Report of main proceedings for 16 September 1993

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

WORKING GROUP I

STRUCTURE AND NATURE OF COMMITMENTS: Thursday morning's session of Working Group I continued discussion of the section onstructure and nature of commitments. Many delegates endorsed thestructure of the commitments proposed by the African Group and somesuggested that this could serve as the basis for furthernegotiation in New York. There was general consensus thatcommitments are central to the Convention and that commitments mustbe taken at different levels: local, national, regional andinternational. There was a general call for clear, specificcommitments that can be implemented. Tunisia pointed out that thelack of clarity in the commitments in the Climate Change Conventionhas forced the INC to revisit and redefine many of these issues.

Canada stressed that there must be criteria against whichcommitments can be tested and clearly defined roles andresponsibilities for implementation. Gambia added the need to linkthe various sections of the document, especially the principles andthe commitments sections.

Chad and the Central African Republic called for prioritycommitments for least developed countries. Togo, supported by C“ted'Ivoire, said that commitments are also important with regard tocountries that are not yet affected by, but in danger of,desertification.

On the format, two alternatives were put forward: one based on theClimate Change Convention and one based on the BiodiversityConvention. China and Malaysia supported the latter, which includesa part on commitments within each section of the Convention. Zambiapreferred a separate section on commitments.

Many delegates, including Japan, mentioned the complementarity ofcommitments by countries affected by drought and desertification onthe one hand and the donors, industrialized countries andinternational organizations on the other. The need for politicalcommitment, support, and financial, scientific and technicalassistance from the international community was also stressed byChina, Malaysia, Brazil, India, C“te d'Ivoire and Algeria. Norwaysaid it is willing to take on its share of the financial burden.The US, however, called for better utilization of existingresources. Sweden said there is a need to maximize coordination ofresources.

A number of delegates, including Australia, Norway, Zambia, Sweden,Senegal and Peru, recognized that local communities, especiallyNGOs, indigenous populations, women and youth, should play animportant role in the commitments. The US added that commitmentsshould also promote local know-how. China, Syria and Australiamentioned the need for education and public awareness.

Egypt, supported by Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia, commented that theproliferation of institutions should not be a concern, as mentionedin paragraph 60(d) in document A/AC.241/12. He stated that there isample justification for the establishment of mechanisms to combatdesertification.

The EC and Malaysia agreed that the commitments in this conventionshould not overlap with those in other environmental conventions.Saudi Arabia specifically mentioned that there should be no overlapwith the Climate Change Convention.

NATIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: The discussion on nationalaction programmes began in the afternoon. Mali introduced theAfrican Group's proposals, which can be found in paragraphs 69-72of A/AC.241/12. Egypt pointed out that this section should notrepeat items covered in the section on commitments or the technical"shopping lists" in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 and the 1977 Plan ofAction to Combat Desertification. The US, the UK and Sweden saidthat most of these proposals belong in the regional instrument forAfrica. The Convention should be brief, concise and more universalin its phrasing. Switzerland and Austria agreed, adding thatmacro-economic issues should not be resolved in this forum. Somecountries, however, wanted to be more specific. Niger said thatsomething should be added regarding crop damage due to parasitesand other plagues, livestock production and population policies.The UK supported Niger's comments on population policies.Mauritania suggested reference to protection of animals, theenvironment, and pest control. Germany said that the Africanproposals were not concrete enough and do not take into accountexperiences with previous plans.

Australia said that national plans should be forward-looking andlong-term (at least five years). There should be provisions forregular review, assessment and adjustment; criteria should bespecific; donor countries should commit to long-term assistance inaccordance with national plans; and pastoralism should receive moreattention. Norway echoed many of these points.

Egypt and Chile said that the autonomy of States should berespected. In this regard, the US stated that it is up toindividual countries to determine what is necessary for their ownnational plans. China supported the establishment of nationalcentres to monitor and study desertification.

The US stressed that while governments are wonderful at creatingplans, they are not so great at implementing them. Austria addedthat implementation is more important than the programme itself.Norway proposed the establishment of a mechanism for monitoring theimplementation of national plans.

France and others alluded to the multiplicity of national plans.The UK said that this Convention should not repeat mistakes of thepast. Malaysia and Burkina Faso responded that these plans arerarely implemented because of a lack of resources or know-how. TheRussian Federation added that the absence of success is linked tothe poor quality of these plans.

Egypt, Nepal, Germany, Sweden, Madagascar, the UK stressed theimportance of integrating national action programmes with economicplans and environmental action plans. Zambia, China, India, Kenya,Algeria, Brazil and Chad mentioned the need for internationalsupport (including financial resources) for these action plans.Egypt suggested the establishment of a focal point to coordinateaction and contributions from donor countries. Germany and UNESCOechoed the need for greater donor coordination to facilitateimplementation.

Germany, Lesotho, Australia, the US, the UK, Benin, Argentina andChad stressed the need to involve local populations in nationaldevelopment planning, execution and follow-up. Algeria said thatnational planning must take place in a democratic politicalcontext. Zambia added that action plans must be demand-driven.Tunisia said that the African proposals can be strengthened byadding the role of women and by establishing and strengtheninginstitutions. Cameroon, on the other hand, warned against confusingnational and local plans. It is the responsibility of thegovernment, not local populations or the international community,to draw up these plans.

WORKING GROUP II

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: The recurring question raised bydelegates was the appropriate type of research to be promoted:applied or basic. The general consensus supported the need tocoordinate "laboratory" research with field activities. Israelsuggested the need to establish organs to link the two. Finlandcited the newly established European Tropical Forest ResearchNetwork that promotes collaboration with research institutions incountries with arid and semi-arid areas. Mali highlighted the needfor rural centres for research on local knowledge. Moroccoemphasized the need to address "preventive" measures.

