Daily report for 11 January 1995

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

The Committee first accredited an additional 23 NGOs to the INCD(A/AC.241/9/Add.8). There are now a total of 318 accredited NGOs. Delegates thencontinued their discussion on the work programme for the interim period andpreparation for the Conference of the Parties (COP). The afternoon session wasdedicated to a discussion on urgent action for Africa.


MAURITANIA supported the G-77 and China"s statement on Tuesday onthis item and expressed concern about the calls to reduce the role of the Secretariat.MOROCCO stated that urgent action for Africa corresponds to Article 7 ofthe African Annex and enables African countries, in collaboration with theinternational community, to implement those parts of the Convention that deal withprogrammes of action. The Interim Secretariat should play an effective role, in linewith Article 18 of the African Annex, in particular in information dissemination andfacilitating consultative processes in programme preparation.

TUNISIA outlined the measures it has taken to implement the resolution. Acoordinating body comprising different sectors has been set up. Tunisia is also part ofthe sub-regional Maghreb Union that has developed a plan of action, containing eighttechnical projects, to combat desertification. It is also part of the African ContactGroup mandated by the OAU to negotiate the implementation of the CCD withdeveloped countries.

The PHILIPPINES, on behalf of the G-77 and China, proposed the creationof two working groups. One working group would deal with financial issues and theother with scientific and technological matters. The Plenary would deal with matterssuch as the COP"s rules of procedure, terms of reference for the Secretariat andinformation dissemination. The Plenary could also function as a working group of thewhole or work through ad hoc groups to address implementation of theresolution on urgent action for Africa. Therefore, the Interim Secretariat shouldprepare timely and adequate documentation and facilitate decision-making at the firstCOP. KENYA and the SUDAN supported these proposals.

ECUADOR said that, in her country, erosion has taken place and this hasled to the creation of deserts. Ecuador supports the Convention and is planning to signit in the coming days. GHANA said that the Interim Secretariat (IS) willneed to function as a coordinating and facilitating body. The IS must also undertakepublic awareness programmes. A scientific working group, composed of scientistsfrom developing and developed countries, should be convened to discuss problems asthey arise.

NORWAY said that the IS should play the role of facilitator and coordinatorand should start a bidding process for a host organization for the global mechanismand then provide INCD-7 with a paper on the advantages and disadvantages of eachbidder. Drawing from the experiences of other conventions while being innovative,the IS should: draft the rules of procedure; prepare background documents on financialarrangements for the COP, subsidiary bodies and communication and information; andprepare a paper providing a legal analysis of the options and modalities of usingexisting organizations. She supported the establishment of two working groups with apragmatic distribution of tasks. Norway prefers an informal Plenary, similar to the firstINCD session, to deal with urgent action for Africa.

SWITZERLAND supported the idea of two working groups. The role of theIS should be differentiated from that of the Permanent Secretariat, which should not beoperative but of facilitator and coordinator. UGANDA said that since theconclusion and signing of the Convention emphasis has been put on the question ofinformation exchange, dissemination and public awareness. The Committee must gobeyond this and look at the tangible actions that need to be taken with regard toAfrica.

BOLIVIA reported that his country has created a ministry for sustainabledevelopment, based on economic development, social equity, rational management ofnatural resources, protection of the environment and broad popular participation.Bolivia is also working on its national action programme. The IS should promotepublic awareness. CHINA outlined the activities it had undertaken to combatdesertification. It has: established a national committee that is assisted by three centresto oversee the implementation of the CCD; prepared a national programme of action;started a process to develop legislation to facilitate this process; and prepared publicawareness programmes.

NIGER stressed that the resolution on urgent action for Africa should not berelegated to second place. He stated that while there are three levels of implementation" socio-technical, political and juridical " the implementation of the resolutionprovides for the first two, while awaiting the fulfilment of the juridical process.BRAZIL stated that this session should address the resolution on Africa andgo beyond information sharing to collective, not just bilateral, action. Brazil, supportedby COLOMBIA, also urged that action for other regions should also bediscussed. BENIN outlined the seven activities it has undertaken since Pariswhich include: preparing an action plan; public awareness and training campaigns;provision of institutional frameworks to work out the national programmes; developingpartnerships with the donor community; and resources mobilization.

PERU outlined the social and economic effects of desertification in hiscountry, and appealed for guaranteed and predictable financial resources, as well asdebt cancellation, in order to reverse this trend. CAMEROON said that theprovisions of the Convention ensure a strong Secretariat. Cameroon has takenmeasures regarding the urgent situation in Africa, including holding a seminar toidentify strategies and priorities. Cameroon should ratify the Convention at the nextsession of the National Assembly in June 1995.


INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n informed delegates that the session was intended toshow what has been done in response to the resolution on urgent action for Africa andwhere partnership arrangements have evolved.

The PHILIPPINES, on behalf of the G-77 and China, said that with regardto urgent action for Africa, the Interim Secretariat should focus on capacity building,training and promotion and elaboration of national, subregional and regionalprogrammes. The IS should also: collate relevant information from affected Africancountries and make the necessary contacts with UN field agencies, multilateralassistance organizations, local communities, the donor community and NGOs to helpimplement this resolution. The IS should also raise public awareness.

