Report of main proceedings for 23 September 1993

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

PLENARY

It was "déjà vu all over again" in a day reminiscent of the finalhours of the Nairobi session. INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n once againpracticed a unique form of shuttle diplomacy as he strode fromregional scrum to regional scrum, attempting to broker a compromisebetween the G-77 and the Western European and Others Group (WEOG)on the draft decision on the future work of the Committee.

Plenary was originally scheduled to convene at 11:00 am to addressthe Chair's draft decision. At 11:30, however, Kjell‚n announcedthat negotiations between the heads of the regional and interestgroups were going well and there had been an agreement adreferendum. He explained that regional group consultations wereunderway and that he hoped that the Plenary could convene shortly.At 1:15 pm, Kjell‚n convened the Plenary for a five minute sessionto announce that the meeting would resume at 3:00 pm. He said thathe hoped in the meantime that the regional groups would agree tothe remaining points in the text so that the Plenary could quicklyadopt it. In spite of all of the best intentions, however, this wasnot to be the case.

At 4:20 pm, Kjell‚n convened the Plenary once again to announcethat the consultations had led to an almost complete agreement onthe draft decision on the future work of the Committee, yet therestill was one outstanding problem -- the "global" nature ofdesertification. Kjell‚n went on to explain that the draft containsa decision by the INCD with an annex containing a draft resolutionfor adoption by the General Assembly. The decision recalls theestablishment of the INCD, the decision on the organization of workand the link established between the global dimension ofdesertification and the particular effects in each region. Thedraft resolution to be submitted to the General Assembly statesthat the INCD shall hold one session after the adoption of theConvention, not later than 31 January 1995, in order to review thesituation in the interim period pending the entry into force of theConvention, in particular with regard to the implementation of theprovisions adapted to the specific needs of each region. Theinterim arrangements reflect the "prompt start" procedures used inthe climate change negotiations. The draft decision also requeststhe Secretariat to continue to support the preparation of aregional instrument on Africa, similar instruments for Asia andLatin America and the Caribbean, and to consider other affectedregions. Kjell‚n said that he was requesting approval, at thattime, but expressed his assumption that the text was acceptable toall countries and would thus be transmitted to the formal Plenarysession on Friday for adoption.

Colombia, on behalf of the G-77, pointed out that the paragraph indispute is the third preambular paragraph in the annex. Thisparagraph reads: "Recognizing that "desertification and/or droughtaffects all continents and is thus a problem of global dimensionand that concrete measures have to be taken in all regions,particularly in Africa, within the framework of the Convention."The G-77 maintains that desertification and/or drought should beconsidered a global problem in the broadest sense possible. Thereference to "affects all continents," does not sufficiently conveythe global dimension of the problem. The G-77 argues that theglobal dimension of desertification and drought deals not only withspatial and physical aspects, but the social and economic aspectsas well. Lack of consensus on this particular concept is theprimary reason for disagreement on this particular paragraph.

Kjell‚n proposed that this decision not be discussed at that time,but rather at the Plenary Friday morning. El Salvador took thefloor to support Colombia's statement. Australia, on behalf ofWEOG, said that they can accept the text. She pointed out that ifparagraph 3 in the annex is still under discussion, then paragraph3 of the actual decision, which contains similar language on the"global dimension" of desertification and/or drought, is also underdiscussion. Kjell‚n stated his personal conviction that the spiritof compromise would prevail. Benin, Brazil and India echoed theChair's statement. The Chair closed the meeting highlighting theimportance of reaching a satisfactory agreement.

WORKING GROUP I

Working Group I was scheduled to convene an informal session at3:00 pm to discuss the Secretariat's paper on "Possible Categoriesto Structure Articles Containing Commitments." This paper wasprepared at the request of Canada and a few other delegations.However, due to the consultations in and around the Plenaryupstairs, there was no quorum (50 countries). The Chair, AhmedDjoghlaf was thus unable to call the meeting to order.

At 5:15 pm, after the Plenary had concluded its brief session,Working Group I was finally convened. The Chair announced that itwas now impossible to hold the informal session due to the lack oftime, so instead, delegations who wished to comment on the papershould provide these in writing to the Secretariat.

The Rapporteur, A. Ovchinnikov, then introduced the draft report ofWorking Group I, as contained in document A/AC.241/WG.I/L.1. Thereport is divided into three sections: the organization of work;discussion of the topics, and adoption of the report. The Chairexplained that this is a standard factual procedural report. Swedenrequested an amendment to paragraph 26 to include the referencethat one delegate spoke on behalf of the Nordic States on the issueof financial resources and mechanisms. The Secretariat explainedthat this report was actually submitted before the conclusion ofthe discussion on financial resources. The report will be revisedaccordingly.

