Daily report for 12 January 1995

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

The INCD spent most of the day listening to reports on implementation of theresolution on urgent action for Africa and interim action in other regions. The Chair,Bo Kjell‚n, also distributed a provisional programme of work for next week. TheChair also outlined his report to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).


The UK is prepared to work with Africans on activities consistent with theConvention and urgent action for Africa. The UK is also preparing a user"s guide tothe Convention, which is expected to be completed by INCD-7, and is giving furtherconsideration to how to support NGOs. In March, JAPAN will send amission to Senegal to discuss the development of a concrete pilot project that could beadapted for other affected African countries. Japan, in cooperation with Indonesia,some UN agencies and the Global Coalition for Africa, also held the Asia-Africaforum aimed at promoting South-South cooperation.

IFAD said that the lack of awareness about the Convention may be thesingle-most serious obstacle to its implementation. The preparation of national actionprogrammes (NAPs) cannot be hurried. NAPs must be dynamic, and evolve asexperience is gained. The Secretariat should be strengthened, but it should be small,dynamic and versatile. IFAD will assist in resource mobilization and the co-financingof programmes aimed at food security in the drylands. The OECD hasdesignated the Club du Sahel as the institution"s focal point on the Convention. InFebruary, the CILSS and Club du Sahel will meet with donors to refine their jointprogramme of work. The implementation of the resolution on urgent action for Africais expected to be the subject of its next General Meeting in Canada.

Drawing from its experience, EGYPT stated that desertification projects areusually expensive and may need to be implemented at the regional and subregionallevels. Egypt hopes that a regional manifesto to combat desertification can bedeveloped.

UZBEKISTAN said that the States in central Asia have set up a council anda fund on the Aral Sea. They are trying to attract international assistance to financethis programme, which includes regional water management, hydro-meteorologicalmonitoring, water quality control, restoration of land productivity, pure drinking watersupply, and improving land resources.

The RUSSIAN FEDERATION reported that it has signed a treaty withKazakhstan on the use of jointly-shared water resources. With the support of UNEP,Russia has started training specialists in the area of space monitoring of desertification.They will hold an international seminar on combating desertification in September.

In implementing the resolution, MALI has taken measures to: ensureincreased decentralization; develop a new code on collectives and a new law on thetaxation of collectives; start the process of ratifying the Convention; and undertakeawareness raising campaigns. BURKINA FASO's Minister of Environmentand Tourism, Anatole Tiendrebeogo, called attention to Burkina Faso"s emergency planand its national plan of action, distributed by his delegation. In 1994 Burkina Fasodrafted a national Agenda 21, held roundtable discussions, and gave priority to droughtand desertification ahead of other problems such as unemployment.

GHANA has created a national desertification agency and a nationalenvironmental protection plan. Additionally, a committee on drought anddesertification with representatives from the government, the scientific community,NGOs and local populations has been set up. Ghana is presently preparing forratification.

When speaking about urgent action for Africa, DENMARK stressed that it isimportant not to rush implementation, but begin the process by disseminatinginformation. Denmark has started to provide information about the objectives of theConvention to its embassies and is allocating new and additional funds to combatdesertification.

KAZAKHSTAN has entered into bilateral treaties with other countries tosolve desertification problems and notes with interest the experiences of Israel, whichhas similar conditions as Kazakhstan. There is also cooperation with UNDP.Regarding urgent action for Africa, it is natural to give priority to Africa, but we needprogress in other parts of the world as well.

PORTUGAL is preparing for ratification and is setting up a nationalcommittee to implement the Convention. The northern Mediterranean countries arenow planning the next steps in implementing their regional annex, including contactswith countries in the Mahgreb and the Middle East.

In BOTSWANA, a national conservation strategy has been developed, withthe help of ministries and NGOs. Botswana is also working on a national action planand a state of the environment review. For a report on PAKISTAN"sactivities, see document A/AC.241/30.Add.1. Pakistan has also developed a nationalplan to combat desertification, with the assistance of UNEP.

SPAIN has: drafted three desertification-related national plans; organized andparticipated in international conferences and seminars; and is supporting projects in theCanary Islands, Mauritania, Mozambique, Tunisia, Syria, Brazil, Peru, DominicanRepublic, Mexico and the Philippines.

BELGIUM reported that although his country had not signed the Conventiondue to its complex institutional structure, the process has been initiated in the fiveParliaments to facilitate this process. Belgium is also supporting reforestationprogrammes in Benin, Burkina Faso and C“te d"Ivoire.

TUNISIA is undertaking awareness raising campaigns.

In MAURITANIA, institutional, technical and awareness related activitieshave been undertaken, including the creation of an Inter-Ministerial Committee tooversee coordination, the organization of national forums, workshops and researchactivities, as well as the use of television to raise awareness.

INDIA said that with regard to the sensitivities in the compilation ofinformation on the implementation of the resolution on urgent action for Africa, fiveaspects should be considered: public awareness campaigns; training; capacity building;technology transfer; and empowerment of people.

BOLIVIA said that reports on urgent action for Africa must be morespecific. The Secretariat should compile and analyze this information and listinstitutions that are already working on desertification and how assistance is beingchannelled to Africa.

