Summary report, 21–31 March 1994

4th Session of the the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification

The fourth 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 inGeneva from 21-31 March 1994. The UN General Assembly establishedthe INCD in 1992 to negotiate the international convention by June1994.

At this session, the two working groups completed their mandatesand negotiated the texts of both the Convention and the RegionalImplementation Annex for Africa. In addition, the Latin Americanand Asian countries formally tabled draft regional annexes fortheir regions. A great deal of progress was made in Geneva, despitethe fact that numerous brackets remain in both the main Conventionand the African annex, and that the INCD has not yet formallynegotiated the other regional annexes. A number of issues,including financial resources and mechanisms, institutionalquestions, the definition of categories of country Parties, and theregional annexes, still remain to be resolved at the next sessionin Paris, which will be held from 6-17 June 1994. Nevertheless, byall indications, it appears as though the INCD will complete itsmandate and adopt a Convention with three regional implementationannexes in June.


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 Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee forthe Elaboration of an International Convention to CombatDesertification in those countries experiencing serious droughtand/or desertification, particularly in Africa, and the conveningof five sessions in order to finalize the Convention by June 1994.The organizational 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 the 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 regarding the issue 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 fromseveral countries in regions other than Africa. They felt thattheir own 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. The Committee considered the compilation text of theConvention prepared by the Secretariat and agreed on the futureprogramme of work of the Committee, including the elaboration ofregional instruments for Africa, Asia and Latin America. As inNairobi, the most difficult issue to resolve was the negotiation ofregional instruments. At the conclusion of the second session, thetwo working groups completed their discussion of the Secretariat'scompilation text, identifying areas of convergence and divergence.There appeared to be consensus on a number of areas, including theneed for: a clear and concise preamble that refers to the historyof desertification in the UN system; clear and concise objectives;and implementable commitments that are central to the Conventionand 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, andamong donors.


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 General Assemblydecided that the INCD should hold one session after the adoption ofthe Convention during the interim period. The objective will be toreview the situation before the Convention enters into force, inparticular with regard to the implementation of provisions that areto be adapted to the specific needs of each region. This extrasession will be held on or before 31 January 1995.


The third session of the INCD was held at UN Headquarters in NewYork from 17-28 January 1994. At this session, the two workinggroups focused on the draft negotiating text of the Convention thatwas prepared by the Secretariat and contained in documentA/AC.241/15. By the end of the two-week session, the working groupswere able to complete at least one and sometimes two readings ofeach draft article. Progress was made in shaping the Convention andin identifying the areas of convergence and divergence. The INCDalso began to discuss the regional instrument for Africa for thefirst time. After an initial discussion of the nature of thisinstrument and its relationship to the Convention as a whole,delegates requested the Secretariat to prepare a draft text forconsideration at the fourth session of the Committee.


The fourth session of the INCD opened on Monday, 21 March 1994 inGeneva. The Committee first dealt with certain procedural matters,such as the adoption of the agenda and the accreditation of 14additional NGOs. The Committee then heard opening statements fromUNEP Executive Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Ministers fromMauritania and Senegal, and representatives from the CILSS, UNSO,the OAU, Algeria, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and theNGOs. INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n asked the working groups to achieve aclear text for both the Convention and the Regional ImplementationAnnex for Africa by the end of this session, since the mandate forthe working groups was due to expire on 31 March.


Responsibility for negotiating the Convention was given to the twoworking groups. Working Group I, chaired by Ahmed Djoghlaf(Algeria), was responsible for the sections of the main Conventionon: the preamble; principles; objectives; structure and nature ofcommitments; national action programmes; regional actionprogrammes; capacity building, education and public awareness;financial resources and mechanisms; and coordination andcooperation. At the conclusion of the session, Working Group I hadreached consensus on most of the articles under its mandate. Thesubstantive problems that remain include the inclusion of anarticle on principles in the text, all matters related to financialresources and mechanisms, and the commitments of developed countryParties [and other Parties in a position to provide assistance].

Working Group II, chaired by Anne de Lattre (France), wasresponsible for the sections on: definitions, technology transferand cooperation; research and development; information collection,analysis and exchange; institutions; procedures; final clauses; andthe regional instruments. At the conclusion of the session, WorkingGroup II had reached consensus on most issues of the mainConvention except: categories of countries; subsidiary bodies;reservations or exceptions open to the Parties; and the obligationsof a withdrawing Party. In response to the polarized positions ofthe different regional groups at the onset of the negotiations, theChair relied on informal contact groups to resolve the mostcontentious issues. Four contact groups were established during thecourse of the negotiations. Prof. al-Kassas of Egypt chaired thegroups dealing with the use of terms (Article 1) and institutions(Part IV). Jean-Dieudonne Ntsama of Cameroon chaired the groupcovering: information collection, analysis and exchange; researchand development; and transfer, acquisition, adaptation anddevelopment of technology.

To facilitate greater understanding of the evolving Convention, thefollowing is a summary of the status of each article. The articlenumbers are consistent with document A/AC.241/15/Rev.3, issuedinformally at the conclusion of the fourth session.


