Summary report, 17–28 January 1994

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

The third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committeefor the elaboration of an international convention to combatdesertification in those countries experiencing serious droughtand/or desertification, particularly in Africa (INCD) met in NewYork from 17-28 January 1994. The UN General Assembly establishedthe INCD in 1992 to negotiate the international convention by June1994.

At this session, the two working groups focused their attention onthe draft negotiating text of the Convention prepared by theSecretariat and contained in document A/AC.241/15. By theconclusion of the two-week session, the working groups were able tocomplete at least one and sometimes two readings of each draftarticle. Although numerous brackets remain in the text, a greatdeal of progress has been made. The Convention has taken shape andthe areas of convergence and divergence have been clearlyidentified. The INCD also began to discuss the regional instrumentfor Africa for the first time. After an initial discussion of thenature of this instrument and its relationship to the Convention asa whole, delegates requested the Secretariat to prepare a drafttext for consideration at the next session of the Committee, whichwill be held from 21-31 March 1994 in Geneva.


While the idea of a convention to combat desertification wasdiscussed during the UNCED preparatory process, it was only in Riowhere language was adopted requesting the General Assembly toestablish an intergovernmental negotiating committee for thepurpose of negotiating a convention. The General Assembly, duringits 47th session in 1992, adopted resolution 47/188 calling for theestablishment of the INCD and the convening of five sessions, witha view to finalizing the Convention by June 1994. Theorganizational session of the INCD was held in January 1993. Atthat meeting delegates elected Bo Kjell‚n (Sweden) Chair of theCommittee, elected the Bureau, adopted the rules of procedure, setthe schedule of meetings and established two working groups.

The first session of the INCD was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 24May - 3 June 1993. The first week of this session focused on thesharing of technical information and assessments on various aspectsof drought and desertification. Divided into seven sections, theinformation sharing segment provided an opportunity for scientists,technical experts, delegates and NGOs to share relevant experiencesand learn more about the scourge of desertification and its globaldimensions. The second week focused on the structure and elementsto be contained in the Convention. Delegates also exchanged ideasabout the Convention and its objectives.

Negotiations stalled in Nairobi over the elaboration of relatedregional instruments while still giving priority action to Africa.Kjell‚n proposed that an instrument on Africa, such as an annex, benegotiated once the main structure of the Convention had beendefined and that similar instruments for other regions benegotiated subsequently. This proposal met with resistance from afew countries in regions other than Africa. They felt that theirown problems with desertification deserved attention and thatsimilar instruments for their regions should be negotiatedsimultaneously with the instrument for Africa. The decision on thismatter was deferred.

The second session of the INCD met in Geneva from 13-24 September1993. At this session, the Committee considered the compilationtext of the Convention prepared by the Secretariat and agreed onthe future programme of work of the Committee, including theelaboration of regional instruments for Africa, Asia and LatinAmerica to supplement the Convention. As in Nairobi, the mostdifficult issue to resolve was the negotiation of regionalinstruments. At the conclusion of the second session of the INCD,the two working groups completed their discussion of theSecretariat's compilation text, identifying areas of convergenceand divergence. There appeared to be consensus on a number of areasincluding the need for: a clear and concise preamble that refers tothe history of desertification in the UN system; clear and conciseobjectives; and implementable commitments that are central to theConvention and articulated at different levels (local, regional andinternational). All delegates stressed the need for a publicawareness strategy; improved education; and increased cooperationand coordination between North and South, South and South and amongdonors.

The 48th session of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolutionsubmitted by the INCD that urged the Committee to successfullycomplete the negotiations by June 1994. The INCD shall hold onesession after the adoption of the Convention during the interimperiod in order to review the situation pending its entry intoforce, in particular with regard to the implementation ofprovisions adapted to the specific needs of each region. This extrasession should be held not later than 31 January 1995.


The third session of the INCD opened on Monday, 17 January 1993 atUN Headquarters in New York. The Committee heard opening statementsby Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination andSustainable Development, and UNDP Administrator Gus Speth. Therewere also statements by ministers from Mali, Tunisia, Kenya,Mauritania, Amb. Ramtane Lamamra of Algeria, on behalf of the Groupof 77, the Under-Secretary for the Organization of African Unity,and representatives from CILSS, the Federation of Swedish Farmersand the Kenyan NGO, KENGO, on behalf of the NGOs. Without furtherado, the Committee turned its attention to the main task of thesession -- the first reading of the negotiating text prepared bythe Secretariat, as contained in document A/AC.241/15.


Responsibility for elaborating the Convention has been given to thetwo working groups. Working Group I, chaired by Ahmed Djoghlaf(Algeria), is responsible for the sections of the Convention on thepreamble; principles; objectives; structure and nature ofcommitments; national action programmes; regional actionprogrammes; capacity building, education and public awareness;financial resources and mechanisms; and coordination andcooperation. Working Group II, chaired by Anne de Lattre (France),is responsible for the sections on definitions; technology transferand cooperation; research and development; information collection,analysis and exchange; institutions; procedures; final clauses; andthe regional instruments.

To facilitate greater understanding of the evolving draftConvention, the following is a summary of the negotiationsregarding each article of the draft Convention.


The lengthy 24-paragraph preamble was the subjectof three days of negotiation. The Holy See, supported by Mexico andBrazil, proposed adding a new paragraph that affirms that humanbeings are at the center of combatting desertification andmitigating the effects of drought. A number of paragraphs led to along discussion on the need to acknowledge drought and the need tomitigate its effects. Initially, the developed countries did notwant to expand the scope of the Convention to put drought on anequal footing with desertification, however, they later agreed toinclude these phrases.

The following is a summary of the paragraphs in the preamble thatstill contain brackets. Paragraph numbers refer to the revisednegotiating text (A/AC.241/15/Rev.1).

Paragraph 7

considers the impact of trade and other aspectsof international economic relations. Greece, on behalf of theEuropean Union (EU), supported by the UK, Sweden, and the US, saidthat this paragraph contains elements that are not germane to theConvention. Brazil, supported by other developing countries, arguedthat the effects of trade and other international economicrelations on desertification are very important and should beretained. The entire paragraph remains bracketed.

