Report of main proceedings for 10 June 1994
5th Session of the the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification
The Plenary met briefly Friday morning to hear statements from UNEPExecutive-Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell and ministers from theCentral African Republic and Guinea Bissau. In the afternoon, thePlenary heard a lengthy statement from the Executive-Secretary ofthe Economic Commission for Africa.
UNEP: Elizabeth Dowdeswell said with consensus close athand, attention must turn to implementation, the true test of anytreaty's effectiveness. UNEP will play a substantial role inimplementing the Convention, by supporting activities at theregional, sub-regional and national level. UNEP will also continueto support NGOs and the public awareness campaign, and work incooperation with other UN agencies. UNEP has been working with UNDPto bring their comparative advantages to bear to support theConvention in such areas as capacity and institution building, andnetworking.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Martin Gbafolo, Minister forWater, Forests, Hunting, Fishing, Tourism and the Environment,urged delegates to: ensure that the African annex is clear andeffective; establish a specific Africa fund as a central body inthe implementation of the Convention; focus on the elimination ofpoverty as central to combatting desertification; and establish ascientific and technological cooperation institution open to allParties.
GUINEA BISSAU: Mario Cabral, the Minister of RuralDevelopment and Agriculture, said that African countries needtechnical assistance to implement anti-desertification activitiesas well as to fight for survival and a better future. Sufficientfinancial resources and mechanisms must be deployed.
ECA: Mr. Layashi Yaker, Executive-Secretary of the ECA notedthat the regional commissions have an important role to play insocial and economic development. He said that the African annex isa bold and courageous attempt to reverse trends and enablecountries to achieve sustainable development. The 36 ECAinstitutions in Africa will play a major role in the implementationof the Convention.
INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON THE AFRICAN REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATION ANNEX
After completing the first reading of the Annex, the Groupre-considered Articles 13, 14, 15 and 18.
ARTICLE 7 -- TIMETABLE FOR PREPARATION OF ACTION PROGRAMMES:Japan, which had expressed reservations on the article, agreed toretain it. The Article now provides for the African countryParties, and other members of the international community, "toprepare" national, sub-regional and regional action programmesduring the interim period.
ARTICLE 20 -- COORDINATION AND PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS: TheEU made the following contested amendments: the chapeau ofparagraph 3 should provide for African country Parties to organizeconsultative "groups," not "processes," at the national,sub-regional and regional levels, and that the Secretariat'sinvolvement was not necessary. The US preferred the consultativeprocesses to be organized "under the leadership of the nationalcoordinating body." Senegal argued that the proposal on"consultative groups" deviated from the "consultative mechanisms"in the paragraph, while Niger pointed out that regional groups,cannot convene consultative processes either at the regional ornational levels. The Gambia and Benin insisted on the involvementof the Secretariat.
In paragraph 6, Greece suggested that instead of the "developedcountry Parties" establishing their own consultative processes, itshould be the "donor countries." The Gambia pointed out that theproposed category of "donor countries" is inconsistent with therest of the Convention, as it does not exist.
ARTICLE 21 -- FOLLOW-UP ARRANGEMENTS: The EU introducedamendments to the previously un-bracketed article. He suggested thedeletion of sub-paragraphs (a), (b) and (c), which stipulate thecomposition of the follow-up mechanisms, reducing the article toone paragraph that calls for follow-up mechanisms to be carried outin accordance with the relevant articles and consultative processesin Article 20.
ARTICLE 13 -- ORGANIZATIONAL FRAMEWORK OF REGIONAL ACTIONPROGRAMME: The new version of this article states that theprocedures for drawing up the regional action programme shall bedetermined jointly by the African country Parties, and that the COPmay provide support to the relevant regional organizations tofulfil the responsibilities entrusted to them under the Convention.
ARTICLE 14 -- CONTENT OF REGIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES:Australia reported that there are only two outstanding issues inthis article: whether the regional action programmes "shall" or"may" include measures related to combatting desertification; andwhether the reinforcement of early warning systems and droughtcontingency plans shall be carried out "as necessary." Due to thedeadlock in the contact group, the Chair was asked to participate.Article 15 (strengthening activities of the UN system) was deleted.
ARTICLE 18 -- TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AND COOPERATION: New textwas circulated, but delegates could not agree on the nature oftechnical assistance and cooperation to be rationalized andstrengthened. The contact group working on this article was askedto reconvene, with Cameroon as Chair.
INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON OTHER REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATION ANNEXES
The text of the Northern Mediterranean annex has ten articles,which deal with: purpose; particular conditions of the region;planning framework for sustainable development; obligation toprepare national action programmes; preparation and implementationof national action programmes; content of national actionprogrammes; sub-regional and joint programmes; coordination ofsub-regional and joint action programmes; ineligibility fordeveloped country Parties; and coordination with other sub-regions.The text was adopted at breakneck speed. The title was changed from"European Annex" to "Northern Mediterranean Annex." The EU alsoproposed a new Article 9 that would make affected country Partiesof the region ineligible for funding under the Convention.Switzerland and Turkey noted that there are developing countries inthe Northern Mediterranean region that should not be denied accessto funding. It was agreed to say instead that "affected developedcountry Parties in the region are not eligible."
INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON FINANCE
Co-Chair Pierre-Marc Johnson opened the afternoon session byannouncing that he no longer wanted to hear well-known positions,but new proposals for all of the paragraphs in documentA/AC.241/L.19. Rather than begin actual negotiations, the Chairannounced that the Secretariat would integrate all the proposals ina new text, to be distributed on Monday.
