Daily report for 17 January 1994

3rd Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification


Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination andSustainable Development, reported that the INCD will hold onesession after the adoption of the Convention in June 1994. He notedthe need to finalize the regional agreement for Africa by 1994 sothat it can be used as a basis for other regional agreements.

UNDP Administrator Gus Speth stated that desertification isone of the principal barriers to sustainable food security andsustainable livelihoods today. Speth highlighted UNDP'scontributions in terms of: making available UNDP's global networkof 131 country offices; plans to broaden joint ventures with UNSOand UNEP to combat desertification; and offering resources to theINCD.

Mohamed Ag Erlaf, the Environment Minister of Mali,discussed the importance of the case studies in facilitating thenegotiations. Specifically, they have assisted in: identifying thespecific problems; heightening the awareness and participation oflocal communities; developing local approaches; and highlightingthe need for specific reforms.

Tunisia's Environment Minister Mohamed Mehdi Mlika describedhis country's problems with desertification and the findings of theTunisian case study, particularly the costs involved in combattingdesertification. For example, the amount required is US$500 millionin contrast to the US$200 million that Tunisia now mobilizes.

John K. Sambu, Kenya's Environment Minister and Coordinator forIGADD, appealed for a strong and operational Convention. Hereferred to the importance of poverty, commodity marketing andinternational trade as they relate to desertification. He alsohighlighted the other major issue of land tenure in the drylandsand reported on the recommendations of the IGADD case study.

Sghair Ould M'Barech, Mauritanian Minister for Rural Developmentand the Environment,highlighted problems with desertificationin his country and noted the inadequacy of funds. He called for theglobal dimension of the problem to be recognized as well as therelated social problems.

Amb. Ramtane Lamamra of Algeria noted the G-77 position thatdesertification should be treated on an equal footing with otherglobal problems such as ozone depletion and climate change and thatthe Convention should reflect the global dimensions of the problem.He referred to the unwillingness demonstrated at INCD-2 toacknowledge the need for new and additional financial resources.

Amb. Pascal Gayama, Under-Secretary for the Organization ofAfrican Unity, called on governments to demonstrate thesolidarity that will be needed at the international level to combatdesertification. MmeCisse Mariam K. Sidibe of CILSS stated that the Conventionaddressed the bulk of CILSS concerns. She highlighted remainingconcerns, including the need for increased internationalassistance. She also noted the importance of regional organizationsin monitoring the implementation of the Convention.

Bo Dockered of the Federation of Swedish Farmers describedthe current work of the international farming community inaddressing environmental problems. He called for special measuresto be taken to ensure the participation of farmers and farmers'organizations.

Dominic Walumbengo of the Kenyan NGO, KENGO, noted that debtrelief, inadequate financing and structural adjustment programmesexacerbate the problems of desertification. He noted the inherentcontradiction in asking affected countries to finance the costs ofcombatting desertification when they are steeped in debt.

INCD Chair Amb. Bo Kjell‚n of Sweden reported that he willundertake consultations on the topic of regional instruments toensure the successful conclusion of the Convention.

Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the INCDSecretariat, urged governments to reflect faithfully the mainideas that were expressed by the two working groups at INCD-2. Heasked for compromises to be reached around the bracketed text inthe draft Convention.


Since the Chair of Working Group I, Ahmed Djoghlaf, had not yetarrived in New York, and the Vice Chair, Erwin Ortiz-Gandanillas,was also absent, INCD Vice Chair Ren‚ Val‚ry Mongbe chaired Mondayafternoon's session.

PREAMBLE: Bob Ryan of the INCD Secretariat introduced thepreambular section of the draft convention, as contained indocument A/AC.241/15. Delegates then began a paragraph-by-paragraphdiscussion. There were no comments on paragraphs 1 and 2, whichmention the urgent concern about the adverse impact ofdesertification and drought and the recognition that drylandsaccount for a significant proportion of the earth's land area.

Paragraph 3: This paragraph acknowledges the globaldimension of desertification. The Gambia suggested referring aswell to drought, since this is one of the main concerns of theConvention. The Netherlands and Australia requested time to reflecton this proposal. Greece, on behalf of the European Union, stressedthat the paragraph should only mention drought as it affectsdesertification. Several other delegations made amendments toGambia's proposed text.

Paragraph 4: There was no comment on this paragraph, whichnotes the concentration of developing countries experiencingserious drought and/or desertification.

Paragraph 5: This paragraph reads: "Noting also thatdesertification is caused by complex interactions among physical,biological, political and socio-economic factors, including tradeand other aspects of international economic relations." Greece,supported by the UK, Sweden, and the US, said that this paragraphcontains elements that are not germane to the Convention and thatthe paragraph should end after "factors." Brazil, supported byother developing countries, argued that the effects of trade andother international economic relations on desertification are veryimportant and should be retained in the text. Belgium and Norwaypointed out that the term "socio-economic factors" encompasses manythings and if the paragraph mentions trade, perhaps it should alsomention demographic growth. Norway also noted that the problem mayrelate to the word "caused" and suggested the word "impacted"instead.

