Report of main proceedings for 9 June 1994

5th Session of the the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification

PLENARY

INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n opened the Plenary by reviewing progress todate in the informal groups on finance and the annexes. Informalconsultations are also continuing on: legal cleanup of theConvention, priority action for Africa, the scientific andtechnical advisory body, Articles 31 and 32, and questions onintellectual property rights.

SWITZERLAND: C.G. Ducret announced that the Swiss Governmentwill continue to support the co-location of Convention Secretariats(climate change, biodiversity and desertification) at the GenevaExecutive Centre. In commemoration of the UN's 50th Anniversary,the Swiss will construct a building with free office space for theleast developed countries to be available in 1997. In addition, thePalais Wilson will be renovated and become the Environment House,where international organizations will be located.

UNDP: UNDP Administrator James Gustave Speth announced anumber of initiatives to support Convention implementation,including promotion of technical cooperation and capacity buildingefforts. UNDP offered to service the secretariat and assistgovernments to identify and mobilize new financial resources. UNDPwill also: assist in the development of national action programmes;assist affected countries to meet human development concerns in thedrylands; support sub-regional organizations; and contribute to thestrengthening of the OAU's coordinating capacity. UNEP and UNDPwill work together to catalyze resource mobilization and otheractivities for Africa during the interim period.

FAO: Deputy Director-General Howard Hjort, on behalf of FAODirector-General Jacques Diouf, commented that 800 million peopleare not getting enough food and 50 million people are threatened byfamine. Most of these people live in drylands. FAO will support theconversion of some INCD case studies into concrete actionprogrammes. FAO will also strive to coordinate its programmes andthe Convention.

WMO: N.A.G. Kove, on behalf of WMO Secretary-General G.O.P.Obasi, identified WMO's programmes that can support theimplementation of the Convention, including: the World WeatherWatch Programme; World Climate Programme; Atmospheric Research andEnvironment Programme; and Hydrology and Water Resources Programme.WMO also promotes: the use of alternative energy sources; thedevelopment of plans and policy measures for drought preparednessand prevention; and the development of early warning systems. WMOoffered to host the secretariat in its new headquarters building tobe completed in 1997.

INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON FINANCE

Co-Chair Pierre-Marc Johnson announced that the Bureau had decidedthat this Group would first address Article 6, as requested by theG-77 and China, and then move on to Articles 20 and 21, ascontained in A/AC.241/L.19.

ARTICLE 6 -- OBLIGATIONS TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE IN IMPLEMENTATIONor OBLIGATIONS OF DEVELOPED COUNTRY PARTIES: The text forArticle 6 in document A/AC.241/L.18 was used as the basis fordiscussion. One of the major issues was the title. Developingcountries preferred the original formulation, "Obligations ofDeveloped Country Parties," since this would logically followArticle 4, which addresses general obligations, and Article 5,which addresses the obligations of affected Parties. Japanpreferred the title in L.18 because it incorporates both developedcountries and countries in a position to provide assistance. Franceproposed "Obligations of Country Parties Able to ProvideAssistance."

The G-77 and China requested the inclusion of its proposal forparagraph 1 (from the paper dated 30 March 1994), which referencesthe obligations of developed country Parties to support the effortsof affected developing country Parties, promote access to financialresources and technology, and allocate 0.7% of GNP for ODA. Manycountries agreed that paragraph 3 (voluntary provision ofassistance) should not be placed in this article on obligations,but moved to Article 20 (financial resources).

Despite the intentions of the Co-Chairs, much of the discussionfocused on categories of countries. G-77 members argued that thereshould be no reference to the former Soviet republics in paragraph1, since this is not an economic assistance convention and thatsome of these countries will soon join the G-77. Malaysia suggestedthat these countries develop their own regional implementationannex. France suggested new text to state, for the purposes of thisarticle, that affected country Parties who were part of the formerSoviet Union shall be regarded as developing countries. Uzbekistan,Japan, Armenia and Azerbaijan insisted that reference to thesecountries be retained.

ARTICLE 20 -- FINANCIAL RESOURCES: During the afternoonsession, several delegations, including Greece, on behalf of theEU, Benin, Algeria, on behalf of the G-77, China and Japan madeseveral amendments to Article 20. However, due to the numerousproposals, it was agreed that the Group would reconvene in theevening in a smaller room to draft text.

During the evening, a general discussion on the Article was held.Most delegations were in agreement that the Article should bedeveloped based on three main principles: (1) partnership, asprovided by the statement "as mutually agreed;" (2) differentiatedresponsibilities between developed and developing countries; and(3) flexibility. Notwithstanding, several African delegationsraised concerns related to the Article. The reference to "mutuallyagreed" may call into question the legality of the Convention vis-…-vis other such bilateral and multilateral agreements and whetherit precludes the possibility of obtaining multilateral funding.While paragraphs 2 and 3 outline how available resources would bespent, there is no indication of how to mobilize new and additionalresources. Furthermore, no provision is made for concessionalloans, although it is clear that grants would not resolve currentdesertification problems.

PREAMBLE: After the general debate, the Group embarked on aparagraph-by-paragraph reading of L.19. The Group discussed onlythe first two preambular paragraphs, which relate to 0.7% of GNPfor ODA and the importance of providing financial resources andtechnology. The paragraph dealing with the 0.7% target isbracketed, as is the section referring to finance and technology,which was supported by most OECD countries.

