9th Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification
The ninth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Desertification(INCD), will meet from 3-13 September in New York. During the nearly two-weeksession, delegates will address arrangements regarding the Global Mechanism for finance,the designation of a Permanent Secretariat, scientific and technical cooperation, rules ofprocedure, financial rules, communication of information, Urgent Action for Africa, andinterim measures in other regions.
The opening Plenary on 3 September 1996 was opened by INCD Chair Bo Kjelln(Sweden) at 10:30 am. Delegates heard general statements from several ministers and UNagencies. The afternoon session was devoted to regional group meetings.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE INCD
Desertification affects about one-sixth of the worlds population, 70 percent of alldrylands and one-quarter of the total land area in the world. The most obvious impacts ofdesertification are: poverty; the degradation of 3.3 billion hectares of the total area ofrangeland; a decline in soil fertility and soil structure; and the degradation of irrigatedcropland.
The Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) was formally adopted on 17 June 1994,and opened for signature at a ceremony in Paris on 14-15 October 1994. The Conventiontakes an innovative approach in recognizing: the physical, biological and socioeconomicaspects of desertification; the importance of redirecting technology transfer so that it isdemand driven; and the involvement of local populations in the development of nationalaction programmes. The core is the national and subregional/regional action programmes,to be developed by national governments in cooperation with donors, local populationsand non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
To date, the Convention has 115 signatories and has been ratified by 41 countries. It willenter into force 90 days after the 50th ratification.
NEGOTIATION OF THE CONVENTION
During its 47th session in 1992, the GA, as requested at UNCED in Rio, adoptedresolution 47/188 calling for the establishment of the INCD. At the organizational sessionof the INCD in January 1993, delegates elected Bo Kjelln (Sweden) Chair of theCommittee. Its first session was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 24 May to 3 June 1993. Thefirst week focused on the sharing of technical information and assessments, and the secondweek dealt with the structure, elements and objectives of the CCD.
The second session of the INCD met in Geneva from 13-24 September 1993. TheCommittee considered the compilation text of the CCD and agreed on the futureprogramme of work, including the elaboration of regional instruments for Africa, Asia andLatin America. The third session of the INCD was held at UN Headquarters in New Yorkfrom 17-28 January 1994. The two working groups focused on the draft negotiating textof the Convention. The INCD also discussed the regional instrument for Africa.
The fourth session of the INCD was held in Geneva from 21-31 March 1994. Negotiationsof the draft Convention text continued and delegates also formally considered theRegional Implementation Annex for Africa. The Asian and Latin American regionalgroups produced their own draft regional implementation annexes. The fifth session of theINCD was held in Paris from 6-17 June 1994. During this session, delegates workedthrough the remaining bracketed text in the Convention and finalized the four regionalimplementation annexes for Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and theNorthern Mediterranean. The Convention was adopted on 17 June 1994, along withresolutions recommending Urgent Action for Africa and interim arrangements for theperiod between adoption of the CCD and its entry into force.
The sixth INCD session was held in New York from 9-18 January 1995. The Committeereached agreement on the work programme for the interim period and the mandates of thetwo working groups and plenary.
Delegates at the seventh session, which took place in Nairobi from 7-17 August 1995,reviewed the status of ratification and implementation of the Resolution on Urgent Actionfor Africa and Interim Measures. The Committee discussed and provided input on thestructure and elements that should be considered in preparation for COP-1.
The eighth session, held from 5-15 February 1996 in Geneva, Switzerland, reviewed thestatus of ratifications and the implementation of the Resolution on Urgent Action forAfrica and Interim Measures. The Committee also discussed and negotiated some of theSecretariats texts on the preparations for COP-1. They also requested the Secretariat toprepare new text for negotiation at INCD-9, based on their discussions on the Committeeon Science and Technology, communication and information, draft rules of procedure forthe COP, programme and budget, draft financial rules, the Global Mechanism andarrangements to house the Permanent Secretariat. Some delegations revisited the questionraised at INCD-7 on the need for two-week sessions.
INCD HIGHLIGHTS: 3 SEPTEMBER 1996
INCD Chair, Bo Kjelln (Sweden), opened the ninth session of the INCD and introducedthe agenda and organization of work, as contained in A/AC.241/53, which was adopted.Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary General for Policy Coordination and SustainableDevelopment (DPCSD), noted that CCD is one of the first conventions to encompass theintegrated approach of Agenda 21. CCDs experiences with this approach will providemany lessons. He noted the prospect of 50 ratifications by the fifth anniversary ofUNCED.
