Daily report for 13 January 1995
6th Session of the the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification
The INCD met in Plenary on Friday morning to review the situation asregards extrabudgetary funds (A/AC.241/31 and Add.1). In the afternoon,the Plenary was not in session so that regional groups could meet. At4:30 pm, the Chair met with the group of heads of regional and interestgroups to begin negotiations on the work programme for the interimperiod.
REVIEW OF THE SITUATION AS REGARDS EXTRABUDGETARY FUNDS
Executive Secretary Arba Diallo, in his introduction ofA/AC.241/31, said the document is forward looking, covers activitiesrecommended by the INCD for the interim period, and reviews the statusof the pledges and contributions to the voluntary and trust funds. Thedocument is divided into two parts: the status of pledges andcontributions to the trust fund, indicating staff resources and the coststo be incurred by the Interim Secretariat (IS) and a review of thestatus of the funds paid into the special voluntary fund for theparticipation of developing countries.
As of 31 December 1994, the trust fund had received US$1,958,297, ofwhich the US$200,000 estimated for staff was almost exhausted. TheSwiss Government has granted an additional US$500,000 to coverinformation activities, NGO participation and one staff member. The WHOand FAO have supported a consultant and specialist, respectively. TheSecretariat has 16 officials, seven of whom are funded throughextrabudgetary funds. This staff is needed during the interim perioddue to the Secretariat's increased responsibilities, at an estimated costof US$1,720,000.
With regard to support for the INCD sessions, the IS will requireconsultants and may also need to compile and communicate reports onmeasures adopted by members during the interim period, which is anactivity without precedent in other Conventions. He noted that in linewith the 49th General Assembly"s programme budget implications (PBI)document, the cost of financing consultations will be revised downwardsfrom US$417,000 to US$70,000.
The proposed public awareness programmes will target both policy-makers and the general public in order to ensure a betterunderstanding of the Convention and will hopefully be undertaken incollaboration with the Climate Change information bureau and NGOs. Inaddition to invitations from other regions, and in order to play acatalytic role, the IS may, on request, facilitate the implementation ofthe resolution on urgent action for Africa by providing various forms ofassistance at the regional, subregional and national levels, consistentwith Article 18 of the African Annex.
There is a balance of US$500,000 from the US$2,169,859 contributed tothe Voluntary Fund. Diallo noted that Portugal"s contribution should beUS$15,000 and that Austria"s contribution of US$10,000 has beenreceived. He said that while US$900,000 is required to finance 70developing country participants, or US$550,000 for a participant fromeach of the least developed countries, the fund only has US$330,000.
The PHILIPPINES<D>, on behalf of the G-77 and China, gave adetailed outline of the tasks to be undertaken during this interim periodthat have been allocated to the IS by the INCD. He argued that thesetasks require a corresponding financial contribution. Thus, theSecretariat"s funding proposals are realistic.
On behalf of the EU, FRANCE made five comments on thedocument. 1) The INCD sessions should be financed from the regular UNbudget and the Secretariat cannot allocate money to a scientific groupbefore the Committee has agreed on whether there should be one. 2) TheSecretariat should play a substantive role in public awareness, butfunds are already available elsewhere. 3) Regarding the implementationof urgent action for Africa, funds are also available from bilateraldonors, and UNDP could also support the Secretariat in the role thatGeneral Assembly resolution 49/234 has assigned to it. 4) Case studiesshould not be funded, since there is no longer any need for examples.5) Regarding personnel, it would be useful to have more information onthe amounts involved, the intentions of donors and the availability ofstaff. To conclude, France noted that document A/AC.241/31 should havebeen more explicit about extrabudgetary funds and the timetable.
Diallo<D> referred to General Assembly document A/C.2/49/L.54,which includes the INCD budget. The posts themselves were accepted aspart of the budget last year. In L.54, the total budget is approximatelyUS$500,000. He added that the Secretariat has noted what it receivesfrom the general budget and what it expects from voluntarycontributions. INCD Chair Bo Kjelln noted that althoughdelegates were not being asked to pledge funds, this discussion iscomplex due to the fact that: the document was prepared before theconclusion of the General Assembly"s discussions last December; thedelegates to the INCD and General Assembly are different; decisionmakers on financial issues are in the capitals; the UN system"sweaknesses; and there were contributions from other UN agencies.
UGANDA expressed the hope that the pre-Convention politicalgoodwill would prevail and that additional support would be providedfrom the regular UN budget, in order to enable the affected countries tolive up to their expectations.
The US noted that when considering the budget: 1) due to theresource situation, the Committee should be cautious about duplication ofefforts; 2) activities related to this Convention should be based in thefield as much as possible; 3) caution should also be exercised whencomparing this Convention to others, since this Convention has abottom-up philosophy; and 4) the more resources that are devoted tothe center (ie., the Secretariat), the less money is in the field. Heagreed with the EU regarding difficulties in sorting out what is comingfrom the regular budget, in spite of having read documentA/C.2/49/L.54. Regarding the scientific group, a decision is neededbefore allocating money.
NIGER proposed that there should be a special support fund forurgent action for Africa, which could help NGOs and others. This couldbe a flexible fund so that support could be requested when urgentaction was needed and the Secretariat could assist. He added that itwould be a shame if the Secretariat personnel were reduced.
BOLIVIA asserted that given that 900 million people are affectedby desertification, the Secretariat is bending over backwards to get thejob done with limited funds. The REPUBLIC OF KOREA noted thatthe proposed budget corresponds to the tasks given to the Secretariatand said that his country would be increasing its contribution.AUSTRALIA supported the US and requested that the linkagebetween A/AC.241/31 and the regular budget of the UN be shown andthat there be some coordinated information on the contributions ofagencies.
