Report of main proceedings for 15 September 1993

2nd Session of the the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification

WORKING GROUP I

PRINCIPLES: The Chair, Ahmed Djoghlaf, reiterated that thepurpose of this discussion is to enable the Secretariat to preparea consolidated text for the next session. Canada said that afterTuesday's discussion they support a separate section on principles.He said that the list put forward by the African Group (paragraph29(a) of document A/AC/241/12) was a good starting point. Australialater supported Canada and pointed out that there are othertreaties that contain principles, including the Biodiversity andClimate Change Conventions, CITES, the Law of the Sea, and theenvironment protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. The Chair added theConvention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution to this list.Benin added that the UN Charter also has a section on principles,pointing out that this is not a "new trend."

A number of countries, including Madagascar, Bolivia, Algeria, Cubaand Sudan, supported the list of principles put forward by Mali andBrazil on Tuesday, as well as the need for a separate section onprinciples. Norway and Finland suggested that this section shouldbe based on the Rio Declaration.

Japan said that the principles should be incorporated in thepreamble or the section on objectives. The US, supported by the UK,reserved its position on a separate section on principles, sayingit is rare in treaty law. If principles are not intended to bebinding, they should be in the preamble. If they are binding, theyshould be commitments.

When Egypt suggested using the principles in the Climate ChangeConvention, but changing the words to desertification, the Chairreferred to C“te d'Ivoire's earlier statement regarding the need toavoid simple reproduction, since the problems of desertificationare different from climate change.

Sweden, supported by India, said that the problems in this sectioncan be resolved by asking the Chair and the Secretariat tosummarize views and proposals and to present a text after thediscussion on commitments.

OBJECTIVES: Most delegates supported the need for clear andconcise objectives. Mali, on behalf of the African Group, suggestedseven objectives: preventing and combating drought anddesertification; halting land degradation; improving the livingconditions of the populations in affected areas; cooperation andpartnership; capacity-building; sustainable development; anddeveloping organizational, scientific, technological and financialmeans (paragraph 37 in A/AC.241/12). These objectives weresupported by Malaysia, Tanzania, Chad, Senegal, Ghana, Algeria,Gambia, Tunisia, Togo, Mauritania, Botswana, Sudan, Niger, Zambia,C“te d'Ivoire, and Pakistan. Kenya and Nigeria supported theAfrican proposal, but mentioned that these objectives are notsacrosanct and could be strengthened by proposals from otherdelegations.

Belgium, on behalf of the EC, said that the objective should be toaddress the main causes of desertification and to maximizeproductivity. Any expansion of the objectives are, in fact,commitments. Germany said that the first of Mali's objectives,preventing and combatting drought and/or desertification with aview to achieving sustainable development, is the most important,followed by a strategy on poverty alleviation. France, supported byNorway and Sweden, suggested using paragraph 19 of documentA/AC.241/7 that was presented at the Nairobi meeting.

Egypt stated that the Convention should not just focus on technicalassistance to developing countries alone, since a number ofindustrialized countries also suffer from desertification. Indiasaid that the objectives should be international and not regional.

Canada supported some of the drafting suggestions in A/AC.241/12 inparagraph 38(c),(d) and (g). The Russian Federation supported theproposals made by Burkina Faso (paragraphs 38(c)) and China(38(e)). Bolivia suggested four objectives: combattingdesertification and minimizing the effects of drought; promotingsustainable agriculture in these areas; eliminating poverty andpromoting human development; and promoting, mobilizing andintensifying international cooperation.

Austria, Iran, Egypt and Finland said that the objectives should befocussed on desertification, not drought. Uganda and the Chairargued that drought and desertification are both part of themandate for this Conference and should be kept together.

STRUCTURE AND NATURE OF COMMITMENTS: Most delegates were notprepared to discuss this section, however, Mali presented the draftproposals of the African Group. These include: scope of theConvention; strategy; measures to implement strategy; key elementsof strategy; commitments; and linkages to global environmentalconventions.

WORKING GROUP II

The Chair of Working Group II, Anne de Lattre, proposed that asmall group of volunteers, three representatives from the North andthree from the South, meet with her in the afternoon and during thenext two weeks to provide advice and summarize the discussions.Several delegations, including Benin, Mauritania, Brazil and India,disagreed arguing that it was premature to establish a draftinggroup and that the proposed group was not truly representative. Therest of the morning dealt with the transfer of technology andcooperation as stipulated in Section III(c) of A/AC.241/12.

TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AND COOPERATION: There appeared to beconsensus on most issues. Botswana, on behalf of the African Group,said technology transfer must address: water provision andpurification; energy development, particularly renewablealternative energies; and agricultural technologies for improvedhusbandry and food security. Israel, Iran, India and Uzbekistanshared some of these views. Niger stated that agriculturalproduction and processing should be developed simultaneously.Norway and ICRISAT stressed the need to strengthen the extensionservices. Mexico suggested the establishment of pilot projects forthe transfer of technology.

Cameroon stated that the adaptation and utilization of anytechnology must be culturally relevant. India, the EC and Australiasupported this view. Finland explained that technology developmentshould be demand-driven and that its development largely depends onits adaptability and acceptability. Mexico, supported by Bolivia,the EC and Iran, suggested that new technology be in harmony withthe social, environmental, economic and cultural conditions.Cameroon added that it is better to refer to "traditional" insteadof "indigenous" technologies, as the latter excludesgeneration-tested knowledge and expertise. China proposed fiveaspects that should be addressed: provision for the transfer ofpatented technology to developing countries; development ofmechanisms that facilitate the utilization of traditionalexperiences; integration of these with modern technologies toimprove them; stipulation of the role of IGOs and NGOs intechnology cooperation; provision of a financial mechanism; andcapacity building. India, Kenya and Uzbekistan underscored the needfor financial commitments.