Kjelln said 41 ratifications have been received, thus, the goal to have COP-1 bySeptember 1997 is within reach. He hoped that as happened at the Forestry meeting inJune this year, the link between the CCD and energy, the CCD, food security and povertyalleviation, and the CCD and water resources will be recognized during the World Solarand Food Summits (later this year) and the 1997 Special Session of the General Assembly,respectively. Kjelln noted that although the Global Mechanism (GM) is the most difficultand complicated issue, discussions at the last CSD reflected an openness to new thinkingfor innovative funding, which illustrates that the idea of a GM is timely. Granted theprogress made on the Committee on Science and Technology (CST), he said it is possibleto reach complete agreement on the subject, but the discussions on the location of thePermanent Secretariat may be more difficult. During this session, two panels are plannedon the role of women in the Convention and the participatory approach.
MONGOLIA said their Parliament ratified the CCD in August. The countrys newdemocratic government is willing to take serious steps to ensure the maintenance of anecological balance. HONDURAS stated that the convention is promising, but is a packageof dreams. He appealed to the rich countries and aid institutions to help countries withdeserts as well as countries that do not have deserts now. His country supports CCD andhopes to ratify it this year.
MEXICO noted that his was the first country to sign and ratify CCD. Combattingdesertification is a high priority in his country. He noted the results of a regional meeting,including the establishment of a coordinating unit in the Convention Secretariat at UNEPthat will receive financial support from Mexico. He noted the need for new financialresources.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) outlined various initiatives the country hasundertaken to combat desertification, including raising awareness among parliamentarians.The CAR has ratified the Convention and the instrument will be deposited during thisINCD session.
UNEPs Executive Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell expressed her institutions interest inhosting the Permanent Secretariat and outlined UNEPs past activities, history and rolethat render it suitable. She said UNEP is willing to support the work of the CST and tocollaborate with the institution that hosts the GM.
UNDP considers CCD as one of the most significant post-Rio frameworks foroperationalizing the goals of sustainable development. Availability and access to data onresource mechanisms is critical to implementation. He noted UNDPs efforts to supportthe objectives of CCD, including a trust fund to combat desertification and drought. Hereconfirmed UNDPs availability to host the GM.
IFAD discussed the role of national action plans and noted the IFAD-sponsored forum onaction plans held in June, where participants recognized the possibility of acceleratinglearning programmes and the desirability of including rural area development on the CST.The GM must go beyond a clearinghouse role and should harness resources not currentlyavailable for the drylands. IFAD is willing to host the GM and could provide a detailedproposal at INCD-10.
CANADA outlined the countrys four priority areas for development assistance, includingthe environment. The Mayor of Montreal, the Canadian city that wishes to host thePermanent Secretariat, will make a presentation on its candidacy on Thursday, 5September.
Ireland, on behalf of the EUROPEAN UNION (EU), emphasized the urgent need todetermine the functions of the GM because this determines how COP-1 selects theinstitution to house the GM. CHAD said his country has ratified the Convention and theinstrument will be deposited before the end of INCD-9. He also outlined steps takentowards the implementation of the CCD, including the setting up of a high-levelcommittee.
Executive Secretary of the Committee, Hama Arba Diallo, thanked participants for theirpresence, which testifies to the importance their countries accord to CCD issues. He notedthe Italian governments offer to host COP-1. He also highlighted activities that have beencarried out recently, including efforts in African countries and regional meetings. ITALYconfirmed its offer to have Rome host COP-1.
IN THE CORRIDORS
Although decisions on the location and hosting of the Permanent Secretariat may not befinalized at this session, the bargaining process has begun. The decisions on the locationand host have been linked together by some delegates. The Canadian offer to host theSecretariat in Montreal is coupled with UNEPs offer for administrative support, while theGerman offer for Bonn is connected to similar support offered by the WMO. The Spanishoffer to host the Secretariat in Murcia does not seem to be linked to any offer foradministrative support. Many regret that the offers for permanent location of theSecretariat do not include any affected developing countries, such as Kenya and SouthAfrica. Some had hoped offers would be forthcoming from other developed affectedcountries, such as Australia.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
WORKING GROUP I: The Working Group is expected to meet at noon inConference Room 1 to begin consideration of the Global Mechanism. An afternoonmeeting is also expected.
WORKING GROUP II: The Working Group is expected to meet at noon inConference Room 2 to begin consideration of the Rules of Procedure. An afternoonmeeting is also expected.