Daily report for 16 January 1995

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

The INCD met in Plenary on Monday morning to comment on the reportto the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and begindiscussion on awareness building. The Plenary did not meet in theafternoon to allow time for regional groups to meet, followed by anothermeeting of the heads of regional and interest groaups to continuenegotiations on the work programme for the interim period.

The Chair, Bo Kjell‚n, opened the meeting by noting that themeeting of heads of regional and interest groups on Friday came closeto a final agreement on the programme of work and distribution of tasksof the two working groups. He added that, given the present situation,INCD-6 may be able to conclude its work on Wednesday evening insteadof on Thursday morning.


Bo Kjell‚n then re-opened discussion on the contents of theINCD's report to the third session of the (CSD). The report will coverhow desertification relates to land degradation, Agenda 21 Chapters 10to 15, as well as other elements of Agenda 21 in which such links canbe made.

AUSTRALIA reported that it was halfway through the review of aproject known as 'Earth Care' that deals with land management issues,in which various interest groups in the country have been involved. Hesuggested that the study should be cited as one of the case studies tothe CSD and a copy of it included as part of an information package.Kjell‚n responded that although he is uncertain about how theCSD meeting will be run, he may be able to fulfill this request withinthe working group on land management.

PERU sought clarification on whether the INCD document differsfrom that of UNEP and raised objection to UNEP's proposal that globalawareness should be raised in tropical forest areas alone. Kjell‚nexplained that UNEP, as task manager on desertification for the CSD,had prepared the document and it is not for the INCD to review.However, UNEP had invited comments from the INCD. He concurred withPeru regarding awareness raising, since Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 alsomentions dryland forestry. He concluded that the inputs by UNEP andthe INCD to the third session of the CSD will supplement each other.

UNEP noted that all written and verbal comments provided bydelegates last week have been included in its report to the CSD. Forexample, 'drought' and the reference to global forests have beenchanged. The report has now been submitted to the CSD to be printed.


The Chair then invited delegates to discuss public awareness buildingand to make proposals on what can be done during World Day to CombatDesertification (17 June). He listed some of the main factors that arevital for awareness building: 1) to make the bottom-up approach fullyworkable where local populations are informed and consulted; 2) to makelocal authorities aware of the Convention; and 3) to give the Conventionequal status to the Biodiversity and Climate Change Conventions.

The PHILIPPINES, speaking on behalf of the G-77 and China,stressed that the Secretariat and the Committee should inform others inthe UN system about the work to combat desertification. The Secretariatshould also work to increase media interest.

INDIA described innovative forms of awareness building that ithas undertaken: sharing knowledge between different groups within thecountry; enabling people to understand that science, technology andtheir lifestyles can be changed; and establishing education centres todevelop school books, among other things.

GHANA noted the lack of awareness on the Convention, even atthe governmental level. Simplified materials on the Convention should begenerated to cover issues such as a definition of the concepts, as wellas what action can be taken, where solutions can be sought, and howpreventive measures can be taken, while drawing the necessaryattention to any repercussions that could arise.

AUSTRALIA wanted the Committee to consider three questions:what information should be provided; to whom; and by whom. He notedthat if the Secretariat assumed a facilitative, rather than an operational,role, it could help other organizations carry out their work and increasecost effectiveness.

The RUSSIAN FEDERATION described its work on publicawareness, announcing that two international seminars on the CaspianSea were held in Volgograd and Moscow, the latter supported by UNEP.

FRANCE, on behalf of the EU, stressed that the Convention givesthe Secretariat an important role in raising awareness. However, thisdoes not mean that the Secretariat should take the place of localfacilities and initiatives.

CHINA thought it essential to guarantee financial resources andmobilize local populations. In China, the Convention has been publishedin Chinese and a Plan of Action has been drafted. There are plans topublish a brochure, hold an exhibition and convene national conferenceswith representatives from all levels of society and the media. Resourcesare needed for all of these activities.

IRAN highlighted the activities that his country had undertakenincluding: the establishment of 12 centres and three university facultiesto address desertification and dune fixation; the production anddistribution of films, brochures and books around the country; and theestablishment of a non-governmental organization, JFI ' the Green Frontof Iran ' comprising over 10,000 university students. He requested theInterim Secretariat (IS) to provide financial support for a JFIrepresentative to attend future INCD sessions.

ALGERIA stated that evidence from the conventions on the ozonelayer and biological diversity shows that the IS has an important role toplay in information dissemination, through information bulletins andquarterly publications that cover activities initiated in affecteddeveloping countries and assistance provided by their partners. Thefirst issue should be available at INCD-7. The IS should mobilize thenecessary resources for this and set up an information office. Awarenessraising should take place in both developed and developing countries,but in close collaboration with the IS, at three levels: in affectedcountries; in developed countries, targeting NGOs, parliamentarians anddecision-makers; and in the UN system, especially the relevant agenciessuch as the GEF, UNEP's Governing Board and the CSD. The IS shouldundertake measures to implement the resolution by the G-77 and China,which was adopted by the 49th General Assembly, to observe World Dayto Combat Desertification on 17 June. In honor of this event, theSecretary-General could issue a communiqu‚ or a global meeting of NGOscould be held. A report on this should be presented at INCD-7.

