Summary report, 31 December 1993

1993 Year-end Update of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the Elaboration of an International Convention to Combat Desertification

Although the third session of the Intergovernmental NegotiatingCommittee for the elaboration of an international convention tocombat desertification in those countries experiencing seriousdrought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa (INCD) willnot take place until January 1994, there is much to report upon theconclusion of the 48th session of the United Nations GeneralAssembly. This special year-end issue of the Earth NegotiationsBulletin will review relevant activities that have taken placesince the second session of the INCD, summarize the results of theGeneral Assembly's consideration of the INCD, and highlightupcoming events. This issue of the Earth NegotiationsBulletin is published as part of a series of year-end issuesintended to summarize the current state of play in the variousUNCED follow-up conferences and negotiations reported on by theBulletin in 1993.


Desertification affects about one-sixth of the world's population,70 percent of all drylands, and one-quarter of the total land areain the world. The most obvious impact of desertification, inaddition to widespread poverty, is the degradation of 3.3 billionhectares of the total area of rangeland; decline in soil fertilityand soil structure; and the degradation of irrigated cropland(Agenda 21, para.12.2).

While the idea of a convention to combat desertification had beendiscussed during the UNCED preparatory process, it was only in Riowhere language was adopted requesting the General Assembly toestablish an intergovernmental negotiating committee for thepurpose of negotiating a convention. The General Assembly, duringits 47th session in 1992, adopted resolution 47/188 calling for theestablishment of the INCD, which will hold five sessions, with aview to finalizing a convention by June 1994. The organizationalsession of the INCD was held in January 1993. At that meetingdelegates elected Bo Kjell‚n (Sweden) Chair of the Committee,elected the Bureau, adopted the rules of procedure, set theschedule of meetings and established two working groups.

The first session of the INCD was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 24May - 3 June 1993. The first week of this session focused on thesharing of technical information and assessments on various aspectsof drought and desertification. Divided into seven sections, theinformation sharing segment provided an opportunity for scientists,technical experts, delegates and NGOs to share relevant experiencesand learn more about the scourge of desertification and its globaldimensions. The second week focused on the structure and elementsto be contained in the Convention. Delegates also exchanged ideasabout the Convention and its objectives.

While agreement was reached on the mandates of the working groups,negotiations stalled in Nairobi over the elaboration of relatedregional instruments while still giving priority action to Africa.Kjell‚n proposed that an instrument on Africa, such as an annex, benegotiated once the main structure of the Convention had beendefined and that similar instruments for other regions benegotiated subsequently. This proposal met with resistance from afew countries in regions other than Africa. They felt that theirown problems with desertification deserved attention and thatsimilar instruments for their regions should be negotiatedsimultaneously with the instrument for Africa. The decision on thismatter was deferred.

The second session of the INCD met in Geneva from 13-24 September1993. At this session, the Committee considered the compilationtext of the Convention prepared by the Secretariat and agreed onthe future programme of work of the Committee, including theelaboration of regional instruments for Africa, Asia and LatinAmerica to supplement the Convention. As in Nairobi, the mostdifficult issue to resolve was the negotiation of regionalinstruments.

At the conclusion of the second session of the INCD, the twoworking groups completed their discussion of the Secretariat'scompilation text, identifying areas of convergence and divergence.There appeared to be consensus on a number of areas including theneed for: a clear and concise preamble that refers to the historyof desertification in the UN system; clear and concise objectives;and implementable commitments that are central to the Conventionand articulated at different levels (local, regional andinternational). All delegates stressed the need for a publicawareness strategy; improved education; and increased cooperationand coordination between North and South, South and South and amongbilateral and multilateral donors.


At the second session of the INCD, the Committee requested theSecretariat to draft a single negotiating text of the Convention,which would serve as the basis for the discussions of the twoworking groups of the INCD during its third substantive session inNew York. In mid-November, the Secretariat completed itspreparation of the negotiating text of the Convention anddistributed it to delegates both in Geneva and New York. The drafttext (A/AC.241/15) is based on the hypothesis that RegionalImplementation Annexes will be negotiated and form an integral partof the Convention. If INCD members decide to adopt a differentapproach, certain provisions of the text will have to be modifiedaccordingly. The following is an outline of the negotiating text.



