Report of main proceedings for 16 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 and invited the TunisianMinister of the Environment and the President of IFAD to speak. Healso provided an update on the negotiations.

TUNISIA: Mohamed Mehdi Mlika, Minister of the Environmentand Land Management, said that in Tunisia the negative effects ofdesertification are profound -- 20,000 hectares are lost annually.Through its strategy to combat desertification, Tunisia has managedto save some 100 villages from encroachment of sand. The strategyalso has a preventive dimension, which includes reforestation, dunefixation, and management of pastoral areas, river basins, etc. Therecently concluded OAU Summit, chaired by Tunisian President BenAli, adopted a resolution on the elaboration of this convention,which called for the installation of the secretariat in Africa.

IFAD: Fawzi H. Al-Sultan, President of the InternationalFund for Agricultural Development, said IFAD has been trying tobuild the development of the small farm economy on the basis ofmore sustainable patterns of resource use. He described IFAD'sSpecial Programme for Sub-Saharan African Countries Affected byDrought and Desertification, which has financed 42 projects in 24countries, focusing on the small farmer and local farm community.IFAD's Special Programme can directly support the process ofdevelopment of National Action Plans and channel additionalresources necessary for the full implementation of the Convention.

INFORMAL PLENARY

An informal plenary meeting was convened at 9:00 pm. Kjell‚nannounced that the purpose of this meeting was to go through thetext of the Convention and to indicate where the agreements are,what is to be expected and what is outstanding. During the courseof this review, the Chair of the Legal Experts Group, Fred Mallya,pointed out some of the changes that his Group has suggested.

There are a number of paragraphs and articles that were still underdiscussion by the group addressing issues related to financialresources and mechanisms. These include the following: paragraphs13 (0.7% GNP for ODA) and 18 (new and additional resources) in thePreamble; Article 4, paragraph 2(h) (provision of financialresources); Article 6 (obligations of developed country Parties);Article 9, paragraph 2 (provision of assistance); Article 13,paragraph 1(b) (cooperation mechanisms); Article 20 (FinancialResources); and Article 21 (Financial Mechanisms).

Kjell‚n also noted that there were a number of other outstandingissues and that he would provide compromise text that would becirculated in the morning. This text would include the following:paragraph 19 in the Preamble (attention to the former SovietUnion); Article 3 (Principles); Article 4, paragraph 3 (affecteddeveloping country Parties eligible for assistance); Article 5,paragraph 2 (affected developed country Parties are not eligible toreceive assistance); Article 26, paragraph 7 (communication ofinformation); and Article 36 (Entry into Force).

The Chair also noted that there were several issues that have beenresolved in the past few days. Furthermore, some issues generateda number of comments and proved that they are still contentious.

ARTICLE 1 -- USE OF TERMS: In paragraph (j), the bracketedphrase "or sub-region" is deleted in the definition of regionaleconomic integration organization. In paragraph (k), the text nowreads: "Developed country Parties means developed country Partiesand regional integration organizations constituted by developedcountries."

ARTICLE 8 -- RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER CONVENTIONS: Afterconsultations with the UN legal office, it was decided to deletethe brackets and retain paragraph 2, which addresses the rights andobligations of any Party under an agreement it has entered prior toentry into force of this Convention.

ARTICLE 9 -- BASIC APPROACH: In paragraph 1, it was agreedthat the Permanent Secretariat, instead of the Depositary, will benotified of intentions to prepare national action programmes.

ARTICLE 10 -- NATIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: The Chairannounced that the US had submitted a proposal to add the followingto paragraph 4: "national population policies affecting humansettlement patterns and land degradation." When the Chair said hewould include this in his proposal on Friday, Malaysia protestedand said that this was a clean text and last minute proposalsshould not be included. Argentina added that it could not acceptsuch a proposal. Later in the evening the issue arose again. The USclaimed this was not a new proposal but that he had proposed it inGeneva and it was lost along the way. G-77 members claimed thattheir Group had rejected this proposal. The US agreed to meet withother delegations following the Plenary, for further discussion onthis issue.

ARTICLE 16 -- INFORMATION COLLECTION, ANALYSIS AND EXCHANGE:After lengthy negotiations in sub-paragraph (g) (informationexchange on local and traditional knowledge), the phrase "subjectto their respective national legislation and/or policies" wasretained in the second line rather than at the end of theparagraph.

ARTICLE 22 -- CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES: When the Chairannounced that he would make a proposal on sub-paragraph 2(g)(preparation of a budget for the COP), Germany requested anopportunity to provide input. The Chair said he would meet withinterested delegations following the Plenary.

The Chair then read out what he thought was the formulation forparagraph 8: "The Conference of the Parties may request competentnational and international organizations which have relevantexpertise to provide it with information relevant to Articles16(g), 17(c) and 18(2)(b). The US, Australia, Canada and NewZealand commented that the contact group did not agree to thisformulation and this paragraph should be deleted. The Chair saidthat he did not understand the confusion and would have to comeback to it.

ARTICLE 24 -- SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: The new text for thisarticle was distributed. It establishes a Committee on Science andTechnology and states that the COP will establish and maintain aroster of independent experts. The COP may, as necessary, appointad hoc panels to provide information and advice through theCommittee on specific issues regarding science and technology.

