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The discussion on the resolution on urgent action for Africa and interim measures was originally intended to be conducted during two Plenaries. Three full meetings plus part of a fourth were necessary to accommodate the large number of speakers. Nevertheless, this was still half the time it has taken to discuss the same subject at past sessions. Country delegates and representatives from international organizations discussed, in turn, actions taken since INCD-8 in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Northern Mediterranean region. With a few exceptions, speakers observed the five-minute time limit given, which enabled over 60 delegates to make presentations. Several delegates circulated supplementary information on their activities. INCD Chair Bo Kjell´┐Żn noted that no formal decision would result from the deliberations, but a Chair’s summary would be included as an annex to the report of the session.

URGENT ACTION FOR AFRICA: African countries focused on national activities. Madagascar, South Africa, Morocco and Djibouti reported on their progress in ratifying the CCD. Mali, Ghana, Mauritania and Senegal are putting in place structures to facilitate participation of affected populations in decision-making. National awareness raising, including using media, workshops and meetings, is taking place in Malawi, Swaziland, the Gambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Benin and the Central African Republic. Others, including Niger, Eritrea, Egypt, Algeria and Sudan reported on policy changes in specific sectors, which would enhance the process of combating desertification and preparation of national action plans (NAPs).

Tunisia announced that in response to Article 19 of the CCD, it has established an international centre for environment and technology to undertake various activities such as promoting the transfer, acquisition and adaptation of new technologies. Egypt looks forward to the ratification of the CCD by the US, Japan, France and the UK. China reported on the August Asia-Africa forum where triangular cooperation (cooperation between a developed country and South-South partners) and South-South cooperation were discussed.

Donor countries reported on their financial or technical contributions. Germany has a special fund of US$1.3 million to support enabling activities in Africa, which it will replenish in 1997. The Japan Fund for Global Environment has been created to fund NGO activities. Switzerland outlined several areas it will be funding and appealed to affected countries to provide reports on how they are promoting participation of affected populations. Australia and France reported on technical input they will make in CCD implementation. Finland highlighted its contribution to the work on indicators, while Canada elaborated on its work in developing countries.

Regional groups and intergovernmental agencies also contributed to the discussion. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) highlighted regional and subregional meetings it has been involved in. The OAU is torn between the need for inter-African cooperation to ensure sustainable development and the need to cope with issues of peace and democracy, including conflict resolution and natural disaster control. Lesotho, on behalf of the SADC countries, noted that their regional programme seeks to strengthen institutions and regional early warning systems, promote cooperation in the sustainable management of natural resources and develop appropriate technology. Kenya, on behalf of IGADD, said IGADD has been restructured and now includes an office for humanitarian affairs. The Convention has been translated into Swahili and will be translated into many other languages of the subregion. South Africa, on behalf of the Valdivia Group (a group of temperate southern hemisphere countries), reported on an initiative to exchange expertise between NGOs and governments that was launched at INCD-8.

Ireland, on behalf of the European Union, said that responsibility for commitments to combat desertification lies with national governments. The European Commission is reviewing the EU countries’ activities on desertification, and is assessing what progress has been made. An informal task force will produce recommendations and guidelines for the implementation of the CCD.

In its work on the Convention, UNDP/UNSO has identified three problems in the preparation of action programmes: national coordinating bodies often lack the authority or credibility to bring together all the actors; not everyone views NAPs as a participatory and iterative processes; and many of the NAP initiatives still lack financial support. The FAO said it will cooperate with the Italian Government to host COP-1 in Rome and welcomed IFAD’s proposal to host the GM.

INTERIM MEASURES IN ASIA: Thirteen delegates from Asia spoke on interim measures in Asia. Several noted national characteristics that contributed to desertification, such as the landmines and damaged bridges in Afghanistan that reduce the amount of rangeland used for grazing.

One of the speakers to identify national initiatives was China, which has enhanced the role of governmental organizations in coordinating policies related to drought. China is also training local policy makers to better understand CCD-related policies. In an NGO statement, Ms. Niu Yuquin from the China Desert Reclamation Association said she has been combating desertification in her village. Armenia has introduced bills on environmental, vegetation and wildlife protection to create a system to protect natural resources. Bangladesh has introduced environmental education into the educational curriculum. Yemen is helping local sectors and NGOs take part in the struggle against desertification. Israel announced that negotiations with Germany are expected to conclude soon, resulting in a new academic programme offering an advanced degree in desert sciences. Myanmar is planning an awareness raising seminar.

Cooperative efforts in the region were also noted. Iran said the Asian regional network, DESCONAP, can be the main mechanism through which the regional Annex can be implemented. Russia hopes to bring together the administrative heads of the countries in the region to develop a plan of action to combat desertification. India reported on the regional meeting held in August in India. Jordan noted joint initiatives with several Middle Eastern countries.

Several countries noted the need for resources, including Nepal, who expressed hope that the GM would mobilize substantial resources and that the least developed countries would receive special attention. Executive Secretary Diallo noted that the bulk of bilateral funding for activities in Asia has come from Switzerland, Japan and the Netherlands.

INTERIM MEASURES IN LATIN AMERICA: Seven delegates spoke on the subject of interim measures in Latin America. National efforts include: creating an advisory body to elaborate the national programme and special programmes for territories in affected areas (Cuba); establishing a national information network (Brazil); including NGOs as much as possible in decision-making on drylands problems (Peru); holding awareness days involving the media and local communities (Bolivia); and sponsoring a national reforestation programme (Mexico).

Cooperative efforts in Latin America include efforts by Chile to initiate regional cooperation on research, and by Brazil and Mexico to assist Haiti in combating desertification. Brazil discussed the regional development of indicators and benchmarks.

Colombia emphasized the socio-economic aspects of desertification. UNDP discussed UNDP/UNSO activities in Latin America and the Caribbean, and reaffirmed UNDP’s commitment to implement the CCD in close cooperation with other UN agencies.

INTERIM MEASURES IN THE NORTHERN MEDITERRANEAN: Spain spoke on behalf of the Annex IV Countries (Northern Mediterranean), and elaborated on their cooperation. A regional reflection group was created, national focal points were identified, and contacts between organizations were established. Spain emphasized its own commitment to the CCD process through participation in regional meetings and funding activities in Latin America and Africa. Turkey has organized a symposium on combating erosion and desertification.

NGO ACTIVITIES: Masse Lo, on behalf of the international NGO network RIOD, presented NGO activities in CCD implementation in all regions. He stated that institutional problems in some countries have been encountered and that the machinery is being established to strengthen NGOs’ relationship with some subregional organizations.

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