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Eighty-seven countries signed the Convention to Combat Desertification at a ceremony in Paris on 14-15 October 1994. (See box on page 6.) After signing the Convention, Governments " many represented by their Ministers of Environment " announced their plans for implementing the Convention. Many countries suffering from desertification pledged to step up their national programmes. Some announced that they were setting up national action committees to coordinate their efforts with those of non-governmental organizations, local communities, international agencies and donor governments.

A number of OECD countries announced aid packages, mostly to be reallocated from existing development funds, and to be used primarily to assist African countries in halting dryland degradation. The United States pledged US$500 million in current or planned projects to fight desertification in Africa. The European Union said that US$443 million was recently added under the Lom‚ Convention to fight desertification, on top of the US$7.6 billion already committed. Germany pledged DM5 million in technical cooperation to be added before the end of 1994 to the DM1.8 billion already committed to combating desertification. Canada pledged over $100 million, drawn from exisiting development aid, to be directed over the next five years to fight desertification, especially in West Africa. Denmark announced that US$200 million has been allocated for the next fiscal year toward a new fund for international environment and emergency assistance, with a goal of targeting one half percent of GNP to this fund by the year 2004. This is above the 1% of GNP already spent on ODA. France said that above the FF1 billion committed for desertification, FF440 million will be allocated for bilateral financing of projects related to desertification and other areas under the scope of the GEF. Also in 1995, France will launch a programme to develop new energy sources for Africa, since the cutting of trees for fuelwood is one of the major causes of dryland degradation. Japan pledged an increase from US$7 to 7.7 billion in ODA for environmental projects in developing countries for the period 1992-1996.

The Convention remains open for signature at UN Headquarters in New York.

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