Paragraph 8

originally read, "Conscious that economicgrowth, social development, and poverty eradication are the firstand overriding priorities of developing countries and arethemselves essential to meeting sustainability objectives."Australia suggested substituting the word "developing" with"affected," since developing countries are not the only ones withthese concerns. Pakistan suggested the phrase "affected countries,in particular in developing countries." Australia supportedreplacing "poverty eradication" with the more realistic goal of"poverty alleviation." Brazil pointed out that "povertyeradication" is Agenda 21 language. The final version reads:"Conscious that [sustainable] economic growth, social developmentand poverty eradication are the first priorities of affected[developing] countries, particularly in Africa, are essential tomeeting sustainability objectives."

Paragraph 9

refers to desertification as both a cause andconsequence of important social problems. Portugal suggested addingpopulation pressures. Cameroon wanted to mention drought. Thisparagraph has two possible formulations in brackets: one thatemphasizes social problems (poverty, poor health and nutrition,migration, etc.) and one that emphasizes trade.

Paragraph 11

calls for a new approach to combatdesertification and mitigate the effects of drought. The EUsuggested replacing the phrase "a new approach" with "an improvedapproach." Brazil, Benin, Cape Verde, Mali and Gambia all supportedthe existing text as the approach should be based on the new pathtaken at Rio. Sweden, supported by Lesotho, suggested the phrase "anew and more effective approach." Various words still remainbracketed.

Paragraph 14

mentions the sovereign right of States toexploit their own natural resources. The EU and Egypt said thatsince this is part of Principle 2 of the Rio Declaration, eitherthe entire principle should be quoted or it should be deleted.Pakistan responded that this is also part of the Climate ChangeConvention. The paragraph remains bracketed.

Paragraph 15

refers to the national and localresponsibilities for combatting desertification. A number ofdeveloping countries argued that some of the responsibility forcombatting desertification rests with developed countries. Twoformulations of this paragraph remain bracketed.

Paragraph 16

, which recognizes the importance and necessityof international cooperation and partnership, remains bracketed.

Paragraph 17

reaffirms the UN target of 0.7% of grossnational product (GNP) for official development assistance (ODA).Greece, on behalf of the EU, wants this to remain bracketed untilArticles 22 and 23 (financial resources and mechanisms) are agreedupon.

Paragraph 20

addresses the relationship betweendesertification and other environmental problems. Problem areasinclude: the use of the term "global"; are these problems faced byboth the international and national communities; and shouldspecific problems, such as climate change, biodiversity,freshwater, land degradation and demographic pressure, be listed.

Paragraph 21

mentions the relationship among the objectivesof the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions anddesertification. Italy, Argentina and several African countriessupported its retention. Sweden and the UK disagreed. The paragraphremains bracketed.

Paragraph 22

, a new paragraph proposed by the US, recognizesthe key role of international cooperation, donor coordination andconsistency with national priorities. Since this paragraph was notdiscussed, it remains bracketed.


ARTICLE 1 -- USE OF TERMS: This section is one of the mostheavily bracketed of the text. Despite the efforts of a ContactGroup, chaired by Egypt's Professor Kassas, to re-define thescientific terms little progress was made. Kassas attributed thelack of consensus to "politics" as objections were raised over someof his Group's proposals, which he said were purely scientific.

One important issue that the Secretariat must address is thedefinition of "countries in a position to provide assistance,"which also includes "developed and other countries." The LatinAmericans and Asians see this as a blatant attempt to bind theeconomically well-off developing countries to provide financialassistance, despite assurances from many developed countries thatassistance is a broader term that also includes technicalassistance. The other problem relates to the proposal to providethree annexes listing: affected countries; affected countriesneeding assistance; and countries in a position to provideassistance. The problem lies in the fact that the status of acountry may change over time. Both proposals are based on similarprovisions in the Biodiversity Convention.


This article wasproposed by the Africans, although Sweden, Norway and Finlandcalled for its deletion. The proposed text read that the provisionsof this Convention apply in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humidregions affected by drought and/or desertification, subject to therights of other States as well as national jurisdiction. Noagreement was reached and the Chair requested that interestedcountries submit drafting proposals to the Secretariat if theywanted to include this article in the text. No text appears in therevised document.


This article of the draft Conventioncontains two paragraphs on objectives. A number of developedcountries asserted that this article has to be brief, deal with thespecific subject of the Convention, and not address the issues ofpoverty eradication, food and energy security, economic growth andemployment, and security and stability of financial resources. TheAfricans stated that these socio-economic issues should beessential objectives of the Convention. The revised text reads asfollows: "The objective of this Convention is to combatdesertification and mitigate the effects of drought in countriesexperiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularlyin Africa, through effective action at all levels supported byinternational cooperation [and partnership arrangements] in theframework of an integrated approach, which is consistent withAgenda 21 with a view to contributing to the achievement ofsustainable development in affected areas."

"Achieving this objective shall involve long-term integratedstrategies which focus simultaneously in affected and threatenedareas, on improved productivity of lands, rehabilitation,conservation and sustainable management of land and waterresources, leading to improved living conditions, particularly atthe community level."


This entire article remainsbracketed. Developing countries argued that since both theBiodiversity and Climate Change Conventions contain principles theyshould be retained here as well. Developed countries, particularlythe US and the UK, were opposed to this article because of thelegal ambiguity. Furthermore, they did not think that there shouldbe any mention of the Rio Declaration since this is a non-legallybinding instrument and, as such, should not be included in alegally-binding convention. Brazil and other developing countriesaffirmed the importance of this article.


ARTICLE 4 -- GENERAL OBLIGATIONS: This article contains a listof general obligations of the Parties under the Convention. Severalprovisions were bracketed, including references to trade, marketingarrangements, debt and poverty eradication. Mali, Cameroon andArgentina requested that the brackets be removed since these issuesshould be integral to this Convention. The US and the EU insistedthat this Convention should be focused on desertification and thatreferences to trade and debt should be removed. The UK maintainedthat if the Convention is turned into a "receptacle" for economic,political and development objectives, it will be more difficult toconvince authorities that this Convention will be effective incombatting desertification. Japan, the US, Belgium, Norway andSweden supported this view.


