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INCD Chair, Bo Kjell�n (Sweden), opened the ninth session of the INCD and introduced the agenda and organization of work, as contained in A/AC.241/53, which was adopted. Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD), noted that CCD is one of the first conventions to encompass the integrated approach of Agenda 21. CCD’s experiences with this approach will provide many lessons. He noted the prospect of 50 ratifications by the fifth anniversary of UNCED.

Kjell�n said 41 ratifications have been received, thus, the goal to have COP-1 by September 1997 is within reach. He hoped that as happened at the Forestry meeting in June this year, the link between the CCD and energy, the CCD, food security and poverty alleviation, and the CCD and water resources will be recognized during the World Solar and Food Summits (later this year) and the 1997 Special Session of the General Assembly, respectively. Kjell�n noted that although the Global Mechanism (GM) is the most difficult and complicated issue, discussions at the last CSD reflected an openness to new thinking for innovative funding, which illustrates that the idea of a GM is timely. Granted the progress made on the Committee on Science and Technology (CST), he said it is possible to reach complete agreement on the subject, but the discussions on the location of the Permanent Secretariat may be more difficult. During this session, two panels are planned on the role of women in the Convention and the participatory approach.

MONGOLIA said their Parliament ratified the CCD in August. The country’s new democratic government is willing to take serious steps to ensure the maintenance of an ecological balance. HONDURAS stated that the convention is promising, but is a package of dreams. He appealed to the rich countries and aid institutions to help countries with deserts as well as countries that do not have deserts now. His country supports CCD and hopes to ratify it this year.

MEXICO noted that his was the first country to sign and ratify CCD. Combatting desertification is a high priority in his country. He noted the results of a regional meeting, including the establishment of a coordinating unit in the Convention Secretariat at UNEP that will receive financial support from Mexico. He noted the need for new financial resources.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) outlined various initiatives the country has undertaken to combat desertification, including raising awareness among parliamentarians. The CAR has ratified the Convention and the instrument will be deposited during this INCD session.

UNEP’s Executive Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell expressed her institution’s interest in hosting the Permanent Secretariat and outlined UNEP’s past activities, history and role that render it suitable. She said UNEP is willing to support the work of the CST and to collaborate with the institution that hosts the GM.

UNDP considers CCD as one of the most significant post-Rio frameworks for operationalizing the goals of sustainable development. Availability and access to data on resource mechanisms is critical to implementation. He noted UNDP’s efforts to support the objectives of CCD, including a trust fund to combat desertification and drought. He reconfirmed UNDP’s availability to host the GM.

IFAD discussed the role of national action plans and noted the IFAD-sponsored forum on action plans held in June, where participants recognized the possibility of accelerating learning programmes and the desirability of including rural area development on the CST. The GM must go beyond a clearinghouse role and should harness resources not currently available for the drylands. IFAD is willing to host the GM and could provide a detailed proposal at INCD-10.

CANADA outlined the country’s four priority areas for development assistance, including the environment. The Mayor of Montreal, the Canadian city that wishes to host the Permanent Secretariat, will make a presentation on its candidacy on Thursday, 5 September.

Ireland, on behalf of the EUROPEAN UNION (EU), emphasized the urgent need to determine the functions of the GM because this determines how COP-1 selects the institution to house the GM. CHAD said his country has ratified the Convention and the instrument will be deposited before the end of INCD-9. He also outlined steps taken towards the implementation of the CCD, including the setting up of a high-level committee.

Executive Secretary of the Committee, Hama Arba Diallo, thanked participants for their presence, which testifies to the importance their countries accord to CCD issues. He noted the Italian government’s offer to host COP-1. He also highlighted activities that have been carried out recently, including efforts in African countries and regional meetings. ITALY confirmed its offer to have Rome host COP-1.

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