Daily report for 2 June 1993

1st Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification


IGADD: The Executive Secretary presented the history,mandate and activities of IGADD in combatting desertification. Hesaid there is no need for more definitions but the salient factorsthat link up and cause land deterioration in the drylands should beclarified. He emphasized the need for: information and dataexchange; environmental assessment and monitoring; land managementand production systems and techniques; water resources developmentand management; drought preparedness; and human resourcedevelopment and capacity building. The Convention should addresspoverty, investment and trade issues, as well as other globalsocio-economic factors. There is need to revise the fundinginstitutions so that survival of the people is the priority.

PERU: The delegate called for networking between thegovernments, academic institutions, and NGOs as well as othersectors. He said the important issues are: out-migration;demographic and economic factors; legislation that offers thepossibility and proper guidance in the use of natural resources;inventory and evaluation of the rational use of resources; andecological monitoring. The Convention should consider constraintssuch as financial resources and organizational problems that oftenutilize unilateral, rather than inter-agency, approaches, as wellas the lack of awareness and popular participation.

IRAN: The delegate underscored the importance of recognizingthe sovereign rights of states to exploit their own resources. Headded that the Rio Declaration recognized this, and initiatives toprotect the environment should not undermine those rights. Hestressed that environmental protection programmes can only succeedif they are integrated into socio-economic development. To combatdesertification there is a need for: the establishment of researchcentres and training institutions; the formulation andimplementation of national and regional plans of action; and newand additional financial assistance.

PORTUGAL: The delegate commented that desertification is aglobal problem. With regard to the Convention, he said that: theproblem must be addressed at the local, national and sub-regionallevels; there is a need for the definition of some globalcommitments; and there should be links with other conventionsdealing with environmental issues to avoid overlap and recognizeconnections. Trade and debt are beyond the scope of thisconvention, but concerns should be conveyed to the appropriateinternational institutions. He stressed the importance of theconcept of carrying-capacity. He added that there is a need formonitoring how funds will be both utilized and assessed.

CHILE: The Convention should draw a framework that isuniversal but with a preamble that emphasizes Africa. There shouldbe protocols/annexes on the various regions, such as Africa, thatare negotiated at the same time as the main text of the convention.The studies should cover the loss of biodiversity; interactionbetween human resources and degradation; natural and humanprocesses that erode and lead to economic impoverishment in desertareas; climate issues; and migration processes. Popularparticipation should be a central feature of the Convention. Hesuggested the creation of networks and development centres.

BOTSWANA: The delegate proposed that the framework borrowfrom the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions. The preambleshould emphasize land degradation and the proper management,utilization and conservation of resources and wildlife. Theprinciples should include soil and water conservation,agroforestry, reforestation, alternative livelihood systems, andafforestation. His country will ensure that the case study onBotswana is completed. The Secretariat should prepare estimates onthe resources needed to meet the challenge as new and additionalsources of funds will be required. He suggested that preparation ofNational Action Plans be articulated in the Convention.

SPAIN: The delegate stressed that methods and proceduresmust be based on scientific knowledge and must deal with specificsituations in the countries affected. He said that the Conventionneeds financial provisions and, noting the principle ofnon-proliferation of financial mechanisms and given the need foreffectiveness and efficiency, existing mechanisms must be used. Hesaid that the links between climate change and biodiversity anddesertification must be mentioned and, although Spain believes theobjectives of the Convention must be global, the Africans must getpriority treatment.

MAURITANIA: The delegate described the problems with droughtand desertification in his country and outlined a number ofmeasures that have been undertaken to combat them. He stated thatthe new Convention should learn from the programmes and plansadopted in 1977 with a view to putting an end to desertification by2000. He added that the Convention should elaborate follow-upmechanisms and ensure transfer of technology and scientificknowledge to those countries that need it.

BOLIVIA: The delegate said that the Convention shouldencompass the social, human, cultural, political and economicfactors. Trade, poverty, debt and the development of the humanresource should also be discussed. He said the poor are the victimsof desertification, and that poverty alleviation should be theprimary goal. Regional approaches should be prepared as annexes orprotocols. The know-how and technology of indigenous populationsshould be used and NGOs must be central in the negotiations.