IGADD is reviewing existing institutional arrangements and is making aneffort to work with developed countries. The IGADD work programme is focusing onpublic awareness, prompt ratification, action programmes at the national andsubregional levels, and exchange of and access to information.

URUGUAY said that although it is not on the list of countries directlyaffected by desertification, it does suffer from recurring droughts and variations inrainfall. This must be reflected in UNEP"s report to the CSD.

MOROCCO is focusing on reforestation, soil and water conservation,mobilization of water resources, irrigation, dune stabilization and development ofpasture areas. Morocco has set up a national committee to combat desertification andhas begun to work on its national action programme.

IRAN"s desertification control activities include: public awareness;decreasing rural-urban migration through rural development; restoration of degradedlands; and dune stabilization. Iran wishes to share its experiences in combatingdesertification with African countries.

CILSS asked if the Interim Secretariat could prepare a simplified version ofthe Convention to facilitate public awareness activities. CILSS is holding consultationsaimed at developing a subregional programme of action.

The PHILIPPINES stated that awareness raising should be done within theUN system as well, as he had heard earlier in the day that the UNDP"s ExecutiveBoard was unaware of the contents of General Assembly resolution 49/234.

GREECE, as one of the affected country Parties, welcomed all interestedMediterranean countries to learn from its experiences. SUDAN hasundertaken a GIS survey in the affected parts of the country and hosted an IGADDmeeting. It has also contacted IGADD regarding funding for scientific research.

Solidarit‚ Canada-Sahel, on behalf of the NGOs, reported that the NGOshave presented their plan of action to the delegates, but noted that the action planrequires funding. He cautioned that some of the activities that governments havereported on may not be in line with the spirit of the Convention.

Executive Secretary Arba Diallo expressed satisfaction with the enthusiasmwith which delegates have reported on implementation of the resolution on urgentaction for Africa. He noted that the Secretariat does not want to take the place ofStates and organizations, but in some cases States need support and perhaps theSecretariat could step in and identify the assistance needed.

Kjell‚n then summarized the discussion, which showed that there is animpressive amount of activity in Africa and other regions. Affected countries haveestablished coordinating bodies and initiated public awareness campaigns and measuresto integrate actions to combat desertification within their broader sustainabledevelopment plans. Consultations are underway for the preparation of subregionalaction programmes. There are significant activities with regard to scientific researchand technical assistance. Developed countries have reviewed their developmentassistance to ensure consistency with the Convention and there are increased effortstowards coordination. Intergovernmental organizations are actively supporting theprocess. Nevertheless, there is no reason for complacency since the situation in thedrylands of Africa continues to be a cause for concern.


The Chair then explained to the delegates that he will be presenting a report to theCSD in April, in addition to the report submitted by UNEP. He proceeded to outlinehis thoughts on this report and asked delegates for their comments. He noted that thisConvention supports Principle 1 of the Rio Declaration, which says people are at thecenter of development, since the Convention concerns 900 million people and is basedon a bottom-up approach and partnerships. He also noted the efforts to improvecoordination of international assistance, and the integration and participation of NGOsin the process. Elements of the Convention that fit into the CSD"s consideration ofother chapters of Agenda 21 include: food security; land use; the use of plant geneticresources; dryland forestry; water resources; and energy. He noted that when theConvention is examined in a broader framework, it has more stature and substance atthe global level.

FINLAND noted that the Chair"s report also has to draw the linkagesbetween this Convention, and the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions aswell as the Statement on Forest Principles. BRAZIL added that the Chairshould also include the links to international trade, since obstacles to market access tocountries affected by desertification will hinder their efforts to combat desertification.Patterns of production and consumption should also be mentioned. ThePHILIPPINES, on behalf of the G-77 and China, added that priority shouldbe given to: the prevention of land degradation in vulnerable areas and thecontainment of degradation where it has already taken place; the fact thatdesertification and drought are global problems, not local problems; links between landdegradation and climate change and biodiversity; and links to the mobilization offinancial resources, transfer of environmentally sound technologies; and capacitybuilding.

Discussion of this item will resume on Monday.


The results of the first part of an informal survey of delegations on ratificationproceedings are in. Out of the 36 delegates interviewed on Thursday, eight expect toratify the Convention within the next four months. Three more think they might ratifythe Convention later this year. Eleven delegates said that the necessary documentationis being prepared or has just been submitted to the relevant executive or legislativebody for consideration. Three countries will submit the Convention for ratification assoon as it is translated. Nine countries have not begun the ratification process and twodelegates did not know what the ratification status was in their countries.


PLENARY: The Plenary will meet this morning to discuss the situation asregards extrabudgetary funds (A/AC.241/31). The Plenary will not meet in theafternoon.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS: Regional groups are expected to meet at3:00 pm. The Chair will meet with the heads of the regional and interest groups at4:30 pm to continue discussions on the draft decision on the interim programme ofwork.

UNEP REQUEST: Today is the deadline for delegates to provide UNEPwith any factual changes that it should make to its report to the CSD, which wascirculated earlier in the week. This report will be going to press on Monday.