Report of main proceedings for 22 September 1993

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


FINANCIAL RESOURCES AND MECHANISMS: Working Group I resumeddiscussion on financial resources and mechanisms Wednesdayafternoon. Several delegates, including Kenya and Bolivia, pointedout that many of the commitments made as part of the UNCED process,as well as the Spirit of Rio, appear to be forgotten.

Australia and Nigeria agreed that the emphasis should be onincreased effort at the national level and increased coordinationat the international level. Nigeria, Malawi, Bolivia, Kenya andIran said new and additional financial resources are crucial. Iranalso suggested that loans with preferential interest rates shouldbe granted to combat desertification. Japan did not support thecall for new and additional financial resources.

Benin said it is necessary to use existing financial resources andmechanisms more effectively and more efficiently, as stated inparagraph 102(a) in document A/AC.241/12. Sweden supported by theNetherlands, said that existing funds are not always used in themost effective way and implementation of the Convention willrequire better use of funds. Germany noted that the problem is notthe provision of funds, but the capacity of the governments andtechnical services to use them effectively. Germany's experiencehas shown that strong political will, the participation of localresource users, and carefully planned and managed projectactivities are essential.

Nigeria and Niger, on the other hand, argued that previousprogrammes have failed because of inadequate finances. Senegaladded that too many delegations have overemphasized the misuse offunds by developing countries. Senegal and Bolivia cited numerousother problems including lack of coordination, inefficient funding,debt, and terms of trade.

Australia, the Nordic countries and Switzerland supported the useof a "package approach," as referred to in paragraph 102(b).Australia stressed the need: to facilitate a consistent approachbetween bilateral and multilateral sources; to improve coordinationwith NGOs; and to provide funds within the context of a coherentcountry-driven approach designed to promote sustainabledevelopment. Australia and Switzerland supported the US suggestionfor the compilation of an inventory of the resources that have beenspent to combat desertification.

Australia, the Nordics, Spain and the Netherlands did not supportthe establishment of a new funding mechanism for this Convention.Tunisia cited former UNEP Executive Director Mostafa Tolba on theneed for a specific, common fund to fight the dangers caused byenvironmental degradation. This was the case with the MontrealProtocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Niger andMalawi also supported the establishment of a special fund. Nigeriaalso supported Egypt's proposal in paragraph 105(d) for theestablishment of an "international finance corporation foranti-desertification." Portugal commented that the INCD should notdiscard the idea of a special fund until there is more substantiveinformation on this proposed mechanism.

Australia and the Nordics opposed the establishment of a new windowin the GEF for desertification. The Nordics and the Netherlandsadded that some anti-desertification programmes could be fundedthrough the existing windows of the GEF. Spain stated that the GEFcould provide a compromise solution at "a later stage." Nigeria,Senegal and Portugal supported the use of the GEF as the financialmechanism for this Convention.

Sweden, on behalf of the Nordic countries, stressed the importanceof retaining flexibility at this stage in the negotiating process.Switzerland and Portugal added that the contents of the Conventionmust be clarified before financial resources and mechanisms can beseriously addressed.

Sweden said that poverty alleviation has always been a cornerstonein Nordic aid programmes. Although this Convention will aid thealleviation of poverty, it is only one of the several meansavailable. Kenya mentioned that poverty and desertification form avicious cycle.

Switzerland said that the flow of funds should be determined inaccordance with programmes to be carried out, not measured inpercentages of GNP. Switzerland also supported adopting debt reliefmechanisms in the area of desertification. Tunisia agreed thatrecycling external debt could provide a partial solution tofinancing anti- desertification projects.

Australia suggested that there might be need for a clearinghouse onmethods of assistance through the various channels available.Bolivia suggested inviting representatives from international andregional financial institutions, including the GEF, to exchangeviews on the financial mechanisms for financing the Convention andto produce a report for the next INCD session in New York.

UNEP urged delegates to recognize that a cooperative effort isrequired by all participants when considering coordinationmechanisms. With regard to financial resources, UNEP's 1991estimate of the total recent expenditures on desertificationcontrol worldwide was less than US$1 billion per year. This isequivalent to only US$1 per year for each person at risk fromdesertification. Approximately US$12 per person per year is needed.This amounts to a global programme of about US$12 billion.

The Environment Liaison Centre International, on behalf of theNGOs, reminded delegates that only a few developed countries meetthe UN target of 0.7% of GNP for development assistance. NGOs alsosupported: the establishment of an independent fund; reduction ofdebt burdens; improvement of market conditions; lowering tradebarriers; and cushioning the effects of deteriorating foreignexchange measures.

COOPERATION AND COORDINATION: Malaysia alleged that therewas a deliberate attempt to omit the reference to internationalcooperation and North-South cooperation and to transfer all theresponsibility for combatting desertification to developingcountries. She also noted that the financial resources provisionsreflected a similar sentiment, calling for the bulk of financialresources to come from those countries affected by desertification,as if international cooperation had no role to play. This point wassupported by Mali, on behalf of the African Group, and SaudiArabia, who stated that if the South could solve all the problemsof desertification there would be no need for these negotiations.Malaysia added her disappointment that the debate on financialresources had resorted to finger-pointing, thus regressing from theSpirit of Rio.

