Daily report for 17 January 1995

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

The Plenary met briefly Monday morning so that INCD Chair, Bo Kjell‚n,could inform delegates about the day"s schedule. The meeting was thenadjourned to allow time for regional groups to meet and review thedraft resolution on the organization and programme of work for theinterim period, which emerged out of the meeting of heads of regionaland interest groups on Monday night. The Plenary resumed at 3:00 pmto conclude the discussion on awareness building and adjourned againto enable consultations to continue.


Kjell‚n opened the meeting by offering condolences to the Japanesedelegation on the situation in Japan following the early morningearthquake. He then announced that a new draft resolution wasproduced by the meeting of heads of regional and interest groupsMonday evening and has been distributed for discussion by regionalgroups. He also announced that the Chair"s conclusions on urgent actionfor Africa and interim action in other regions and the review of thesituation as regards extrabudgetary funds have been distributed asdocuments A/AC.241/CRP.13 and A/AC.241/ CRP.14, respectively. Themeeting was then adjourned.


During the brief afternoon session, Kjell‚n and the Executive Secretary,Arba Diallo, summarized the outcome of Monday morning"s discussion onpublic awareness building and the resolution on World Day to CombatDesertification.

Diallo noted that there appears to be consensus on thefundamental need to raise the public"s awareness on the Convention inboth developed and developing countries. This is a prerequisite to theimplementation of the Convention at the local, national, subregional,regional and international levels. There is also consensus on the typesof activities that need to be undertaken, some of which have alreadybeen initiated, such as the preparation and dissemination of documents.New ideas have also been generated, including: the commemoration ofWorld Day to Combat Drought and Desertification on 17 June; thecreation of a central information service to collect and disseminateinformation; issuing information bulletins and magazines; holdingseminars for decision-makers, technicians, NGOs, local populations andbilateral cooperation agencies; and the involvement of other sectors ofsociety, such as university institutions and intellectuals. However, thereis a divergence of opinion on how this should be done. Developingcountries want the Secretariat to have a strong active role and beprovided with the means to catalyze action, especially in the leastdeveloping countries, without expropriating the roles of other groups.Developed countries prefer that national governments and other sectorsplay the key role, while a small Secretariat plays a limited role ofcompiling and disseminating the available documents to the Parties andgranting advice upon request. NGOs and specialized agencies should beinvolved in information dissemination. Given these proposals, thefunction of the Interim Secretariat would: supplement those of otherinstitutions; involve mobilizing resources on behalf of countries that maynot find assistance elsewhere; prepare reports, on request, on theactivities it has undertaken, in order to ensure transparency; and setup a partnership to meet the proposed needs, for which the Secretariatis awaiting guidelines from the INCD at the next session.

Kjell‚n then stated that he does not intend to circulate anywritten conclusions on the discussion on awareness building. TheSecretariat has benefitted from the discussion and it would be desirableto organize a discussion of this kind at the next session. He noted thedifferent levels at which public awareness should be raised: at thevillage level in affected developing countries; within the governments ofboth the North and the South; and in the general public in the North.There are variations in approach depending on the target group. Moreefforts should be made to show that desertification is a global problem.Although it is useful to raise the profile of desertification within theSecurity Council, by linking it to issues such as environmental refugeesand migration that the Council deals with, it should also be addressedas an essential environment and development issue. The delegationscould also raise the profile of the issue at the political level in theircountries, by educating their leaders during the ratification processabout the problems in the drylands. The important role of NGOs inawareness raising has been appreciated and the proposal to organize aglobal NGO meeting before INCD-7 has been noted. However, there maynot be sufficient time to prepare for such a meeting before August, butsuch a forum is worthwhile. Commemorating World Day to CombatDesertification is important in raising awareness on the Convention.Kjell‚n concluded the discussion by stating that this issue may be takenup again at INCD-7.


Consultations continued throughout the day in the corridors, in regionalgroup meetings and in Conference Room 9 on the resolution on theorganization of work for the interim period. While there seems to begeneral agreement on the mandates of the two working groups, otherareas of the draft resolution have proven to be more problematic thanexpected. By lunchtime, consensus was still elusive on the role of theSecretariat in the preparation of documentation and whether or not theChair should be invited to make proposals to the Committee on theorganization of scientific and technological cooperation.

