Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 requested the UNGA to establish an intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) for a convention to combat desertification to be completed by June 1994. The African Group drafted a non-paper, which was to become the basis for the draft resolution, and submitted it to the G-77. After considerable debate and redrafting, the G-77 introduced the draft in the Razali Group on Saturday, 7 November. The draft was primarily procedural in nature, leaving the substantive matters to be decided by the INC.
Substantive discussions of the draft desertification resolution began on Friday, 13 November. The US, as part of a large package of amendments to the draft, proposed changing the first operative paragraph of the resolution, which welcomes the results and recommendations of UNCED, to make particular reference to Chapter 12 of Agenda 21, "Combatting desertification and drought". The G-77 objected saying that the question of desertification involves some cross-sectoral issues and, therefore, a specific reference to Chapter 12 may not encompass all the other related issues contained in Agenda 21. The final compromise welcomes the results and recommendations of UNCED on the issue of desertification, "particularly Chapter 12 of Agenda 21".
The US also recommended adding a new paragraph that would ask the INC to consider whether or not drought and desertification problems can best be addressed by a single convention or rather by separate agreements and protocols. The G-77 had difficulty with this proposal as there should be a single convention. The US finally agreed to withdraw its amendment on Wednesday, 18 November.
Paragraph 4 of the draft resolution led to a long debate about the number of negotiating sessions as well as the venues for these sessions. The draft stated that "the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, in addition to an organizational session, shall hold five substantive sessions, each lasting for two weeks, which will be held respectively at Nairobi, Rome, Geneva, Paris and New York". The EC asked who would host the meetings away from UN centers. Japan and Australia expressed concern about the number of meetings and the logistics of holding meetings in so many different locations. The G-77 responded that it was not the Group's intention to "undertake a tour of the world", but the Group believed that the input provided by the agencies with headquarters in these cities (UNEP in Nairobi, FAO in Rome and UNESCO in Paris) is important. France and UNESCO commented that they would probably be able to host the Paris meeting, however, Italy said that since their budget for 1993 was already endorsed, it may be difficult for them to finance the meeting in Rome. The paragraph was then reformulated, dropping reference to Rome.
Scheduling concerns also predominated the debate on paragraph 6, which "decides also that an organizational session of a duration of one week shall be held in New York in February 1993 in order to organize the work of the Committee and to elect the Bureau...". The EC questioned the need for such a lengthy organizational session and stated its preference for a two-day session. The G-77 explained that it would probably take a week to discuss the organization of work. The final compromise reads that provisions be made "for an organizational session of up to one week to be held in New York not later than February 1993...".
Another paragraph that led to lengthy debate was paragraph 12, which establishes a multi-dimensional expert group to assist the INC in its mandate in the scientific, technical and legal fields. The EC cited the problems that the biodiversity INC had with its expert group that became "sort of an INC bis". Japan wanted to know how the expert group would be funded. The US expressed preference for a small, 10-15 member group that would act as a conduit for information, rather than a generator of information. The final text reads: "Decides to establish a multi-disciplinary panel of experts to assist the ad hoc secretariat and, under its authority, to provide necessary expertise in the scientific, technical, legal and other related fields,...".
Although all of the paragraphs that deal with the funding of the INC led to numerous comments, the only other major issue to emerge was the participation of NGOs. The original language read, "Invites the relevant non-governmental organizations to contribute to the success of the negotiating process." The EC wanted to make this language clearer by inviting "all relevant" NGOs to "contribute fully and constructively". The US stressed that there must be rules of the game so that NGOs know the basis of their participation. China, the G-77 and the EC discussed what precedent should be used: resolution 45/212, which established the INC for the Climate Change Convention, or decision 1/1 of UNCED. The G-77 specifically wanted language that would encourage the participation of NGOs from developing countries. The final text as agreed on 18 November reads: "Invites all relevant non-governmental organizations and especially encourages those from developing countries, to contribute constructively to the success of the negotiating process in accordance with the rules of procedure of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee and taking into account procedures used in the UNCED process;".
The Razali Group finished consideration of the resolution on 18 November. The final resolution welcomes the candidature of Swedish Ambassador Bo Kjelln for the Chair of the INC. The resolution states that the INC, which will finalize the convention by June 1994, will have an organizational session in New York by February 1993. The ad hoc Secretariat, to be established by the Secretary-General, will be located in Geneva. The resolution did not establish the schedule of the substantive sessions of the INC.
[Return to start of article]