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ELABORATION OF AN INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION

INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n opened Monday morning's session by welcoming delegates to the new phase of the process: dicussion on "Elaboration of an international convention to combat desertification, in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa." On Friday, Kjell‚n requested delegates to focus their interventions on the following: (1) contents of global commitments; (2) links between global and national actions; (3) activities at the local level; (4) comments on the negotiating procedure, as outlined by Kjell‚n on 24 May; and (5) any additional work for the Secretariat.

UNEP: Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of UNEP and HABITAT, stated in a videotaped address that she was pleased to note that the debate had appropriately moved to the political level as it touches on social and economic issues. She said famine relief and military interventions treat the symptoms, not the causes. Desertification has social and economic consequences, and solutions must be found on the ground, among women, farmers and pastoralists. She concluded that the benefits are local as well as global and called upon governments to identify the solution and to embrace the challenge.

WMO: Prof. G.O.P. Obasi, Secretary-General of WMO, raised some issues for consideration including: the provision of a legal framework by considering other relevant Conventions; support for the effective international monitoring and assessment of data; better use of hydrological and meteorological data on water resources; the promotion of alternative energies; the development and promotion of proactive plants for drought mitigation; addressing problems such as poverty, debt, commodity pricing and disease; ensuring adequate financial arrangements are made to assist implementing nations; and mobilization of public opinion among women and youth, including training and education at all levels on the use of natural resources in these marginal areas. WMO is prepared to: contribute to the pilot project in the countries selected for implementation; consider seconding a competent staff to assist the Secretariat; and host the Secretariat of the conference of the parties.

UNSO: Peter Branner, UNSO Director, called for a new direction in the implementation of operational programmes, away from addressing the physical aspects and toward a livelihood-centered approach. He said that a convention should: 1) provide mechanisms for enhancing and broadening economic activities; 2) place emphasis on strategies to protect and manage natural resources, within the overall socio-economic context; 3) build an enabling environment to alleviate obstacles encountered in past efforts, including external economic factors; 4) provide mechanisms to strengthen capacities to deal with drought; 5) address the issue of under-development of human and institutional resources; 6) commit resources and cooperate with LDCs, where most drought and desertification occurs; 7) establish mechanisms for monitoring, assessment, information dissemination, research and technology development, and public awareness; and 8) mobilize the initiatives and participation of local communities.

INCD SECRETARIAT: Arba Diallo, the Executive Secretary of the INCD, referred to speeches by delegates that indicated the global nature of the issue. He mentioned the origin of the INCD process and outlined the activities that have taken place so far. He outlined the process the Secretariat will follow during the negotiation. He said the Secretariat is working with the International Panel of Experts on Desertification; an Interagency Coordination Group; and NGOs through a contact group. The IPED is establishing sub-groups to deal with: interactions of drought and desertification with the global climate system; conservation and utilization of biodiversity in dryland areas; dryland hydrology and water resources; economic and social dimensions of drought and desertification issues; and alternative energy sources for dryland areas. He said the organizational session of the IPED prepared a series of case studies. Four countries, Botswana, Mali, Tunisia and Uganda, and four regional organizations are preparing the case studies. Other regional studies are subject to the availability of funds. The initial case studies should be ready by September 1993. He added that the Convention should adopt a horizontal approach dealing with poverty, population, management of water resources, and protection of biodiversity.

KJELLN: INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n linked the highlights of the information sharing segment and placed them within the context of this week's general debate. His summary of the information segment included: linkages between desertification and other global issues have been made clearer; the global character of the dryland problem has been made tangible through the presentations; the Convention cannot address all the physical causes, but the objective should be to mitigate the effects; a theme from the presentations was the need for local participation, economic incentives and the full integration of women; there is a need for improved technology exchange; transboundary aspects of desertification should be considered; and research programmes should be strengthened.

The Chair then spoke on the upcoming general debate. He noted that the task is to turn the "dreams" of Rio into human-centered reality. He made five major points: 1) this process does not begin from "scratch" and should build on past efforts, research and negotiations; 2) there is a link between the global aspects of desertification and the particular problems facing Africa; 3) Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 contains a negotiated set of elements that should be used in a constructive way; 4) the horizontal linkages to other chapters of Agenda 21 should receive attention; and 5) there is a need for local participation and to listen to people in the villages. He said that this negotiation is the first chance after UNCED to reflect the centrality of people's participation.

CAPE VERDE: Maria Helena Semedo, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, spoke on behalf of the ministers of agriculture and development of the CILSS countries. She noted the activities of the region in preparation for the Convention, particularly exchanges on relevant experiences and available technologies.

KAZAKHSTAN: Svyatoslav A. Medvedev, Minister of Ecology and Bioresources, said his country appreciated the work done by UNEP and that his country would ensure the Rio documents became a reality. He said half of Kazakhstan is desert, and that the biggest tragedy is the Aral Sea, which is drying out and becoming salinized. He also asked that Kazakhstan be included in the Convention to combat desertification as they required assistance in this field.