Thisarticle contains five sub-paragraphs that list the obligations ofaffected country Parties to: give priority to combattingdesertification and mitigating drought; establish strategies andpriorities; address the underlying causes of desertification; andpromote awareness and facilitate participation of localpopulations. A fifth obligation -- provide an enabling environmentby strengthening relevant existing legislation and, where they donot exist, establishing new laws, long-term policies and actionprogrammes -- remains bracketed.


The major issuein the title and chapeau of this paragraph remains the phrase "andothers in a position to provide assistance." Various formulationsstill remain bracketed. Malaysia suggested deletion of the phrasesince this was a blatant attempt to expand the traditional donorcommunity to include non-developed countries. Saudi Arabia, India,Pakistan, China, Brazil, Venezuela and Korea agreed. Cameroon, theEU, Mali, the US, the UK, Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, BurkinaFaso, and Norway stated that assistance should not be limited tothe traditional donors. Austria and Australia pointed out thatassistance also includes knowledge and that sustainable developmentsuggests a partnership where old categories of donors andrecipients may no longer be appropriate. Paragraph (a) addressesthe need to support the efforts of affected [developing] countryParties [needing assistance]. Paragraph (b) contains bracketsaround the provision of financial resources to assist in thedevelopment of long-term strategies and plans. Paragraph (c), whichmentions the allocation 0.7% of GNP for ODA, also remainsbracketed.


Article 7 gives priority toaffected African countries, while not neglecting other regions.Iran and Sweden wanted to ensure that other affected regions arenot neglected. The G-77 proposed the following text that was agreedupon by the Working Group: "In implementing the provisions of thisConvention, the Parties shall give priority to affected Africancountries in light of the particular situation prevailing in thisregion, while not neglecting other affected [developing] regions.This priority will be also applicable in the context of theRegional Implementation Annex for Africa."


Paragraph1 states that the Parties shall encourage the coordination ofactivities carried out under this Convention and other instruments.Paragraph 2 states that this Convention shall not affect the rightsand obligations of any Party deriving from a bilateral, regional orglobal agreement entered into before this Convention. There wasconcern expressed by China and Saudi Arabia that some countries arenot Parties to all these other conventions. The US requested thatparagraph 2 be revisited at a later date to ensure that it does notconflict with the rest of the Convention. Both of these paragraphsremain bracketed.




Recurring definitional problemsarose with regard to "developing country Parties," "affectedParties," "Parties in a position to provide assistance" and"Parties needing assistance." Paragraph 1 states the obligation toprepare, make public, and implement national, sub-regional andregional action programmes, through interregional coordination andcooperation. Paragraph 2, which is heavily bracketed, deals withsupport from developed country parties [and other Parties in aposition to provide assistance] for affected [developing] countryparties [needing assistance] in the preparation of actionprogrammes. Paragraph 3 reads: "The Parties shall encourage organs,funds and programmes of the UN system and other relevantorganizations, academic institutions, the scientific community andNGOs in a position to cooperate, in accordance with their mandatesand capabilities, to support the elaboration, implementation andfollow-up action programmes."


The articleoutlines the functions of the national action programmes. Paragraph1 says that the purpose of national action programmes is toidentify the factors contributing to desertification and practicalmeasures necessary to combat desertification and mitigate theeffects of drought. These programmes should: incorporate along-term strategy; allow for modification in response to changingcircumstances; give priority to preventive measures; encouragecooperation; provide for effective local and nationalparticipation; and require regular review on implementation. Thistext was largely acceptable after consultations led by Australia.


Austria, supported by Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad,Uzbekistan, Mali and Tanzania, affirmed the importance of Article11 in describing the types of activities that should comprisenational action programmes. China, supported by Brazil, the RussianFederation, the EU, the US, Australia, Switzerland and Finland,called for the deletion of the entire article and suggested insteadthat this list of the 13 fields be placed in an annex. Sweden notedthat it was awkward to have a non-mandatory list of activitieswithin a legally-binding Convention. Saudi Arabia highlighted thedifficulty in prescribing fields without fully understanding thecapacities of the affected countries. Kenya raised fears that byrelegating this article to an annex, it would minimize theimportant commitments that were made in Geneva and Nairobi.

The African Group reformulated the Article and presented its newdraft, which is clearer and more concise than the version containedin the Secretariat's draft. It contains a list of 11 fields to beincluded in national action programmes. Brazil, supported byMexico, commented that although this is an improvement, this typeof detail regarding the contents of the national action programmesshould not be incorporated into the body of the Convention.Instead, it should be included in an annex. China and Japan saidthat until the precise nature of the regional annexes is defined,discussion on this article should be postponed. Mali, on behalf ofthe African Group, said that Article 11 is indispensable in thetext.


During thefirst reading, many delegations, including Brazil, Australia,Greece (on behalf of the EU), the US, Chile, Mexico and Japan,supported merging this article with Article 13, "Regional actionprogrammes." China, Japan, and the US supported moving thesuggested measures for sub-regional action plans to a technical orregional annex. Some Africans did not support the merge as theyfelt that both regional and sub-regional action programmes areuseful. In the subsequent draft, A/CONF.241/WG.I/CRP.3, theSecretariat merged these two articles, but the Africans insisted onkeeping these concepts separate and the two articles were restored.The same definitional problems in Article 9 arose in thisdiscussion. Other problems that emerged included: the use of theterms "shared resources" or "transboundary resources" and"affected" or "degraded" ecosystems. Sub-paragraph (d), whichmentions alternative sources of energy, remains bracketed, asrequested by Saudi Arabia. The US bracketed (f), which refers tothe harmonization of trade practices.


This articlemirrors Article 12, except that it refers to regional programmes.It reads: "Affected [developing] country Parties [needingassistance] shall consult and cooperate to prepare, as appropriate,regional action programmes to harmonize, complement and increasethe efficiency of national programmes. Regional action programmesmay include the provisions referred to in subparagraphs (a) to (f)of Article 12. The provisions of Article 10 shall apply mutatismutandis to regional programmes."