Article 1: Use of Terms

Article 2: Objective

Article 3: Principles


Article 4: General Obligations

Article 5: Obligations of affected country Parties

Article 6: Obligations of country Parties in a positionto provide assistance

Article 7: Priority to Africa

Article 8: Relationship with other Conventions


Section 1: Action Programmes

Article 9: Basic approach

Article 10: National action programmes

Article 11: Fields to be covered in national actionprogrammes

Article 12: Sub-regional action programmes

Article 13: Regional action programmes

Article 14: Measures in action programmes to mitigate theeffects of drought

Article 15: Assistance in the elaboration andimplementation of action programmes

Article 16: Coordination in the elaboration andimplementation of action programmes

Article 17: Regional Implementation Annexes

Section 2: Scientific and Technical Cooperation

Article 18: Information collection, analysis and exchange

Article 19: Research and development

Article 20: Transfer, acquisition, adaptation anddevelopment of technology

Section 3: Supporting Measures

Article 21: Capacity building, education and publicawareness

Article 22: Financial resources

Article 23: Financial mechanisms


Article 24: Conference of Parties

Article 25: Secretariat

Article 26: Scientific and Technical Council

Article 27: Evaluation and Monitoring Centre


Article 28: Communication of information onimplementation

Article 29: Measures to prevent disputes

Article 30: Settlement of disputes

Article 31: Status of annexes

Article 32: Amendments

Article 33: Adoption and amendment of Annexes

Article 34: Right to vote

Article 35: Depositary


Article 36: Signature

Article 37: Ratification and accession

Article 38: Interim arrangements

Article 39: Entry into force

Article 40: Reservations

Article 41: Withdrawal

Article 42: Authentic texts


List A: Countries experiencing serious drought and/ordesertification or "affected countries"

List B: "Affected countries needing assistance"

List C: "Countries in a position to provide assistance"


The "Conference on Human Livelihoods in Drylands - Constraints andPossibilities" was held in Sigtuna, Sweden from 23-25 November1993. The theme of the conference was the supply of basicrequirements of food, water and energy in drylands. The meeting,sponsored by the Swedish Government through its Ministry of ForeignAffairs and the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation withDeveloping Countries (SAREC), was attended by 60 participants. TheSwedish University of Agricultural Science was responsible for thepreparation and organization of the Conference. Participantspresented issue papers and case studies with the objectives oftaking stock of the present situation and identifying priorityareas for further research and development. A second majorobjective of the Conference was to provide input to the INCD and toestablish priorities for future research and development efforts.The conclusions of the Conference will be made available to theINCD at its third substantive session.


The International Academy of the Environment, in cooperation withthe INCD Secretariat, convened the "Seminar on Legal Aspects of aConvention on Desertification" in November 1993 in Geneva. A smallgroup of international legal policy experts met with the INCDSecretariat and the INCD Bureau to discuss the structure of theConvention and other legal aspects, with the objective ofsupporting and facilitating the INCD negotiations. The groupdiscussed the legal nature and possible content of the regionalinstruments and the strength of donor country obligations resultingfrom either annexes or protocols. In addition, the group discussedlegal matters related to the implementation of the Convention,including: the establishment of mechanisms to reviewimplementation; the association of organizations with theConvention; dispute settlement mechanisms; Convention ratificationissues; and options for the number of signatories needed for theConvention to enter into force. The INCD Chair and the Secretariatwill share the results of this policy dialogue with the INCD at itsthird session.


The IPED met from 29 November to 1 December 1993 in Geneva tocomment on the draft text of the Convention. They began work on theelaboration of definitions, which will probably be included as aglossary to the Convention. They also discussed a series ofdocuments and technical papers, some of which will be presented atINCD-3 and INCD-4. Of particular interest will be the papersemerging from the IPED on the interaction of Climate andDesertification (sponsored by WMO and UNEP) and on biodiversity anddrylands.


The UN inter-agency group on desertification met in Geneva from 1-2December 1993. The group was informed of progress on the ongoingcase studies, including: the receipt of the Tunisia and Malireports; the expected arrival of the reports from Uganda andBotswana; that the subregional case studies for the AMU, CILSS andIGADD areas are nearing completion; and updates of the additionalcase studies proposed for countries in Africa and other regions.


The OAU ad-hoc working group of experts met in Nairobi, Kenya from13-17 December 1993 to review the draft convention and begin toprepare the African reaction. The experts also began preparation ofthe draft African instrument.