INFORMATION COLLECTION, ANALYSIS AND EXCHANGE: The centralissue in this discussion was organized information dissemination.Mexico and Tanzania stressed the need for local, regional andinternational information networks.

TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AND COOPERATION: Tanzania said there isa need to establish institutions to facilitate the transfer oftechnology, in particular the strengthening of sub-regionalmonitoring centres. He also stated the need to develop alternativerenewable energies. Burkina Faso stressed the need to develop solarenergy, but Saudi Arabia stated that the issue of energy securitydiscussed in paragraph 90(b)(iv) of document A/AC.241/12 is a"vague expression" that should be deleted, since it is beingaddressed by other institutions. In response, Tanzania and Beninexplained that dependence on fuelwood leads to deforestation, whichcauses desertification, This necessitates the development of otheralternatives forms of energy. Malaysia suggested deleting paragraph90(a)(iv), which deals with the utilization of biodiversity, sinceit is covered under the Biodiversity Convention. Tanzania suggestedan amendment that stresses biodiversity in "dryland areas."Tanzania also said there is need to promote technologies thatimprove traditional ones, such as water harvesting and agroforestrytechniques as well as remote sensing facilities that supplementtraditional monitoring mechanisms. Benin outlined Africa's fivepriorities that include food and energy security, which calls forthe need to develop food storage and processing facilities.

Belgium re-emphasized the need for demand-driven technologytransfer. Zimbabwe concurred, but emphasized that demand is alsoinfluenced by the awareness of existing technologies. She said thattechnology transfer should include the know-how necessary to buildlocal capacity. Financial resources are also needed in this regard.Ethiopia and Gambia stated that acceptability of technology dependson basic literacy of the user groups.

China and CEDARE stated the need to address capacity building, butwas informed by the Secretariat that Working Group I was discussingthis issue.

During the discussions, several comments prompted the Chair to callupon the experience of the CILSS countries. Bolivia said theirexperience is unlike that of Africa, although similar to that ofAsia. In that light, he suggested that direct exchanges betweencountries with similar characteristics would be useful.

Gambia charged that government policies were not always conduciveto technology transfer and needed to be re-assessed. UNESCOmentioned the need to encourage the private sector to invest inthese marginal areas, while providing patented and subsidizedtechnology. Mexico outlined the three aspects of the pilot projectshe proposed on Wednesday to include: training, demonstration of thebest technologies and to support research.

INSTITUTIONS: The Secretariat pointed out that the mainissue before the group was to assess what new institutions shouldbe established under the Convention. Most delegations favored theestablishment of a Permanent Secretariat to service theadministrative needs of the Convention, but felt that it waspremature to start defining its functions, size or structure.Botswana, on behalf of the African Group, argued that some minimumstructure should at least be agreed upon.

Some delegations, such as the UK, Germany, Australia, Japan and theUS, felt that the Conference of the Parties and not this WorkingGroup should decide on the establishment of subsidiary bodies. TheAfrican delegations suggested that the actual functions of theConference of the Parties should not be finalized until agreementhas been reached on the substantive obligations of the Convention.They strongly supported the establishment of subsidiary bodies,especially a scientific/technical advisory board and a body to dealwith financial matters. Senegal urged delegates to show support forthe African position and stated that agreement on the establishmentof subsidiary bodies would be the expression of a willingness tomove discussions to a more operational phase.

Australia felt that it was premature to discuss the question ofinstitutions until agreement has been reached on the substantivecomponents of the Convention. Canada suggested that only thoseinstitutions be established that were absolutely necessary for thesuccessful implementation of the Convention, in order to conservelimited financial resources. Canada, along with many other Northerncountries, suggested making use of existing institutionsestablished under other environmental conventions. This pointrepresented clear divergence among the countries, with the Africandelegations urging that issue-specific instruments, such as theDesertification Convention, warrant their own institutions. ManyAfrican countries believed that despite the similarity of the goalswith the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions, the nature,objectives and scope of the Desertification Convention weresufficiently different as to require an independent institution.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

WORKING GROUP I: Due to the rapid pace in Working Group I,some delegates were not prepared to discuss the sections onstructure and nature of commitments or national action programmesyesterday. Thus, discussion this morning will address these twosubjects. Bolivia and Iran are scheduled to speak first oncommitments. After discussion on commitments concludes, Canada andthe EC will open discussion on national action programmes. If timepermits, the Working Group will begin examining sub-regional actionprogrammes.

WORKING GROUP II: The Chair indicated that she would preparean objective summary of the different views presented oninstitutions in preparation for today's discussion on this issue.After consultations with the INCD Chair, Bo Kjell‚n, this morning,the Chair will decide whether to proceed with the discussion on"regional instruments" scheduled for today.

CHAIR'S DRAFT DECISION: The Chair's draft decision on thefuture work of the INCD was circulated yesterday. It recommendsthat the 48th General Assembly decide on the Committee's futurework, including the prompt finalization of regional instruments. Itpostpones until the third session the development of a workprogramme for the period between June 1994 and the entry into forceof the Convention (when, many feel, the regional instruments shouldbe negotiated). Kjell‚n was scheduled to meet with the heads of theregional groups last night where, among other things, they were to inform him when their groups' would discuss the draft decision.Based on this information, Kjell‚n may schedule an informal sessionof Plenary this afternoon or Monday.

Participants

Negotiating blocs
African Group
Non-state coalitions
NGOs

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