This article, which lists five types of measures to beundertaken to mitigate the effects of drought, remains bracketed.Brazil, Gambia, Iran and most developing countries advocatedremoval of the brackets and retention of the article. Kenya andSenegal commented that removal of this paragraph would "eviscerate"the entire Convention. Greece, on behalf of the EU, noted that thisConvention should focus on desertification and that the measures inthe sub-paragraphs are already contained in Article 11. The USproposed moving this article to a technical annex. Australia,supported by Canada, Sweden and Norway, said that the Conventionshould reflect an anticipatory approach that seeks to "manage fordrought" rather than deal with its effects. Australia alsosuggested merging elements of this article into the articles onnational action programmes. Mali and Senegal said that in Africadrought is a permanent phenomenon and governments cannot always actin an anticipatory manner. No progress was made.


This articlewas proposed during the negotiations and remains bracketed. Itreads: "Affected country Parties, in collaboration with otherParties and the international community, should cooperate to ensurethe promotion of an enabling international environment in theimplementation of the provisions of the Convention together withthe Regional Implementation Annexes. Such cooperation should alsocover fields of technology transfer as well as scientific researchand development, information collection and dissemination andfinancial resources."


This article states that[developed country Parties] [Parties in a position to provideassistance] shall support (financially and technically) theelaboration and implementation of action programmes. Malaysia,supported by India, Peru, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Iran, wanted todelete the phrase "other Parties in a position to provideassistance." Brazil added this Convention should not be using oldterms like "assistance," but rather concepts such as partnershipand cooperation and common but differentiated responsibilities.Sweden agreed with the notion of partnership, but asked Brazil whyhe denied other countries "in a position to provide assistance"from participating in this partnership. The EU supported by Norwayand the US, suggested deleting this article and incorporating theseelements in Articles 22 and 23 on financial resources. Kenya,Malaysia and Cameroon, pointed out that every time financialassistance is mentioned the square brackets are brought out. Theywarned against continuing this negative trend.


This article addresses the need forbetter coordination in the elaboration and implementation of actionprogrammes. Two alternatives for the second paragraph remainbracketed. The first says that the Parties shall developoperational mechanisms to ensure the fullest possible coordinationamong Parties providing assistance, Parties needing assistance andrelevant international and non-governmental organizations. Thesecond version stresses the use of consultative group processes asa mechanism to coordinate development assistance between donors andaffected countries requiring assistance.


This article,which was initially discussed in Working Group I, states thatguidelines for the preparation of action programmes shall be setout in the regional annexes. Norway, supported by Sweden, wanted topostpone debate on this article until after Working Group IIdiscusses the regional instrument for Africa. Working Group I laterdecided to give this article to Working Group II for furtherconsideration.


ARTICLE 18 -- INFORMATION COLLECTION, ANALYSIS AND EXCHANGE:This article posed no major difficulties. There seems to beconsensus for the establishment of a global network. The mainproblem is the expected output and the level of commitment attachedto its functions. For example, will the network "facilitate thenetworking of institutions and facilities," "facilitate theexpansion of a Global network by linking," or merely "support theestablishment and operation of" the network. These issues should beeasily resolved during the next session.

There was debate over the type of technology required for earlywarning, as the document mentioned satellite imagery, aerialphotography and geographic information systems. Reluctantly, theAfricans conceded to deletion of references to specifictechnologies so as not to preclude acquisition of othertechnologies that may be developed in the future.


This article seemedto be the least problematic. The main issue relates to the choiceof an institution to carry out the needed research. The developedcountries favor an already existing institution while the South,led by the African Group prefer a new institution, arguing thatexisting ones lack the capacity to meet the current needs of theConvention.

Although delegates called for multi-disciplinary research thatconsiders the socio-economic aspects, the linking ofdesertification to poverty was hotly contested. The developedcountries want research on the links between desertification andpoverty to be carried out only insofar as they are "relevant." TheAfricans argue that since the Convention is focused anyway, thereis no need to elaborate on the "relevance" of the research. TheAfrican Group also argued for the deletion of any reference to"indigenous" knowledge.


There were very few problems arising out of thissection. The debate reflected many of the discussions on this sameissue during UNCED. Three main issues emerged.

First, the North wanted to ensure that intellectual property rightsmust be observed in the process. On the other hand, the Southwanted indigenous and traditional knowledge and technology propertyrights to be guaranteed. Third, the reference to "geneticengineering and technology" was highly challenged by the US. Onlyone paragraph remains entirely bracketed. It provides for theconduct of joint research programmes and ventures between suppliersand recipients of relevant technologies, between countries, andbetween the public and private sectors.

The problem of the protection of transferred technology may beresolved in accordance with the relevant provisions of Agenda 21.Likewise, the concerns of the South may be resolved, however, theprotection of indigenous knowledge may prove difficult in practicalterms given the very nature of its transmission, as well asfinancial dependence in developing the technology. The issue ofgenetic engineering and technology may not be easy to resolve ifthe provision for joint research is retained. Also, since thetransfer and acquisition of knowledge is closely linked tofinancial commitments, the Committee may not resolve this lastissue until the final session in Paris.


ARTICLE 21 -- CAPACITY BUILDING, EDUCATION AND PUBLIC AWARENESS:This article recognizes the significance of capacity building,including institution building, training and development ofrelevant indigenous capacities, in efforts to combatdesertification and mitigate the effects of drought. The followingsub-paragraphs still contain brackets:

  • 1(a) bis: Greece and Norway felt that its contents are covered in Articles 19 and 20. It remains bracketed and reads: "the strengthening of research capacity and information at the national level in the field of desertification and drought."
  • 1(b) generated debate over the "strengthening" or "creation" of "support" versus "extension" services for the conservation of "land and water" versus "natural" resources. These options are bracketed.
  • 1(f), on information collection, analysis and exchange, contains one bracketed phrase. The US wanted to include "cooperation as may be mutually agreed." Brazil thought this gives the impression that this sub-paragraph only deals with bilateral cooperation.

Other sub-paragraphs that do not contain brackets promote: capacitybuilding at the local level; fostering the use and dissemination ofknowledge, expertise and practices of local people; adaptation ofrelevant environmentally-sound technology and traditional methodsof agriculture and pastoralism; provision of appropriate trainingand technology in the use of alternative energy sources; innovativeways of promoting alternative livelihoods; training of appropriatedecision-makers and managers; more effective operation of existingnational institutions; and the use of exchange visitor programmes.