With regard to the working groups, it appears as though Working GroupI will be responsible for: initiating measures relating to theidentification of an organization to house the Global Mechanism; thedesignation of a Permanent Secretariat and arrangements for itsfunctioning; and financial rules, programme and budget. Working GroupII will be responsible for: organization of scientific and technologicalcooperation; rules of procedure for the Conference of the Parties;procedures on questions of implementation; procedures for conciliationand arbitration; and the system for communication of information forreview of the implementation of the Convention and its institutionalarrangements. There was also talk in the corridors that the Chairs ofthese two working groups will be Takao Shibata of Japan and MouradAhmia of Algeria.


In the draft resolution dated 17 January 1995, which was circulated onTuesday, paragraph six invites the Chair "to make proposals to theCommittee, at the seventh session, on the organization of scientific andtechnological cooperation." The apparent intention of this proposal is totake care of organizational matters during the interim period so that theCommittee on Science and Technology (as called for in Article 24 of theConvention) can begin substantive work as soon as the Conventionenters into force. The language in the draft resolution could also enablethe Chair to convene his own scientific and technological advisory groupduring the interim period. Members of the OECD group reluctantlysupported this proposal. Meanwhile, the OECD group has set up its ownsmall scientific group, consisting of representatives from Canada,Belgium, Australia and Spain. This group will prepare scientificbackground information for the OECD.

The G-77 and China, on the other hand, find the proposal in the draftresolution questionable because it gives an unprecedented role to theChair. In their view, there is no need to make this an explicit part ofthe resolution. Another argument is that governments and NGOs shouldhave the opportunity to give input on these issues and the processshould not be controlled only by the Chair. Negotiations continuedthroughout the afternoon.


NGO and European Union representatives met Tuesday in an informalmeeting that focused on: the relationship between the Lome' IV and Barcelona Conventions, which are in the process of being renegotiated,and the Convention to Combat Desertification; and funding issues. There is concern that while there is pressure not to create new institutions under the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) and to instead, utilize existing ones, no efforts have been made to ensure this in the Lome' IV renegotiations, which have focused on financial matters and have not dealt with the environmental section, DG11, under which other negotiated environmental conventions are placed. Consequently, while there is a provision for funding other environmental conventions, no such provisions exist for the CCD. Similarly, when the re-negotiation of the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Against Pollution starts in June 1995, the sections dealing with desertification need to be harmonized with the provisions in the CCD’s Regional Implementation Annex for the Northern Mediterranean. From the discussions it appears as though the funding structure likely to emerge is where an EU country identifies a country of interest in Africa, and the donor then acts as the coordinator or focal point for other donors willing to fund projects in that particular country. At 1:15 pm on Wednesday, NGOs will meet donors to make a proposal on how donors can fund NGOs within the RIOD structure.


PLENARY: The Plenary is expected to resume this morning to continue its consideration of the programme of work for the interim period. If the Committee is to conclude its work today, the following tasks must be accomplished: finalizing elections to the bureaus of the working groups; adopting the agenda for the seventh session; adopting the resolution on the programme of work for the interim period; adopting a resolution on the observance of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought; and adopting the report of this session. The Chair is also hopeful that there will be time to hold short organizational sessions of the two working groups. If the Committee is unable to conclude its work today, it is likely that INCD-6 will adjourn by 1:00 pm on Thursday.

BUREAU MEETING: The INCD Bureau will meet at 9:30 am in Conference Room 9.

NGO MEETINGS: NGOs have a meeting with representatives of the FAO at 9:00 am in Conference Room 8. There will also be a meeting between NGOs and donors at 1:15 pm to address funding within the RIOD structure. The room will be announced.

US-SPONSORED MEETING: The US will hold a provisional meeting at 1:30 pm in Conference Room E to begin organizing a symposium and workshop on preventing desertification. This workshop will be held in May 1997 in Tuscon, Arizona. All delegates and NGOs are invited to attend.


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