Daily report for 9 January 1995

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

The sixth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the elaborationof an international convention to combat desertification in those countries experiencingserious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa (INCD), began on Mondayafternoon. Delegates first adopted the agenda (A/AC.241/28) and the provisionalprogramme of work for the first week (A/AC.241/28/Add.1). INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n(Sweden) noted that General Assembly Resolution 49/234, adopted on 23 December1994, said that INCD-6 could last up to two weeks. However, there is a possibilitythat this session may conclude before 20 January 1995. As a result, the provisionalwork programme for the second week is yet to be determined.


BURKINA FASO: Anatole Tiendrebeogo, Minister for Environment andTourism, noted that although the negotiated Convention formed a good basis forcompromise, the issues of the financial mechanism and financial resources still need tobe resolved. He outlined the interim measures Burkina Faso has undertaken, including:awareness raising among decision-makers, NGOs, technical experts and localpopulations; the adoption of a plan of action; and the establishment of an organ tooversee the implementation process. Tiendrebeogo lamented that there seems to be a"backsliding" by affected countries, other Parties and the international community at atime when the issue of ratification is being raised. He asserted that urgent measuresrequire the prompt mobilization of funds as early as February 1995. He called on theINCD to announce what it can and intends to do in this regard.

Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable DevelopmentNitin Desai welcomed delegates on behalf of the Secretary-General andnoted that the successful negotiation of the Convention in spite of difficulties showsthe determination of delegations, the Chair and the Secretariat. Desai expressed hopethat the successful conclusion of the Convention should not cause a loss ofmomentum, and reminded the Committee that the transition from policy developmentinto policy implementation demands political commitment. Desai also noted the needfor the INCD to provide input to the CSD"s consideration of desertification at itsmeeting in April.

The Chair, Bo Kjell‚n, said that in this phase of the process, there is lesspressure on texts, but it is now more important to translate words into action. He notedwith satisfaction that when Resolution 49/234 on the INCD was adopted in theGeneral Assembly there were many important statements supporting the Convention toCombat Desertification (CCD). Kjell‚n stressed that the participation of NGOs hasbeen essential, as well as the contribution of the Panel of Experts and the scientificcommunity in general, especially the social and economic experts.

The Committee"s main task at this session is to organize its work for the interimperiod. He noted the possibility of establishing working groups during the secondweek of this session. On substantive issues, the main focus will be the workprogramme for the interim period and the preparation for the first Conference of theParties (COP). He asked the delegates to comment on the document with respect totime schedules and organization of work for the interim period, including the possibleestablishment of sessional working groups. On the resolution on urgent action forAfrica, the statements made by governments at the signing ceremony are contained indocuments A/AC.241/30 and Add.1. The General Assembly mandated the INCD tofacilitate implementation through information exchange, which can begin here, but willbe the central issue at the Nairobi session in August. Other issues to be considered atthis session are extrabudgetary funds, the report to the CSD, and the globalmechanism.

PHILIPPINES: On behalf of the G-77 and China, Jos‚ Lino B. Guerrerosaid that subregional, regional and international collaboration is critical to arrest thecauses of desertification and drought and to rectify their effects. Proof of internationalcommitment to combat desertification and drought may be expressed concretely interms of contributions to the Special Voluntary Fund and the Trust Fund and themobilization of financial resources. The INCD must formulate a national and realisticwork programme for the interim period that includes: support to developing countriesin the elaboration of action programmes at all levels; the marshalling of scientific andtechnical advice; identification of an organization to house the global mechanism topromote the mobilization and channelling of substantial financial resources; andconsideration of INCD inputs to the Commission on Sustainable Development.

FRANCE: On behalf of the 15 States of the EU, Anne de Lattre observedthat the large number of signatories to the Convention in Paris and thereafter attests tothe importance of the CCD. For this Convention to be effective, affected countriesshould take the initiative and establish medium-and long-term plans of action thatinvolve local populations. She further noted that donors must act as true partners ofaffected countries. Genuine partnership and transparency are major aspects of theConvention. All cooperation agencies should feel responsible for the evolvement ofthis process and should set up funds to facilitate the mobilization of scientific expertiseand local and traditional technology. The States that have signed the Conventionshould state their positions on the organization of work modalities; the role of theinterim Secretariat; funding for the interim period; cooperation and informationexchange on the urgent action for Africa; and the relationship between the work of theINCD and the CSD. The EU believes that the role of the interim Secretariat shouldonly be facilitative and not operative, as some of the documents suggest. The EU doesnot support the increased funding requirements for the interim period before the firstCOP, which assume that the Secretariat will be playing an operative role.

MONGOLIA: The Minister for Environment, Dr. Batjargal, stated thatadopting this Convention is moving one step towards the implementation of Chapter12 of Agenda 21. He explained that over 40% of Mongolia is arid or desert and thatcropland degradation increases each year. A National Plan of Action to combatdesertification has been developed in cooperation with UNEP and ESCAP. Mongoliais also preparing for ratification. Although land erosion and degradation are oftencaused by natural causes, such processes are sometimes caused by the negativeinteraction between people and their environment.