The US explained that in spite of the non-binding nature of thePreamble, any reference to GNP targets will present politicalproblems to the US Government in the ratification of theConvention. Hence, it should be deleted. In addition, the UK arguedthat this paragraph has no relation to the objective of theConvention, and its inclusion in the Convention would also mark thefirst time ODA targets were included in a legally-bindinginstrument. The G-77 and China, however, want both the referencesto the ODA target and finance and technology retained in the text.

INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATION ANNEX

A revised text of the regional implementation annex for LatinAmerica and the Caribbean was distributed. Consensus on the entireseven-article document was reached at the breakneck speed of 15minutes. The only outstanding issue is Article 2, paragraph 7,which was referred to an informal group. The paragraph provides fora coordination mechanism to hold periodic meetings with the supportof the Secretariat and regional and international cooperationbodies. The US requested that competent organizations be invited.There are two problems. (1) The Latin American and Caribbean Groupis opposed to the invitation of "competent organizations," whichthe EU and the US favor. (2) Agreement could not be reachedsince it was not clear what was decided on Article 23 by theinformal working group dealing with the main Convention.

WORKING GROUP ON THE AFRICAN REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATION ANNEX

ARTICLES 13 -- ORGANIZATIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR REGIONAL ACTIONPROGRAMME AND 14 -- CONTENT OF THE REGIONAL ACTION PROGRAMME:There was considerable discussion regarding the need for aregional action programme. The EU could not accept the African textand reiterated its proposal that Article 14(a) of the Secretariattext replace Articles 13 and 14. Canada questioned what activitiesthe regional action programme would undertake over and above whatis done by existing regional organizations. Benin responded thatmany problems, such as river basin management, require efforts atthe regional level. Cameroon added that more than one actionprogramme may be required at the regional level. The Chairformed a contact group, coordinated by Australia, to negotiatethese articles.

ARTICLE 15-- STRENGTHENING OF ACTIVITIES OF UNITED NATIONS ANDOTHER INSTITUTIONS IN THE FIELD OF DESERTIFICATION AND DROUGHT:A contact group was established to consolidate the proposals byCanada and the US, as well as the EU proposal for deletion of thearticle. Discussion focused primarily on the terminology regardingthe strengthening of UN activities.

ARTICLE 16 -- FINANCIAL RESOURCES: Canada questioned therationale of specifically referring to the African DevelopmentBank. Benin proposed the reference to other financial institutions.The UK, supported by Japan, requested that the entire paragraph beplaced in brackets, pending the outcome of the financenegotiations. The Chair put all proposals in brackets.

ARTICLE 17-- FINANCIAL MECHANISMS: The US rejected thelanguage on the proposed regional Special Fund and requestedbrackets around the entire article. Discussion was suspended,pending the outcome of the finance negotiations.

ARTICLE 18 -- TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AND COOPERATION: The EU,opposed by Benin, proposed the addition of "as far as possible" inthe chapeau to qualify the undertaking to rationalize andstrengthen technical assistance. In sub-paragraph (a) (costof support measures), delegates agreed to new language: "costs ofsupport...do not reduce the overall costs and the sums allocated totechnical assistance." The EU proposed the deletion of thereference in sub-paragraph (a) to the ceiling for allowableoverhead costs. The African countries suggested alternativewording: "such costs shall only represent a small proportion of thetotal costs of the project." A contact group was set up to completenegotiations.

IN THE CORRIDORS

One of the many groups holding informal consultations throughoutthe labyrinthine corridors of UNESCO is the "legal clean-up squad"coordinated by Fred Mallya (Tanzania). This group of approximately15 legal experts has been charged with reviewing the text of theConvention to ensure consistency. One potential issue may prove tobe the name of the Convention. The name of the negotiatingcommittee is quite cumbersome and many agree that the Conventionshould have a shorter title. One suggestion is the Convention toCombat Desertification and Drought. Would it then be called C2D2?

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: The Plenary will meet briefly at 10:00 to hear astatement from Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the Executive Director ofUNEP. The Chair is expected to make an announcement about the workprogramme for this evening.

INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON FINANCE: The Group will reconvenethis morning after Plenary in Room IV to continue theparagraph-by-paragraph reading of the financial provisions of theConvention, as contained in document A/AC.241/L.19.

INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON THE AFRICAN REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATIONANNEX: The Group will reconvene this morning immediatelyfollowing the Plenary. The Group will hear reports from the variouscontact groups and will complete its negotiation of the Africanannex.

INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON THE OTHER REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATIONANNEXES: The Group will start consideration of either theRegional Annex for Asia or the Mediterranean region when it meetsat 3:00 pm.

IN THE CORRIDORS: Takao Shibata (Japan) has been chargedwith the responsibility of holding informal consultations on thearrangements for early implementation of the Regional Annex forAfrica. It is likely that he may convene the first informal meetingon this issue at lunchtime today. Look for the first draft of hisproposal to be circulated.

PRESS BRIEFING: Elizabeth Dowdeswell will meet withjournalists at 12:00 pm in the press working room, next to thepress accreditation office.

Participants

Tags