The UNEP Desertification Control Programme Activity Centre (DC/PAC)hosted an international workshop on "Listening to the People:Social Aspects of Dryland Management" in Nairobi from 14-18December 1993. This meeting brought together about 80 participantsfrom academia, government, donor organizations and NGOs. Theorganizers hoped the workshop would help address: how past successstories could be replicated; what enabling mechanisms couldincrease people's participation; the integration of socio-economicinformation at the ground level; the maintenance of effectivetwo-way communication; and how benefits of dryland management reachthose affected. The report of this workshop will be presented tothe INCD at its third session.


The Second Committee of the 48th session of the UN General Assemblyconsidered the implementation of the decisions and recommendationsof the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) andother environmental matters on Friday, 19 November, Tuesday, 23November and Wednesday, 24 November 1993. Delegates had before themthe reports of the first two sessions of the INCD, as contained indocuments A/48/226 and A/48/226/Add.1. During the three days ofdebate, delegates supported the work of the INCD and added theirsupport to the draft resolution submitted to the General Assemblyby the INCD. This resolution would extend the mandate of the INCDuntil January 1995. The Convention and the instrument for Africawould still be completed by June 1994, but one additional sessionwould be held after adopting the Convention and before January 1995to review progress on the negotiation of other regional instrumentsand to prepare for the first Conference of Parties.

Belgium, Germany, Japan

and Switzerland, reiteratedthat the INCD was given a clear mandate and should produce aconvention of universal application, with specific attention toAfrica. Barbados, on behalf of the Caribbean Community,Benin, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania supported theextension of the deadline to allow for incorporation of otherregional protocols.


supported the draft resolution to extend themandate of the INCD until January 1995 on the clear understandingthat it will not prejudge the content of the Convention itself.Japan supported the resolution extending the mandate of theINCD until January 1995, but emphasized that the Convention itselfshould be finalized by the INCD by June 1994.


expressed concern that the intent of the originalmandate of the INCD has not been preserved. All regions of theworld suffer from desertification and drought, but the Africannations are the most vulnerable and the least able to combat theseproblems without concerted international assistance. Canadaadvocated a substantial convention with integrated regionalannexes, but did not support extending the negotiations due to thefinancial implications.


and Mexico welcomed the progress made so far inthe INCD and noted that this Convention is important to LatinAmerica as many countries in the region suffer from desertificationand the Convention should address the interests and realities inall countries affected. Pakistan also supported the INCD.While the regional instrument for Africa is of critical importance,Pakistan hoped that the other regional instruments can also benegotiated well in time. The problem of land degradation,especially caused by waterlogging and salinity, must be effectivelydealt with in the context of the regional instruments.


supported the INCD as desertification is a problemthat threatens the future of the entire planet. India also acceptedhaving a regional instrument for Africa ahead of instruments forthe other regions that suffer from desertification. Chinaand Iran agreed that developed countries should providenew and additional financial resources to help the developingcountries to carry out their obligations under the Convention. Aslong as all parties take a positive, flexible and practicalapproach, agreement can be reached before June 1994.

The Republic of Korea suggested that intensive discussionson the meaning of desertification, drought and drylands, type ofregional instruments, financial resources and mechanisms andtransfer of technology should be held in the future sessions. Thefinancial mechanism should be developed with respect to its abilityto effectively mobilize and utilize the resources. Indonesiacommented that the INCD is also important as this will be the firstenvironmental convention to be negotiated after Rio. The task ofthe INCD is not only to achieve agreement on a set of practices andconditions so that the utilization of drylands does not lead todegradation, but also to develop and strengthen integrateddevelopment programmes to tackle the socio-economic causes ofdesertification.


stated that the problem of desertification is globaland the Convention should not be second-rate. The Convention shouldbe given the same priority and attention as climate change andbiodiversity. The Convention should have practical modalities andthe other regional instruments should be negotiated only after June1994. An interim mechanism should be set up and a prompt startshould be endorsed by the General Assembly. Algeria is concernedabout the financial resources for the Convention. Some countriesonly want to use existing resources, yet this is why the 1977 Planof Action to Combat Desertification failed. A special fund shouldbe established. Algeria also announced that it is willing to hostan INCD Bureau meeting in the Sahara as well as an Africanpreparatory meeting in early January 1994, just prior to the thirdsession of the INCD.


