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INCD Chair Bo Kjell�n (Sweden) introduced the agenda and programme of work, as contained in document A/AC.241/53, and proposed a re-organization of the work for the first Plenary. His changes and the agenda were adopted. In his opening statement, Kjell�n announced that 41 ratifications have been received and, thus, the goal to have COP-1 by September 1997 is within reach. He hoped that during the World Solar and Food Summits and the 1997 Special Session of the General Assembly, the link between the CCD and energy, food security and poverty alleviation, and water resources, respectively, would be recognized. The Chair stated that although the Global Mechanism (GM) is the most difficult and complicated issue, discussions at the last CSD regarding innovative fundraising mechanisms illustrated that the idea of a GM is timely. Delegates then heard several statements from national ministers, representatives of regional groups and heads of UN agencies.

Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, noted that CCD is one of the first conventions to encompass the integrated approach of Agenda 21. He noted the prospect of 50 ratifications by the fifth anniversary of UNCED.

MONGOLIA said the country’s new democratic government is willing to take serious steps to ensure the maintenance of an ecological balance. HONDURAS, on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group, stated that the Convention is promising, but is a package of dreams. His country supports CCD and hopes to ratify it this year.

MEXICO noted that his was the first country to sign and ratify the CCD. He provided the results of a regional meeting, including the establishment of a regional coordinating unit in the Convention Secretariat at UNEP that will receive financial support from Mexico. The CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC outlined various initiatives it has undertaken to combat desertification, including raising awareness among parliamentarians.

UNEP Executive Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell expressed UNEP’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 Committee on Science and Technology and to collaborate with the institution that hosts the GM.

UNDP considers the CCD 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 the CCD, including a trust fund to combat desertification and drought. He reconfirmed UNDP’s availability to host the GM.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) reported on a 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 Committee on Science and Technology. 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 its four priority areas for development assistance, including the environment. 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 outlined steps taken towards the implementation of the CCD, including the setting up of a high-level committee.

The Executive Secretary of the Committee, Hama Arba Diallo, 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 host COP-1 in Rome.

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