PREAMBLE: At the beginning of this session, eleven of theparagraphs in the Preamble contained brackets. However, by theconclusion, only four paragraphs were still under negotiation andtwo of these were new ones. Consensus was reached on paragraphsthat address:

  • the impact of trade and international economic relations;
  • the priority of sustainable economic growth, social development and poverty;
  • the relationship between social problems and desertification;
  • the need for a new and more effective approach in combatting desertification;
  • the sovereign right of States to exploit their own resources;
  • local implementation of action programmes;
  • the importance and necessity of international cooperation and partnership;
  • the relationship between desertification and other environmental problems of global dimension; and
  • the need to improve the effectiveness and coordination of international cooperation to combat desertification.


The problem of definitions datesback to INCD-2. There were three problems. The first related to thedefinition of desertification and the recognition of the problem asa global issue whose effects are linked to climate change. Thesecond problem related to listing countries in several categories,such as affected countries, affected developing countries,countries needing assistance, and other countries in a position toprovide assistance. The third problem concerned the development ofa glossary of the terms used in the text. Most of these issues wereresolved at this session. The Kassas Group agreed to use thedefinition of desertification provided in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21,which makes no reference to "global dimension" or any links toclimate change. The need for a list of countries was deemedunnecessary since ecosystems change over time. The issue ofcategories remains unresolved. The G-77 maintains that the UNCEDprocess only recognized two categories of countries -- developedand developing -- and that the Convention should only incorporatethese two. No decision was taken on the need for a glossary, but ifand when it is considered necessary, the Conference of the Partieswill be responsible for its formulation.


Algeria, on behalfof the G-77 and China, proposed new text for this article. Thelanguage was taken from the Biodiversity Convention, and manydelegates questioned its relevance to this Convention. The proposalwas eventually dropped and this article no longer appears in theConvention.


Delegates agreed on the twoparagraphs in this article. The first states that the objective ofthe Convention is to combat desertification and mitigate theeffects of drought in countries experiencing serious drought and/ordesertification, particularly in Africa, through effective actionsat all levels, supported by international cooperation andpartnership arrangements, consistent with Agenda 21. The secondparagraph stresses the importance of long-term integratedstrategies.


Initially Article 3 was entirelybracketed, with an additional 12 sets of brackets within thearticle. By the conclusion of the session, delegates reachedagreement on the contents of the article. The US insisted onretaining the brackets around the entire article, since it isopposed to such an article in this Convention. The article nowlists five principles to guide the Parties in implementing theConvention: the sovereign right of nations to exploit their ownresources; the participation of local communities in the design andimplementation of programmes to combat desertification; cooperationand coordination at the sub-regional, regional and internationallevels; cooperation among all levels of government, communities,NGOs and landholders; and the special needs of affected developingcountries.



Thebrackets around sub-paragraph (e) were removed and agreement hasbeen reached on the entire article. Sub-paragraph (e) addresses theneed to strengthen, as appropriate, relevant existing legislationand, where they do not exist, establishing new laws, long-termpolicies and action programmes. A new paragraph was proposed by theEuropean Union and accepted with amendments by Working Group I. Itstates that affected developed country Parties are not entitled toreceive financial assistance under the terms of this Convention.


This articlecontained numerous brackets, since many of the developing countrieswould not accept the phrase "other Parties in a position to provideassistance" in the Convention. The G-77 and China announced thatthey would redraft the text of this article. However, by the end ofthe session they were unable to submit new text for considerationby Working Group I. Therefore, the brackets remain in the titlewith revised text expected to be tabled in Paris.


At the beginning of thissession, the G-77 and China proposed a new sentence regarding theprovision of financial resources, technical assistance and otherforms of support to assist affected African countries. Thisproposal was eventually deleted and only one word in this articleremains bracketed: "In implementing the provisions of thisConvention, the Parties shall give priority to affected Africancountries...while not neglecting other affected [developing]regions."


Thebrackets were removed around the first paragraph, which encouragescoordination of activities carried out under this Convention andother relevant international agreements. The second paragraphremains in brackets since the US insisted that it would have to berevisited once the rest of the Convention is complete. It says thatthe provisions of this Convention shall not affect the rights orobligations of any Party under agreements that it has entered intoprior to the entry into force of this Convention.




At the beginning of thesession, the European Union proposed alternative language for thefirst paragraph, which addresses the preparation of national actionprogrammes. The EU proposal stated that all affected developingcountry Parties and those developed country Parties thatvoluntarily agree to do so, shall develop national actionprogrammes, using a participatory approach. After furtherconsultations, the EU agreed to merge portions of the two versions.Thus, the paragraph now states that existing successful plans andprogrammes, as well as relevant sub-regional and regionalprogrammes, will be the basis for the preparation of nationalaction programmes. Such programmes will be updated through aparticipatory process and will be interlinked with other efforts toformulate national sustainable development policies. The onlybracketed text remaining in this article is around phrases thatrelate to the definition of categories of countries.