Canada highlighted, in part, the importance of improved and moreefficient coordination of assistance and reduction of duplicationin assistance programmes. She noted that the broad factorsmentioned in paragraph 109, such as trade relations and debtburden, while related to the problem of desertification, cannot beeffectively resolved through the Convention. This was echoed byBelgium, on behalf of the EC, who pointed out that other fora existthat are better suited to deal with these economic factors. Canadaalso referred to a Canadian initiative that will prepare discussionmaterials on trade and sustainable development for the next sessionof the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Algeria stated that the achievement of the INCD goals requires anew type of North-South cooperation based on a spirit ofpartnership and international solidarity. Mali, on behalf of theAfrican Group, stated that coordination should be examined at boththe national and international level and that bilateral andmultilateral cooperation must be improved. Australia supported thispoint and further suggested that governments develop otherapproaches such as: integrating desertification into developmentplanning programmes; directing activities away from treating theconsequences of desertification towards creating alternativestrategies; developing social indicators of desertification;developing programmes to monitor impacts; and enhancing communityparticipation in desertification programmes.

Niger suggested that paragraph 108(d) should not be limited towater resources, but must take into account all transboundaryresources. Egypt suggested that mechanisms are required toinstitutionalize and coordinate donor resources at the nationallevel. Burkina Faso stated that cooperation should extend beyondpast efforts and appealed to all governments to honor thecommitments made at Rio. He added that despite the fact thatrecipient countries cannot always absorb development resourcesproperly, improvements must be made in the coordination offinancial resources. He noted that the "real situation" isdifferent from what is being described in these discussions.Mauritania stated that desertification and poverty cannot becontrolled without cooperation and coordination.

After the conclusion of the discussion, the Chair asked Bob Ryan,from the Secretariat, to describe the various proposals made bygovernments during the last two weeks that require Secretariataction. First, regarding the proposal to conduct an inventory ofregional and sub-regional institutions involved in combattingdesertification, Ryan noted that the project is already underway aspart of the case studies. Regarding the proposed inventory offinancial mechanisms, Ryan acknowledged the need, but noted thepotential difficulties in carrying out such an initiative. Hestated, however, that this could be a longer-term project thatcould extend to the first Conference of the Parties. Finally, Ryanreported that the proposal to convene a meeting of internationalfinancial officials should be taken up by the Chair of the INCD.


The Plenary scheduled for Wednesday morning was cancelled becauseINCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n needed more time to consult with the heads ofthe regional groups on his draft decision on the future work of theCommittee. With this cancellation, and the fact that only WorkingGroup I was able to meet, most activity focussed on the draftdecision.

A meeting Tuesday evening between Kjell‚n and the heads of theregional groups had lasted longer than expected, concluding at10:00 pm. The discussions focused on key aspects of the draftdecision: the globality of desertification; the nature of theregional instruments; the open-endedness of the negotiating processon regional instruments; and the problem of discussing the natureof the instruments before agreement is reached on the content ofthe Convention. The lack of agreement Tuesday night generatedseveral meetings during the day on Wednesday.

The regional groups met at 9:00 am, followed by a Bureau meeting at10:00 am that established a tentative programme of work. Thisprogramme was subsequently overtaken by the day's events. The G-77met at 10:30 am for further consultations. Kjell‚n then calledanother meeting of the heads of the regional groups to obtain theirfeedback to the revised draft decision. As the consultations tooklonger than expected, the informal Plenary scheduled for 11:00 wasre-scheduled for 5:00 pm and later cancelled. Observers suggestedthat the Chair wanted to obtain the agreement of the regionalgroups before bringing the draft decision to the Plenary. The G-77and the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) failed to reachagreement on the issues of regional instruments and the globalityof desertification. Thus, in the early afternoon, further regionalconsultations were held by the African Group and WEOG.Consequently, Working Group II, which was scheduled to have aninformal brainstorming session on the regional instruments, wascancelled.

After the meeting of the representatives of the regional groupswithin the G-77 at 5:00 pm, another consultation between Kjell‚nand the heads of the regional groups was held.


PLENARY: Plenary is expected to meet in an informal sessionat 11:30 am to discuss the Chair's revised draft decision on thefuture work of the Committee. This will follow regional groupmeetings, a G-77 meeting, and further informal consultationsbetween the Chair and the heads of the regional groups. If themorning's consultations last longer than expected, Plenary could becancelled once again.

WORKING GROUP I: Working Group I is scheduled to hold aninformal session this afternoon to discuss the Secretariat'sinformal paper, "Possible Categories to Structure ArticlesContaining Commitments." The paper was developed at the request ofCanada and others. The discussion should focus on the sectionheadings and the titles of the articles themselves. Categoriessuggested include: level, groups of countries and organizations,approach, and type. After conclusion of this discussion, theWorking Group will hold its final formal meeting for this sessionto adopt its report, contained in A/AC.241/WGI/L.1.

WORKING GROUP II: An informal brainstorming session onregional instruments, based on the compilation documentA/AC.241/12, is scheduled for this afternoon. Look for informaldiscussions on the legal aspects.