that the status of a country may change over time. Both proposals are based on similar provisions in the Biodiversity Convention.

According to the provisional work programme, Working Group II will try to proceed this week as follows: Tuesday -- Information collection, analysis and exchange; Research and Development; and Technology Transfer; Wednesday -- Institutions; Thursday -- Procedures and Final Clauses; Regional Implementation Annexes (Article 17) and Implementation Annex for Africa; and Friday -- Implementation Annex for Africa.

IN THE CORRIDORS I: Governments have been busy discussing regional implementation annexes during the brief period between INCD-3 and INCD-4. Members of the Asian Group recently met in Bangkok to draft a regional annex for Asia. Latin Americans met in Fortaleza, Brazil, earlier this month to discuss a regional annex for Latin America. A number of representatives of European nations suffering from drought and desertification also met to discuss and begin drafting their own regional annex. Look for drafts of these annexes to be presented to the INCD (and possibly discussed) this week.

IN THE CORRIDORS II: On Wednesday, 16 March, representatives of over 80 countries agreed on the restructuring and the replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The GEF is to be replenished at US$2.022 billion over three years. Industrialized and developing States have agreed to share control of the GEF through a "double majority" voting system -- 60% of total affirmative votes of participants on the one hand and 60% of contributions on the other. Although there has not been any agreement on a "new window" for projects aimed at combatting desertification, look for the GEF agreement to have an impact on the INCD negotiations, especially those on financial resources and mechanisms.

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