This article nowcontains the text of the original Article 10 as well as componentsof the former Article 11 (Fields to be covered in national actionprogrammes) and the former Article 14 (Measures to mitigate theeffects of drought). Many non- African countries felt that the listof fields to be covered was Africa-specific and was better suitedto the African Implementation Annex. A compromise was reached andsome of the more general fields are now listed in paragraph 4 ofArticle 10. These include: "promotion of alternative livelihoods,improvement of national economic environments with a view tostrengthening programmes aimed at the eradication of poverty and atensuring food security, sustainable management of naturalresources, sustainable agriculture practices, development andefficient use of various energy sources, institutional and legalframeworks, strengthening of capabilities for assessment andmonitoring, including hydrological and meteorological services, andcapacity building, education and public awareness."

The former article on measures to mitigate the effects of droughtis now contained, in its entirety, in paragraph 3. Onlysub-paragraph 3(f), on cloud-seeding programmes, remains inbrackets, since some delegates felt it was better suited for thearticle on research.


This article is the result of the consolidation of the formerArticles 12 and 13. The original articles separated sub-regionalfrom regional action programmes. The new Article 11 reads,"Affected country Parties shall consult and cooperate to prepare,as appropriate, in accordance with relevant Regional ImplementationAnnexes, sub-regional and/or regional action programmes toharmonize, complement and increase the efficiency of nationalprogrammes. The provisions of Article 10 shall apply mutatismutandis to sub-regional and regional programmes. Suchcooperation [may] include agreed joint programmes for thesustainable management of transboundary [natural] resources,scientific and technical cooperation, and strengthening of relevantinstitutions." The word "may" was bracketed at the insistence ofSyria and "natural" was bracketed at the insistence of the US.


This article wasoriginally bracketed when the G-77 proposed it in New York (thenArticle 14 bis). The EU, the US and Canada felt it was superfluoussince the entire Convention is about international cooperation. Inthe end, they agreed to remove the brackets and the article statesthat the international community should cooperate in theimplementation of the Convention, especially in fields oftechnology transfer, scientific research and development,information collection and dissemination and financial resources.


This article was initially bracketed andcontained an additional 17 pairs of brackets within it. Now onlyfive pairs of brackets remain around different formulations forcategories of countries. Four types of supporting measures areelaborated: financial cooperation; cooperation mechanisms at thelocal level; flexibility in project design, funding andimplementation; and more efficient administrative and budgetaryprocedures.


There were initially two versions of thisarticle. The first version contained two options for paragraph 2.During the first reading, the G-77 and China introduced a thirdoption. After a lengthy and often confusing debate, delegatesagreed on two paragraphs. The first states that the Parties shallwork closely together in the elaboration and implementation ofaction programmes. The second paragraph, which still containsbrackets around different formulations for categories of countries,stresses the need for coordination to avoid duplication,harmonization of interventions and approaches, and maximization ofthe impact of assistance.


Agreement wasreached on the contents of this article, which provides guidelinesfor the preparation of the annexes. However, the entire article isbracketed until negotiation of the three annexes is completed.


ARTICLE 16 -- INFORMATION COLLECTION, ANALYSIS AND EXCHANGE:Agreement was also reached on this article. The two mostcontentious issues were: compensation for the use of traditionaland local sources of knowledge tapped; and the obligation byParties to integrate and coordinate this process, "as appropriate."The latter was approved. Compensation for traditional and localknowledge will only be carried out subject to relevant countryParty national legislation and/or policies.


The agreement topromote research and development was widely recognized. The onlyunresolved issue is whether scientific and technical cooperationwill be carried out only through existing internationalinstitutions. This problem is linked to the creation of subsidiarybodies in Articles 24 and 25.


Difficulties were expected in the negotiation ofthis previously bracket-ridden article. In the end, it proved to beone of the easiest. An informal group was established, and basedits decisions on the related chapter on technology transfer inAgenda 21. The remaining bracketed paragraph, which makes referenceto cooperation within regional annexes, will be resolved aftercompletion of the discussions on those instruments.


Most of this lengthy article has been agreed upon.The first paragraph lists eleven capacity building activities. Onlysub-paragraph 1(f), on the provision of appropriate training andtechnology in the use of alternative energy sources, particularlyrenewable energy resources, remains bracketed at the insistence ofSaudi Arabia. The second paragraph addresses an interdisciplinaryreview of available capacity and facilities at the local andnational levels. Paragraph 3 lists six types of public awarenessand educational programmes. The only brackets remaining in thesetwo paragraphs are around different formulations of categories ofcountries. Paragraph 4 is the result of a fragile compromisebetween developed and developing countries. It addresses theestablishment and/or strengthening of regional education andtraining centres.


Most of this lengthy article has been agreed upon.The first paragraph lists eleven capacity building activities. Onlysub-paragraph 1(f), on the provision of appropriate training andtechnology in the use of alternative energy sources, particularlyrenewable energy resources, remains bracketed at the insistence ofSaudi Arabia. The second paragraph addresses an interdisciplinaryreview of available capacity and facilities at the local andnational levels. Paragraph 3 lists six types of public awarenessand educational programmes. The only brackets remaining in thesetwo paragraphs are around different formulations of categories ofcountries. Paragraph 4 is the result of a fragile compromisebetween developed and developing countries. It addresses theestablishment and/or strengthening of regional education andtraining centres.


