Daily report for 31 May 1993

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


INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n opened Monday morning's session by welcomingdelegates to the new phase of the process: dicussion on"Elaboration of an international convention to combatdesertification, in countries experiencing serious drought and/ordesertification, particularly in Africa." On Friday, Kjell‚nrequested delegates to focus their interventions on the following:(1) contents of global commitments; (2) links between global andnational actions; (3) activities at the local level; (4) commentson the negotiating procedure, as outlined by Kjell‚n on 24 May; and(5) any additional work for the Secretariat.

UNEP: Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of UNEP andHABITAT, stated in a videotaped address that she was pleased tonote that the debate had appropriately moved to the political levelas it touches on social and economic issues. She said famine reliefand military interventions treat the symptoms, not the causes.Desertification has social and economic consequences, and solutionsmust be found on the ground, among women, farmers and pastoralists.She concluded that the benefits are local as well as global andcalled upon governments to identify the solution and to embrace thechallenge.

WMO: Prof. G.O.P. Obasi, Secretary-General of WMO, raisedsome issues for consideration including: the provision of a legalframework by considering other relevant Conventions; support forthe effective international monitoring and assessment of data;better use of hydrological and meteorological data on waterresources; the promotion of alternative energies; the developmentand promotion of proactive plants for drought mitigation;addressing problems such as poverty, debt, commodity pricing anddisease; ensuring adequate financial arrangements are made toassist implementing nations; and mobilization of public opinionamong women and youth, including training and education at alllevels on the use of natural resources in these marginal areas. WMOis prepared to: contribute to the pilot project in the countriesselected for implementation; consider seconding a competent staffto assist the Secretariat; and host the Secretariat of theconference of the parties.

UNSO: Peter Branner, UNSO Director, called for a newdirection in the implementation of operational programmes, awayfrom addressing the physical aspects and toward alivelihood-centered approach. He said that a convention should: 1)provide mechanisms for enhancing and broadening economicactivities; 2) place emphasis on strategies to protect and managenatural resources, within the overall socio-economic context; 3)build an enabling environment to alleviate obstacles encountered inpast efforts, including external economic factors; 4) providemechanisms to strengthen capacities to deal with drought; 5)address the issue of under-development of human and institutionalresources; 6) commit resources and cooperate with LDCs, where mostdrought and desertification occurs; 7) establish mechanisms formonitoring, assessment, information dissemination, research andtechnology development, and public awareness; and 8) mobilize theinitiatives and participation of local communities.

INCD SECRETARIAT: Arba Diallo, the Executive Secretary ofthe INCD, referred to speeches by delegates that indicated theglobal nature of the issue. He mentioned the origin of the INCDprocess and outlined the activities that have taken place so far.He outlined the process the Secretariat will follow during thenegotiation. He said the Secretariat is working with theInternational Panel of Experts on Desertification; an InteragencyCoordination Group; and NGOs through a contact group. The IPED isestablishing sub-groups to deal with: interactions of drought anddesertification with the global climate system; conservation andutilization of biodiversity in dryland areas; dryland hydrology andwater resources; economic and social dimensions of drought anddesertification issues; and alternative energy sources for drylandareas. He said the organizational session of the IPED prepared aseries of case studies. Four countries, Botswana, Mali, Tunisia andUganda, and four regional organizations are preparing the casestudies. Other regional studies are subject to the availability offunds. The initial case studies should be ready by September 1993.He added that the Convention should adopt a horizontal approachdealing with poverty, population, management of water resources,and protection of biodiversity.

KJELLN: INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n linked the highlights of theinformation sharing segment and placed them within the context ofthis week's general debate. His summary of the information segmentincluded: linkages between desertification and other global issueshave been made clearer; the global character of the dryland problemhas been made tangible through the presentations; the Conventioncannot address all the physical causes, but the objective should beto mitigate the effects; a theme from the presentations was theneed for local participation, economic incentives and the fullintegration of women; there is a need for improved technologyexchange; transboundary aspects of desertification should beconsidered; and research programmes should be strengthened.

