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The eighth session of the Committee was declared open by INCD Chair Bo Kjell�n on the afternoon of 5 February 1996.. Kjell�n introduced the draft agenda and organization of work (document A/AC.241/42), which was adopted. Kjell�n urged delegates to complete work by Thursday, 15 February rather than 16 February, as initially planned. Delegates also approved an additional five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) recommended for accreditation in document A/AC.241/9/Add.11.

Three new members were elected to the Bureau during the course of the session. A.K. Ahuja (India) replaced T.P. Sreenivasan (India) as Vice-Chair of the Committee. Mahmoud Ould El Gaouth (Mauritania) replaced Mourad Ahmia (Algeria) as Chair of Working Group I because the latter was no longer with the Algerian delegation. Franklin Moore (US) was elected Vice-Chair of Working Group II, a position reserved for the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG) that had been vacant for over a year.

OPENING STATEMENTS: INCD Chair Kjell�n said he was struck by the common themes of cooperation, the desire to involve NGOs, and the need to emphasize local action and participation. However, despite progress toward entry into force, the CCD is still struggling to become sufficiently well known and to be integrated into development cooperation strategies. He reviewed actions toward entry into force and said he would be holding consultations during this session on the venue for COP-1.

UNEP Deputy Executive Director Reuben Olembo said UNDP and IFAD are best equipped to host the Global Mechanism (GM). He stated that UNEP, with 20 years experience and as a GEF partner responsible for the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), would support close cooperation between the Committee on Science and Technology (CST) and the STAP. He also said UNEP could host the Permanent Secretariat and suggested that close synergy can be achieved through UNEP's common resources.

UNDP Administrator James Gustave Speth said UNDP contributed US$1 billion to countries affected by desertification over four years and will provide technical and financial support to establish national desertification funds. UNDP is prepared to act as host for the GM, but its operations, functions and funding arrangements must be clarified. The INCD should consider a co-hosting arrangement under which UNDP would share GM operations with another institution, possibly IFAD.

IFAD's Assistant President for the Economic Policy and Resource Strategy Department, Shigeaki Tomita, said IFAD would pursue the establishment of pilot national desertification funds as part of a coalition of civil society and financial institutions. Its interdepartmental Task Force on the Convention will aim to ensure that its annual budget of US$150-200 million for dryland and marginal areas programmes contributes to achieving the objectives of the CCD.

Mongolia's Minister for Nature and Environment, Z. Batjargal, stressed the need for increased North-South collaboration in addressing the problem of desertification. Mongolia has already developed its national action programme and is preparing to ratify the Convention this year.

Executive Secretary Arba Diallo outlined the documents before the Committee, including that on the situation as regards extrabudgetary funds, presented new brochures entitled "CCD Update" and highlighted the Secretariat's efforts in awareness raising. He said the dynamics of the signature and ratification processes demonstrate the determined commitment of the international community to the CCD.

SPECIAL REPORTS: Dr. Gunilla Bjorklund of the Stockholm Environment Institute presented the Comprehensive Freshwater Assessment, initiated by the CSD in 1994, for presentation at the special session of the General Assembly in 1997. The assessment will review the availability, quantity, quality and use of the world's water, investigation current and future water needs and examine policy options for water resources conservation.

Robert Hamwey of the International Academy of the Environment said that a recent workshop on Energy and Desertification recommended development of alternative energy strategies to reduce heavy reliance on fuel wood and associated deforestation.

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