Daily report for 10 January 1995

6th Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification

The INCD Plenary met Tuesday morning to consider Agenda Items 2 and 3, the workprogramme for the interim period and the preparation for the Conference of the Parties(COP). The Plenary did not meet in the afternoon so regional groups could meet.


Executive Secretary Arba Diallo said there are two major tasks facing theINCD during the interim period: 1) ensuring the implementation of the resolution onurgent action for Africa and initiatives in other regions; and 2) taking the necessarymeasures to ensure implementation of the Convention. These tasks call for theadoption of a viable work programme for the interim period. He then introduced thedocumentation: A/AC.241/29 (work programme for the interim period and preparationfor the COP); A/AC.241/30 (summary of the measures announced in Paris by manyparties on implementation of the resolution on urgent action for Africa); andA/AC.241/31 (extrabudgetary funds and activities planned to be undertaken during theinterim period).

The PHILIPPINES, on behalf of the G-77 and China, responded to theEU's statement delivered Monday. He expressed concern that the CCD was beingdowngraded to a lower status than the Framework Convention on Climate Change andthe Convention on Biological Diversity. He was concerned that conditionalities werebeing stressed beyond the spirit and provisions of the CCD and its regional annexes.Without a spirit of partnership the CCD might meet the same fate as the 1977 NairobiPlan of Action. The Interim Secretariat must be operational in a real sense. The mostimportant functions of its mandate are: pursuit of urgent action for Africa;groundwork-laying for developing countries to elaborate action plans; awareness-raising, capacity-building and transfer of technology; preparation of the first COP; andresponse to emergency requests from affected countries.

AUSTRALIA said that it has produced a guide to techniques to combatdesertification entitled "Australian Initiatives to Combat Desertification," which will bedistributed in the INCD and elsewhere. He underlined that the preparation for the COPshould be based on sound scientific principles and community-derived solutions. As itis vital to consider physical, biological and social sciences, as well as traditionalknowledge, there should be a small working group to plan science and technologyactivities during the interim period. This group could deal with the roster ofindependent experts and the procedures for the ad hoc panels.

The information sharing mechanism should contain information on the effectiveness ofanti-desertification measures and encourage the involvement of local communities. The Secretariat should prepare a proposal on the communication of information, whichtakes into account systems operating under other conventions. He added that:computers should not be the only source of information; any synthesis ofcommunications should be weighed against the additional cost; and that developingcountries require technical and financial support in compiling and communicatinginformation. He emphasized that the effectiveness of the INC"s work will depend onits administrative arrangements. The Interim Secretariat should prepare drafts onfinancial rules and rules of procedure based on other environmental conventions. Theissues of the host and location of the Secretariat should be dealt with separately, butco-location with other secretariats could be considered.

The US noted two developments that are indicative of the US support ofthe Convention. The US Bureau of Land Management and the EnvironmentalProtection Agency sponsored the International Symposium and Workshop onDesertification in Developed Countries, which was held in Tuscon, Arizona, inOctober. There will be a workshop on sub-Saharan drought that is being co-sponsoredby the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and otherinternational scientific organizations, to be held under the auspices of the WMO, inTrieste, Italy, on 31 July - 4 August 1995.

FRANCE, on behalf of the EU, noted that the EU"s statement on Mondaymay have been misunderstood and stressed that the EU attaches crucial importance tothe Convention and shares the point of view of the G-77 and China that desertificationis a phenomenon that affects both developed and developing countries. The role of theINCD is to give guidance to the Secretariat in preparing for the first COP. On thework programme for the interim period, the INCD may want to look at a format forthe submission of information. The EU thinks that the term "interim implementation"is legally confusing and should be replaced by the term "interim actions." With regardto the global mechanism, the Secretariat should prepare a study of the parties thatmight be able to run such a machinery. In Section III, the organization of the work ofthe Committee, two working groups could be set up. The first could deal withinstitutional and legal aspects and the second with financial machinery and overallpolicy. Follow-up of the urgent measures for Africa should be discussed in Plenary.

The RUSSIAN FEDERATION observed that the CCD shouldhave equal legal status as the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) andthe Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The financial budget for theprogramme of work during the interim period should reflect the whole spectrum ofsocial and ecological specificities of the various regions.

Regarding the legal status of the CCD vis … vis the FCCC and CBD,Kjell‚n emphasized that none was superior or inferior to the other, notingthat their origins are similar and that in fact, the CCD has borrowed a lot of itsprocedural aspects from these two conventions. However, the resolution on the urgentaction for Africa is a new element without precedent, which raises the question of howthe INCD should facilitate its implementation.

The UK agreed with Kjell‚n regarding the status of the CCD, pointing outthat the problem was in the proposed operational role of the Secretariat, which couldamount to a duplication of activities already undertaken by other agencies. Thisoperational role seems to arise from the loose use of the phrases "interimimplementation of the Convention" and "provisional implementation" in A/AC.241/29.This is inappropriate, as the terms have legal implications that are neither provided forin the Convention or in any other document prepared by the INCD. He noted that theresolution on urgent action for Africa is not part of the Convention. In addition, someproposals by the G-77 and China, such as responding to emergency relief and capacitybuilding, were outside the mandate of the INCD. Therefore, the INCD should focus onpreparation for the first COP.