The Chair then spoke on the upcoming general debate. He noted thatthe task is to turn the "dreams" of Rio into human-centeredreality. He made five major points: 1) this process does not beginfrom "scratch" and should build on past efforts, research andnegotiations; 2) there is a link between the global aspects ofdesertification and the particular problems facing Africa; 3)Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 contains a negotiated set of elements thatshould be used in a constructive way; 4) the horizontal linkages toother chapters of Agenda 21 should receive attention; and 5) thereis a need for local participation and to listen to people in thevillages. He said that this negotiation is the first chance afterUNCED to reflect the centrality of people's participation.

CAPE VERDE: Maria Helena Semedo, Minister of Fisheries andAgriculture, spoke on behalf of the ministers of agriculture anddevelopment of the CILSS countries. She noted the activities of theregion in preparation for the Convention, particularly exchanges onrelevant experiences and available technologies.

KAZAKHSTAN: Svyatoslav A. Medvedev, Minister of Ecology andBioresources, said his country appreciated the work done by UNEPand that his country would ensure the Rio documents became areality. He said half of Kazakhstan is desert, and that the biggesttragedy is the Aral Sea, which is drying out and becomingsalinized. He also asked that Kazakhstan be included in theConvention to combat desertification as they required assistance inthis field.

JAPAN: The delegate said that socio-economic aspects need tobe taken into account and that Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 should beconsidered. He stressed the participation of local communities,supplemented by national cooperation. He added that the conventionshould: 1) assist parties to submit national action plans at theconference of parties; 2) reinforce efforts of affected countriesthrough assistance; 3) provide adequate worldwide monitoring; and4) use existing financial mechanisms.

PHILIPPINES: The Ambassador said although the Philippinesdid not suffer drought and desertification it was sensitive andcommitted to assist in alleviating the problem in the countriesaffected. He said the Philippines mainly suffered fromdeforestation, and urged governments to forego the paranoiaassociated with resolving the crisis.

GUINEA: The delegate from Guinea emphasized the role ofdrought and desertification and the importance of buffer zones,such as humid areas in his country. He said that the campaignagainst desertification should include the fight against poverty.

ALGERIA: The delegate said there should be both global andcountry-specific commitments as well as increased multilateralcooperation through the UN or informal community of NGOs. Otherimportant aspects for the Convention should be: an early warningsystem; education programmes; a center for training, headquarteredin Africa; and harmonized training programmes that cover experiencegained. New and additional financial resources and the transfer oftechnology should also be covered. Country reports and theconference of parties with a geographically representative bureaushould be established for follow-up. The current Secretariat couldserve in the interim to assist the setting up of the conference ofparties. The Convention should be signed by Heads of State toensure the highest level of commitment.

MALI: Commenting on WMO's presentation, Mali asked if theycould consider the Montreal Protocol in their studies of theConventions as it touched on important climatic issues. He alsosought clarification from Japan regarding financial mechanisms.

BENIN: Amb. Ren‚ Val‚ry Mongbe said the Convention couldfollow the general format of other international agreements,including Lom‚ IV and the Climate Change and BiodiversityConventions. The Convention should: have annexes and/or protocolsfor implementation and execution, to be negotiated at the same timeas the Convention. It should set limits as Lom‚ IV has and includea framework, emphasizing the universality of the problem whilegiving special consideration to the African situation. Theintroduction should include a preamble which covers the concerns ofall regions. The definition of desertification in Chapter 12 ofAgenda 21 should be expanded to include the economic and socialphenomena. The Convention should include the general targets onfood self-sufficiency and security, employment and financialresources. The Convention should ensure worldwide commitment andfollow-up through country reports.

ISRAEL: The delegate from Israel mentioned the importance oftechnology transfer, saying that in Israel's experience, technologymust be adapted before it can be transferred. Israel adapts itsexpertise in three areas: field surveys; consulting and training indesertification control programmes; and training courses in basicand applied conservation sciences. He concluded by adding hissupport for Egypt's proposal for a monitoring network based onecological zoning.