Paragraph 2 says that Parties shall conduct a review of availablecapacity and facilities at the local and national levels as well asthe potential for strengthening them. The US suggested that onlyaffected "developing" country Parties should be required to dothis. Portugal and Uzbekistan disagreed. The last sentence, "Theresults of such a review shall be included in national actionprogrammes," remains bracketed.

Paragraph 3 and its six sub-paragraphs list public awareness andeducational activities. Although China suggested deleting referenceto working with NGOs in this context, Sweden argued successfullyfor its retention. The activities in this paragraph include:awareness campaigns; access by the public to relevant information;development and exchange of educational and public awarenessmaterial; assessment of education needs in affected areas; and thedevelopment of interdisciplinary participatory programmes.


This article remainsheavily bracketed after one reading. The Chair of Working Group Idid not think that a second reading would serve any purpose asdelegates remained divided along North-South lines. There are twooptions for the chapeau of paragraph 1. One version stresses theresponsibility of the international community for providingfinancial resources and the other stresses the responsibility ofthe country concerned. There are eight sub-paragraphs that remainbracketed. They: ensure the provision of financing and incentives;[earmark 10% of bilateral and multilateral aid resources to supportdesertification and drought action programmes]; give priority toAfrica; [give priority to least developed affected countries];rationalize and strengthen resources already allocated forcombatting desertification and the effects of drought; [givepriority and attention][support] to activities likely to advancethe implementation of action programmes; explore innovative methodsof financing; provide for equitable burden sharing; ensuresustainability of projects; and allow flexibility in the provisionof financial assistance.

Paragraph 2 calls on affected countries to allocate [asubstantial][an appropriate][an adequate] portion of their ownfinancial resources to achieving the objectives of this Convention.Outstanding issues include the establishment of national funds tocombat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought, and theportion of financial resources to be allocated.

Paragraph 3 contains numerous brackets around such issues as whatcountries will provide assistance, how will they provide thisassistance, and what this assistance is comprised of.

Paragraph 4 is bracketed and states that developed countryParties reaffirm their commitment to reach the accepted UN targetof 0.7% of GNP for ODA. Developing countries said that since thistarget was affirmed in Rio, the brackets should be removed. The EUwanted to retain the brackets as there was a proposal toincorporate this language into the preamble. The US commented thatit has not endorsed the ODA target and would prefer to see thisparagraph deleted.

Paragraph 5 had been in Article 21 and was moved here at therequest of some delegations. It remains bracketed and asksdeveloped country Parties to provide financial support to enhancecapacity building, education and public awareness.

ARTICLE 23 -- FINANCIAL MECHANISMS: This article remainsheavily bracketed. Paragraph 1 addresses the need to make use ofall available financing mechanisms. Paragraph 2 recommends aninventory of sources and uses of funds. Iran suggested removing thebrackets around the sentence that establishes a clearing house onthe types and methods of assistance available. The US disagreed,but thought an inventory of aid flows would be useful. Paragraphs3 and 4 address the establishment of a special fund. While theAfrican countries support this, the developed countries preferdeleting these two paragraphs. Paragraph 5, as proposed by Egypt,says that the Conference of Parties shall approve a programme andbudget document, which will be financed by the Parties on the basisof assessed contributions.


ARTICLE 24 -- CONFERENCE OF PARTIES: There was consensus on theneed for the Conference of Parties (COP) and its basic functions.The only contentious issue was the suggestion by the African Groupthat some of these functions be carried out "at each ordinarysession" or on a periodic basis. Most of the developed countriesargued that it is for the COP to determine their schedule of work.The Africans want the Convention to specify timelines for certainCOP functions, such as the revision of the three lists ofcountries, referred to in Article 1 (affected countries; affectedcountries needing assistance; and countries in a position toprovide assistance), and to ensure that the implementation processstarts soon after the first meeting of the COP.


There was agreement on all of thefunctions of the secretariat except two: facilitating assistance toaffected developing country Parties; and providing advice on thedesertification programme and monitoring activities. The issue thatgenerated protracted debate was the requirement that the COPdesignate a secretariat at its first session. Delegates could notagree on whether the secretariat should be established as newinstitution or situated within an existing one, such as UNEP, WMO,FAO or the Global Monitoring Institutes. The Africans favor a newinstitution for two reasons: the lack of capacity of existinginstitutions; and the potential conflict between the governing bodyof the institution and the COP over desertification matters.


These two articles areentirely bracketed. The problem lies in the reluctance of thedeveloped countries to create new institutions due to the costsinvolved. However, the US favors the establishment of a Scientificand Technological Council, an institution that Egypt says need notbe a new infrastructure but a body that advises the COP. Developingcountries want both of these institutions to be established. Theypoint out that the decision by the Committee not to establish theinstitutions may, in the long run, be more expensive. Since theestablishment of the institutions is being questioned, the contentsof the articles were barely discussed.


ARTICLE 28 -- COMMUNICATION OF INFORMATION ON IMPLEMENTATION:This article provides for the reporting mechanisms for the Partiesin the implementation of the Convention. Only one paragraph, whichrelates to the requirement that affected country Parties shouldprovide a description of their strategies for the assistanceprovided by developed country parties and other countries, remainsbracketed. The debate is linked to the fact that there is alreadya provision for affected country Parties to provide thesestrategies and it is not clear if the strategies will differ.


This article wasrenamed, "Measures to resolve questions on [compliance][implementation]," and provides for how the COP resolves problemsrelated to implementation. There were no disagreements except forthe debate on which of the two terms, "compliance" or"implementation," is broader and, hence, more appropriate.


This article providesthe means for Parties to settle disputes. Agreement was reachedduring the first reading of the text. There are still bracketsaround the provision that may set up an arbitration system in aseparate annex. Due to time constraints, there was no secondreading of this article, as well as the remaining articles in thetext. The second reading will be continued at the next session.


The article was adoptedad referendum and states that the annexes form an integralpart of the Convention. The decision resulted from debate as towhether it excluded other regional instruments that may likely beadopted after the June deadline.


The only outstanding issue in thisarticle is whether a two-thirds versus three-fourths votingmajority is required to amend the Convention.


