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INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n opened the fifth session of the INCD and immediately gave the floor to UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor, who said that the negotiation of this Convention is difficult because the INCD is not just preparing a legal instrument, but setting up cooperation and consultation mechanisms based on solidarity and partnership. He stressed that actions to combat desertification should take into account the social and cultural aspects of desertification.

The next speaker was Alain Lamassoure, France's Ministre D‚l‚gu‚ for European Affairs, who welcomed everyone to Paris and called for a peaceful war against desertification. He said that France has always given special attention to the fight against desertification and proposed that a signing ceremony at the ministerial level take place in Paris this autumn.

President Mascarenhas Montero of Cape Verde, the current president of CILSS, spoke on behalf of 44 million Sahelians who have already suffered unnecessarily from recurrent drought. The member countries of CILSS attach the greatest importance to this Convention, since drought and desertification are among the main causes that jeopardize social and economic development. With regard to implementation of the Convention, the CILSS countries will make a full contribution to the application of different measures to be adopted. He expressed hope that the resources will made available since the gravity of the situation requires rapid action.

Kjell‚n acknowledged the Committee's hard work and expressed confidence that a successful conclusion is within reach. The importance of the Convention was confirmed by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which concluded 10 days ago in New York, where ministers emphasized the importance of negotiating an effective Convention. The CSD expects delegates here to agree on a Convention that is equitable, forward looking and efficient, can be signed at an early date and quickly ratified. The expectations of the CSD and the men and women of the drylands are with us and we must not fail.

The Committee then adopted its agenda (A/AC.241/22) and accredited an additional seven NGOs to the negotiating process (A/AC.241/9/Add.7). Kjell‚n explained that the Committee needs to have a flexible work programme. The Plenary will meet informally to consider the main body of the Convention, while at the same time a negotiating group under the chairmanship of Anne de Lattre (France) will examine the regional annexes. Pierre-Marc Johnson (Canada) and Bolong Sonko (The Gambia) will continue consultations on financial issues. On Wednesday evening, the Plenary will review results achieved and decide on its future programme of work. Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the INCD, followed with an introduction of the documents before the Committee. Several ministers then made statements.

BENIN: M. Jean-Roger Ahoyo, Ministre de l'Environnement de l'Habitat et de l'Urbanisme, stressed that the implementation of the Convention depends on the availability of financial resources. He urged delegates not to repeat the experiences of the 1977 Nairobi Plan of Action and to better coordinate financial resources at all levels. The ministerial conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, held in Cairo on 3 June, supported a fund to combat desertification and the effects of drought. Ahoyo supported a specific financial mechanism for Africa, an independent secretariat with sufficient resources, and rapid ratification. Benin will contribute US$1000 to the Secretariat Trust Fund.

MONGOLIA: Dr. Batjargal, Minister for Nature and the Environment, said that the implementation of national action plans must be a priority and should be supported by regional and sub-regional programmes. The situation in the Sahel has received considerable attention, but the situation in many central Asian regions also merits concern. He described the situation in Mongolia where more than 40% of the territory faces increased frequency of drought and desertification. Mongolia, with support from UNEP, is developing a national action plan to combat desertification.

SENEGAL: M. Abdoulaye Bathily, Minister of the Environment, stressed the importance of a successful outcome to these negotiations and the effect it will have on nearly one billion people. The Committee also needs to adopt emergency measures for the implementation annex for Africa. The Committee needs to ensure that today marks the decisive stage in the offensive of the international community to combat desertification.

@HEADINE 3 = The afternoon session opened with a statement by Algerian Amb. Amar Belani, on behalf of the G-77 and China. Belani stressed the importance that the G-77 and China attach to this process, particularly the establishment of financial and institutional mechanisms to mobilize new and additional financial resources and technology to help combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. The G-77 and China insist that a specialized fund and a separate and independent secretariat be established to assist the affected developing countries to honor their commitments under the Convention. He hoped that the Convention and all the regional annexes for the developing countries will be adopted simultaneously and quickly ratified.

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