Report of main proceedings for 17 September 1993

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

WORKING GROUP I

Working Group I reopened discussion of the sections on structureand nature of commitments and national action programmes inresponse to the request of certain delegates.

STRUCTURE AND NATURE OF COMMITMENTS: Bolivia commented thatthe commitments should be substantive, concrete, action-oriented,operational and linked to the other sections of the Convention,specifically the objectives and preamble. The commitments shouldaddress the physical and environmental aspects of desertification,as well as the economic, social and human aspects. Mongolia saidthat the commitments must be specific and must respond to therealities facing different countries.

Armenia stressed the need for commitments aimed at povertyeradication. Sudan said that there should be additional provisionsfor monitoring the implementation of commitments. Finland stressedthe importance of commitments relating to land use. Bolivia andUganda said that developed countries should make the commitments toprovide the necessary financial resources and technology to combatdesertification and mitigate the effects of drought.

Egypt said that although a number of speakers commented on theimportance of public participation, it is crucial to"de-marginalize" people in the rural areas who suffer from famineand desertification. The representative from the Centre forEnvironment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe stressedthe need to make commitments to provide NGOs with funds and thecapacity building to implement and prepare projects.

On the question of structure, Bolivia said that there should be twocategories of commitments: global, regional and subregional on theone hand and domestic commitments on the other. Iran agreed thatcommitments at various levels, and not just South-Southcooperation, will be required. Finland suggested that the text ofAgenda 21 should form the basis for the negotiations on structure.

Canada proposed that in order to facilitate the process theSecretariat should produce an initial draft structure and formatfor this section of the Convention to serve as the basis forinformal discussion during the second week of the session. The USand Finland supported this proposal. The Chair responded that hewould raise this at the Bureau meeting that evening.

NATIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: Canada said that national actionplans should be coordinated with regional and subregional plans andthat consideration should be given to countries working activelywith UNDP's Capacity 21 initiative. Belgium, on behalf of the EC,said that national plans should focus on concrete activities thatcan be properly implemented and evaluated. Many action plans havefailed because there is a lack of focus or prioritization. The ECdoes not support general statements on poverty eradication: theplans should be specific to desertification and subject tomonitoring. National strategies should form the basis forcoordinated support from the international community. Spain addedthat these plans should have strict follow-up and implementationprovisions and should limit activities involving the use of "hard"technologies.

Guinea Bissau, Burundi, Kenya, Peru and Malawi responded thatmatters relating to poverty cannot be left out. Morocco said thatpoverty eradication and population stabilization should be keyelements. Niger stressed the need for an integrated approach.Senegal reminded delegates of the human dimension of nationalplanning.

Botswana stressed human-centered action programmes and the need forgreater coordination at different levels to improve efficiency.Bangladesh and Denmark said that national programmes should belong-term, focussed, multi-sectoral and concrete. Italy and Perumentioned the need to involve local communities. Egypt suggestedfour elements: action related to the management of drought;preventive action; rehabilitation of damaged and desertified lands;and the development of land and water resources. Israel supportedthese points and added that the economic development of hyper-ariddeserts should be a part of national and regional plans. KENGO, onbehalf of the NGOs, argued for a revision of land-tenure laws andthe adoption of national plans using the participatory approach.

Mali listed a number of reasons why past plans have failed. Theseinclude: the haste in drawing up plans; insensitivities of theexperts drawing up the plans; and inadequacy of resources. Newplans may succeed since countries are now undergoingdecentralization and democratization and have learned from pastexperiences. Mauritania echoed these points, but stressed the lackof resources.

Bolivia responded to Belgium's statement about internationalsupport being contingent on good quality plans. He said it isbetter to have 100 projects or programmes that target the hard-hitareas and involve local communities than a situation where eachcountry has to develop a programme and then wait for it to beapproved by the Conference of Parties before it can receiveinternational support. Kenya warned that this Convention cannotinterfere with national government expenditures and policies,including land tenure.

SUB-REGIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: Mali, on behalf of theAfrican Group, introduced its proposals for sub-regional actionprogrammes. The Africans are guided by three concerns: the need toensure consistency between national programmes; rationality; andthe adjustment of present provisions and positions. The UScautioned that the language should not be too Africa-oriented asthis Convention is supposed to be universal in its scope. He saidthat organizations, such as the Niger River Basin, should not becreated that may detract political attention from the problems ofdesertification. Benin stressed the importance of management oftransboundary waterways, grazing lands and biodiversity, adoptionof legislation on nature protection and promotion of eco-tourism.

Kenya, India and Brazil requested that the meeting adjourn to allowthe various regional groups to meet and resolve some outstandingissues. Since no delegation objected, the Chair suspended the workfor the afternoon.