Tunisia then said that he had expected that this report wouldreflect what was said and what was done, but this report containsalmost nothing. Delegations have to prepare reports for theircapitals and this report is of little use. Instead, delegates willhave to draw from their own notes. Benin added that at this stageit would be helpful to know what has, in fact, been achieved. Sudansuggested that the summaries that the Chair provided at the end ofeach discussion would be useful in this regard. The Chair respondedthat during the past two weeks the Working Group had heardapproximately 298 statements and that all these statements had beencarefully recorded by the Secretariat. This report is not a summaryrecord of the meeting. To include all of the statements made wouldrequire several volumes. Instead this is a record of the WorkingGroup's deliberations that will be sent to the General Assembly aspart of the report of the Committee, as has been done in theclimate change negotiations.

Burkina Faso requested an informal document that contains theChair's summaries. Niger, supported by Peru, Chad and Tunisia,suggested annexing the Chair's summaries to the report. Bolivia andArgentina supported the draft report as it would be impossible tosummarize all the statements made during the deliberations. TheChair said that he understood these concerns and the Committee thusagreed to annex the Chair's summaries to the report of the WorkingGroup. With no further comment, the report of Working Group I wasadopted.

WORKING GROUP II

Working Group II continued informal discussions on the remainingsection on Institutional and Procedural matters: overallarrangements, annexes and protocols.

OVERALL ARRANGEMENTS, ANNEXES AND PROTOCOLS: The Secretariatexplained the difference between the annexes in this section, whichare technical, and those being discussed under the regionalinstruments. Belgium, on behalf of the EC, pointed out that 10percent of the Community in 5 member states suffered fromdesertification. He stressed the importance of a broad Conventionthat covers both the developed and developing countries. He addedthat the Convention should provide for regional instruments tocover desertified areas in developed countries, should the needarise in the future. Argentina, supported by Benin, said theConvention should not be a framework Convention. Argentina alsofavors regional instruments in the form of annexes. Benin outlinedand elaborated on the differences between the three options forregional instruments: protocols, annexes and additional appendices.He said that while a protocol would be better, from a diplomaticand practical point of view, Africa favors an annex that is anintegral part of the Convention. The annex for Africa should beconcluded by June 1994. Botswana agreed with Benin, adding that theannex should be a "primary instrument." Brazil said that while itrecognized the priority given to Africa, all regional instrumentsshould have the same legal status. The Convention can only becomplete once all the regional instruments are completed. Sherenewed Brazil's request to the Secretariat to prepare aninstrument for Latin America and the Caribbean region.

Canada highlighted questions to be addressed in formulating theConvention: the relationship between the regional instruments andwhether they would be an integral part of the Convention; thetiming for ratification and entry into force and their implicationsif they differed from each other; and the availability of resourcesto the Committee to carry out its work. He stated that theCommittee should not borrow heavily from other Conventions, butlearn from them. He underscored the need to establish universalprinciples in the preparation of the regional instruments. Hestated that in order to give priority to Africa, the annex onAfrica should be completed by June 1994 with arrangements forprovisional implementation immediately thereafter. He supported theestablishment of a group of legal experts to examine thesepossibilities, and suggested that the results of this meetingshould be forwarded to the Committee before its next session.

China said that the Convention should have specific obligations andshould be action-oriented, with regional instruments in the form ofeither annexes or protocols as an integral part of the Convention.Austria agreed that the Convention should cover all parts of theworld, but that donors should be able to choose where to directtheir efforts. He suggested that instruments for other regionscould be left optional or be concluded through bilateralagreements. He argued that making all regional instruments integralparts of the Convention would delay ratification. Portugal statedthat legal instruments should have equal legal status. Theinstrument for Africa should be completed by June 1994 and thosefor other regions by December 1994.

IN THE CORRIDORS

In light of the complex legal issues that could stall negotiations,a seminar on the "Legal Aspects of a Convention to CombatDesertification," scheduled for 10-11 November 1993, increased insignificance. This seminar will be convened by the InternationalAcademy of the Environment in Geneva.

With an aim towards supporting and facilitating the INCDnegotiations, a group of international legal policy experts havebeen invited to discuss the legal structure of the Convention andannexes with key secretariat staff. The results of the seminar willbe made widely available.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: An informal Plenary will be held at 11:00 am todiscuss the Chair's draft decision on the future work of theCommittee. This will be preceded by informal consultations. ThePlenary will meet again in the afternoon to adopt the draftdecision, as well as the report of the second session and theprovisional agenda for the third session of the INCD, to be held inNew York from 17-28 January 1994. If consensus is reached throughthe informal consultations in the morning and the text of the draftdecision is made available in all the official languages, theafternoon plenary session is expected to be brief.

WORKING GROUP II: The Group will meet at 10:00 am to adoptits report, as contained in document A/AC.241/WG.II/L.1. It willthen continue informal discussions on the overall arrangements,annexes and protocols. Cameroon, the United States and Iran arescheduled to make their interventions this morning.

Participants

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