CHAD: The delegate said that political and socialinstability has slowed down efforts to combat desertification andChad is moving towards an environmental and socio-economic crisis.The Convention should have the following elements: improvedstandard of living for people facing drought and desertification;stronger institutions; use of local knowledge; and adaptation oftechnologies to local conditions. He added that the Secretariat'soutline is a good basis and there should be special provisions forAfrica.

IRAQ: The delegate stressed the need for financial supportfor poor countries and those that cannot finance their programmes.He proposed the introduction of regional advisory centres thatwould carry out studies related to desertification. He explainedthat Iraq was unable to carry out programmes on desertification dueto the trade embargo and called for an end to politicalvictimization of the people who depend on these programmes. He saidthat to combat desertification, there is need for infrastructuraldevelopment.

MALI: The delegate said that to avoid academic discussions,the definitions elaborated in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 should beutilized in the Convention. He then listed four kinds of globalcommitments that should be contained in the Convention: scientific,including strengthening national capacities and creatinginternational centres; technical; economic, including reducing thedebt burden and trade imbalances; and financial, includingimproving existing mechanisms.

CUBA: The Convention should consider the relevant chaptersof Agenda 21, including the chapters on desertification,agriculture and fresh water, stated the delegate from Cuba.Although the Convention must be universal in nature, the basis mustbe experience gained in the regions themselves. She described thesituation in Cuba, which has 60% of its territory affected bydrought. She urged the need for more South-South cooperation on theregional and sub-regional levels.

CAMEROON: The delegate stated that priority must be given toAfrica in this Convention, as per Resolution 47/188. The specificconditions in affected countries should be taken into account.Goals and objectives should include: preventing and combattingdesertification and drought, within the perspective of sustainabledevelopment; improving standards of living; promoting nationalpartnerships; and preventing desertification and drought throughthe institution of early warning systems. He said that additionalfinancial resources will be necessary and transferred technologyshould be appropriate and adaptable. He supported the case studiesand expressed confidence that they will lead to the elaboration ofstrategies.

POLAND: The delegate said his country favors a globalconvention but that the definition should be reviewed to includeland degradation. The Convention should: reflect a universalcharacter; have a flexible approach to national and regional plans;contain annexes on regional and national programmes that arenegotiated alongside the main convention; and contain clearobjectives. He emphasized the need for data collection andanalysis, information exchange, monitoring of regional and nationalprograms, and a review of the programmes undertaken.

MOROCCO: The delegate said indebtedness and rural exoduslimit socio-economic development in the marginal areas. He proposedthat the Convention should contain programmes aimed at developingthese regions, long-term financing, and programmes on naturalresources management. He said there was need to: set up monitoring,alert and drought-forecasting systems; build capacity; providefinancial resources; undertake case studies to assess the globalrequirements for mobilization; and ensure popular participation.

EGYPT: As there was still time in the morning's session, theChair gave the floor to Egypt. Prof. El Kassas elaborated oncomments made by delegates during the week. He defined two types ofglobal environmental problems. Systemic global issues are problemsthat are global because of cosmic phenomena, such as climate changeand ozone depletion. Other problems are global because they aregeographically widespread, such as land degradation and population.Desertification qualifies as both. He explained that a frameworkconvention for issues like climate change may be acceptable becausethere are substantial uncertainties. However, this is not the casewith land degradation and, thus, this should be an operationalconvention. He added that the INCD should not spend its timedefining desertification, rather it should define how to combatdesertification. Finally, on the issue of financial resources, headvocated exploring prospects of additional resources and means ofmanaging available resources more efficiently.