ARTICLE 26 -- COMMUNICATION OF INFORMATION: The brackets inparagraphs 1 (timetable for submission of reports) and 5 (reportson the provision of financial resources) were deleted.

ARTICLE 37 -- RESERVATIONS: This article is still bracketed.

REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATION ANNEXES: The Chair noted that mostof the changes made to the annexes were technical in nature. In theAfrican Annex he noted the following points. Article 5 (Commitmentsand obligations of developed country Parties) will be brought intoline with the main Convention. The financial provisions in Articles14 and 15 will be resolved pending the outcome of the financialcontact group. The main outstanding problem is the language inArticle 18.3 regarding the role of the Secretariat in conveningconsultative groups. On this point, the Chair will attempt to finda solution. Mali expressed concern regarding the "supersonic speed"at which the African Annex was reviewed. He then proceeded fasterthan the speed of light to present the African Group's proposalsfor the deletion of brackets throughout the text. The Chaircommented that Mali must have had the wrong text since most ofthese brackets had already been removed. Mali also acknowledgedthat Article 8 (content of national action programmes) wasdeliberately intended to be long since it is provides the technical"rules for the road," which must be spelled out as clearly aspossible.

In the Latin American Annex, the Chair noted that the changes to bemade are strictly of an editorial nature.

In the Asian Annex, the Chair noted that Article 7 (financialresources and mechanisms) will be resolved pending the financegroup negotiations. As well, the Chair will take up consultationson Article 8 (cooperation and coordination mechanisms).

In the Northern Mediterranean Annex, Portugal expressed the need toreview the new text to ensure consistency with the agreementsreached by the informal working group. He was particularlyconcerned about some incongruencies in Article 9 (coordination withother sub-regions and regions).

DRAFT RESOLUTIONS: The Chair then announced that the draftresolution on interim arrangements (A/AC.241/L.20) had been agreedto without amendments. This text, which will have to besupplemented by a UN General Assembly resolution, authorizes moremeetings of the INCD pending the entry into force of theConvention.

The Chair also introduced the draft resolution on urgent action forAfrica (A/AC.241/L.22), which was distributed in the afternoon.France and Norway commented that the resolution in its present formis too complex and, as a result, the action for Africa would taketoo long. Senegal requested an opportunity to review the draftresolution in a small group with full interpretation. The Chairsaid that he would make the necessary arrangements.

INFORMAL NEGOTIATIONS ON FINANCE

Wednesday evening's negotiations on financial resources andmechanisms (Articles 20 and 21) went until 5:00 am Thursdaymorning, at the end of which emerged two draft negotiating texts.Article 20 states that developed country Parties, while givingpreference to Africa without neglecting other affected developingcountry Parties, would "undertake" to, among other activities:mobilize substantial financial resources including grants andconcessional loans; promote the mobilization of adequate, timelyand predictable financial resources; and facilitate the transfer ofknowledge, know-how and technologies. Likewise, developing countryParties would undertake to mobilize adequate financial resources.The mechanisms to be utilized would involve national, bilateral andmultilateral funding mechanisms and resources, as well as privatesector sources, utilizing the operational mechanisms developedpursuant to Article 14. Among other proposals, Article 21establishes a Global Mechanism to promote actions leading to themobilization and channeling of substantial financial resources andnational desertification funds; and strengthens existing funds andfinancial mechanisms.

Some delegates said that although substantive progress was made onWednesday and there was a tendency towards a consensus on severalissues, Thursday's negotiations were less productive. The mainissues discussed on Thursday focused on the possibility for new andadditional funding; the deletion of the reference to 0.7% of GNPfor ODA in the preamble; Article 6 on the obligations of thedeveloped country Parties; and the reference to the GlobalEnvironment Facility as one of the funding avenues. There is almostconsensus that the title of Article 6 should be "Obligations ofdeveloped country Parties." By 11:00 pm, the informal group wasstill negotiating these issues.

IN THE CORRIDORS

One of the outstanding issues is the nature of involvement ofthe secretariat in the national and sub-regional activities. SomeOECD countries prefer that it is spelled out as "administrative" toavoid creation of a large secretariat. They are also concerned thatthis responsibility is not within the secretariat's mandate.However, developed countries would like to have a provision to callupon the secretariat for other services where necessary. It islikely that this debate will be only settled once the financialobligations are clear.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: There may be a short plenary meeting this morning toconsider the Chair's proposals and other outstanding issues. Therewill be a formal session of the plenary in the late afternoon toadopt the report of the session, the Convention and otherresolutions. It is not clear what time this meeting will convene,however, a number of dignitaries, including the Minister for theEnvironment of France, other ministers, and UNUnder-Secretary-General Nitin Desai are prepared to address theclosing session, which was originally scheduled for 5:00 pm. Checkthe television monitors for the most up-to-date information.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS: Informal consultations on theoutstanding issues will continue this morning. These includediscussions on the draft resolution on urgent action for Africa,chaired by Takao Shibata (Japan). It is also likely thatconsultations on financial issues, local and traditional knowledge,and the involvement of the secretariat in national and sub-regionalactivities will also continue this morning.

FINAL PRESS CONFERENCES: INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n and ExecutiveSecretary Arba Diallo will brief journalists at 2:00 pm in Salle 4.The INCD Press Briefing will be immediately followed by an NGObriefing in the same room.

Participants

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