Kjell‚n reiterated that the misunderstanding on the role of the Secretariat inrespect to the resolution on the urgent action for Africa was conceptual due to thewording in the resolution and paragraph 5 of GA resolution 49/234, as well as the factthat there exists no precedent. Arba Diallo pointed out that the use of theterms "interim implementation" was in conformity with the intention of the resolutionadopted in Paris. Article 7 of the Convention"s Implementation Annex for Africaauthorizes African countries, pending the entry into force of the Convention, toundertake activities related to the preparation of action programmes as outlined in theConvention. The PHILIPPINES, on behalf of the G-77 and China, pointedout that the reference to emergency requests was in relation to facilitating the work ofthe field officers.

The US shared the concerns of the EU, Australia and the UK regardingthe phrase "interim implementation" and suggested consulting the lawyers. He furtherstated that Article 21 of the CCD was intended to promote actions, but the mechanismshould not mobilize such actions itself. There is no need for a scientific body at thispoint. The discussion on urgent action for Africa should be held in Plenary. TheCCD"s legal status is not inferior but, in fact, superior to other conventions, since ithas drawn on new experiences and knowledge, such as the importance of localcommunities and regional variations.

CANADA sees use for interim measures for communication, but urgesthat careful consideration be given to the purpose of this communication. Canada doesnot think that the Secretariat should be involved in public awareness and capacitybuilding since this should be done bilaterally. On the rules of procedure and thepreparations for the first COP, Canada agrees with Australia that precedents can beused from other Conventions. The host of the Secretariat and its location could beconsidered separately. A host organization is also needed for the global mechanism,which is a clearinghouse and a provider of information, but not an organization tochannel funds. The INCD should work on the terms of reference for the Committee onScience and Technology, since it will "hit the ground running" at the first COP.

BURKINA FASO concurred with the G-77 and China thatconditionalities are being attached to the CCD. Naturally, the affected people are at thefocus of the CCD, but the Secretariat should be involved and should function as afacilitator.

SENEGAL proposed that two working groups be created to address theissues including the activities of the Secretariat during the interim period, which mayinclude playing a mediative role in the preparation of national action programmes andfacilitating scientific training in developing countries.

JAPAN sees the CCD as having equal status with other conventions, butalso as a Convention that provides a new approach to international cooperation and aidmanagement among donors through new partnership arrangements. It also calls forbetter planning, management and improved governance among developing countries.He noted that the resolution on urgent action for Africa was negotiated with theunderstanding that it was a separate entity from the Convention. Thus, the work of theINCD should focus on implementation of the resolution and preparations for the COP.He proposed that the implementation of the resolution on urgent action for Africa bedealt with in Plenary, since this does not require negotiation. The work on COPpreparations should be dealt with in two working groups.

BENIN lamented the seeming preconceived notions of the role of theSecretariat and proposed that the discussion on the resolution on urgent action forAfrica be left to open discussion. There may be a vacuum if a coordination body isnot established.


The Committee briefly took up the report to the Commission on SustainableDevelopment (CSD) at the conclusion of the morning"s Plenary. Kjell‚n noted thataccording to its multi-year thematic programme of work, the CSD"s third session,which will be held in April 1995, will review the implementation of all the Agenda 21chapters that address land management. UNEP is the task manager for Chapter 12(desertification) and has prepared a provisional version of its report to the CSD.Franklin Cardy (UNEP), introduced the provisional report and noted that itwas prepared jointly by all relevant UN organizations, NGOs and some governmentrepresentatives. He asked delegates to review the report and inform UNEP if there areany factual mistakes.


The role of the Interim Secretariat dominated discussion in and outside of ConferenceRoom 2 on Tuesday. Yet, whatever the eventual role of the Secretariat, it will have todisseminate information related to the implementation process, which may assume theforms outlined under the theme of public awareness. It is unlikely, however, that theSecretariat can undertake public awareness activities similar to those undertaken by theNGOs during the UNCED process. That role is best left to NGOs and governments,especially given the diversity of the 900 million people affected by the scourge ofdesertification. Otherwise, the US$300,000 budget proposed by the Secretariat forpublic awareness is underestimated.


PLENARY: At its meeting this morning, the Plenary is expected to continueits consideration of Agenda Items 2 and 3, preparation for the Conference of theParties and the work programme for the interim period. UNDP Administrator GusSpeth is also expected to address the Committee. In the afternoon, the Plenary isscheduled to discuss the implementation of the resolution on urgent action for Africaand interim action in other regions. At some point, the Committee will address theaccreditation of an additional 18 NGOs to the INCD.

NGO BRIEFING: There will be a briefing for delegates on the global NGOnetwork on desertification (RIOD) and the NGO plan of action at 1:15 pm inConference Room D.

MEETING OF HEADS OF REGIONAL AND INTERESTGROUPS: The Chair will convene a meeting of the heads of regional andinterest groups at 6:00 pm. The room will be announced.