ALGERIA reported that the members of the Arab Maghreb Union have:developed cooperative relationships with African countries and subregionalorganizations; begun to work on an inter-Mediterranean framework for theimplementation of the Convention; developed their own national action plans; and helda series of meetings on desertification, drought and food security. A Maghreb regionalaction programme should be finalized soon. LEBANON stated that it hasembarked on a process of reconstruction, including environmental conservation. Thus,he has been authorized to sign the Convention.

TURKEY noted that the classification of countries provided in theSecretariat"s documents is not in conformity with the INCD negotiations. Turkeybelongs to the Northern Mediterranean region. FRANCE stated that theEuropean Community will continue to fund desertification activities in Africa,especially in line with the 1989 Lom‚ IV Convention. France has also begun aconsultative process aimed at developing national action programmes and hasparticipated in relevant meetings including those of the Club du Sahel andCILSS/ACCT. France has authorized its missions to be attentive to national requestsand will continue to support the OSS.

SENEGAL said that it has established a national sustainable developmentcommission. Action has also been taken at the national level to fully understand theproblems of desertification, through the convening of forums and seminars.Ratification of the Convention will be considered by the National Assembly byFebruary 1995. LESOTHO reported that a national environment secretariatwas established in the office of the Prime Minister in April 1994. Through thecoordination of this secretariat, a broadbased committee of NGOs, governmental andother leaders has been formed. A public awareness campaign is underway andseminars for politicians and policymakers on the implementation of this Conventionare planned. NIGER requested more coordination through the InterimSecretariat.

ISRAEL has held a workshop and seminar relating to plant and landsustainability in dryland areas. Other planned activities include: a seminar on watermanagement; converting a research institute into an international centre for monitoring,research and extension work in desertification; and undertaking a joint project with thePalestinian Authority and Jordan to survey the risks of desertification in the RiftValley. ARMENIA has been raising public awareness about the Convention.

FINLAND has been supporting sustainable agriculture practices, forestrymanagement and training. Planned activities include a scientist assistance programme,with particular emphasis on building forest research capacities of young forestryscientists in developing countries.

The US said that, although the budget climate in Washington is uncertain atthe moment, it is still committed to providing US$500 million in current or plannedprojects to support the Convention and the urgent action phase. The US has instructedall of its embassies in Africa to support urgent action through dialogue with Africangovernments, donors and international organizations.

GERMANY said that since the signing ceremony in Paris, DM3 million hasbeen given to support the elaboration of national action programmes, coordination andcapacity building in Africa. A three-year grant of DM2 million has been given tosupport the development of a national action plan in Mali and DM5 million issupporting the Namibian Government"s elaboration and early implementation of itsnational action plan.

KENYA stated that a Subcommittee of the Inter-Ministerial Committee onthe Environment, which includes NGOs and academia, has been established to overseethe implementation of the Convention. A similar sub-committee has also beenestablished to ensure linkages between the Climate Change and BiodiversityConventions. In spite of financial constraints, Kenya will provide seed money to the ISto assist in work related to action programmes.

SWITZERLAND decried the fact that some activities being outlined underthe resolution on urgent action for Africa were prepared before the completion of theConvention and wondered whether any new funds were required. Switzerland hadreleased SFR1 million for relevant NGO activities. Switzerland should ratify theConvention by the end of this year.

ZAMBIA outlined its activities aimed at developing new programmes onrangeland management, livestock improvement and to uplift the standard of living ofthe local people. A workshop involving local communities has already been held.CANADA reported that it is providing: institutional support to organizationsinvolved in desertification control; capacity building of NGOs; support for agroforestryresearch; land management projects; and implementation of projects to protect soilrestoration. Canada is also supporting NGO anti-desertification and public awarenessactivities in the Sahel.


UNDP Administrator James Gustave Speth addressed the CommitteeWednesday morning. He said that partnerships and compacts at the national level areessential to the successful formulation and implementation of national actionprogrammes. To enable partnership building, a forum must be provided whereby keystakeholders and partners can get together to initiate and maintain an exchange ofviews on national action programmes and the means to support the Convention. Toimplement the Convention, UNDP and UNSO"s work has been refocused to addressthe root causes of desertification. UNSO"s geographic focus is being broadened toinclude all affected developing countries. UNEP and UNDP are collaborating on adesertification management facility to provide resources for catalyzing actions anddeveloping a data base to monitor resource flows for desertification control activities.


PLENARY: The Plenary will meet at 10:00 am to continue discussion ofurgent action for Africa. The first speakers of the morning will be the UK and Japan.The afternoon session will not begin until 4:30 pm, since there is a ceremonialmeeting of the G-77 to mark the turnover of the chairmanship from Algeria to thePhilippines. During the afternoon, the INCD is expected to discuss the report to theCSD on desertification. Look for the Chair to distribute a preliminary workprogramme for the second week.

IN THE CORRIDORS: The Chair has been holding consultations on adraft decision on the interim work programme and preparation for the first COP. Heheld initial consultations on this draft decision in a meeting of the heads of regionaland interest groups on Wednesday evening. The draft decision should be circulated bythe end of the week.