Thisarticle that provides for how annexes can be amended is entirelybracketed, mainly because the regional instruments have not yetbeen negotiated. However, the Latin American and Caribbean Groupexpressed concern, during the first reading, that the article seemsto discriminate against other regional instruments that areexpected to be completed after the Convention. Paragraph 1 proposesa different procedure for their adoption. China concurred andproposed a new paragraph 1 bis "An amendment to a regionalimplementation annex shall be proposed and adopted in accordancewith the procedure as set forth in Article 32, provided that inadopting such amendment the majority vote provided in that article,includes a 2/3 or 3/4 majority of the votes represented andvoting."


Thesearticles were adopted ad referendum during the first readingof the draft Convention.


These articles were adopted adreferendum during the first reading of the draft Convention.


These articles were adopted adreferendum during the first reading of the draft Convention.


This article stipulates therequirements for the Convention's entry into force. There is stillno agreement on the appropriate number of ratifications for entryinto force. The draft lists four alternatives: 60, 50, 40, or 30.Most African countries favor 30 ratifications.


The text states that "noreservations [or exceptions] may be made to this Convention." Thearticle remains bracketed.


This article provides for thewithdrawal at any time after two or three years after entry intoforce. There is still no agreement on this. The EU prefers thetwo-year period while the African Group prefers three. No agreementwas reached and both options are bracketed.


There was no disagreement onthis article, which states that the texts in six working languagesof the UN are all equally authentic and shall be deposited with theSecretary-General of the United Nations.


During the first two sessions of the Committee, regionalinstruments became a contentious issue since it appeared as if thepriority given to Africa (as stipulated in UN General AssemblyResolution 47/188) implied that no regional instruments would beprepared for Latin America and Asia. But a new resolution by the UNGeneral Assembly last year recognized that other regionalinstruments will be accepted, although the Committee must ensurethat the African instrument is ready by June 1994. During the thirdsession, INCD Executive-Secretary Arba Diallo presented a copy ofthe Secretariat's proposal for the contents of the regionalinstrument for Africa.

Diallo summarized the Secretariat's work undertaken so far with theregional instruments. He also reviewed the Secretariat's draftannex for Africa, document A/AC.241/17, and called for guidance onthe type of document needed to facilitate the development of anannex for Africa. Egypt noted that the Secretariat's documentprovided all the background information and ideas needed forpreparation of the regional instruments and annexes for any region.He also suggested that brief regional instruments should address:the action to be taken; the transnational issues and problems; andthe technical and financial resources needed at the national andsub-regional levels. Mauritania noted that the financing elementwas missing from the Secretariat's document. Benin said that theannexes will enable each region to highlight its own specificproblems and approaches. He added, however, that the Africancountries are not prepared to have the Convention and the Africanannex "held hostage" to the conclusion of the other regionalannexes.

France suggested that the regional annexes should be operational,based on national action plans, and should improve the managementof resources. Botswana noted that the African annex should bespecific with regard to the activities to be undertaken in thefield. Switzerland suggested that existing mechanisms should beused for allocating financial resources. He also called for betterintegration of the case studies into the regional instruments.Colombia called for a timetable for the negotiation of the otherinstruments to ensure that the Convention and the regionalinstruments will be adopted simultaneously. Colombia also urgedthat the regional instruments for Latin America and Asia receivethe same juridical status as the African instrument.

Canada, supported by Austria and Brazil, insisted that the regionalinstruments must not be duplicative of the Convention or the actionprogrammes. Rather, the annexes must be considered as connectinginstruments between the Convention and the action programmes. Onthe Secretariat's document, Canada noted that responsibilities forregional organizations, the specificities of regional cooperation,and the resources needed, should be mentioned. Canada supportedSwitzerland and the US in the need for more emphasis on Africa inthe Convention. Russia echoed previous delegates' call for theannexes to focus attention on specific features of each region. Hesuggested the creation of a mechanism to periodically review theregional annexes. The US added that the legal status of theregional instruments is still problematic. He also noted theprobability that few donor countries will be able to provide newand additional resources. The US added that the document does notreflect a bottom-up approach.

Cameroon noted that the draft text for the African instrumentprepared by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) should bereferred to by the Secretariat in the development of the regionalannexes. He added that it is important to allow the Africancountries to draw up their own instrument. Australia said theprimary goal is to conclude a Convention that is strong andeffective and that gives priority to the most affected regions. Shenoted the difficulty in agreeing on the form and content of theregional instruments before the Convention is concluded. She alsosuggested that the regional instruments should be the vehicles forthe implementation of the Convention. France said that the regionalinstruments should define the regional institutional andadministrative aspects of implementation of the Convention. Greece,on behalf of the EU, suggested that the instruments for otherregions, such as the Northern Mediterranean, should not beoverlooked. He added that difficulties will arise if the otherregional instruments are not completed by June 1994.

The Netherlands stated that clear distinction should be madebetween the regional instruments and the regional actionprogrammes. He added that the instruments should only cover mattersspecific to the region. Algeria, on behalf of the G-77, said thatregional instruments should be considered as integral parts of theConvention. He added that the instruments should be seen as theoperational face in the struggle against desertification anddrought. Norway suggested that the annexes should be short,descriptive rather than prescriptive, technical rather thanpolitical, flexible, and participatory. She also added that theresults of the case studies should be reflected. She noted thatNorway would have difficulty ratifying the Convention if only oneof the regional instruments was ready in June. Spain suggested thatthe Mediterranean should be considered within the framework of theAfrican instrument. Sweden noted two categories of information thatshould be addressed in the regional instruments: elements to beincluded in the action programmes and reference to the elements ofeffective follow-up. Gambia expressed concern regarding Spain'sproposal and the call by several delegates that all regionalinstruments must be ready by June.

Based on these comments, the Secretariat is expected to providetext for discussion for the next session.


The Plenary met for the third and final time at INCD-3 on Fridayafternoon, 28 January 1994. Delegates adopted the draft provisionalagenda for the fourth session (21-31 March 1994). The agendaincludes: adoption of the organization of work; the elaboration ofan international convention to combat desertification in countriesexperiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularlyin Africa; review of the situation regarding extra-budgetary funds;the adoption of a provisional agenda for the fifth session; and theadoption of the report of the Committee on its fourth session. TheCommittee also adopted the report of its third session, ascontained in document A/AC.241/L.16 and the reports of the twoworking groups, documents A/AC.241/WG.I/L.2 and A/AC.241/WG.II/L.2.