The Bureau decided that the texts of theseparagraphs contained so many brackets that they could not serve asa basis for productive negotiations. Instead, a small working groupwas established under the coordination of Pierre-Marc Johnson(Canada) and Bolong Sonko (The Gambia). The EU, Canada and the G-77submitted proposals to the coordinators, which were used as thebasis for consultations. The group met four times during the courseof the meeting and identified phrases that were common to two orall three of the informal texts. Common areas of understandingincluded: the need for mobilization of financial resources fromvarious sources; the need for effective and efficient use ofresources; and an appreciation for the current efforts of affecteddeveloping countries and the contributions of developed countriesto combatting desertification. The coordinators expect to holdfurther consultations during the next month to develop a possibledraft negotiating text for these articles to be tabled in Paris.


The existence andexpectations of this institution were agreed upon. The only pendingissue relates to the funding mechanism for the Secretariat,subsidiary bodies and other international networks, which will beadopted by the Conference of the Parties (COP).


The existence andexpectations of this institution were agreed upon. The only pendingissue relates to the funding mechanism for the Secretariat,subsidiary bodies and other international networks, which will beadopted by the Conference of the Parties (COP).


A key problem in thisarticle is the title of the institution. The African Group hasrequested the retention of the word "permanent." The developedcountries argue that this expression does not agree with thewording in similar international agreements. Other unresolvedissues include: the role of the Secretariat as advisor to, orfacilitator for, the COP; and whether it should makerecommendations to the COP at its first session regardingcompensation for local and traditional knowledge.


The firstversion of this article was merged from three alternatives proposedby delegates at INCD-3. Its rationale stems from the need toprovide technical advice and expertise to the Conference of theParties. The EU supports this version, while Brazil and other LatinAmerican countries have expressed their preference for the secondversion, a Scientific and Technological Advisory Council. Bothversions remain bracketed.


This article, which initially provided for the creationof a networking institution, now calls for the Advisory Panel onResearch and Development to "survey and evaluate the relevantexisting networks, institutions, agencies and bodies (the `units')willing to be networked." Pursuant to this process, the articleoutlines the steps that the COP shall undertake.


This articleprovides for a reporting mechanism by the Parties to the Conventionon the activities they have undertaken to meet their obligations.Bracketed text refers to the extent of the obligations of theConvention. The developed countries prefer less binding languagesuch as "may," while the developing countries prefer to use "shall"or "in compliance with."


This articleprovides for a reporting mechanism by the Parties to the Conventionon the activities they have undertaken to meet their obligations.Bracketed text refers to the extent of the obligations of theConvention. The developed countries prefer less binding languagesuch as "may," while the developing countries prefer to use "shall"or "in compliance with."


This article stipulates theprocedures and institutional mechanisms for the solution ofquestions arising from the Convention. Again, the problem is theextent of the obligation to be spelled out in the article, i.e.,"compliance with" or "the implementation of the" Convention.


The only outstandingproblem in this article is the reference mechanism to be utilizedin the settlement of disputes. The Committee initially hoped todevelop an annex stipulating the arbitration procedure to be usedfor the Convention. However, delegates abandoned the idea duringthis session due to the apparent inability to develop an annex byJune. Nevertheless, the Committee still needs to decide whetherthis task should be left to the COP or whether to refer to thePermanent Court of Arbitration in the text.


This article states thatthe regional implementation annexes and other annexes form anintegral part of the Convention.


Agreement wasreached on the procedures for amendment.


Thisarticle has two paragraphs, each of which has alternative text.Paragraph 1 relates to the procedures for amending annexes, whileparagraph 2 relates to the entry into force of the amendments ofthe annexes. No agreement was reached for either issue.


Delegates have reached agreementon this article, which outlines voting procedures.


It was agreed that the UNSecretary-General is the depositary of the Convention.


The dates for signature will bedetermined at a later date. Other elements of the article have beenagreed upon.


This article states that the Convention will besubject to the ratification, acceptance, approval or accession byStates and regional economic integration organizations. Paragraph4, which refers to the ratification, acceptance, approval andaccession to additional Regional Implementation Annexes andamendments, remains bracketed.


Delegates have agreed onthis article, which states that during the interim period, theSecretariat functions, referred to in Article 23, will be carriedout by the Secretariat, as established by UN Resolution 47/188.


There is still no agreementon how many instruments of ratification are necessary for theConvention to enter into force.


Delegates agreed to deletereference to exceptions in this article. The article reads, "Noreservations may be made to this Convention." The US, however,insisted that the text remain in brackets.


No consensus has been reached onthe interval after which a party may withdraw from the date of theentry into force of the Convention.


The delegates have agreed onthis article, which states that the texts in the six official UNlanguages are all equally authentic.


Working Group II began its first formal consideration of theRegional Implementation Annex for Africa (A/AC.241/19) on Thursday,24 March 1994. Delegates provided general comments and thenproceeded to inundate the Chair with specific proposals andamendments. For the most part, developed countries thought that theannex was too long and contained a number of articles that werebetter suited to or already contained in the main Convention. TheAfricans felt that the level of detail was absolutely essential,otherwise the instrument would not achieve anything. Some delegatesexpressed frustration with the method of work, noting thedifficulties in following the enormous number of amendments thatwere being tabled. On Friday, discussion continued but it was clearthat a new work method was required. As a result, the Groupestablished a contact group, under the chairmanship of Amb. Ren‚Val‚ry Mongbe (Benin), which would produce new text over theweekend.