PREAMBLE: With regard to paragraph 19 (provision ofresources to affected developing country Parties), Canada,supported by the US, replaced the provision of "increased"financial resources with "substantial." The G-77 preferred"substantial new and additional financial resources."
ARTICLE 4 -- GENERAL OBLIGATIONS: In sub-paragraph2(h) (use of existing bilateral and multilateral fundingarrangements), the EU did not support the reference to "bilateraland multilateral" and opposed reference to "new" resources. The USadded language on promoting greater efficiency in the use ofexisting bilateral and multilateral arrangements." Canada deleted"mitigating the effects of drought." The G-77 and China wanted topromote bilateral and multilateral mechanisms and financialarrangements.
ARTICLE 9 -- BASIC APPROACH (ACTION PROGRAMMES): Inparagraph 2 (priority to action programmes of affected developingcountry Parties), the G-77 and China wanted a reference to theprovision of resources by developed country Parties and deletion ofthe phrase "as mutually agreed." The EU stressed that "as mutuallyagreed" should be retained. Sweden objected to including the notionof developed country Parties and Japan preferred the existingparagraph.
ARTICLE 13 -- SUPPORT FOR THE ELABORATION ANDIMPLEMENTATION OF ACTION PROGRAMMES: In sub-paragraph (b) (useof cooperation mechanisms), the EU proposed deleting the lastphrase, "which ensure the replicability of successful pilotprogramme activities where relevant." The US proposed replacing"ensure" with "promote." The G-77 preferred "with a view toensuring."
ARTICLE 22 -- CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES: In sub-paragraph2(g) (approving a budget for the Conference of Parties), thedeveloped countries preferred deleting the list of sources offinancing, since this is a matter for the COP. However, iffinancing is spelled out, Australia preferred retaining thereference to the regular budget of the UN, the US supportedvoluntary contributions, and Norway supported voluntary andassessed contributions. The G-77 preferred the regular budget ofthe UN and voluntary contributions.
ARTICLE 20 -- FINANCIAL RESOURCES: The G-77 and Chinaamended paragraph 1, calling on developed countries to: ensure theprovision of substantial, concessional financial resources;facilitate the mobilization of and provide regular, timely,predictable, new and additional funding, including grants andconcessional loans; and cancel or reduce the debts of affecteddeveloping countries. Sweden wanted to maintain the call foraffected developing country Parties to allocate adequate financialresources for the implementation of the Convention.
In paragraph 2 (use of various funding sources), the G-77 and Chinadeleted reference to national funding sources and mechanisms.Sweden said the paragraph should not state "involve" private sectorfunding, since the private sector cannot be bound by thisConvention.
The G-77 and China accepted paragraph 3 (ways of mobilizingfinancial resources), with minor amendments. The Group added threenew sub-paragraphs that address: the contributions of multilateralfinance institutions; the mobilization of domestic resources inaffected developing countries; and reference to the inability ofdeveloping countries to comply effectively with their obligationsunder the Convention unless the developed countries transferfinancial resources and technology.
ARTICLE 21 -- FINANCIAL MECHANISMS: The most contentiousissue in this article was paragraph 3, which provides for a globalfund. The G-77 and China endorsed the idea, and see existing fundsas supplementary to the global fund. The EU and the US are opposedto the establishment of a new institution and called for thedeletion of the paragraph. They stressed the need for improvedmanagement, mobilization and coordination of existing funds. Swedenpointed out that a global institution would have highadministrative costs, which would result in few funds getting tothe local level. Nigeria added that creating a global mechanismcould strip the Convention of the particularity to Africa. The EUalso thought paragraph 4 should be deleted.
Few amendments were made by the G-77 and China and the EU inparagraphs 1 and 2. The former outlines the COP's approaches andpolicies to maximize the availability of funds, while the latterdeals with funding mechanisms through the UN system. The EU prefersthat these issues be referred to "the Parties" rather than the COP.Egypt amended paragraph 5 (national coordinating mechanism) toensure multiple sources of funding for the national actionprogrammes referred to in Article 10. In paragraph 6, the EUsuggested that the Parties shall compile and maintain an inventoryof available resources in relation to the implementationrequirements.
IN THE CORRIDORS
Some delegates have commented that it appears likely that theConvention secretariat will be based in Geneva. While there hasbeen considerable discussion on the merits of a politicallyindependent body, some have raised concerns that a totallyautonomous body may be difficult to hold accountable and could takeon a life of its own. Although some African delegates have notedthat they would like the Secretariat to be based in Africa, othersare afraid that it would be too remote and, as a result, theConvention would soon be forgotten. The recent offers of freeoffice space in Geneva by Switzerland and the WMO may improve thechances for Geneva. Some observers, however, prefer to wait and seewhere the biodiversity and climate change secretariats are basedbefore any predictions are made.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
PLENARY: The Plenary will meet this morning to review thecurrent status of the negotiations and discuss the programme ofwork for the week. The Plenary will also review the situation asregards extrabudgetary funds (A/AC.241/23). The Minister of theEnvironment of Mali is expected to address the Committee. Look fora revised draft of the Convention to be distributed.
INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON THE AFRICAN ANNEX: This group isexpected to meet in parallel to Plenary to complete negotiation ofthe African annex.
INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON THE ASIAN REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATIONANNEX: This Group is expected to take up the Asian annex thisafternoon.
INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON FINANCE: This group is expected tocontinue its work this afternoon and this evening when it beginsnegotiating the revised text to be distributed by the Secretariatthis morning.