In a closing statement, Greece, on behalf of the European Union,noted that significant progress has been made particularly inclarifying the issues and in defining the efforts that are requiredto reach a consensus. The EU stressed that the responsibility incombatting desertification and preventing its disastrousenvironmental and social consequences is an equal obligation of allaffected countries.

Algeria, on behalf of the G-77 and China, supported anaction-oriented Convention with forward-looking approaches andprogress in the following areas: subregional and regional actionprogrammes; financial resources and mechanisms; technology transferand capacity building commitments; institutional arrangements; andtimely, meaningful and operational regional annexes. The G-77 urgedthat adequate time and attention be devoted to a regionalinstrument for Africa at the next session of the INCD.

Benin, on behalf of the African Group, said that this session hasshown the potential for working in a spirit of solidarity that willlead to an action-oriented convention. He drew attention to thefact that, in accordance with the spirit of Resolution 47/188, allregions concerned with drought and desertification must be servedby the Convention. However, special attention has to be given toAfrica. He urged that the African instrument should not be heldhostage to other annexes.

In his closing statement, INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n said that since thethird and fourth sessions are so close together the Committee doesnot need to take any particular decisions. Instead, he set out themain points as follows: 1) The Secretariat is requested to preparea revised version of Document 15 as soon as possible. In fact, thisdocument is already available in English and will be available inother languages next week; 2) The Secretariat is requested toprepare a negotiating text on the regional instrument for Africa,based on Document 17, the discussions in Working Group II and otherwritten comments submitted by delegations; 3) All questions relatedto regional instruments will be considered at the fourth session;4) The fourth session will be organized so that the negotiationscan be concluded by June 1994.

Kjell‚n also noted three important linkages to reflect on duringthe intersessional period. First, the INCD has to negotiate anddraft the Convention so it will be acceptable to all countries toensure rapid signature and ratification of the maximum number ofcontracting parties. Second, it is essential that the INCD considerthe links between the main Convention, the regional annexes andnational, sub-regional and regional action programmes. Finally, heurged delegates to realize that their skills in drafting must beused in such a way that they do not only feel responsibility fortheir own instructions and governments, but also to the millions ofwomen and men who will be influenced by what can be achieved here.


The negotiation of a multilateral environmental agreement by itsvery nature is not a speedy process. It can take years from thetime an issue, such as desertification, first comes to theattention of the international community to the decision tonegotiate an international treaty. For example, the INCD can traceits origins back to the 1977 Plan of Action -- 15 years before theGeneral Assembly adopted resolution 47/188, establishing the INCD.Once negotiations actually begin, it takes an average of 18 monthsbefore the treaty is adopted and opened for signature. Finally, ittakes an average of 31 months before the treaty is ratified andenters into force. With this in mind, the 13 months of INCDnegotiations, as mandated by the General Assembly, represents afairly short period of time. In fact, when compared to otherexamples of multilateral environmental negotiation, the INCD isactually making good progress.

The first phase of the INCD negotiating process took place at thefirst session in Nairobi during the information sharing segment.During this initial phase delegates identified the scope andmagnitude of the problem, its primary causes and the type ofinternational action required to address it. This phase alsoprovided delegates with a shared body of knowledge. The secondphase of the process began during the second week in Nairobi andcontinued through the Geneva session in September 1993. During thisphase, the delegates explored various alternative proposals andattempted to reach some tentative, conditional understandings onsome of the issues. This was also the phase where coalitions andgroups started to coalesce as delegates started to determine sharedpriorities. During this phase, the INCD took one crucial decision-- to request the Secretariat to prepare the negotiating text. Withthis decision the INCD managed to circumvent the debate thatcharacterizes so many other negotiations -- the choice of text tobe used as a basis for negotiation. As a result, delegates wereable to spend more time on the actual substantive discussions atthe third session.

In New York, the third phase of the negotiating process began --drafting. During this phase, delegates focused on the actualdrafting and negotiation of the draft Desertification Convention.Delegates arrived in New York well-prepared and committed to thetask of elaborating the Convention. On some issues, there wasclearly a shift in thinking as delegates stopped making generalstatements and began to explore the positions of other regional andinterest groups in an effort to achieve consensus. As a result, agreat deal of progress was made during the first reading of thedraft text with much greater clarity regarding the areas ofconvergence and divergence. It was also clear that delegates arecommitted to the bottom-up, demand-driven approach that had beenagreed to in principle early on in the process. This involvesconsideration of local needs and problems with mechanisms that havebeen developed with the participation of affected populations.


The first of these "core" issues isthe objective or scope of the Convention. Working Group I appearedto reach agreement that "the objective of this Convention is tocombat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought incountries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification,particularly in Africa, through effective actions at all levels,supported by international cooperation, in the framework of anintegrated approach, which is consistent with Agenda 21, with aview to contributing to the achievement of sustainable developmentin affected areas." There is still disagreement, however, on justhow much the Parties will be obligated to do to accomplish thisobjective. The Africans and other developing countries insist thatthe socio-economic causes of desertification must be addressed inthis Convention. They believe that it will be impossible to combatdesertification unless issues such as external debt, internationalmarket conditions, exchange rate variations, pricing and tradepolicies, and poverty are adequately dealt with. The developedcountries, on the other hand, prefer to limit the scope of theConvention so that it focuses more on the physical causes ofdesertification and less on the socio-economic ones. The outcome ofthis debate will have far-reaching consequences on numerousarticles in the Convention, including the Scope (Article 1 bis),the Objective (Article 2), Principles (Article 3), Obligations(Articles 4-6), Action programmes (Articles 9-16), as well as theregional annexes.


