Report of main proceedings for 5 February 1996

8th Session of the the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification

The eighth session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee, which runs from 5-16 February in Geneva was opened by INCD Chair Bo Kjellén (Sweden) at 3:30 pm. After welcoming the delegates, Kjellén quickly got to work and concluded the session half an hour early. The delegates heard general statements from representatives of UNDP, UNEP, IFAD and Mongolia’s Minister for the Environment.

PLENARY

ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA: The Chair noted that minor objections had been raised regarding the organization of work in the Annex to document A/AC.241/42, the Provisional Agenda. The document and annex were adopted with the Chair’s urging that delegates strive to complete work by Thursday 15 February rather than 16 February as listed. Delegates also approved the five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) recommended for accreditation in document A/AC.241/9/Add.11.

UNDP Executive Director James Gustave Speth observed a growing global imperative to fight desertification, drought and environmental degradation. He said that combating desertification is a part of UNDP’s poverty elimination and environmental regeneration efforts, including UNSO, trust funds, and activities under UNDP’s core budget. Resources allocated in over 70 countries affected by desertification total over US$1 billion, almost 38% of UNDP’s core resources from 1992-96, and a portion supported dryland development and anti-desertification activities. Through UNSO, US$11 million has been mobilized to support national, sub-regional and regional activities and to consolidate projects in the most affected countries. UNDP will provide technical and financial support to establish national desertification funds.

UNDP considers establishment of the Global Mechanism (GM) of great importance and is prepared to act as host for the GM, but its operations, functions and funding arrangements must be clarified. The key questions include: what the GM should be; its hosting arrangement; how to channel resources for promotional activities; linkages with other organizations; and ways to promote resource mobilization. The GM should not manage the funds mobilized.

He suggested categories for GM functions: promoting resource mobilization; optimizing existing resources; developing mechanisms to channel resources; facilitating partnership funding arrangements; collecting, analyzing and disseminating information on funding sources; facilitating financing of arrangements for technology transfer; advocacy actions; and reporting to the COP.

Desirable features of the GM’s host would be: capacity and experience in dryland management and drought control; ability to promote resource mobilization; an information network of funding sources; analytical capability; contacts in funding sources and developing countries; the ability to design and promote innovative funding mechanisms; and familiarity with the funding arrangements of post-Rio conventions and GEF. He said while UNDP meets the criteria, it is not exclusively qualified to host the GM and will support another host.

He proposed that INCD consider a co-hosting arrangement under which UNDP would share GM operations with another institution, possibly IFAD. He also suggested that INCD explore pilot or advance work for the GM before selection of a host, including collection and analysis of information and identification of measures for optimal use of existing resources.

He proposed basic maxims for the GM: sustained political commitment; transparency; commitment to create partnerships and enabling conditions; neutrality and universality of the GM; and adherence to bottom-up, participatory processes in programme and project design.

UNEP Deputy Executive Director, Reuben Olembo, informed that UNEP will launch an integrated environment management programme when sufficient funds are received. He said that UNDP and IFAD are the best equipped to host the GM. Olembo hoped that the Committee on Science and Technology (CST) will be established as soon as possible. He stated that UNEP, with 20 years experience and as a GEF partner responsible for the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) would support the close cooperation between CST and STAP. Olembo further assured the meeting that UNEP would be honored to host the permanent secretariat and suggested that close synergy can be achieved through UNEP's common resources. UNEP’s Caring for Lands Programme will be devoted to supporting the implementation of the Convention. Together with the Interim Secretariat, UNSO and others, UNEP is launching a global drylands awareness raising strategy. Another objective of the Programme is to prepare a new drylands assessment together with UNDP/UNSO. UNEP’s new programme on social dimensions, including reports and projects, will provide more insights on human causes and impacts on dryland degradation. Olembo stressed UNEP’s tradition of cooperation with UNSO, FAO and its new ties to IFAD. UNEP also has strengthened its relationship with NGOs and encourages the NGO network on desertification, RIOD. He finally announced that the executive summary on a workshop on Combating Global Warming by Combating Land Degradation contains information on the carbon cycle in the drylands and that Interactions of Desertification and Climate by Williams and Balling and Social Aspects of Sustainable Drylands Management, based on a UNEP workshop, are now available as books.