On Monday morning the contact group tabled a revised text for theAfrican annex. During the week, negotiations took place primarilyduring informal sessions chaired by Frederick G. Mallya (Tanzania),the Vice-Chair/Rapporteur of Working Group II. By the conclusion ofthe session, delegates had produced a new text for the annex,although most of it was in brackets. Some of the unresolved issuesinclude: the mandatory nature of the commitments to be taken byParties (Articles 1 and 2); timetable for preparing actionprogrammes (Article 4); the necessity of regional action programmes(Articles 10 and 11); the role of the UN and other internationalinstitutions (Article 12); financial arrangements (Article 13); andfollow-up and coordination (Articles 14 and 14a).

The current outline of the articles in the Regional ImplementationAnnex for Africa is as follows:

1 -- Scope

1a -- Purpose

2 -- Particular conditions of the African region

2a -- Commitments and obligations of African countryParties

2b -- Commitments and obligations of developed countryParties

3 -- Strategic planning framework for sustainabledevelopment

4 -- Timetable for preparation of action programmes

4a -- Implementation and Evaluation Indicators

5 -- Content of national action programmes

6 -- Preparation of national action programmes

7 -- Organizational framework of sub-regional actionprogrammes

8 -- Content of sub-regional action programmes

9 -- Preparation of sub-regional action programmes

10 -- Organizational framework for regional actionprogrammes

11 -- Content of the regional action programme (There arealso two alternatives to Articles 10 and 11.)

12 -- Strengthening the United Nations and otherinstitutions (There are two versions of this article.)

13 -- Financial arrangements

14 -- Coordination and partnership agreements

14a-- Follow-up arrangements


One of the problems in the early sessions of the INCD was how toaddress the problems of other regions that are affected bydesertification and drought. The original mandate of the INCD wasto give priority for Africa through a regional implementationannex. At the conclusion of INCD-2, delegates agreed to ask the UNGeneral Assembly to extend the negotiating mandate of the Committeeto enable it to negotiate annexes for Latin America and Asia.However, this posed two major problems: 1) representatives fromthese affected regions wanted their annexes to be completed by June1994 so that they would enter into force with the Convention andthe African annex; and 2) a number of countries expressed reticenceat ratifying a Convention unless all the annexes were completed,since these countries would not know the full extent of theirobligations.

These problems were solved, as these two regional groups undertookthe first step of negotiating regional annexes on their own. InFebruary, representatives from the Latin American and CaribbeanGroup gathered in Fortaleza, Brazil, and negotiated a DraftRegional Implementation Annex for Latin America and the Caribbean.Likewise, in early March, representatives from Asian countriesgathered in Bangkok, Thailand, and drafted a RegionalImplementation Annex for Asia. The two regional groups metthroughout the first week of INCD-4 and, by the end of the firstweek, introduced copies of their annexes during an informal sessionof Working Group II.

The Latin American and Caribbean annex (A/AC.241/ CRP.7) is aconcise four-page document and contains the following sections: 1.Diagnosis; 2. Thematic issues; 3. Programme of Action and Measuresof Support; and 4. Institutional framework. Delegates praised thedraft text for its brevity and clarity and supported it as a goodbasis for discussion. Specific concerns were raised by Northerngovernments regarding references in the Diagnosis section to: thelinkages with economic trends; the mention of the global problem ofdesertification; and the links to biodiversity and climate change.Argentina said that the objections to the links with climate changeand biodiversity were unfounded in light of recent GEF discussions,where these links were actually confirmed. He noted the varioustrade practices that distort international markets. Peru askeddelegates to submit written comments to the Secretariat by 20 Aprilto assist further drafting, which will take place from 3-5 May inSantiago, Chile.

The Regional Implementation Annex for Asia (A/AC.241/CRP.8) is a5-page document that contains the following headings: A. Purpose;B. Particular conditions of the Asian region; C. Preparation,format and content of national action programmes; D. Organizationalframework of sub-regional action programmes; E. Preparation, formatand content of sub-regional action programmes; F. Coordination ofsub-regional programmes and institutions at the regional level; G.Financial and technical cooperation; and H. Financial resources andcoordination mechanisms. Delegates praised the annex during a briefdiscussion of the draft on the last day of the session. The US andthe UK suggested that the draft should provide additionaldiscussion of local involvement, with local communities andcoordinated management of transboundary natural resources. It ispossible that the Asian countries may hold further consultations onthis annex in preparation for the June session of the INCD.


The Plenary met for the final time at INCD-4 on Thursday afternoon,31 March 1994. Delegates adopted the draft provisional agenda forthe fifth session, which will take place from 6-17 June 1994 inParis. The agenda includes: adoption of the organization of work;the elaboration of an international convention to combatdesertification in countries experiencing serious drought and/ordesertification, particularly in Africa; review of the situationregarding extra-budgetary funds; organization of the sixth session;and the adoption of the Convention and Final Document. TheCommittee also adopted the report of its fourth session, ascontained in document A/AC.241/L.17 and the reports of the twoworking groups, documents A/AC.241/WG.I/L.3 and A/AC.241/WG.II/L.3.