appealed to all States to support the work of theINCD and suggested that the following issues be given specialemphasis in finalizing the Convention: clear recognition of theinterwoven nature of drought and desertification; recognition ofthe Convention as an indispensable framework for globalenvironmental protection and sustainable development; strengtheningnational, sub-regional and regional capacities through literacy andpublic awareness campaigns and training; effective support of theneeds and efforts of special groups, such as women, youth andchildren; and eradication of poverty.


welcomed the establishment of the INCD and theparticipation of intergovernmental organizations and NGOs. However,the Convention is not an end unto itself. It is essential thatthere is also a focus on implementation. Mali is aware thatdevelopment can only be achieved in a healthy environment, but thestruggle against desertification is subsumed in the struggle todevelop.

The draft resolution adopted by the General Assembly urges the INCDto successfully complete the negotiations by June 1994, inaccordance with resolution 47/188. The INCD shall hold one sessionafter the adoption of the Convention in order to review thesituation in the interim period pending the entry into force of theConvention, in particular with regard to the implementation ofprovisions adapted to the specific needs of each region. Thesession of the INCD after the adoption of the Convention should beheld not later than 31 January 1995. The General Assemblyresolution also: requests the Secretary-General to make appropriatearrangements for the functioning of the ad hoc secretariat and themultidisciplinary panel of experts to service that session; decidesthat the negotiating process will continue to be funded throughexisting UN budgetary resources; and invites the internationalcommunity to make voluntary contributions to the INCD Secretariat,the special voluntary fund to assist the least developed countries,and other organizations and funds that assist countries affected bydrought and/or desertification in their preparation for thenegotiating process.


This workshop will focus on the impact ofindigenous knowledge and traditional coping strategies on theprevention or mitigation of land degradation in the desertificationprocess in Africa. The workshop will be held in Cairo from3-5 January. IDRC is planning two additional meetings, designed toprovide relevant knowledge and information to African negotiators,to be held in the first half of 1994.


This workshop will focus on the impact ofindigenous knowledge and traditional coping strategies on theprevention or mitigation of land degradation in the desertificationprocess in Africa. The workshop will be held in Cairo from3-5 January. IDRC is planning two additional meetings, designed toprovide relevant knowledge and information to African negotiators,to be held in the first half of 1994.


The OAUExpert Group will meet in Algiers from 11-13 January. Assistance inthe organization of this meeting will be provided by the INCDSecretariat. The meeting will be coordinated by the OAU withsupport from the Joint Secretariat Organizations (UNEP, UNDP/UNSO,ECA, ADB). The objectives of this meeting are to review therecommendations and proposals coming from the meeting of the ad-hocexpert working group and formulate Africa's contribution to thethird session of the INCD. The experts will also review the resultsof the African Development Bank-sponsored meeting from 20-23December 1993 in Nairobi on the financial resources and mechanismsneeded for funding the Desertification Convention, particularly asit may relate to the financing of the implementation of the Africaninstrument.


NGOs will meet in New York on 15-16January to prepare for the third session of the INCD. This meetingwill be held at the Church Center for the United Nations, 777 UNPlaza. The tentative agenda includes: a briefing on the history ofthe INCD and the latest developments; briefing on the NGO strategyso far; discussion on the draft Convention; NGO lobbying strategiesat (and after) INCD-3; ECO, the newsletter that is issued bythe NGOs at all INCD sessions; media strategy; and NGO meetingsduring the INCD. For more information, contact Heinz Greijn,Environment Liaison Centre International, PO Box 72461, Nairobi,Kenya; Phone: (254-2) 562015/562022/562172/560476; Fax: (254-2)562175; E-mail:


The third session of the INCDwill meet at UN Headquarters in New York from 17-28 January. Theprovisional agenda for the session is as follows: Adoption of theagenda and organization of work; Elaboration of an internationalconvention to combat desertification in countries experiencingserious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa;Review of the situation as regards extrabudgetary funds; Adoptionof the provisional agenda for the fourth session and organizationof work for the final stages of negotiations; and Adoption of thereport of the Committee on its third session.

The main focus of this session will be the Secretariat'snegotiating text of the Convention (A/AC.241/15). This will be thefirst time that delegates will be working from this text and, thus,look for delegates to focus on drafting, negotiating andbracketing.


National governments
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Negotiating blocs
African Union
Caribbean Community
Non-state coalitions