KJELLN: At the beginning of the afternoon session, INCDChair Bo Kjell‚n made the following concluding remarks on AgendaItem 4. There is a strong commitment to the negotiations by allparticipants including NGOs and IGOs. The procedures fornegotiation outlined by the Chair on 24 May and the format as setout in the Secretariat document were generally agreed to. Mostdelegates believe that Chapter 12 and other relevant chapters inAgenda 21, as well as the Rio Declaration and the ForestPrinciples, should be built on. There should be linkages to, but noduplication of, other conventions. There was a strong consensus onusing a bottom-up approach that reinforces local action. There wasconsensus on a number of elements and that the group will come backto ways that commitments from all sides can be framed. Thedifferences expressed were not surprising, however, the strength ofthe consensus on the fundamental issues will move us forward.Delegations will send proposals by the deadline of 1 July and theSecretariat will prepare documents to help structure the discussionof the working groups at the next session. Finally, he expressedsatisfaction with the efforts of the participants in constructivelypresenting their views.


Arba Diallo, the Executive Secretary of the INCD, introduced thetwo documents that address extrabudgetary funds, A/AC.241/8 andAdd.1. US$1.3 million has been pledged to the special voluntaryfund for participation of developing countries and US$450,000 hasbeen received. US$1.5 million has been pledged to the trust fundfor the negotiating process and US$600,000 has been received.Diallo mentioned that the participation of developing countries atthis session was made possible by Denmark, Norway and the US. UNEPand UNDP have taken decisions to support the Secretariat trustfund, and the Netherlands will contribute one million guilders(US$560,000). He also mentioned a number of decisions taken bygovernments and international organizations to support preparationsin some countries. Germany is providing DM1 million to support thecase studies in the countries of the Sudano-Sahelian region andTunisia. Canada, Switzerland and the WMO are discussing thesecondment of experts to the Secretariat. UNSO has committed up toUS$200,000 for the case studies and FAO is providing the part-timeservices of an environmental lawyer.

Norway commented on the amount of funds it distributes through ODA(1% of GNP) and said she was disappointed on the level of actualdispersement of funds pledged and does not want the Secretariat tospend all its time fundraising. Australia pledged $A50,000 to thetrust fund. Switzerland said that they were organizing a seminar onnegotiating techniques to be held in Geneva just prior to theSeptember session. Canada and Sweden both said that their funds hadbeen transferred and should have been received. UNEP said itscontribution is for US$300,000, not the US$250,000 listed. Norwayrequested an updated version of the document to bring back tocapitals. Mauritania thanked all countries contributing, butexpressed concern about lack of coordination between aid tospecific countries and aid to the Secretariat. Both Diallo andKjell‚n appealed to delegations to make contributions and fulfillpledges already made to both funds.


PLENARY: Four agenda items will be addressed.

Agenda Item 1: "Mandates for the Working Groups" (A/AC.241/L.10).This issue has been the subject of intensive consultations for thepast few days. Yesterday afternoon, the Chair circulated a newdraft resolution (L.10), whose main components are: 1) WorkingGroup I is responsible for the preamble, principles, objectives andcommitments, including financial arrangements and capacitybuilding; 2) Working Group II is responsible for institutional,administrative, technological and scientific provisions; research,data collection and exchange of information; proceduralarrangements; and other legal provisions; and 3) an instrument onAfrica should be negotiated once the main structure of theConvention has been defined, and adopted as an integral part of it.

Agenda Item 4: "Outline of conclusions on agenda item 4"(A/AC.241/L.9). This proposal by the Chair notes documentA/AC.241/7, which contained the Secretariat's proposals for theformat and possible elements of the Convention, and the commentsthat were made during the discussion. This should give generalguidance to the Chair and the Secretariat in preparing for the nextsession. The proposal also urges governments to make writtensubmissions on the contents of the Convention, including detaileddrafting proposals, by 1 July 1993 so that the Secretariat candistribute a compilation by 15 August 1993.

Agenda Item 6: "Draft provisional agenda" (A/AC.241/L.8). Thisproposal outlines the draft provisional agenda for the secondsession of the INCD.

Agenda Item 7: "Draft Report" (A/AC.241/L.7). This documentcontains the draft report of the session as prepared by theRapporteur, Sergei N. Morozov from the Russian Federation.