Shigeaki Tomita, Assistant President, Economic Policy and Resource Strategy Department of IFAD, outlined the various collaborative arrangements it has undertaken with several agencies including FAO, IPGRI, UNEP and UNSO, in the context of the implementation of the CCD. In 1996, IFAD and the World Bank will begin to develop a pipeline of Global Environment Facility projects that address land degradation. The projects are intended to serve as an accelerated learning programme on the design of projects that combat poverty and land degradation, while meeting other global environmental objectives. He also elaborated on the achievements of the Hunger and Poverty Conference that IFAD co-hosted with other institutions. As a follow-up to that meeting, IFAD has agreed to pursue the establishment of pilot national desertification funds as part of a coalition of civil society and financial institutions. IFAD and the CCD Secretariat will also host in Rome in June 1996 the International Forum on Local Area Development for CCD Implementation. IFAD’s interdepartmental Task Force on the Convention will aim to ensure that the annual budget of US$150-200 million that the institution will commit for programmes in dryland and marginal areas contributes to achieving the objectives of the CCD.

INCD Chair Kjellén said he was struck by the common themes of cooperation, the desire to involve NGOs, and the need to emphasize local action and participation. He said that despite progress toward entry into force, the CCD is still struggling to become sufficiently well known and to be integrated into development and development cooperation strategies.

He reviewed actions toward entry into force, possibly in the second half of 1996, and said he intends to hold consultations this week on the venue for COP-1. He said this session’s Working Group could reach agreement on a mandate for the Committee on Science and Technology (CST) as well as on practical issues related to establishing a roster of experts. Discussions on the GM should clarify its functions and define intersessional work to prepare decisive action at INCD-9.

Executive Secretary Arba Diallo presented the documents before the Committee, which were requested by a Resolution of the Committee at INCD-7. He drew attention to the Report of the Secretary General as contained in document A/AC.241/44, dealing with the administrative arrangements that could be provided by the UN to the permanent secretariat. Document A/AC.241/52 on the review of the situation as regards extra-budgetary funds covers the contributions made for the negotiation process and the special fund for the participation of developing countries. Kjellén said that because some delegations had raised questions on the voluntary fund, Diallo will make a preliminary presentation of the document on the issue on Wednesday, but the substantive discussion will be held on Monday of the second week.

Diallo also presented new brochures entitled ‘CCD Update’ that highlight recent developments and interim activities in the various regions and elaborated on some of these activities. Since INCD-7 nine African countries have held national awareness-raising seminars. Six more are planned. Cape Verde has organized a national forum and Mali has scheduled one in February 1996. Two sub-regional meetings have been held; one in the Maghreb and the other in the SADC region. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Ninth Conference of Ministers was held in September 1995 and the first regional conference held in Argentina in January 1996. National meetings have also been held. In the coming months, the Secretariat plans to support a meeting in Asia, including national seminars. The Secretariat also supported the regional NGO meetings in Ica, Peru and Islamabad, Pakistan.

Diallo noted that the dynamics of the signature and ratification processes have shown the determined commitment of the international community to the CCD process.

Mongolia’s Minister for Nature and Environment, Z. Batjargal, outlined the activities his country has undertaken with respect to the implementation of the CCD, noting that poverty, hunger and desertification are interlinked and should therefore be tackled together. He stressed the need for increased North-South collaboration in addressing the problem of desertification. Mongolia has already developed its national programme of action in line with the principles of the Convention. Mongolia is also preparing to ratify the Convention this year.

IN THE CORRIDORS

Response to statements on the Global Mechanism made this afternoon by representatives from various agencies indicates that the GM will be a central issue at this session. Although agencies were willing to take on some of the responsibilities they also seem to favor the possibility of co-hosting. Some delegates say that a combination of institutional cultures would be the preferred strategy. Some noted that whereas UNDP has the technical capacity, IFAD has the banking approach. NGOs agree that co-hosting is preferable. Look for an NGO paper providing proposals on the subject.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: The EU, the Russian Federation, Bangladesh and Costa Rica, on behalf of the G-77 and China, will make their opening statements when Plenary meets at 10:00 am today. The Plenary next will take up Agenda Item 4, Status of Signature and Ratification, which will be followed by Agenda Item 3, Special Action: Urgent Action for Africa, with initial presentations by South Africa, Namibia, Mali, Senegal and others. Discussions will focus on national awareness seminars and donor country coordination activities.

FUTURE PROGRAMME OF WORK: Wednesday, the Chair hopes to have a presentation on the comprehensive study being made by a number of international organizations including UNEP and WMO, on the relationship between water and land management; and on energy issues related to the drylands. Discussion on other regions will start with Asia with presentations by China and India and an exchange of views on problems in the Middle East region. Argentina will make a presentation on the conference held in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Spain will report on the Northern Mediterranean.

REGIONAL GROUP MEETING: WEOG & OECD countries of the Common Interest Group will meet today at 2:00 pm in room XXII.

COMPUTER WORD PROCESSING: Facilities are available for delegates and NGOs in room 2066.

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