On behalf of the G-77 and China, Algeria expressed satisfactionwith the impetus given to the negotiations and the constructivespirit at this session. He stressed that the G-77 and China attachgreat political significance to this process. He also reiteratedthe importance of financial and institutional machinery and theneed for a specialized fund and an independent secretariat. TheG-77 and China also called for high-level ministerial participationat the final session in Paris. Algeria closed by thanking NGOs fortheir active participation.

Australia, on behalf of the OECD countries, said that their goalhas always been to reach agreement on a strong convention withinthe mandate given to the INCD by the UN General Assembly. Sheassured everyone that this remains their objective and that theOECD countries will work hard and in a cooperative spirit in Paris.India, on behalf of the Asian Group, and Bolivia, on behalf of theLatin American and Caribbean Group, expressed their regions' hopesthat all the regional annexes would be adopted in June.

In his closing statement, INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n said that he sawfive main clusters of problems that must be addressed in Paris: 1)a general review of the text of the Convention with particularfocus on the outstanding issues; 2) financial issues; 3) the threeregional annexes (Africa, Asia, and Latin America); 4) the draftingof resolutions on the interim period and the need to ensure urgentaction for African drylands; and 5) organization and technicaldetails, such as the manner in which the INCD will conclude itswork and questions about when and how the Convention should beopened for signature.


After four sessions, the INCD is entering the final phase of thenegotiation of the International Convention to CombatDesertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Droughtand/or Desertification, particularly in Africa. The contents of thetext of the Convention have been negotiated and only the mostcontentious issues remain in square brackets. Delegates began tonegotiate the Regional Implementation Annex for Africa, althoughthere are still some questions about its length, structure andcontents. Draft Regional Implementation Annexes for Asia and LatinAmerica and the Caribbean have also been circulated. While theCommittee has not yet discussed these texts in detail, an initialexchange of views did take place. It now appears likely that theConvention and all three annexes will be adopted together in June.

Compared to the negotiations of other recent environmentalconventions, the INCD is well-placed to complete its mandate byJune. On the eve of the final session of the negotiations on theMontreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in1987, governments had still not agreed on some of the centralissues: what chemicals would be included; whether production orconsumption of these substances would be controlled; the base yearfrom which reductions would be calculated; the timing and sizing ofcutbacks; how the treaty could enter into force and be revised;restrictions on trade with countries not participating in theprotocol; treatment of developing countries with low levels of CFCconsumption; and special provisions for the European Community.Likewise, at the beginning of the final negotiating session for theBasel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements ofHazardous Wastes and their Disposal in 1989, the negotiationsappeared to be on the verge of collapse. Delegates could not agreeon a number of key issues including: a complete ban on hazardouswaste exports; exporter liability and compensation rules;monitoring and enforcement provisions; the secretariat; andprovisions for technical assistance and technology exchange. On theeve of the final negotiating session for the Convention onBiological Diversity, delegates could still not agree on therelationship between ex situ conservation and in situconservation; the establishment of global lists of threatenedand/or otherwise important species and ecosystems; rights of thecountry-of-origin; and financial support. Finally, delegates wereunable to complete the negotiation of the Framework Convention onClimate Change in February 1992 and had to schedule an additionalnegotiating session. Key unresolved issues included: targets andtimetables for stabilizing carbon dioxide emissions, financing forthe convention, and specific commitments to be made byindustrialized countries.


By the conclusion ofINCD-3, the two articles on financial resources and mechanismscontained approximately 65 sets of brackets. Positions werepolarized along North-South lines. Developing countries re-assertedtheir position during this session. Algeria, on behalf of the G-77and China, said that the Convention and the regional annexes willbe pointless without new and additional financial resources andwithout the establishment of a financial mechanism that isindependent, identifiable and capable of mobilizing such resourcesin the effort to combat desertification and mitigate the effects ofdrought. Developing countries asserted that their starting point isthe commitment for the mobilization of new and additional financialresources, as agreed to in UN Resolution 44/228 (establishment ofUNCED) and Chapters 12 (combatting desertification) and 33(financial resources and mechanisms) of Agenda 21. The G-77 andChina continued to insist on the establishment of a new,specialized fund to finance appropriate action programmes and theachievement of the UN target of 0.7% of GNP for ODA by the year2000.

On the opposite side, the developed countries claimed that a morecoordinated approach to financing programmes to combatdesertification and mitigate the effects of drought is needed. Withthis admission, the donors have acknowledged the need torationalize and strengthen existing resources before committing toprovide new and additional resources. Rather than creating a newfund to combat desertification, the donors want to avoid theproliferation of funds and use, instead, all available national,bilateral and multilateral funding mechanisms. Specialized fundshave not always been effective. As Egypt pointed out at INCD-2, aspecial account was set up by the General Assembly to mobilizefunds for the 1977 Plan of Action to Combat Desertification. Afterten years, it collected only US$236,000.

The donors are also adamantly opposed to the inclusion of anylanguage in the Convention that guarantees the achievement of 0.7%of GNP for ODA. By placing this language in a legally-bindingdocument, those countries that have not accepted the UN target(i.e., the US and Switzerland) or those who are unable to meet thiscommitment will be unlikely to ratify the Convention.


