Daily report for 19 January 1994

3rd Session of the the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification


Working Group I reconvened Wednesday morning in the frigid confinesof Conference Room 1. During the course of the morning delegatesexpressed their views and amendments to articles 4-6 of the draftconvention. By afternoon, the Working Group moved to the warmerTrusteeship Council Chamber to discuss Articles 7-10.

ARTICLE 4 -- GENERAL OBLIGATIONS: Following Tuesday'sdiscussion, the United Kingdom argued that paragraphs 2(b) and (c),which are currently bracketed and refer to trade, marketingarrangements, debt and poverty eradication, should be deleted. TheUK maintains that if the Convention is turned into a "receptacle"for economic, political and development objectives, it will be moredifficult to convince authorities that this Convention will beeffective in combatting desertification. Japan, the US, Belgium,Norway and Sweden supported this view.

Austria proposed a compromise, which was supported by numerousdeveloping countries. The first version of 2(b) would be retained(give due attention to the situation of affected developingcountries with regard to international trade, marketingarrangements and debt) and 2(c) would be reformulated to read "tointegrate strategies for poverty eradication into efforts to combatdesertification and mitigate the effects of drought;". Beninsuggested new wording for 2(b) that would commit the parties toestablishing a healthy environment at the political and economiclevel in developing countries affected by desertification ordrought.

Finland suggested adding cultural aspects to the obligation in2(a), which addresses physical, biological and socio-economicaspects of the processes of desertification. Sweden commented that2(e) should be broadened to "strengthen sub-regional, regional andinternational cooperation" or to "strengthen sub-regional andregional cooperation within affected countries." Sweden, supportedby Cape Verde and Bangladesh, also suggested broadening 2(g) toextend beyond the notion of developing institutional mechanisms.

ARTICLE 5 -- OBLIGATIONS OF AFFECTED COUNTRY PARTIES: Chinaexpressed difficulty with the phrase "conscious of their specialresponsibility," which refers to affected countries. He understoodthis to mean the responsibilities related to the causes ofdesertification and proposed, instead, the phrase "critical role."A number of developing countries supported this amendment, butdeveloped countries interpreted this phrase to mean responsibilityfor combatting desertification and insisted that it be retained asis. Uganda agreed with China that developing countries lack thecapacity to devote "substantial resources" to combattingdesertification. Uganda also proposed a new sub-paragraphaddressing the need to develop or strengthen laws, long termpolicies and action programmes. Norway suggested deleting Article3 on principles and moving some of the principles to this section.A number of African countries disagreed.

ARTICLE 6 -- OBLIGATIONS OF COUNTRY PARTIES IN A POSITION TOPROVIDE ASSISTANCE: Malaysia suggested deletion of the phrase"and other Parties in a position to provide assistance." She saidthis was a blatant attempt to expand the traditional donorcommunity to include non-developed countries. Saudi Arabia agreed,explaining that this did not indicate reluctance but that providingassistance should be voluntary. India, Pakistan, China, Brazil,Venezuela and Korea concurred. Cameroon, the EU, Mali, the US, theUK, Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Norway statedthat assistance should not be limited to the traditional donors.

Austria and Australia pointed out that assistance also includesknowledge and that sustainable development suggests a partnershipwhere old categories of donors and recipients may no longer beappropriate. Israel felt that the article should be broadened toreflect joint action between donors and recipients.

Kenya, supported by Burkina Faso, proposed a new sub-paragraph,which would oblige donors to allocate a percentage of the UN targetof 0.7% of GNP for ODA to efforts to combat desertification andmitigate the effects of drought. Uzbekistan said this articleshould consider the new political realities and the countries witheconomies in transition.

ARTICLE 7 -- PRIORITY TO AFRICA: Article 7 gives priorityto affected African countries, while not neglecting other regions.Bangladesh suggested that the reference to other regions should bequalified by the phrase "experiencing similar problems." Kenya,supported by Senegal, requested reference to the African instrumentin this article.

ARTICLE 8 -- RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER CONVENTIONS: Article 8,paragraph 1 states that the Parties shall encourage thecoordination of activities carried out under this Convention andother instruments. The sub-paragraph also calls for the conduct ofjoint programmes. Paragraph 2 states that this Convention shall notaffect the rights and obligations of any Party deriving from abilateral, regional or global agreement entered into before thisConvention. There was concern expressed by China and Saudi Arabiathat some countries are not Parties to all these other conventions.The US requested that paragraph 2 be revisited at a later date toensure that it does not conflict with the rest of the Convention.

PART III: SECTION 1 -- ACTION PROGRAMMES: ARTICLE 9 -- BASICAPPROACH: Article 9 states that affected countries needingassistance shall prepare national action programmes and thatdeveloped countries and other parties in a position to provideassistance shall support affected countries. Venezuela, Malaysia,Brazil and China insisted on deletion of the phrase "Parties in aposition to provide assistance." Benin, Gambia and Kenya suggestedadding a new paragraph recognizing that NGOS, academics andresearch institutions also contribute to combattingdesertification.

ARTICLE 10 -- NATIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: The articleoutlines the functions of the national action programmes.Switzerland felt that Articles 10-16 are too long and detailed anddifficult to read. Austria suggested that the three differentlevels of programmes (national, regional and sub-regional) shouldbe merged. Gambia, supported by Niger, Sudan and Cameroon, opposedAustria's suggestion, noting that the description of the threeseparate levels of programmes is necessary to ensure that theConvention is fully operational on the ground.


