Report of main proceedings for 20 September 1993

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


On Monday morning the Plenary heard reports from the Working GroupChairs, adopted a new programme of work for the week, examined thesituation as regards extrabudgetary funds and accredited additionalNGOs and IGOs to the INCD. The Committee also elected A. Ovkinnikov(Uzbekistan) to the post of Vice-Chair/Rapporteur for Working GroupI.

WORKING GROUP PROGRESS REPORTS: Ahmed Djoghlaf, the Chair ofWorking Group I, reported that the Group has addressed the preambleand sections on principles, objectives, nature and structure ofcommitments and national action programmes. The Group began todiscuss the section on sub-regional action programmes last Friday.Anne de Lattre, the Chair of Working Group II, reported that she isproducing an objective summary and requested additional suggestionsfrom delegates in writing. She reported that the Group decided touse the definition of desertification in Agenda 21. She describedsome of the proposals made on research, technology transfer,information and institutions.

ORGANIZATION OF WORK: INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n then presentedthe Committee with a revised programme of work. Canada, supportedby Australia, commented that the purpose of this session was toconduct a first reading of the Secretariat's text and not tonegotiate text. As some delegates have made specific draftingsuggestions and others have not, they requested that delegations begiven the opportunity to make drafting suggestions here or duringthe intersessional period. Egypt requested that a list of delegatesand relevant contact information be provided to facilitateintersessional consultations. The Executive Secretary, Arba Diallo,suggested that delegates obtain this information on their own, inlight of the Secretariat's limited resources.

SITUATION AS REGARDS EXTRABUDGETARY FUNDS: Arba Dialloreported on the status of extra-budgetary funds, supplementing theinformation in A/AC.241/13. Developing country participation at thefirst two INCD sessions was made possible by grants from Canada,Denmark, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.Costs for 70 developing countries to attend INCD-2 has beenestimated at US$350,000. An additional US$2,400,000 is needed tocover the costs for developing country participation at theremaining three INCD sessions.

With regard to the Trust Fund for Secretariat activities, Diallostated that UNEP had made an additional contribution of US$60,000for NGO participation and for the migration meeting in Almera. TheNetherlands had contributed US$555,139 and Canada and Switzerlandhave provided financial support for the hiring of two additionalSecretariat experts. The budget for the Asian and Latin Americancase studies is estimated at US$300,000 and the estimated cost ofthe studies to be undertaken by the Experts Panel amounts toUS$200,000.

France said that it will contribute Fr.500,000 to the VoluntaryFund and Fr.600,000 to the Trust Fund. Australia and the USrequested more details about what Secretariat activities are beingsupported by the Trust Fund. The Netherlands wanted to ensure thatthese resources are being used for the process as mandated byresolution 47/188. Norway requested clarification on the use of theVoluntary Fund and expressed concern that Trust Fund contributionsare being used for regional meetings and case studies, rather thanfor the financing of the negotiating process. Sweden stated that itis contributing 1 million Swedish crowns for the Uganda case study.

Diallo responded that many countries who suffer fromdesertification have requested assistance and the Secretariat isdoing its best to ensure maximum participation. The Voluntary Fundis also facilitating the participation of Bureau members. The TrustFund has been used primarily to cover staff and Secretariat costs.However, some countries have made contributions earmarked for thecase studies.

ACCREDITATION OF NGOS AND IGOS: The Committee alsoaccredited 26 additional NGOs (A/AC.241/9/Add.3) and 3inter-governmental organizations (A/AC.241/L.5/ Add 1 and Add 2) tothe INCD.


SUB-REGIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: Discussion on sub-regionalaction programmes continued on Monday afternoon. Egypt commentedthat while sub-regional programmes may be scientifically-based andtechnologically feasible, they are not implemented for political orfinancial reasons. He later added that in some cases it is moreefficient to implement regional programmes than multiple nationalprogrammes.

Brazil, Bangladesh and Finland agreed that sub-regional actionprogrammes should complement national action programmes. Franceasserted that sub-regional institutions should strengthen nationalcapabilities. Brazil, Algeria and Australia stressed the need forincreased coordination between national institutions. Algeria alsomentioned the need for increased coordination with regionaleconomic integration processes.

Botswana urged strengthening and increasing coordination betweensub-regional programmes. Senegal agreed, adding that datacollection, research, participation by local communities, trainingand administration should be strengthened.

Mexico stressed the need for international cooperation networks onscience, technology, training and exchange of experiences. Moroccosuggested establishing linkages between transboundary andgeographically-separated projects. China, supported by India,suggested that sub-regional centres should be established, withassistance from the international community, to implement theregional action programmes.

Brazil stressed the need to strengthen existing institutions, butin their absence, new ones should be created. Mali added thatsub-regional institutions should be created to fill the many gapsthat exist in Africa, especially with regard to satellite imageryand shared water resources. These views were echoed by Chad, Kenya,Uganda, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Mauritania.

Belgium said that the rationalization of existing institutions(paragraph 74(a) of A/AC.241/12) is important and should precedethe establishment of new ones. He added that any new institutionsshould support national policies and not drain limited financialand personnel resources. The UK added that most regionalcooperation agreements in Africa have not been effective.

Niger listed three criteria for regional initiatives: action whichno one country can successfully undertake alone; significantbenefit to countries; and specific national components. Boliviaalso mentioned the need to develop criteria to determine whichinstitutions are working on desertification and if they have usedan integrated approach. Norway and Zimbabwe agreed that the areasrequiring subregional action should first be recognized and onlythen should the necessary institutions be identified.