The secondoutstanding core issue refers to the concept of "common butdifferentiated responsibilities." While it is clear that somecountries that are affected by desertification need assistance(financial, technical, research, information, etc.) to fulfil theirobligations under the Convention (whatever those obligations maybe), it is not clear who those countries are, the severity of theirproblems and the type and sources of assistance needed. Thedeveloped countries are in favor of a new partnership between allcountries "in a position to provide assistance" and those sufferingfrom desertification and/or drought. Some of the developingcountries, including Malaysia, Brazil, India, China, Argentina andothers, believe that it is the responsibility of the traditionaldonor community to provide this assistance, thus obviating the needfor a new category of "countries in a position to provideassistance." Some of the least developed countries suffering fromdesertification are more concerned with actually receivingassistance than its source. Until this problem is resolved, littleprogress can be made in removing the brackets from a majority ofarticles in the current draft Convention. There are at least 30sets of brackets in the preamble and 12 articles that result fromdisagreement on these definitional issues related to common butdifferentiated responsibilities.


A third core issue relates to the relationshipbetween the regional instruments and the Convention itself. Inspite of the draft decision presented to the UN General Assemblylast November that provides time for the incorporation of otherregional instruments into the Convention after the June 1994deadline by scheduling an interim meeting to be held no later thanJanuary 1995, it is still unclear when these other regionalinstruments will be negotiated. The issues of timing and ensuring"priority" for Africa are still far from resolved.

Argentina and Brazil wanted assurance that regional instrumentsthat are adopted after June 1994 will not be subjected to theratification procedure of annexes described in Article 33 (Adoptionand amendment of the Annexes). Norway hinted that some parties maynot sign the Convention until all regional instruments arecomplete. Following calls by the Asians and Latin Americans thatthe African instrument be a model for other regional instruments,Canada and the US were concerned that the priority given to Africain Resolution 47/188 is being lost.

In the face of these constraints, it is likely that the regionalinstruments will use the African model and will be short, preciseand action-oriented. The Secretariat's 19-page draft and theOrganization for African Unity's 16-page draft regional annex werecriticized as being too lengthy. Egypt and several developedcountries supported 3-page annexes. If this is the case, the fourweeks remaining for negotiation may be adequate to complete theConvention and the annexes. How then does the Secretariat ensurepriority is given to Africa? There seems to be two alternatives:making additional references to Africa in the body of theConvention, which seems unlikely since delegates have argued thatthis is an international convention; or in the proportion of fundsallocated to the regions, notwithstanding the fact that thedeveloped countries seem unwilling to have any mention of financialresources in the regional annexes.

By the close of this third session, it was not clear if and howthese core issues will be resolved. Due to the efficiency of theSecretariat, delegates were able to take home a revised draft ofthe Convention. Hopefully, during the brief intersessional period,governments and regional groups will examine the current draft andrevise their negotiating positions in light of the discussions inNew York. Yet, unless consensus can be achieved on some of the coreissues described above, brackets will continue to proliferate atINCD-4 and efforts to negotiate a strong, action-orientedConvention may be seriously undermined.


The Secretariat will have severalmajor tasks during this short, seven-week intersessional period.The main task will be the preparation of the draft text of theregional instrument for Africa, which the Secretariat hopes tocomplete and distribute by the end of February.

The Secretariat will convene a meeting of the International Panelof Experts on Desertification from 7-9 March 1994 in Geneva,followed by a meeting of the Inter-Agency Group on Desertification.The Experts Panel and the Inter-Agency Group will review the draftof the regional instrument for Africa as well as the revisedversion of the Convention itself.


The Secretariat will have severalmajor tasks during this short, seven-week intersessional period.The main task will be the preparation of the draft text of theregional instrument for Africa, which the Secretariat hopes tocomplete and distribute by the end of February.

The Secretariat will convene a meeting of the International Panelof Experts on Desertification from 7-9 March 1994 in Geneva,followed by a meeting of the Inter-Agency Group on Desertification.The Experts Panel and the Inter-Agency Group will review the draftof the regional instrument for Africa as well as the revisedversion of the Convention itself.


The Secretariat will convenea meeting of key experts and decision makers in Almera, Spain on9-11 February 1994 to address the topic of national, transboundaryand transcontinental migration. It is expected that several paperswill be presented by the experts on such topics as the generalscope of the problem, the different regional dimensions, as well askey statistics.


The InternationalDevelopment Research Centre (IDRC) is organizing a workshop on"Trade and Desertification" to be held in Dakar, Senegal from 7-10March 1994. NGO representatives from KENGO (Kenya), NEST (Nigeria),ZERO (Zimbabwe), ENDA-TM (Senegal) and CNA (Kenya) will beparticipating. The INCD Secretariat and other INCD members fromAfrica are also expected to attend.


The Organization of African Unity(OAU) will be hosting three meetings relating to the INCD duringthe intersessional period. The OAU Council of Ministers will meetin Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 31 January - 5 February 1994. TheINCD is expected to be one of the items on the agenda. The OAU AdHoc Working Group of Experts will meet in Nairobi from 28 February- 5 March and in Geneva from 18-20 March 1994 to discuss theAfrican negotiating position on the Convention and the regionalinstrument for Africa.


Brazil will host two meetingson desertification in Fortaleza in early March. The first meeting,the National Conference on Desertification, will meet from 7-9March 1994 and discuss the Brazilian national plan to combatdesertification. This will be followed by the Latin AmericanSeminar on Desertification, which will take place from 10-11 March1994. The major focus of discussion at this two-day meeting will bepossibilities for coordination of action at the regional level. Formore information on these two meetings, contact the Funda‡"o GrupoEsquel Brasil, Tel: 55-61-322-2062; Fax: 55-61-322-1063.


It is possible that the Economic andSocial Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) will organize anAsian preparatory meeting in Bangkok at the end of February. Thismeeting, if it is convened, will focus on regional cooperation tocombat desertification in Asia and the possibilities for developinga regional annex for Asia. For more information, contact ESCAP.


At the end of the third session, NGOparticipants organized themselves into four working groups thatwill analyze the amended text during the intersessional period.These include: institutions, regional instruments, capacitybuilding and financial mechanisms. For more information contactDominic Walubengo at KENGO, Tel: 254-2-749747; Fax: 254-2-749382.


The fourth session of the INCDwill meet in Geneva from 21-31 March 1994. The provisional agendais similar to the agenda for the third session. The two workinggroups will once again be the focus for the negotiations. Bothworking groups will read through the revised text(A/AC.241/15/Rev.1) of the Convention and attempt to remove ratherthan insert brackets. Working Group II will also begin negotiatingthe regional instrument for Africa, based on the text to beprepared by the Secretariat.