ARTICLE 18 -- INFORMATION COLLECTION: Greece, on behalf ofthe EU, identified the need to collect information with bothtraditional and modern technologies. Botswana, on behalf of theAfrican Group, urged that the information collected must actuallyaddress the problem of desertification as well as othersocio-economic problems, such as poverty. Egypt noted theunavailability of good information on land degradation and calledfor the establishment of a worldwide early warning mechanism. Chinaadded that the global network should include national, sub-regionaland regional mechanisms. Australia suggested that local data shouldbe considered where scientific data is not available. Benin notedthe lack of capacity in existing institutions to undertake theactivities envisaged by the Convention.

Paragraph 1 states that Parties will coordinate thecollection, analysis and exchange of information. Egypt requestedreference to global early warning systems. Canada, supported byFrance and Israel, suggested that observation should also focus onthe effects of land degradation and emphasize the importance ofcentralized coordination. Tunisia called for the reference to theimportance of preventive measures. Belgium noted the gaps in thecurrent early warning systems and suggested they might be filled bythe proposed global network.

Sub-paragraph 1(a) describes the activities to be undertakenby the global network. Niger questioned the merit of restrictingobservation stations to remote areas. France supported Tunisia'srequest to avoid mention of satellite imagery. Canada noted theconsiderable expense and logistical difficulties with this type oftechnology. China, supported by Burkina Faso, mentioned thatwithout appropriate financial support, this Article would not berealized. The US emphasized the importance of early warning inorder to mitigate the effects of drought and desertification. Egyptsupported the US and added that each nation must be responsible forsetting up appropriate sites for monitoring.

Sub-paragraph 1(b) calls for information collection,analysis and exchange activities to address local concerns. Therewas no debate.

Sub-paragraph 1(c) supports bilateral and multilateralprogrammes. Chile noted the importance of specifying the need forthe production of relevant information where it does not exist.

Sub-paragraph 1(d) calls for use of expertise of relevantintergovernmental and NGO bodies. Norway, supported by Tunisia,affirmed the role of NGOs. Norway also stressed the role of localcommunities.

Sub-paragraph 1(e) gives greater weight to socio- economicdata. Egypt suggested moving it to paragraph 1(a).

Sub-paragraph 1(f) calls for the exchange of information.Benin suggested merging this sub-paragraph with sub-paragraph 1(a).Canada suggested reference to local communities and people. The UShad problems with the phrase "freely available," stating that itimplied available at no charge. They suggested the phrase "fullyavailable" instead. Australia suggested the wording "exchange andmake fully, openly and promptly available, information from allpublic sources relevant to combatting desertification."

Paragraphs 2 and 3 were deleted. Paragraph 2 stated that theCOP will prepare guidelines for the collection of information.Paragraph 3 stated that the Secretariat shall catalogue existingarrangements and facilities to enable effective operation of theglobal network.

PART IV: ARTICLE 24 -- CONFERENCE OF PARTIES: Benin, onbehalf of Africa, stressed the necessity for the Conference ofParties (COP) to enable the governments to work along the lines andpractices of the Biodiversity and Climate Change Conventions. Chinasaid a final decision on the COP cannot be reached until otherrelated sections are finalized. Australia stated that theestablishment of a bureau, as proposed in paragraph 6, wasgenerally not included in international conventions. Agreement wasreached on paragraphs 1 and the chapeau of paragraph 2, thatestablish the COP as the supreme body charged with ensuring theimplementation of the Convention.

Paragraph 2 sub-paragraphs (a) to (g) outline the specific roles ofthe COP. There was extensive debate as to whether sub-paragraph2(a), review of the operation of the Convention, and 2(c), assessthe implementation of the Convention, should be merged. Benin,supported by Cameroon, Lesotho and Tunisia argued that the two werenot duplicative.

Consensus was not reached on sub-paragraph 2(j), the mandate of theCOP to approve a comprehensive regular budget. Sub-paragraph 2(k)refers to the role of IGOs and NGOs. Egypt warned delegates aboutplacing responsibility on those IGOs who are not answerable to theUN. He said that in the past similar requests to IGOs made by theUN on the latter's Plans of Action have not been realized. He saida mechanism should be established or identified to promote suchcooperation. Kenya introduced an amendment empowering the COP tomonitor national and regional activities. This proposal will bereviewed during the second reading. Botswana introduced a newparagraph empowering the COP to "promote and strengthen therelationship with other relevant conventions." It was agreed thatthe paragraph should be placed in Article 8 on the relationshipwith other Conventions. The remaining sections of the article,paragraphs 3-7 were not concluded. However, there was extensivedebate as to whether paragraph 3 should be deleted since it issimilar to sub-paragraph 2(h). Both paragraphs relate to the rulesof procedure of the COP.


WORKING GROUP I: Working Group I, which will meet once againin the Trusteeship Council Chamber, will begin this morning withArticle 10, "National action programmes," followed by: Articles 11(Fields to be covered in national action programmes), 12(Sub-regional action programmes); 13 (Regional action programmes),14 (Measures in action programmes to mitigate the effects ofdrought), 15 (Assistance in the elaboration and implementation ofaction programmes), and 16 (Coordination in the elaboration andimplementation of action programmes).

WORKING GROUP II: Working Group II will resume discussion onthe Conference of Parties (Article 24). The Group will then discussArticles 25-27 on Institutions.

IN THE CORRIDORS: The African Group is expected to meet thisafternoon to finalize its proposed draft of the regional instrumentfor Africa. The draft is almost complete and several Africansexpect that they will endorse it as a group this afternoon andpresent it to the Committee on Friday or Monday. Some haveexpressed concern about the Secretariat's document, "PossibleFormat and Elements of a Regional Implementation Annex for Africa"(A/AC.241/17) and feel that they were not adequately consultedduring its preparation.