WORKING GROUP II

Working Group II continued the previous day's discussion on thetopic of institutions. The Chair, Anne de Lattre, reported thatafter consultations with the INCD Chair, Bo Kjell‚n, discussion onregional instruments would be postponed until the second week. Sheproposed that the Working Group continue with discussions oninstitutions and then proceed to the section on procedures, annexesand final clauses. The Chair also stated that she would notdistribute her summary until the discussion on technology transferhad been completed. She pointed out that the summary is notintended to serve as a basis for consultation or discussion but,rather, as a means to stimulate additional suggestions. The Chairnoted the need for additional consultations on regional instrumentsand mentioned Kjell‚n's suggestion that the Working Group have abrainstorming session on this topic.

INSTITUTIONS: Uzbekistan opened the general discussion bynoting that consensus had not yet been reached on the institutionssection. He urged delegates to reach agreement on the question ofsubsidiary bodies and suggested that monitoring centres, asproposed by the African Group, should be established. Despite theapparent agreement for such monitoring centres, there appeared tobe some question whether to establish new institutions for suchpurposes or to strengthen existing ones. Countries supporting theestablishment of new institutions included Benin, Cameroon andUzbekistan. Those countries who prefer strengthening existinginstitutions for such objectives, included Kenya, Zimbabwe, Indiaand Australia, who urged that UNEP be relied on to the greatestextent possible. Australia clarified his government's offer to hostone of the subsidiary bodies. Zimbabwe urged that at least themonitoring body should be based in Africa. The issue of theestablishment of a scientific and technical advisory body was notresolved by the group. The Philippines questioned thecost-effectiveness of such a body.

Botswana stated that desertification and drought are of such greatimportance that it is necessary to have an independent body ontechnical matters that works closely with other institutionsfocussed on related issues. Botswana also reminded delegates thatWMO had offered to provide facilities for such a body. Burkina Fasosupported Botswana's statement and added that the struggle inAfrica against desertification is a struggle for survival. Thispoint was echoed by Cameroon and Madagascar. Burkina Faso explainedthat although some delegates had noted at the Nairobi session thatcertain affected areas are tourist spots, in Africa, the questionof combatting desertification is not a question of promotingtourism, but rather a question of survival for those peopleaffected by the scourge of desertification. Thus, if newinstitutions are to be established, governments should supportthem, so they will be able to effectively combat desertification.In response to these comments, the representative from UNEP statedthat UNEP's Nairobi office has been involved in desertificationcontrol measures and monitoring activities for many years. Hestated that UNEP would do whatever it could to assist theimplementation of the Convention.

The Environment Liaison Centre International spoke on behalf ofNGOs and stated that NGOs favor the establishment of a Conferenceof the Parties (COP) as the supreme decision-making body for theConvention. NGOs expressed their wish to be able to attend thesemeetings as observers. The representative also stated that one ofthe most important functions of the COP is to review progress madein combatting desertification. The NGOs suggested that countriesshould submit progress reports and that a Secretariat should beestablished with an NGO liaison unit.

After the conclusion of the discussion on institutions, Norway,supported by the US, proposed that Working Group II discuss thetopics of capacity building, education and public awareness,currently assigned to Working Group I, in light of the close linkbetween these topics and those subjects discussed by Working GroupII over the last few days. Several delegations, including Malaysiaand Benin disagreed. Benin pointed out that to alter PlenaryDecision 1/3 on the mandates of the groups by deferring a topicfrom one Working Group to another is a complex matter. It wasagreed to maintain the Working Group mandates.

The Chair proposed that the rest of the day be devoted todiscussion of the procedural matters, except the annexes. Aftersome discussion, it was decided that the procedural topics would beaddressed during the second week as they related directly to thetopic of regional instruments. It was agreed that the Working Groupwould adjourn for the rest of the day, to provide regional groupswith the opportunity to meet.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: The Plenary will meet this morning to addressAgenda Item 4, Review of the situation as regards extrabudgetaryfunds (A/AC.241/13). The Secretariat will update delegates on thestatus of contributions to the special voluntary fund to supportparticipation of developing countries affected by drought anddesertification and the trust fund for the negotiating process. ThePlenary is also expected to accredit a second list of NGOs as wellas some international organizations to the INCD process.

The Chairs of the two working groups are also expected to report ontheir progress and the Chair of the Committee, Bo Kjell‚n, willlikely propose a revised work plan for this week.

WORKING GROUP I: Discussion will resume this afternoon onthe section on sub-regional action programmes. However, as theWorking Group I Chair stated on Friday, delegates will be able tore-open discussion on any of the other sections, if they haveadditional contributions to make. Look for an announcement from theChair regarding the Canadian proposal that the Secretariat producean initial draft structure and format for the section oncommitments to serve as the basis for informal discussion thisweek.

WORKING GROUP II: Working Group II will begin discussion onprocedures and final clauses this afternoon. It is expected thatthis discussion will continue through Tuesday. On Wednesday, it ispossible that the informal "brainstorming" session on regionalinstruments will begin. Since delegates deferred discussion of thesection on definitions until this week, look for an announcementfrom the Chair regarding the rescheduling of this topic.

IN THE CORRIDORS: Look for discussions to continue in thecorridors today on the Chair's draft decision on the future work ofthe Committee. The Chairs of the regional groups are expected tomeet this evening.

Participants

Negotiating blocs
African Group
Non-state coalitions
NGOs

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