Curtain raiser

6th Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification


Desertification affects about one-sixth of the world"s population, 70 percent of alldrylands, and one-quarter of the total land area in the world. The most obvious impactof desertification, in addition to widespread poverty, is the degradation of 3.3 billionhectares of the total area of rangeland, decline in soil fertility and soil structure, andthe degradation of irrigated cropland.

While the idea of a convention to combat desertification was discussed during theUNCED preparatory process, it was only in Rio where language was adoptedrequesting the General Assembly to establish an intergovernmental negotiatingcommittee for the purpose of negotiating a convention. The General Assembly, duringits 47th session in 1992, adopted resolution 47/188 calling for the establishment of theIntergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the Elaboration of an InternationalConvention to Combat Desertification in those countries experiencing serious droughtand/or desertification, particularly in Africa (INCD), and the convening of fivesessions in order to finalize the Convention by June 1994. The organizational sessionof the INCD was held in January 1993. At that meeting, delegates elected Bo Kjell‚n(Sweden) Chair of the Committee, elected the remaining members of the Bureau,adopted the rules of procedure, set the schedule of meetings and established twoworking groups.


The first session of the INCD was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 24 May-3 June 1993.The first week of the session focused on the sharing of technical information andassessments on various aspects of drought and desertification. Divided into sevensections, the information-sharing segment provided an opportunity for scientists,technical experts, delegates and NGOs to share relevant experiences and learn moreabout the scourge of desertification and its global dimensions. The second weekfocused on the structure and elements to be contained in the Convention. Delegatesalso exchanged ideas about the Convention and its objectives.

Negotiations stalled in Nairobi over the issue of related regional instruments, whilestill giving priority action to Africa. Kjell‚n proposed that an instrument on Africa,such as an annex, be negotiated once the main structure of the Convention had beendefined, and that similar instruments for other regions be negotiated subsequently. Thisproposal met with resistance from several countries in regions other than Africa. Theyfelt that their own problems with desertification deserved attention and that similarinstruments for their regions should be negotiated simultaneously with the instrumentfor Africa. The decision was deferred.


The second session of the INCD met in Geneva from 13-24 September 1993. TheCommittee considered the compilation text of the Convention prepared by theSecretariat and agreed on the future programme of work of the Committee, includingthe elaboration of regional instruments for Africa, Asia and Latin America. As inNairobi, the most difficult issue to resolve was the negotiation of regional instruments.At the conclusion of the second session, the two working groups completed theirdiscussion of the Secretariat"s compilation text, identifying areas of convergence anddivergence. There appeared to be consensus on a number of areas, including the needfor: a clear and concise preamble that refers to the history of desertification in the UNsystem; clear and concise objectives; and implementable commitments that are centralto the Convention and articulated at different levels (national, regional andinternational). Delegates stressed the need for a public awareness strategy, improvededucation, and increased cooperation and coordination between the North and theSouth, South and South, and among donors.


The third session of the INCD was held at UN Headquarters in New York from 17-28January 1994. At this session the two working groups focused on the draft negotiatingtext of the Convention that was prepared by the Secretariat. By the end of the two-week session, the working groups were able to complete at least one and sometimestwo readings of each draft article. Progress was made in shaping the Convention andin identifying the areas of convergence and divergence. The INCD also discussed theregional instrument for Africa for the first time. After an initial discussion of thenature of this instrument and its relationship to the Convention as a whole, delegatesrequested the Secretariat to prepare a draft text for consideration at the fourth session.


The fourth session of the INCD was held in Geneva from 21-31 March 1994. The twoworking groups continued negotiating the draft text of the Convention. By theconclusion of the session the substantive problems that remained included: the needfor an article on principles in the text; all matters related to financial resources andmechanisms; categories of countries; subsidiary bodies; reservations or exceptionsopen to the Parties; and the obligations of a withdrawing Party. In order to have amore productive dialogue on financial resources and mechanisms, the Chair invitedPierre-Marc Johnson (Canada) and Bolong Sonko (The Gambia) to undertake informalconsultations among delegations on the provisions of the Convention related tofinance. The objective of these consultations was to develop a new negotiating text onfinance for the fifth session.

The fourth session was also the first time that delegates formally considered theRegional Implementation Annex for Africa. In general, developed countries thoughtthat the annex was too long and contained a number of articles that were better suitedto or already contained in the main Convention. The Africans felt that the level ofdetail was absolutely essential, otherwise the instrument would not achieve itsobjective of providing priority treatment for Africa. After a series of informal sessions,the unresolved issues in this heavily bracketed text included: the mandatory nature ofthe commitments to be taken by the Parties; the timetable for preparing actionprogrammes; the necessity of regional action programmes; the role of the UN andother international institutions; financial arrangements; and follow-up and coordination.