JAPAN: The delegate said that socio-economic aspects need to be taken into account and that Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 should be considered. He stressed the participation of local communities, supplemented by national cooperation. He added that the convention should: 1) assist parties to submit national action plans at the conference of parties; 2) reinforce efforts of affected countries through assistance; 3) provide adequate worldwide monitoring; and 4) use existing financial mechanisms.

PHILIPPINES: The Ambassador said although the Philippines did not suffer drought and desertification it was sensitive and committed to assist in alleviating the problem in the countries affected. He said the Philippines mainly suffered from deforestation, and urged governments to forego the paranoia associated with resolving the crisis.

GUINEA: The delegate from Guinea emphasized the role of drought and desertification and the importance of buffer zones, such as humid areas in his country. He said that the campaign against desertification should include the fight against poverty.

ALGERIA: The delegate said there should be both global and country-specific commitments as well as increased multilateral cooperation through the UN or informal community of NGOs. Other important aspects for the Convention should be: an early warning system; education programmes; a center for training, headquartered in Africa; and harmonized training programmes that cover experience gained. New and additional financial resources and the transfer of technology should also be covered. Country reports and the conference of parties with a geographically representative bureau should be established for follow-up. The current Secretariat could serve in the interim to assist the setting up of the conference of parties. The Convention should be signed by Heads of State to ensure the highest level of commitment.

MALI: Commenting on WMO's presentation, Mali asked if they could consider the Montreal Protocol in their studies of the Conventions as it touched on important climatic issues. He also sought clarification from Japan regarding financial mechanisms.

BENIN: Amb. Ren‚ Val‚ry Mongbe said the Convention could follow the general format of other international agreements, including Lom‚ IV and the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions. The Convention should: have annexes and/or protocols for implementation and execution, to be negotiated at the same time as the Convention. It should set limits as Lom‚ IV has and include a framework, emphasizing the universality of the problem while giving special consideration to the African situation. The introduction should include a preamble which covers the concerns of all regions. The definition of desertification in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 should be expanded to include the economic and social phenomena. The Convention should include the general targets on food self-sufficiency and security, employment and financial resources. The Convention should ensure worldwide commitment and follow-up through country reports.

ISRAEL: The delegate from Israel mentioned the importance of technology transfer, saying that in Israel's experience, technology must be adapted before it can be transferred. Israel adapts its expertise in three areas: field surveys; consulting and training in desertification control programmes; and training courses in basic and applied conservation sciences. He concluded by adding his support for Egypt's proposal for a monitoring network based on ecological zoning.

SWITZERLAND: The delegate from Switzerland said that there is a need to establish a short framework convention containing general global principles. The Convention should then be supplemented with a series of regional instruments, since actions must be adjusted to regional needs and it is inappropriate to require all countries to make the same commitments. The Convention should include verifiable objectives and the ability to make firm, lasting commitments. The Convention must represent a contract for generations as the result must be a long-term matter. Yet, each actor must benefit in the short-term if the Convention is to be successful. He mentioned the need to ensure complimentarity and coordination between this Convention and others. Finally, he stated that Switzerland favors an expansion of financing for desertification control activities from the renewed GEF.

CANADA: The delegate from Canada stated that the INC should negotiate a Convention focussing on increased degradation in dry areas in the world. Rather than embark on major schemes to reclaim desert areas, the Convention should aim to stop the conversion of productive land into desert. Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 and its definition of desertification should be the starting point. The INC should seek to develop a framework convention with provisions that apply to most countries. Region-specific provisions should be placed in annexes to be negotiated as part of the process. He expressed the need to incorporate the views of local people into the Convention and urged that the role of women and NGOs be included as one of the principles to guide formation of national plans. He also stressed the need to look at alternatives to agriculture in desertified areas. He stated that existing sources of funding for desertification and drought will be the main sources. While the GEF has funded some projects, there are inherent restrictions in what the GEF can do in this area.

SENEGAL: Speaking on the format of the Convention, the delegate from Senegal stated that specific provisions for Africa should be negotiated at the same time as the Convention and that it should include efficiency in training and improvements in the legal and institutional environment. Impartial partnerships with the international community are essential. The Convention should also deal with the issue of financial mechanisms and resources.

UZBEKISTAN: The delegate stated that his country was interested in the Convention as three-quarters of Uzbekistan is arid or semi-arid. He said the Convention should increase scientific research, particularly on climate and weather flows for early warnings. He emphasized the need for the Convention to deal with water resources and their transboundary use.

SAUDI ARABIA: The representative of Saudi Arabia said that the Convention should be independent and not bound to any other. He added that the Convention's modalities should be respected by all countries.

LESOTHO: The delegate from Lesotho said that the Convention must stress resource mobilization at the local, national, regional and global levels. Political, scientific, human and technical resources must all be mobilized. The INCD must clearly define the problem that these resources must solve. Lesotho supports the notion that the Secretariat, as advised by the IPED, should recommend appropriate definitions and that the INCD should determine a set of clearly-defined objectives. The Convention should deal with supporting measures, including the provision of additional financial resources to complement local and national resources. He stressed the importance of popular participation at all levels and that the best way to empower the people is through decentralization.

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