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The issue of categories of countries, particularly the references to "other countries in a position to provide assistance" and "affected [developing] countries [needing assistance]," has given rise to a clear division between developed countries. Malaysia, Brazil, China and other Latin American and Asian countries firmly opposed this "so-called new category," arguing that it was inappropriate for the North to direct the manner and scope of "South-South cooperation." The African Group initially supported this new category, but the G-77 and China position prevailed. The OECD countries argued throughout this session that new forms of partnership and cooperation are necessary to effectively combat the problem of desertification. They called on developing countries with relevant technical expertise and know-how to provide technical assistance to the least developing countries. In the end, it was decided that the matter would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Notwithstanding, the G-77 and China resolved that they should adhere to the two categories identified by UNCED -- developed and developing countries.

To further complicate matters, the US refused to use the phrase "affected developing country Parties," preferring instead the more general "affected country Parties needing assistance." The rationale for this position is that not all the countries suffering from desertification are developing ones and some of these non-developing countries, such as the countries with economies in transition and even some developed countries, may require some form of technical or financial assistance to combat desertification. Regardless of how these definitional problems are resolved, the resulting compromise will not resolve the more substantive and complicated issues underlying this particular debate -- the need to evolve the conventional international cooperation model. [Return to start of article]