The issue of categories ofcountries, particularly the references to "other countries in aposition to provide assistance" and "affected [developing]countries [needing assistance]," has given rise to a clear divisionbetween developed countries. Malaysia, Brazil, China and otherLatin American and Asian countries firmly opposed this "so-callednew category," arguing that it was inappropriate for the North todirect the manner and scope of "South-South cooperation." TheAfrican Group initially supported this new category, but the G-77and China position prevailed. The OECD countries argued throughoutthis session that new forms of partnership and cooperation arenecessary to effectively combat the problem of desertification.They called on developing countries with relevant technicalexpertise and know-how to provide technical assistance to the leastdeveloping countries. In the end, it was decided that the matterwould be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Notwithstanding, theG-77 and China resolved that they should adhere to the twocategories identified by UNCED -- developed and developingcountries.


The question of subsidiary bodiesalso provoked intense debate. A common problem in internationalenvironment and development negotiations is that decisions are toooften based on political considerations, rather than scientific andecological realities. In Working Group II, a proposal was tabled bya contact group under the chairmanship of Prof. al-Kassas (Egypt)to develop a model that would ensure independent advice from theworld's top desertification experts to the Conference of theParties. The Latin American countries were firmly opposed to thisproposal, arguing instead for a more broad-based Scientific andTechnical Council. Northern delegates urged the working group toaccept the Kassas Group's proposal, maintaining that it representeda broad-based consensus and the best possible solution. Brazil heldfirm that matters as important as this should not be left to smalldrafting groups to produce final proposals that should be expectedto be ratified automatically by the formal Working Group. Since theOECD countries remain firmly opposed to the establishment of anelaborate new body, this matter will be deferred to the COP, unlessa compromise solution can be found in Paris.

But even if this issue is resolved, a more fundamental issue stillremains on the table. Unlike other conventions, the INCD isnegotiating an international instrument on an issue that haspreviously been addressed by the international community. While thecreation of new bodies may not make sense, it is clear thatexisting bodies have not been effective. On the one hand, the legalimplications of relying on existing institutions whosedecision-making powers are outside the mandate of the COP will haveto be addressed. On the other hand, new institutions will almostcertainly replace existing ones. Since it is unlikely that any newresources will be provided, existing bilateral funding may bediverted to meet commitments for the newly established bodies.


Apart fromfinancial resources, the Regional Implementation Annex for Africais perhaps the most contentious issue yet to be resolved. Developedand African countries remain divided on the scope and tone of theinstrument. In particular, developed countries are opposed to theincorporation of specific commitments for either Africa ordeveloped countries. They maintain that the annex should notcontain obligations that are any more stringent than thoseenshrined in the main Convention. The debate has been somewhatperplexing. The African Group maintains that despite the legalrationales put forward by the North, the obligations andcommitments that they have set out in their annex representimportant expressions of their collective commitment to dealseriously with the issue. They also argue that since the financialcommitments stipulated in the main Convention will be utilized inimplementing the annexes for the different regions, whose needs aredifferent, it stands to reason that each of the annexes shouldstipulate what financial requirements are needed and the mechanismsthrough which such resources are to be transmitted.

Several related problems have hindered the negotiation of theannex. First, a number of African countries have been under theimpression that the regional annexes will not be accorded the samelegal status of the main Convention. With this in mind, they haveinsisted on duplicating elements of the Convention in the annex andvice versa. However, according to Article 31 of the ViennaConvention on the Law of Treaties and Article 31 of the draft INCDConvention, annexes do have equal legal status to conventions.

A second problem has been the need to ensure priority for Africa.Originally the plan was to develop a convention that would begeneral enough to include all countries affected by desertificationand drought, and to negotiate a regional implementation annex toensure priority for Africa. When representatives from other regionsof the world, as early as INCD-1 expressed their desire to haveimplementation annexes of their own, the question of priority forAfrica became more complicated. Now that it appears that at leastthree regional annexes will be ready for adoption in June, thequestion of priority for Africa is once again at the forefront. TheAfricans want to ensure that their annex is sufficiently specific,spelling out their own set of commitments to ensure that theircountries receive special attention. The donors and representativesfrom other regions do not feel that such detail is necessary. TheAfricans maintain that this special attention is critical to thesuccess of both the negotiations and the Convention.

Although debate may be contentious, each of these four majorproblems will be resolved in Paris. Some Parties may not besatisfied with the results, but the true success of these finalcompromises will only be known once the Convention enters intoforce. Only if the Convention is able to foster the actionnecessary to improve the situation in the world's drylands,particularly in Africa, can these negotiations be considered asuccess.


The extended Bureau of the INCD will meettwice during the intersessional period. The extended Bureauincludes the INCD Bureau, the bureaus of the two working groups,the heads of the regional and interest groups, and the coordinatorsof the contact group on financial resources and mechanisms. Thefirst meeting will take place in Paris from 12-14 April. Inaddition to reviewing progress made at the fourth session andplanning the fifth session, the extended Bureau may also addressthe issue of financial resources and mechanisms. The extendedBureau will meet again in Paris just prior to INCD-5.