Austria described the Central European Initiative as a successfulsub-regional institution that does not have its own bureaucracy,but relies on civil servants and others working in their nationalcapacities who communicate with each other on early warning systemsand other matters.

Finland and Jordan supported paragraph 78 that mentions the need totake into account migratory flows of people and animals. Two NGOs,Third World Network and the Women's Environment and DevelopmentOrganization, made general statements. The Chair reminded NGOs anddelegates alike to keep their interventions focussed on therelevant agenda items.

CAPACITY BUILDING: Egypt stressed the need to help countriesdevelop their national capacity for supporting measures, monitoringand assessment. Egypt also pointed out that the 75-80 percent ofthe relevant technologies are in the public domain and unpatented.Mali, on behalf of the African Group, stated that political,legislative and management measures must be implemented at thenational level. Belgium, on behalf of the EC, stated that aidagencies must increase their knowledge of affected populations. Notonly should capacity be developed among local populations, butlocal populations should contribute their special knowledge todecision-making. These points were supported by the US and Sweden.

Tunisia pointed out that decision making should be decentralizedand include the full participation of women. Sweden noted theimportance of drawing on the expertise of women and NGOs, as wellas the indigenous knowledge that exists within many countries,referring specifically to Malaysia. In response, Malaysia statedthat it was fully supportive of relying on indigenous knowledge tocombat desertification. While supportive of South-Southcooperation, Malaysia was firmly opposed to any attempt by theinternational community to tell the South what to do under theumbrella of South-South cooperation.


Working Group II continued its discussion on Section Three:Institutional and Procedural Arrangements. Annexes and protocolswere not discussed as they fall under regional instruments. TheSecretariat gave an overview of the contents of II and III. Brazil,supported by Malaysia, asked when the postponed discussion ondefinitions be taken up again. After some debate, it was agreedthat definitions would not be discussed.

AMENDMENTS: The UK, supported by China, stated that theysupported the African Group's proposals in principle but stressedthe need to leave the section open for discussion at the nextsession since the substantive nature and content of the Conventionare still unknown. The UK, supported by Botswana, Benin and China,suggested that a simple majority of 2/3 is preferable forratification. The UK, supported by the US, said that an amendmentshould not enter into force for all parties and that a party notwishing to be bound by the amendments should so indicate. Botswanaagreed with the UK that discussion on this section was premature,but noted that most of the African Group's suggestions are based onprecedents.

DISPUTE SETTLEMENTS: Belgium, on behalf of the EC, statedthat this section should be considered after substantive discussionon the Convention. The UK, supported by Australia, suggested thatthe Basel Convention and Montreal Protocol be used as precedents.Benin raised the issue of voting procedures to which Belgiumproposed that this be left for the Conference of the Parties todecide. The US preferred consensus, but said they would support anarticle on voting procedures.

SIGNATURE: Regarding technical annexes, Benin stressed thatthey cannot be discussed until regional instruments were agreedupon. The US agreed, as long as the section is left open forfurther discussion. Benin suggested that signature be done at thelevel of Heads of State at UN Headquarters in New York. There wasdivergence regarding the period between conclusion of conventionand its entry into force. Benin supported a three-month interval.Some felt that this decision should be deferred to the nextsession.

RATIFICATION: Belgium, on behalf of the EC, supported by theUS, suggested that this section be modelled on the Climate Changeand Biodiversity Conventions and that the Convention enter intoforce after a specified number of governments have ratified it.

ENTRY INTO FORCE: Argentina suggested that the Conventionshould enter into force after 30 countries have ratified it, sincethe problem of desertification is geographically-specific andimplementation is urgent. Benin, Tunisia and Mali agreed. The USand Iran said it was premature to decide on this.

RESERVATIONS: The Netherlands suggested that it waspremature to decide on this issue. Tunisia stated that discussionat this time would be in accordance with the preparation ofinternational law, but the Netherlands pointed out that in recentenvironmental conventions, such decisions were made towards the endof the negotiations.

WITHDRAWAL: The UK favored a two-year optimum period insteadof the suggested three years. Benin and Gambia said the idea was toreduce the number of withdrawals.

As there was still time available, Belgium, on behalf of the EC,proposed that a general informal debate on the Convention should becarried out. Following comments from Benin, Tunisia, Norway andBotswana it was agreed to allow time for regional meetings todevelop consensus on regional instruments in preparation forWednesday's discussion on the subject. Benin requested that theSecretariat prepare a non-paper to facilitate Wednesday's debate.


WORKING GROUP I: Working Group I will continue itsdiscussion of capacity building this morning and then addresseducation and public awareness. If time permits, discussions onfinancial resources and mechanisms will begin this afternoon. Lookfor continuation of the debate between developed and developingcountries over the need for new and additional resources and thecommitments made in Chapter 33 of Agenda 21.

WORKING GROUP II: The Working Group will not meet today toallow time for regional groups to discuss regional instruments.Look for a non-paper from the Secretariat on this subject. TheWorking Group will meet in their regional groups as follows: 8:30am -- European Community, Room 22; 9:00 am -- Latin American andCaribbean Group, Room 21; and 9:00 am -- African Group, Room 17.

IN THE CORRIDORS: INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n is expected to tablea revised draft decision on the future work of the INCD today. Thisrevised draft will be based on the discussions that Kjell‚n hasheld over the past few days with the heads of the various regionaland interest groups. Look for discussion of the latest draft in thecorridors and in the regional group meetings in preparation forWednesday's informal plenary meeting on this matter.


Negotiating blocs
African Group
Non-state coalitions