UNEP's Franklin Cardy stated that his agency has had theresponsibility of raising awareness on environmental issues. Now thatthe Convention has been concluded, it is important to raise publicawareness. The objectives would be to: 1) raise awareness ofdesertification worldwide to the level of other global issues, such asclimate change; 2) improve the scientific respectability of desertification;and 3) create an information bank. There is also a need to identify theaudiences. In order to tackle this range of tasks, a partnership ofinterested countries and organizations should be built. It could includeDPI, TVE, SMI, a publisher, advertising agencies, UNEP, the INCDSecretariat and other UN organizations, donors, and NGOs, especiallyRIOD, ELCI, ENDA, and large NGOs such as Action Aid and Oxfam. Aflexible multi-level partnership is needed with a consistent approach atthe global level. UNEP is seeking partners for this purpose.

UZBEKISTAN<D> reported that this is the first Convention inwhich the new and independent States, such as his, have been involvedsince the beginning. It is therefore important to consider how thepolitical leaders of such States can be informed about the contents ofthe Convention. This is why centralized information from the Secretariatis needed. In May, Uzbekistan is planning to hold a conference on theproblems of the Aral Sea.

LEBANON has started an intensive media campaign using variousforms of visual media and initiated youth projects, including areforestation campaign.

MOROCCO concurred with Algeria and urged that the distributionof the proposed documentation should coincide with the 17 Juneceremony. He called for an integrated approach to awareness campaignsby involving collectives.

MAURITANIA emphasized the lack of awareness about theConvention especially among international agencies that are potentialpartners. He called for the mobilization of press agencies in thedeveloped countries.

BOLIVIA supported Algeria and the Philippines. He noted thecritical role of the IS in raising awareness at the international level andamong financial institutions, sub-regional and regional agencies, as wellas providing support for national and local initiatives. The IS shouldpresent a programme of work on these activities at the next session ofthe INCD. It is crucial that such information should include the availablemeans of implementation, in order not to create expectations that cannotbe met.

MALI noted that the most affected countries lack the means tocommunicate and suggested the use of decentralized structures. Hesupported commemorating World Day to Combat Desertification andproposed that the INCD make recommendations for this.

The GAMBIA outlined activities it has undertaken and isplanning. Special task forces have been created to collect anddisseminate information through which local communities, NGOs and IGOscan have input. A multi-disciplinary forum is also planned with the twinaims of providing feedback to the decision-makers and implementors onthe views of the communities and preparing projects for implementation.

KENYA supported the statements by the Philippines, India, Ghana,Algeria, UNEP and Mauritania. He also supported Algeria's proposal toconvene a global forum of NGOs, possibly in Nairobi. NGOs are animportant interface between local communities and the government. Healso supported the idea of awarding a desertification prize. Acornerstone of public awareness and a precondition for meaningfulimplementation of this Convention is participation. It should be ensuredthat local populations know what is being done. A workshop was held on15-17 August 1994, at which the Government, NGOs and academiaparticipated. The Kenyan Government has also approached UNDP, UNEPand UNSO for assistance in hosting a conference with the stakeholders.

A representative of the NGO community, Edit Tuboly, gaveexamples of NGO public awareness activities. It is important to raiseawareness among donor countries, in order to give inspiration tointernational solidarity, rather than reacting with pity for people in thedrylands. The NGO network, RIOD, will help raise public awareness. It isimportant to get started with fundraising for research, production ofdesertification kits, capacity-building, workshops and exchanges betweenNorthern and Southern NGOs, and establishing links with other UNconventions.


The Chair convened another meeting of the heads of regional andinterest groups on Monday afternoon. The agenda for this meetingincluded: the programme of work for the interim period; the schedule ofmeetings for 1996-1997; the schedule for the remaining two days ofINCD-6; and 'other business'. At the beginning of the meeting, theChair circulated a draft decision on the organization and programme ofwork for the interim period, which establishes two working groups andsets forth their mandates and the composition of the bureaus (one Chairand two Vice Chairs). The decision also requests the Secretariat toprepare specific documentation for INCD-7 and INCD-8. Outstandingissues at the start of this meeting included: where future meetings ofthe INCD will be held; who will make up the bureaus of the twoworking groups; should Working Group I address all of the issuesrelated to finance or should the discussion on the financial rules for theConvention be handled by one working group and the Global Mechanismby another; and what reports should be prepared by the Secretariat.The meeting was expected to last at least until 7:00 pm.


PLENARY: The Plenary will convene this morning to finish thediscussion on awareness building. The Chair and the Executive Secretaryare expected to make their concluding remarks on this item. During therest of the day, the Plenary is expected to discuss the draft decision onthe organization of work for the interim period, which was elaboratedduring the meeting of the heads of regional and interest groups onMonday evening.

Look for the texts of the Chair's conclusions on the discussions onurgent action for Africa and the situation as regards extrabudgetaryfunds. These texts, which will be annexed to the report of the session,are supposed to be circulated as CRP documents during the day today.

NGO MEETING: NGOs are invited to meet with representatives ofthe European Union to discuss implementation of the Convention from1:30 pm - 2:30 pm today in Conference Room 2.