In seeking clarification on the budget, JAPAN stated that themost important decision is that on the interim role of the Secretariatand the budget should be a reflection of that decision. He feared a"Catch 22" situation. Some of the proposed activities can be implementedby bilateral or multilateral organizations. He asked for an explanationregarding the discrepancies between the INCD budget adopted by theGeneral Assembly in December and A/AC.241/31, which was prepared inNovember.
SUDAN considered it crucial to continue to give the same level ofsupport to the Secretariat, since it is a prerequisite for future success.MAURITANIA wanted to know on what basis the estimatedUS$1.389 million needed for urgent action for Africa (paragraph 41) wasdefined. His government has estimated that US$450,000 is needed inMauritania alone.
CANADA<D> concurred with the EU and reiterated that budgetestimates should correspond to the tasks given to the Secretariat. ThisConvention is different from others since it emphasizes decentralizedactivities. Canada will fund the Secretariat and countries for appropriateactivities, and provide support for the legal adviser. He pointed out thatthe NGO support should be accounted for under the Voluntary Fund,and not the Trust Fund.
KENYA said that in spite of his country"s political will toimplement the Convention, financial constraints were the single mostinhibiting factor. TUNISIA stated that funding should not only beprovided on a bilateral basis and urged the developed country partnersto show renewed commitment to the implementation of the Conventionduring this interim phase.
BENIN expressed surprise at the apparent suggestions torenegotiate a Convention in which multilateral agreements were alreadycovered. He speculated that there seems to be squabbling outside thePlenary using the Secretariat as a scapegoat. BURKINA FASO<D>said that just because the Convention has a bottom-up approach doesnot imply that the Secretariat should not have any money.Decentralization does not mean that all action should happen in thefield while the Secretariat does nothing.
ALGERIA emphasized that the budget requests are in line withthe Secretariat's role during the interim period. There is no intention ofexpanding the Secretariat's mandate, but the INCD should not lose sightof the future role of the Secretariat in assisting affected countries andplaying the role of facilitator. The Secretariat should use NGOs andothers to facilitate information sharing.
In response to the issues raised, Diallo noted that: the activitieswere merely proposals by the IS and could be further discussed; theproposals for the regular budget are in accordance with the GeneralAssembly resolution of 23 December 1994; and the IS had hoped that,upon request, they could provide funds to affected country Parties,however, they can direct them to the various donors. On the linkagesbetween the Secretariat"s document and General Assembly documentA/C.2/49/L.54, paragraph 19 of the IS document indicates that supportfunds may be available for consultants and other services, however,services budgeted for in the regular UN budget will not be covered bythe Voluntary Fund. He said NGO support funds could not be placedunder the Voluntary Fund since the General Assembly resolution saysthat this fund is to support developing country delegates only.
Kjelln<D> then summarized the discussion. 1) There was generalappreciation of the work of the Secretariat. 2) The purpose of thediscussion was not to agree on the budget, since these are voluntaryfunds. 3) This is an important period in the Convention and sufficientfunds must be available. 4) While affected countries have indicated theaction needed, there are budgetary constraints. 5) It is necessary todetermine a logical apportionment of work to be done efficiently andspecify who would do it. 6) Although the Convention calls fordecentralization, activities may need to be more centralized during theinterim period. 7) There are divergent views on the document, butadditional information would be provided on the funds, since there havealso been indications of the amounts. 8) The question of methodology inpresenting the report may require specific consideration, an issue thatcan be also be raised at the next session of the General Assembly.
IN THE CORRIDORS I
An informal survey of delegations on ratification proceedings continuedin the corridors and aisles on Friday. Out of 46 signatories, eightAfrican countries and one Asian country expect to ratify the Conventionwithin the next four months. Three developed and one developingcountry think they might ratify the Convention by year"s end. Thirteendelegates said that the necessary documentation is under preparation orhas just been submitted for action. Three European countries areawaiting official translations and 15 countries have not begun theratification process. Of the eight countries surveyed who have not yetsigned the Convention, two expect to sign it "soon" and six hope tosign the Convention before INCD-7. Some non-African developing countrydelegates noted that due to the priority given to Africa, they mighthave some difficulty getting the Convention ratified in their countriessince there is little, if any, donor interest in helping them develop andimplement their national action plans.
IN THE CORRIDORS II
Apparently the NGOs" call for support for the implementation of the NGOAction Plan on Desertification has not fallen on deaf ears. Over 50delegates attended the NGO briefing on Wednesday. Since then, the NGOshave been meeting daily with representatives from donor governmentsand UN agencies to discuss the mechanisms for getting funding forimplementation of the NGO action programme, specifically for publicawareness activities and the involvement of NGOs and community-basedorganizations in the implementation of the Convention. The establishmentof this NGO network, and the interest of donors in supporting its work,is an indication of the effectiveness of the bottom-up approach.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
PLENARY: The Committee will meet this morning to continue thediscussion of the Chair"s report to the Commission on SustainableDevelopment. This discussion began on Thursday afternoon when theChair presented his outline of the report and asked delegates forcomments. The Committee is then expected to discuss awareness building.In the afternoon, the Committee is scheduled to discuss the decision onorganization of work and the work programme for INCD-7 and INCD-8.The basis for this discussion is expected to be the draft decision thatwas elaborated in the meeting of the heads of regional and interestgroups on Friday evening. Look for discussions in the corridors onnominations for the bureaus of the new working groups.