Daily report for 21 March 1994

4th Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification


The fourth substantive session of the INCD convened Monday morning.The Plenary first dealt with certain procedural matters, such asthe adoption of the agenda and the accreditation of 14 additionalNGOs. The rest of the morning session was taken up by statements bythe representatives of international agencies and governments.

UNEP: Executive Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell noted theimportant linkages between poverty and desertification and saidthat no long-term strategy can persist in the absence of sufficientresources. Poverty pressures leave people little choice but todiscount the future so deeply that they are unable to protect theresource base for present and future generations. Dowdeswellreported that UNEP plans to continue its close liaison with UNDPthrough a joint initiative that has provided seed money for UNSOfor the last decade.

MAURITANIA: Sghair Ould M'Bareck, Minister for RuralDevelopment and the Environment, stressed the exemplary nature ofNorth-South cooperation within the Sahara and Sahel Observatory andurged that such cooperation be consolidated and extended in otherareas.

SENEGAL: Abdoulaye Bathily, Minister for Environment,stressed that increasing international cooperation and localpartnerships will ensure greater efficiency in the fight againstdesertification. He said that many African governments wereconcerned about the delay in negotiating the African instrument.

CILSS: Mme. Ciss‚ Mariam K. Sidib‚ said that consensus onthe substance of the African instrument must be reached by the endof this session. She said that the instrument should be strong,practical, forward-looking and ensure meaningful action.

UNSO: Samuel Nyambi suggested that a multi-level approachshould be taken with regard to the question of finance. He stressedthe importance of the establishment of new efforts, coalitions andpartnerships at all levels.

OAU: Wawa Ossay-Leba identified the remaining obstacles tobe overcome. These include technology transfer and the legalmodalities to ensure the flexible entry into force of theConvention.

ALGERIA (ON BEHALF OF THE GROUP OF 77): Amb. HocineMeghlaoui said that the Convention must stimulate efforts to combatdesertification and drought. He noted the need to mobilize new andadditional resources and the need for a special fund. He alsoreferred to the importance of strengthening existing institutionsto ensure follow-up.

INCD CHAIR Bo Kjell‚n asked the working groups to achieve aclear text for both the Convention and the African instrument bythe end of this session, since the mandate for the working groupsexpires at the end of next week. He said that Working Group IIshould also complete a first reading of the various proposed textsfor the Asian and Latin American instruments so that intersessionalwork can follow to ensure that agreement is reached in Paris.Kjell‚n also announced that he will present an outline for thecontents of a draft resolution on interim measures. He added thepossibility of a special meeting sometime between June and the endof the year on the question of priority for Africa.

INCD EXECUTIVE SECRETARY Hama Arba Diallo introduced thedocuments before the Committee and noted difficulties with theVoluntary Fund for developing country participation and said thatthe Trust Fund was in a better state, although additionalcontributions were still needed.

NGOS: On behalf of NGOs, Masse Lo said that the linkagesbetween underdevelopment and desertification must be articulated inthe Convention. He added that national programmes must address rootcauses with solutions based on people's participation. Hereiterated the NGO proposal that was launched at INCD-3 forNational Desertification Trust Funds.


PREAMBLE: In a repeat performance of INCD-3, the US,supported by Japan, Norway and Australia, proposed that WorkingGroup I postpone consideration of the Preamble until completion ofthe discussion of the Convention. The Chair suggested that a quickreading of the Preamble would enable the Group to have a bettergrasp of the positions of all delegates and, thus, moved ahead.

Paragraph 4: Although this paragraph was not bracketed,Greece, on behalf of the EU, proposed a small change that wasaccepted. The first line now reads: "Acknowledging thatdesertification and/or drought are problems..."

Paragraph 7: Brazil, supported by Gambia, Argentina andAustralia, proposed removing the brackets and deleting the phrase"internal and international" so that the paragraph opens:"Considering the impact of trade..." Greece was concerned thatparagraphs 7 and 9 should be discussed together as they bothaddress trade. Switzerland proposed deleting paragraph 7 andretaining reference to trade in paragraph 9. The US supported thedeletion of "internal and international," but wanted the rest ofthe paragraph to remain in brackets.

Paragraph 8: The following was agreed: "Conscious thateconomic growth, social development and poverty eradication are thepriorities of affected countries, particularly affected developingcountries..."

Paragraph 9: This paragraph on the relationship betweendesertification and social problems remains in brackets.

Paragraph 11: Delegates agreed to remove the brackets and itnow reads, "Realizing that, despite efforts in the past, progressin combatting desertification and mitigating the effects of droughthas not met expectations and that a new and more effective approachis needed at all levels in the framework of sustainabledevelopment."

Paragraph 12: Delegates agreed to remove the brackets and itnow reads, "Recognizing the validity and relevance of decisionsadopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment andDevelopment, particularly of Agenda 21 and its Chapter 12, whichprovide a basis for combatting desertification."

Paragraph 14: Delegates agreed to remove the brackets aroundthe entire paragraph, pending assurance that the text is consistentwith the UN Charter.