Belgium, on behalf of the EC, stressed the need to cover patentissues and to involve the private and government sectors intechnology transfer. Austria suggested that countries withunpatented know-how that is considered common knowledge should bemade available for South-South cooperation. Canada warned that manyunpatented technologies exist, and that this issue should beaddressed.

The US, Norway and the EC supported the use of existinginstitutions in the process. Niger highlighted the need to identifythe weaknesses of these institutions so they can be improved.Burundi preferred the creation of new institutions.

Benin, supported by Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Australia, emphasizedthe need for training and Burundi underscored the need to trainpeasants and women. Sudan stressed the need to prevent dumping oftechnologies.

The US sought clarification on the "precautionary principle"proposed by the Africans. Cameroon and Benin said that the Africanssupported a "subsidiary," not "precautionary," principle thatrefers to strengthening the capacity of indigenous and local NGOs.Austria suggested that countries compile lists of technology needs.However, Belgium, on behalf of the EC, suggested that only generalrequirements should be indicated and detailed lists be incorporatedin the regional instruments. These lists, however, should bedeveloped in partnership with local communities to give preferenceto traditional systems.

In response to Tuesday's request, the Secretariat said that a listof institutions involved in desertification was published in 1988in Arizona. An update of which will be available on computer inJanuary 1994 and in print in the first quarter of next year. ThePanel of Experts can be requested to identify those areas whereresearch should be carried out, the priority areas and objectives.

PLENARY

INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n opened the afternoon plenary that focused onhis non-paper on the modalities for the negotiation of the regionalagreements. He said that he hoped to prepare a draft decision thisweek for adoption by the end of this session. El Salvador statedthe Latin American and Caribbean Group's position developed at theMexico City Experts' Group meeting, particularly that thedifficulties with desertification in each region should be takeninto account, and reference to the African agreement as a blueprintfor subsequent regional agreements should be deleted. Indiasupported the Latin American position and highlighted the need forcooperation. He also called for the legal implications to beaddressed before actual negotiations begin. Benin, on behalf of theAfrican Group, expressed concern that the discussions seemed to betaking a step backward, due, in part, to a lack of continuitywithin delegations. He noted that the text before the Committee wasnot a draft decision to be negotiated, but a document aimed atstimulating the exchange of views. He urged the regional groupswithin the G-77 to exchange views among themselves beforepresenting them to the Plenary. Malaysia stated that South-Southcooperation should not be singled out and that no one authorityshould tell the South how to cooperate. Instead, reference shouldbe made to the need for international cooperation, especially inlight of the fact that such cooperation has been lacking since Rio.Australia made several key points that were later supported by theUK, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Portugal, Norway, US, and Italy. Thesepoints included: the need to focus on the linkages between theConvention and the regional instruments; assessing the financialand human resource implications of carrying out the case studies;the viability of extending the INCD mandate, the timing of possiblefurther work and the cost implications; the need to address thelegal issues related to the regional instruments as well as thenature and content of the Convention itself. Australia added thatwork on regional instruments could prejudge the Convention. Spain,supported by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Portugal, proposed that theINCD also consider an instrument for developed countries.

Austria said it was necessary to clarify the legal issues,especially the question of whether a State can be a party to theConvention without being party to at least one of the regionalinstruments or vice versa. He also stated that case studies shouldnot be considered a prerequisite to the negotiation of a regionalinstrument. Norway expressed concern regarding the viability ofnegotiating the regional agreements at this point in light of thelack of time and financial resources. She suggested focussing onthe Convention at this point, with a view to negotiating regionalinstruments once the Convention is concluded. Germany suggestedthat the negotiation of regional instruments be deferred to thefirst Conference of the Parties, so as not to hold the Convention"hostage to an unknown number of protocols." Germany alsohighlighted the difficulties of ensuring funding for the INCDprocess beyond 1994. This point was echoed by Botswana who statedthat the fundamental issue that has plagued these negotiations isthe inadequacy of resources. He questioned how all the variousregional instruments would be financed. Egypt highlighted theglobal implications of desertification by noting that of the 99countries suffering from desertification, 81 are developing andthat of the total area affected 2.1 billion hectares are inindustrialized countries and 3.1 billion in developing ones. Hecalled for a global Convention that addresses the problem ofdesertification without the need for further instruments. Hesuggested that discussion of this topic be deferred until theCommittee decides on the nature and scope of the Convention.Zimbabwe suggested first dealing with the Convention and thennegotiating additional instruments, if necessary.

Kjell‚n summarized the afternoon's discussions and noted that hewould conduct further consultations on the question of regionalinstruments.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

WORKING GROUP I: Working Group I will begin substantivediscussion on the structure and nature of commitments. Thisdiscussion is expected to last all day. However, as this group isproceeding through its agenda items at a rapid pace, it is possiblethat the delegates may begin discussion on the next item, nationalaction programmes.

WORKING GROUP II: Working Group II will continue thediscussions on transfer of technology and cooperation; research anddevelopment; and information, analysis and exchange. If timepermits, the group will start work on the institutions section.

IN THE CORRIDORS: The Chair, Bo Kjell‚n, is expected toproduce a draft decision document on the modalities for thenegotiation of regional instruments today. Look for Kjell‚n tobegin a series of bilateral and multilateral consultations on thisdivisive issue. Kjell‚n will also be meeting with the heads of theregional groups this evening at 6:00 pm.

Participants

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