CILSS: The Executive Secretary, Mariam Ciss‚, reported that the region hadstarted the implementation process as recommended in the resolution on urgent actionfor Africa. The CILSS member countries have convened two meetings, at whichaffected neighboring states attended, to take stock of the actions to be initiated,including: national action programmes; the organization of national forums; timetables; participatory measures; and preparatory documentation. The resolutions onthese items have already been applied by several of the participating countries. Ciss‚said that the CILSS is in favor of establishing a maximum of two working groups tolook at the preparations for the COP.

INDIA: The delegate expressed solidarity with Africa regarding theresolution on urgent action. He outlined the extent of desertification in India, notingthat although several initiatives have been undertaken to redress the problem, theactivities suffered serious financial constraints. He said that India is willing to provideinformation on specific research, afforestation and water conservation activitiesundertaken in relation to desertification.

BRAZIL: The delegate noted that in spite of his Government"s efforts todeal with the scourge of desertification, Brazil still needs global partnerships involvingthe participation of rural organizations, NGOs, and international and regionalorganizations. He declared that combating desertification is a priority issue.

NGOS: Heinz Greijn (ELCI) reported that in November some 50 NGOsfrom around the world met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to establish a globalnetwork on desertification called RIOD (R‚seau International d"ONG sur laD‚sertification) and to develop an action plan for the implementation of theConvention. The NGO action plan calls for: organizing consultations between NGOsand Community Based Organizations at the national level; informing people inaffected communities about the Convention and developing methods for consultingthem about action to be taken; raising awareness about desertification and theConvention in donor countries; promoting women"s involvement in the implementationof the Convention; and building a communication system that links the actors of thenetwork at all levels. In other activities, NGOs established an electronic mailconference on desertification for NGOs in Africa and organized a meeting in Brusselsto inform European NGOs about the Convention.


Executive Secretary Arba Diallo reported that 95 countries and one regionaleconomic integration organization have signed the Convention to date. The 95thcountry, which signed the Convention Monday morning, is South Africa. He appealedto those who have not yet been able to sign the Convention to do so as soon ascircumstances permit. Kjell‚n joined in this appeal and expressed hope thatthe Convention will have 100 signatories by the conclusion of this session.

SOUTH AFRICA: Amb. Vernon Steward was happy to inform theCommittee that South Africa signed the Convention on Monday. The Convention isparticularly relevant for Southern Africa. More than half of South Africa was declaredpotential desert by the 1977 UNCOD report. Since the 1930s, South Africa has hadvarious programmes ranging from education and training of farmers at the grassrootslevel to conservation auditing and the development of electronic data banks. Thisexperience has facilitated the transfer of technology. He stressed the need for increasedresources for the implementation of the Convention and its regional annexes, andcalled for the implementation of the urgent measures for Africa.


In addition to the 85 countries and the European Union that signed the Convention inParis on 14-15 October 1994, 10 more countries have signed it over the past threemonths. These countries are: Namibia (24/10/94), Nigeria (31/10/94), Sierra Leone(11/11/94), Nicaragua (21/11/94), Uganda (21/11/94) Paraguay (1/12/94), Uzbekistan(7/12/94), Philippines (8/12/94), Micronesia (12/12/94) and South Africa (9/1/95).


On Monday, Bo Kjell‚n noted that ratification of a convention takes a fair amount oftime. In fact, ratification of environmental conventions, as measured by the length oftime between the date when a convention is adopted and its entry into force, takes anaverage of 32 months. For example, the 1973 CITES Convention took 28 months toenter into force, the 1979 Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollutiontook 40 months and the 1989 Basel Convention took 38 months. However, theratification of the two most recent environmental conventions, the 1992 Convention onClimate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, took only 22 months and19 months, respectively. If there is sufficient political will, the Convention to CombatDesertification may enter into force before June 1996 and continue this trend.


PLENARY: The INCD Plenary will convene at 10:00 am to discuss AgendaItems 2 (Work programme for the interim period) and 3 (Preparation for theConference of the Parties). The Executive Secretary of the Interim Secretariat, ArbaDiallo, will introduce A/AC.241/29, which contains recommendations on these items.Delegates will then be invited to comment.

REGIONAL GROUP MEETINGS: The Plenary will not meet at 3:00 pmto allow time for regional groups to meet.

NGO STRATEGY SESSION: NGOs will be meeting each morning thisweek at 9:00 am in Conference Room D.

COMPUTER ROOM: The CCD Interim Secretariat has set up a computercenter in Conference Room A. Although the set-up is not as technologically advancedas in Paris, delegates will find a handful of computers and printers available for theiruse for the duration of INCD-6.