Paragraph 6: This paragraph reads "Conscious that economicgrowth, social development, and poverty eradication are the firstand overriding priorities of developing countries and arethemselves essential to meeting sustainability objectives."Australia suggested substituting the word "developing" with"affected," since developing countries are not the only ones withthese concerns. Several developing countries pointed out thatpoverty is more acute in developing countries. Pakistan suggestedthe phrase "affected countries, in particular in developingcountries." India and Brazil suggested omitting any mention ofcountries. Australia supported replacing "poverty eradication"with the more realistic goal of "poverty alleviation." Brazilpointed out that "poverty eradication" is Agenda 21 language. TheUS questioned the use of the phrase "first and overriding." TheGambia and others insisted on maintaining this phrase. Chinasuggested the following that was provisionally endorsed: "Consciousthat economic growth, social development and poverty eradicationare the first and overriding priorities of affected countries,particularly affected developing countries, and are themselvesessential to meeting sustainability objectives,".

Paragraph 7: This paragraph refers to desertification asboth a cause and consequence of important social problems.Portugal suggested adding population pressures. Cameroon suggestedmentioning drought. The UK noted the lack of clarity in theparagraph.

Paragraphs 8-10: These four paragraphs recall the benchmarktexts and background to the Convention. Sweden and the Gambiasuggested reordering these paragraphs to appear chronologically.

Paragraph 11: This paragraph calls for a new approach tocombat desertification and mitigate drought. The European Unionsuggested replacing the phrase "a new approach" with "an improvedapproach." Brazil, Benin, Cape Verde, Mali and Gambia all supportedthe existing text as the approach should be based on the new pathtaken at Rio. Sweden, supported by Lesotho, suggested the phrase "anew and more effective approach." The European Union reserved itsposition.

Paragraph 12: This paragraph refers to the national andlocal responsibilities for combatting desertification. Chinasuggested replacing "responsibility" with "critical role." Malisaid that climate change and responsibilities for desertificationrest primarily with developed countries so the paragraph shouldread "rest partly with national governments." Malaysia suggested"national governments in cooperation with the internationalcommunity."


The Chair, Ann de Lattre, stated that the group would discussdefinitions, transfer of technology, research and development,information gathering and analysis, institutions and proceduralmatters, as elaborated in the draft Convention. The Group decidedthat the first reading of text will be done up until 20 January.Where delegates differ with the text, they should state theirreasons and submit written proposals. A second reading of text willthen be done starting on 20 January, based on the revisions. Ifthere are major difficulties contact groups will be established.

DEFINITIONS: France, Russia and Belgium said that some ofthe translations did not correspond to the English text. Belgiumalso said that it is difficult to have a complete and comprehensivelist of definitions.

Paragraph 1a: Refers to the definition of desertification asresulting from various factors including climatic variations andhuman activities. Belgium said the French text should refer toclimatic variations and not changes. Egypt proposed that thedefinition in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 be maintained. TheSecretariat explained that climatic variations is the term used inAgenda 21.

Paragraph 1b: "Drought" means a sustained, regionallyextensive deficiency in precipitation. Delegates debated the use ofthe term "drought" as opposed to "desiccation." Egypt offered tosubmit definitions on both for reconsideration by the Group. Nigersuggested a less restrictive definition that includes agriculturaland animal production. China, Morocco, Niger, Tunisia and theUnited Kingdom all proposed changes to the text.

Paragraph 1c: As amended by the Secretariat, this paragraphoutlines the processes that lead to "land degradation." The US,supported by Uganda, said the causal nature of human settlements inthe process should be included. Egypt, Malaysia, China, Greece andRussia said the text should refer to land degradation and not soildeterioration since the causes are different. Malaysia, supportedby Brazil, suggested the deletion of the causal factors outlinedabove as they are already dealt with in the Convention and areconsequences and not causes. Burkina Faso, Morocco, Israel, China,Niger and Tunisia said they should be retained and made amendments.Greece said the reference to soil deterioration through physicaland chemical processes in (c) (ii) was too specific while Moroccosuggested that it belongs to 1 (b).

Paragraph 1d defined "arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humidareas" also called "affected areas", in terms of ratio of averageannual precipitation to evapo-transpiration and with an averageannual temperature greater than 0 degrees Celsius. Australia,supported by Egypt, Morocco and Tanzania, argued that not all arid,semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas are affected by drought. France,supported by Lesotho, suggested that "affected areas" be defined.Malaysia, supported by Russia, Mongolia and Brazil, wanted thereference to temperature deleted but Canada said that theConvention refers to the hot dryland areas.

Paragraphs e, f and g: Paragraph (e) defines the countries"affected by drought"; (f) "affected countries needing assistance"with a list of these in the annexes; and (g) countries in aposition to provide assistance" including developed and othercountries. Malaysia suggested that this reference to "othercountries" bound the economically well-off developing countries toprovide financial assistance, and should be deleted. The Chair,supported by Belgium, Algeria and the US, suggested that assistancebe addressed in a broader context to include technical assistanceas well. The proposed list of the various categories was debatedextensively. China suggested that the list should be as flexible asthose in the Convention on Climate Change. The Group then appointedEgypt the Chair of a contact group to deal with paragraphs 1 (c) to(g). The modified text will be discussed in the second reading.


Look for a corrigendum for document A/AC.241/15, the negotiatingtext, to be distributed by the Secretariat today.

WORKING GROUP I: Working Group I will continue itsconsideration of the final 6 paragraphs of the preamble beforeturning to Article 2 -- Objective; Article 3 -- Principles; and, iftime permits, the articles dealing with commitments.

WORKING GROUP II: Working Group II will continue discussingthe section on definitions. The next sections for considerationwill be Article 20 on technology transfer and cooperation andArticle 19 on research and development.


National governments
Negotiating blocs
European Union
Group of 77 and China
Non-state coalitions