The extended Bureau of the INCD will meettwice during the intersessional period. The extended Bureauincludes the INCD Bureau, the bureaus of the two working groups,the heads of the regional and interest groups, and the coordinatorsof the contact group on financial resources and mechanisms. Thefirst meeting will take place in Paris from 12-14 April. Inaddition to reviewing progress made at the fourth session andplanning the fifth session, the extended Bureau may also addressthe issue of financial resources and mechanisms. The extendedBureau will meet again in Paris just prior to INCD-5.


The African Ad Hoc Group ofExperts is expected to meet in Gabarone, Botswana, during the firstweek of May. They are expected to review the status of the RegionalImplementation Annex for Africa and to prepare a briefing note forthe Contact Group of African Ministers, in preparation for INCD-5.


The Latin American andCaribbean Group will meet in Santiago, Chile, from 3-5 May 1994 towork on the Regional Implementation Annex for Latin America and theCaribbean. At INCD-4, delegations were asked to submit writtencomments on the Latin American annex to the Secretariat by 20 Aprilto assist the Group in its work.


It is unlikely that there will beanother formal meeting held on the Regional Implementation Annexfor Asia. However, informal consultations will probably continueduring the intersessional period. It is not expected that any majorre-drafting will be done. One issue, however, that must be resolvedis the inclusion of countries that are located in Asia but notmembers of the UN Asian Group, (i.e., the Russian Federation,Uzbekistan and Israel).


At the conclusion ofINCD-4, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy informally circulated adraft Regional Implementation Annex for the Northern Mediterranean.It is not clear whether this annex will be negotiated and adoptedin June, or whether the Committee will decide to focus on the otherthree annexes and defer this one, which involves developedcountries, to the Conference of the Parties. Look for these fourcountries to hold further consultations on their regional annexduring the intersessional period.


Pierre-Marc Johnson andBolong Sonko, the coordinators of the contact group on financialresources and mechanisms, will continue to promote dialogue onthese issues during the intersessional period. It is hoped thatthey will be able to prepare a draft negotiating text of Articles20 and 21 before the Paris session. Look for discussions to takeplace at the extended Bureau meetings, the Commission onSustainable Development and in more informal settings during thenext two months.


The second meeting ofthe Commission on Sustainable Development will be held in New Yorkfrom 16-27 May 1994. Look for INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n to provide aprogress report on the work of the INCD. Also look for Kjell‚n tomeet with delegations and informally discuss some of theoutstanding issues with regard to the Convention, especiallyfinancial resources and mechanisms, institutions, the regionalannexes and how to ensure urgent implementation for Africa.


In addition to preparing,translating and distributing copies of the revised negotiating textof the Convention (A/AC.241/15/Rev.3) and the RegionalImplementation Annex for Africa (A/AC.241/19/Rev.1), theSecretariat will finalize the reports of the case studies. TheSecretariat will also convene a meeting of the International Panelof Experts on Desertification from 9-11 May 1994 in Geneva.


The fifth session of the INCD will meet in Parisfrom 6-17 June 1994. Since the mandate for the two working groupsexpired at the end of INCD-4, the organization of work at the fifthsession will be more flexible, based on the specific outstandingissues. There will be facilities for two major meetings with fullinterpretation throughout the session, which will take place atUNESCO Headquarters. According to a note by the Chair distributedon 31 March 1994, meetings of the Plenary will be held as requiredto negotiate outstanding points at that level, particularly duringthe second week of the session. In order to finalize negotiation onas wide a range of issues as possible during the first week,informal working groups (meeting in large rooms with fullinterpretation) will be established under the chairmanship ofcoordinators. These coordinators will be appointed by the Chairafter consultation with the Bureau. The Chairs of Working Groups Iand II, Ahmed Djoghlaf and Anne de Lattre, will likely be asked totake on various negotiating tasks. One informal working group,possibly under the chairmanship of Anne de Lattre, will deal withregional annexes. Consultations on financial resources andmechanisms, coordinated by Pierre-Marc Johnson and Bolong Sonko,will also continue.

In addition to completing the text of the Convention and theregional annexes, the Committee will also have to address thedrafting of resolutions on the interim period and the need toensure urgent action for African drylands. The purpose of thedecisions on interim arrangements is to enable preparatory work forthe implementation of the Convention to go on without waiting forits formal entry into force. In a note by the Chair(A/AC.241/CRP.9), it is suggested that the INCD follow the sameapproach adopted by the Convention on Climate Change, since its INCwas also established through a UN General Assembly resolution.

There is also a need to ensure urgent action for African drylands.The resolution establishing the INCD (47/188) ensured that priorityattention will be given to Africa. This was originally going to beaccomplished through the negotiation of a regional annex forAfrica. However, now that it appears as though three annexes willbe adopted along with the main Convention (Africa, Asia and LatinAmerica), the priority for Africa has been diminished. One way tofulfill this mandate is to adopt a resolution that calls for earlyimplementation of the provisions of the Convention with regard toAfrica.

There will also be consultations on organizational and technicaldetails, such as the manner in which the INCD will conclude itswork and when and how the Convention will be opened for signature.