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Chair Mahmoud Gould El Gaouth (Mauritania) opened the meeting at 12:30 pm and presented the agenda of the Working Group as contained in Annex II of document A/AC.241/53, Adoption of the Agenda and Organization of Work. The Group adopted their agenda and then discussed the schedule.

El Gaouth suggested that the Working Group deal with the Global Mechanism (GM) as contained in document A/AC.241/56, on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. He noted that following substantive discussions in previous INCD sessions on the issue, the Group should negotiate the procedural text for the criteria to identify the organization to host the GM and agree on the functions of the Mechanism. He noted that in view of the progress made on the issue at INCD-7, few disagreements are anticipated in the discussion on criteria. He added that the Secretariat had compiled a draft text on the functions of the GM based on INCD-8 discussions, following which the INCD Chair had organized a meeting in June 1996 in New York to find out whether these positions were faithfully reflected. He urged the Group to consider the text as a guiding document to facilitate the negotiations without being regarded a definitive text because the negotiations on the functions of the GM are expected to evolve, and what is agreed to now may be changed later.

He proposed that the Group discuss the criteria first, then the functions of the GM, and later return to the discussion on the criteria in order to reach a definitive decision on what to propose to the Conference of the Parties. The US sought clarification regarding whether the functions should not be determined before deciding on the criteria. Lesotho concurred, pointing out that this is the procedure the African Group had followed during their discussions. Following the Chair's clarification, the US agreed to the procedure. However, it was agreed that the regional groups should consult on the preferred procedure and report to the Chair.

With regard to the designation of a Permanent Secretariat and arrangements for its functioning, as contained in A/AC.241/54 and Add. 1-3, the Chair proposed that the Group discuss the location Thursday afternoon, with presentations from the three bidding countries, Canada, Germany and Spain. A minister from Spain will make the first presentation, followed by the Mayor of Montreal, Canada, and the head of the delegation of Germany. The floor will then be opened for delegates to ask questions and seek clarification. He suggested that a closed committee be set up after that, including the representatives from the three countries and the Chair of the Bureau, to deal with the issue. The results of this committee would then be reported to the Working Group and Plenary. If there is time Thursday afternoon, the Group will also discuss the designation of the Permanent Secretariat (A/AC.241/55 and Add.1-3) based on the proposals from the three institutions. During the discussion UNEP will make a statement.

With respect to financial rules as contained in A/AC.241/45/ Rev.1, El Gaouth noted that with the exception of the voting procedures and decision-making, the other outstanding issues have precedent in the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, thus it should be easy to reach consensus.

The Chair suggested that if the Working Group completes discussion of an item within the time allocated, it should move on to the next issue on its agenda. In the event that an issue is not completed within the time allocated, the agenda item allocated that time shall be withheld until the preceding issue is completed. However, the time allocated to the discussion on the location of the Permanent Secretariat will not be changed.

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