The Asian and Latin American regional groups also produced their own draft regionalimplementation instruments. Although these annexes were not negotiated or evendiscussed in detail, initial reaction was positive. Delegates praised both annexes fortheir brevity and clarity and supported them as a good basis for further discussion.


The fifth session of the INCD was held in Paris from 6-17 June 1994. During thissession, delegates worked through many long nights to negotiate the remainingbracketed text in the Convention and to finalize four regional implementation annexesfor Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Northern Mediterranean.They also adopted resolutions that recommended urgent action for Africa and interimarrangements for the period between adoption of the Convention and its entry intoforce, which could take at least two years. There were times during this session thatdelegates thought they would never reach agreement on the financial provisions of theConvention. After three all-night sessions capped by a closing Plenary that did noteven begin until 4:00 am, the Convention was finally adopted.

The Convention, which is the first post-Rio sustainable development convention, isnotable for its innovative approach in recognizing: the physical, biological and socio-economic aspects of desertification; the importance of redirecting technology transferso that it is demand driven; and the involvement of local populations in thedevelopment of national action programmes. The core of the Convention is thedevelopment of national and subregional/regional action programmes to combatdesertification. These action programmes are to be developed by national governmentsin close cooperation with donors, local populations and NGOs. The 40-articleConvention is divided into the following sections: I. Introduction; II. Generalprovisions; III. Action programmes, scientific and technical cooperation and supportingmeasures; IV. Institutions; and V. Procedures.


The Convention was opened for signature at a ceremony in Paris on 14-15 October1994. The following countries signed the Convention: Algeria, Angola, Argentina,Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi,Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China,Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, C“te d"Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark,Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, European Union, Finland,France, The Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti,India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon,Lesotho, Libya, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico,Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, Republic ofKorea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Seychelles, Spain, Sudan, Sweden,Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States,Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Convention remains open for signature at UNHeadquarters in New York.


The following is a summary of the documentation that has been prepared for the sixthsession of the INCD.

A/AC.241/28 " Adoption of the agenda and organization of work.This document contains the provisional annotated agenda. Agenda items include: 1.Adoption of the agenda and organization of work; 2. Work programme for the interimperiod; 3. Preparation for the Conference of the Parties; 4. Status of signature andratification of the Convention; 5. Review of the situation as regards extrabudgetaryfunds; and 6. Adoption of the report.

A/AC.241/28/Add.1 " Provisional work programme. This documentcontains the provisional work programme for the first week of INCD-6.

A/AC.241/29 " Work programme for the interim period and preparation forthe Conference of the Parties. This document prepared by the Secretariat provides abrief analysis of the issues to be addressed during the interim period. Issues to beconsidered under the work programme include: interim implementation andcommunication of information; public awareness and capacity building activities; andCommittee input to the Commission on Sustainable Development. Issues to beconsidered in preparation for the Conference of the Parties include: rules of procedure;financial rules, programme and budget; designation of the Permanent Secretariat;global financial mechanism and related issues; review of implementation andcommunication of information; Committee on Science and Technology; promotion ofrelationships with other conventions; adoption of procedures to resolve implementationquestions; and adoption of annexes on conciliation and arbitration.

A/AC.241/30 and A/AC.241/30/Add.1 " Compilation of information onimplementation of the resolution on urgent measures in Africa. These documentscontain excerpts from statements made at the signing ceremony in Paris that highlightspecific steps countries have taken or plan to take to implement the resolution onurgent action for Africa.

A/AC.241/31 " Review of the situation as regards extrabudgetary funds.This document provides a status report on the activities of the Secretariat,administrative and budgetary matters, and the need for contributions to the SpecialVoluntary Fund and the Trust Fund for the negotiating process.

A/AC.241/9/Add.8 " List of non-governmental organizations recommendedfor accreditation.

A/AC.241/27 " Final text of the Convention.


PLENARY: The sixth session of the INCD will convene at 3:00 pm inConference Room 2. INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n will open the session and address certainprocedural matters, including the adoption of the agenda and work programme. Hemay also report on the results of the INCD Bureau meeting that is scheduled for 10:00am. The Executive-Secretary of the Interim Secretariat for the Convention to CombatDesertification (CCD), Hama Arba Diallo, will then introduce the documentation andprovide a status report on signature and ratification of the Convention. The floor isthen expected to be opened for introductory statements.


Negotiating blocs
European Union
Non-state coalitions