SWITZERLAND: The delegate from Switzerland said that thereis a need to establish a short framework convention containinggeneral global principles. The Convention should then besupplemented with a series of regional instruments, since actionsmust be adjusted to regional needs and it is inappropriate torequire all countries to make the same commitments. The Conventionshould include verifiable objectives and the ability to make firm,lasting commitments. The Convention must represent a contract forgenerations as the result must be a long-term matter. Yet, eachactor must benefit in the short-term if the Convention is to besuccessful. He mentioned the need to ensure complimentarity andcoordination between this Convention and others. Finally, he statedthat Switzerland favors an expansion of financing fordesertification control activities from the renewed GEF.

CANADA: The delegate from Canada stated that the INC shouldnegotiate a Convention focussing on increased degradation in dryareas in the world. Rather than embark on major schemes to reclaimdesert areas, the Convention should aim to stop the conversion ofproductive land into desert. Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 and itsdefinition of desertification should be the starting point. The INCshould seek to develop a framework convention with provisions thatapply to most countries. Region-specific provisions should beplaced in annexes to be negotiated as part of the process. Heexpressed the need to incorporate the views of local people intothe Convention and urged that the role of women and NGOs beincluded as one of the principles to guide formation of nationalplans. He also stressed the need to look at alternatives toagriculture in desertified areas. He stated that existing sourcesof funding for desertification and drought will be the mainsources. While the GEF has funded some projects, there are inherentrestrictions in what the GEF can do in this area.

SENEGAL: Speaking on the format of the Convention, thedelegate from Senegal stated that specific provisions for Africashould be negotiated at the same time as the Convention and that itshould include efficiency in training and improvements in the legaland institutional environment. Impartial partnerships with theinternational community are essential. The Convention should alsodeal with the issue of financial mechanisms and resources.

UZBEKISTAN: The delegate stated that his country wasinterested in the Convention as three-quarters of Uzbekistan isarid or semi-arid. He said the Convention should increasescientific research, particularly on climate and weather flows forearly warnings. He emphasized the need for the Convention to dealwith water resources and their transboundary use.

SAUDI ARABIA: The representative of Saudi Arabia said thatthe Convention should be independent and not bound to any other. Headded that the Convention's modalities should be respected by allcountries.

LESOTHO: The delegate from Lesotho said that the Conventionmust stress resource mobilization at the local, national, regionaland global levels. Political, scientific, human and technicalresources must all be mobilized. The INCD must clearly define theproblem that these resources must solve. Lesotho supports thenotion that the Secretariat, as advised by the IPED, shouldrecommend appropriate definitions and that the INCD shoulddetermine a set of clearly-defined objectives. The Conventionshould deal with supporting measures, including the provision ofadditional financial resources to complement local and nationalresources. He stressed the importance of popular participation atall levels and that the best way to empower the people is throughdecentralization.


PLENARY: General debate will continue on the format andpossible elements of the Convention. Interventions should beginwith the OAU, Denmark on behalf of the EC, France, Brazil,Malaysia, Germany, Sudan, Madagascar, China, Italy, Kenya, UK,Finland, Central African Republic, and Tanzania. In the afternooninterventions are expected from Nigeria, Indonesia, Belgium,Austria, US, Argentina, Mexico, Sweden, Niger, Gambia, Norway, theNetherlands, Australia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Tunisia and arepresentative of the NGOs.

It is possible that the Plenary will address document A/AC.241/L.6,a proposal submitted by the Chair on the mandates for the workinggroups. Numerous consultations have been taking place within theregional groups on this issue over the past few days. The Chairannounced on Monday afternoon that he would undertake furtherconsultations on this item and the Committee should be ready toadopt the proposal today. Because of the limited time available,Kjell‚n does not want to have a lengthy discussion on this matter.Thus, if there is still no agreement among delegations,consultations will likely continue today and the Committee will notaddress L.6 until Wednesday morning.