Paragraph 15: China, supported by the EU, agreed that thefirst sentence, on the role of national governments, should bedeleted and the second sentence retained. Brazil proposed mergingthe international aspect of paragraph 16 into this paragraph andMauritania proposed adding reference to "local implementation ofaction programmes in affected areas." It was agreed to supportthe Chinese and Mauritanian proposals, but not to include referenceto the international community.

Paragraph 16: The brackets were removed from this paragraphon international cooperation, pending resolution of the definitionof "mitigating the effects of drought" in Working Group II.

Paragraph 17: The Chair did not even open this paragraph fordiscussion, since positions on the allocation of 0.7% of GNP to ODAare well known. The brackets remain.

Paragraph 20: Algeria, on behalf of the G-77 and China,proposed new language, but the Chair, Sweden, Australia, the US andSwitzerland preferred to eliminate the shopping list of issues(climate change, land degradation, biodiversity, etc.) and justrefer to the generic "environmental problems." The paragraphremains in brackets.

Paragraph 21: This paragraph remains in brackets since therelationship between this Convention and other environmentalconventions is still to be determined.


The Chair, Anne de Lattre, presented the programme of work for theGroup as outlined in the annex of document A/AC.241/18, which wasunanimously adopted. As requested during INCD-3, de Lattre prepareda report on the preliminary views expressed by delegates on theregional annex for Africa based on document A/AC.241/17. TheSecretariat also prepared a document highlighting the paragraphsthat contain the terms "international organizations,""intergovernmental organizations" and "non-governmentalorganizations" in document A/AC.241/15/Rev.1. A third document,"Second Submission by Sub-Working Group on `Use of Terms',"provides some definitions on terms in Article 1 prepared by theSub-Working Group chaired by Prof. al-Kassas of Egypt.

ARTICLE 1 -- USE OF TERMS: Prof. al-Kassas introduced thissection covering sub-paragraphs 1(a),(b),(c),(d) and (h) of theSecretariat's text. He pointed out that sub-paragraph 1(a) is thedefinition provided in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21. He stressed thatsub-paragraphs (e) to (g) were not discussed as they deal with thelisting of countries in different categories, an exercise that issubject to studies that were not yet available to the Committee.Most delegations, including Benin, the EU, Israel, China, Australiaand the UK, agreed with the definitions provided by the Sub-WorkingGroup on "desertification," "land degradation," "arid, semi-aridand dry sub-humid areas," "combatting desertification," "drought,"and "mitigating the effects of drought." The UK also stressed theneed to ensure that the terms used actually appear in theConvention, and are appropriate each and every time they appear inthe text. Morocco proposed that a definition for "climaticvariations" be included. In addition, sub-paragraph (b)(iii),referring to activities for combatting desertification, shouldrefer to the reclamation of "degraded land" and not "desertifiedland." The US pointed out that sub-paragraph (d), defining"mitigating the effects of drought," was still bracketed andproposed that the square brackets be removed, but with some changesin the text. Australia, Senegal, Brazil, Malaysia and Tanzaniasupported this view, while the EU, Sweden and Iran called for itsdeletion.

Egypt explained that "human activities" were not defined since theterm was inherent in sub-paragraph (a)(ii) when it refers to"land-use systems." Egypt was requested to reconvene theSub-Working Group to incorporate the amendments suggested. TheGroup will meet Tuesday morning.

Some delegations preferred to defer discussion on sub-paragraphs(e) to (g) until next week. These sub-paragraphs deal with lists ofcountries such as "affected countries," "countries in a position toprovide assistance" and "countries needing assistance." Othersdisagreed with the lists as the status of countries may change,while others suggested that only two categories be listed:developed and developing countries. As a compromise, Australiasuggested that a provision be made for the Conference of theParties to create such lists, if necessary.

The definition of sub-paragraph (i) on "regional economicintegration organization" generated protracted debate. Mostdelegations, including Benin, the US, Canada and Tunisia, favoredits retention, including the reference made to "States of a givenregion or [sub-region]." The UK said the reference to "region" wasgeographically non-specific and, hence, there is no need to use"sub-region."

Paragraph 2, which refers to the establishment of aninformation glossary of widely accepted definitions of other termsrelevant to the Convention, also generated lengthy debate withAfrican countries calling for its retention, while the EU and theUS wanted it deleted. The US said all the necessary terms should beincluded in the section on definitions. Canada proposed that as acompromise, a provision should be made for the Conference of theParties to establish such a glossary, if necessary. The Chairsuggested that this article be re-visited next week.


WORKING GROUP I: Working Group I will begin discussion onArticle 1 bis this morning. At INCD-3, some African delegationsproposed this article on the scope of the Convention, however, thelanguage was unacceptable to the OECD countries. The G-77 has beenworking on a new draft for this article with draft languageexpected to be circulated this morning for discussion. During thecourse of the day, the Working Group is expected to discussArticles 2 (Objective), 3 (Principles), and 4 (Generalobligations).

WORKING GROUP II: The Group will start discussion onArticles 18 (Information collection, analysis and exchange), 19(Research and development) and 20 (Transfer, acquisition,adaptation and development of technology). Look for a thirdsubmission by the Sub-Working Group on "Use of Terms."