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ELABORATION OF THE CONVENTION

IGADD: The Executive Secretary presented the history, mandate and activities of IGADD in combatting desertification. He said there is no need for more definitions but the salient factors that link up and cause land deterioration in the drylands should be clarified. He emphasized the need for: information and data exchange; environmental assessment and monitoring; land management and production systems and techniques; water resources development and management; drought preparedness; and human resource development and capacity building. The Convention should address poverty, investment and trade issues, as well as other global socio-economic factors. There is need to revise the funding institutions so that survival of the people is the priority.

PERU: The delegate called for networking between the governments, academic institutions, and NGOs as well as other sectors. He said the important issues are: out-migration; demographic and economic factors; legislation that offers the possibility and proper guidance in the use of natural resources; inventory and evaluation of the rational use of resources; and ecological monitoring. The Convention should consider constraints such as financial resources and organizational problems that often utilize unilateral, rather than inter-agency, approaches, as well as the lack of awareness and popular participation.

IRAN: The delegate underscored the importance of recognizing the sovereign rights of states to exploit their own resources. He added that the Rio Declaration recognized this, and initiatives to protect the environment should not undermine those rights. He stressed that environmental protection programmes can only succeed if they are integrated into socio-economic development. To combat desertification there is a need for: the establishment of research centres and training institutions; the formulation and implementation of national and regional plans of action; and new and additional financial assistance.

PORTUGAL: The delegate commented that desertification is a global problem. With regard to the Convention, he said that: the problem must be addressed at the local, national and sub-regional levels; there is a need for the definition of some global commitments; and there should be links with other conventions dealing with environmental issues to avoid overlap and recognize connections. Trade and debt are beyond the scope of this convention, but concerns should be conveyed to the appropriate international institutions. He stressed the importance of the concept of carrying-capacity. He added that there is a need for monitoring how funds will be both utilized and assessed.

CHILE: The Convention should draw a framework that is universal but with a preamble that emphasizes Africa. There should be protocols/annexes on the various regions, such as Africa, that are negotiated at the same time as the main text of the convention. The studies should cover the loss of biodiversity; interaction between human resources and degradation; natural and human processes that erode and lead to economic impoverishment in desert areas; climate issues; and migration processes. Popular participation should be a central feature of the Convention. He suggested the creation of networks and development centres.

BOTSWANA: The delegate proposed that the framework borrow from the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions. The preamble should emphasize land degradation and the proper management, utilization and conservation of resources and wildlife. The principles should include soil and water conservation, agroforestry, reforestation, alternative livelihood systems, and afforestation. His country will ensure that the case study on Botswana is completed. The Secretariat should prepare estimates on the resources needed to meet the challenge as new and additional sources of funds will be required. He suggested that preparation of National Action Plans be articulated in the Convention.

SPAIN: The delegate stressed that methods and procedures must be based on scientific knowledge and must deal with specific situations in the countries affected. He said that the Convention needs financial provisions and, noting the principle of non-proliferation of financial mechanisms and given the need for effectiveness and efficiency, existing mechanisms must be used. He said that the links between climate change and biodiversity and desertification must be mentioned and, although Spain believes the objectives of the Convention must be global, the Africans must get priority treatment.

MAURITANIA: The delegate described the problems with drought and desertification in his country and outlined a number of measures that have been undertaken to combat them. He stated that the new Convention should learn from the programmes and plans adopted in 1977 with a view to putting an end to desertification by 2000. He added that the Convention should elaborate follow-up mechanisms and ensure transfer of technology and scientific knowledge to those countries that need it.

BOLIVIA: The delegate said that the Convention should encompass the social, human, cultural, political and economic factors. Trade, poverty, debt and the development of the human resource should also be discussed. He said the poor are the victims of desertification, and that poverty alleviation should be the primary goal. Regional approaches should be prepared as annexes or protocols. The know-how and technology of indigenous populations should be used and NGOs must be central in the negotiations.

CHAD: The delegate said that political and social instability has slowed down efforts to combat desertification and Chad is moving towards an environmental and socio-economic crisis. The Convention should have the following elements: improved standard of living for people facing drought and desertification; stronger institutions; use of local knowledge; and adaptation of technologies to local conditions. He added that the Secretariat's outline is a good basis and there should be special provisions for Africa.

IRAQ: The delegate stressed the need for financial support for poor countries and those that cannot finance their programmes. He proposed the introduction of regional advisory centres that would carry out studies related to desertification. He explained that Iraq was unable to carry out programmes on desertification due to the trade embargo and called for an end to political victimization of the people who depend on these programmes. He said that to combat desertification, there is need for infrastructural development.

MALI: The delegate said that to avoid academic discussions, the definitions elaborated in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 should be utilized in the Convention. He then listed four kinds of global commitments that should be contained in the Convention: scientific, including strengthening national capacities and creating international centres; technical; economic, including reducing the debt burden and trade imbalances; and financial, including improving existing mechanisms.

CUBA: The Convention should consider the relevant chapters of Agenda 21, including the chapters on desertification, agriculture and fresh water, stated the delegate from Cuba. Although the Convention must be universal in nature, the basis must be experience gained in the regions themselves. She described the situation in Cuba, which has 60% of its territory affected by drought. She urged the need for more South-South cooperation on the regional and sub-regional levels.

CAMEROON: The delegate stated that priority must be given to Africa in this Convention, as per Resolution 47/188. The specific conditions in affected countries should be taken into account. Goals and objectives should include: preventing and combatting desertification and drought, within the perspective of sustainable development; improving standards of living; promoting national partnerships; and preventing desertification and drought through the institution of early warning systems. He said that additional financial resources will be necessary and transferred technology should be appropriate and adaptable. He supported the case studies and expressed confidence that they will lead to the elaboration of strategies.

POLAND: The delegate said his country favors a global convention but that the definition should be reviewed to include land degradation. The Convention should: reflect a universal character; have a flexible approach to national and regional plans; contain annexes on regional and national programmes that are negotiated alongside the main convention; and contain clear objectives. He emphasized the need for data collection and analysis, information exchange, monitoring of regional and national programs, and a review of the programmes undertaken.

MOROCCO: The delegate said indebtedness and rural exodus limit socio-economic development in the marginal areas. He proposed that the Convention should contain programmes aimed at developing these regions, long-term financing, and programmes on natural resources management. He said there was need to: set up monitoring, alert and drought-forecasting systems; build capacity; provide financial resources; undertake case studies to assess the global requirements for mobilization; and ensure popular participation.

EGYPT: As there was still time in the morning's session, the Chair gave the floor to Egypt. Prof. El Kassas elaborated on comments made by delegates during the week. He defined two types of global environmental problems. Systemic global issues are problems that are global because of cosmic phenomena, such as climate change and ozone depletion. Other problems are global because they are geographically widespread, such as land degradation and population. Desertification qualifies as both. He explained that a framework convention for issues like climate change may be acceptable because there are substantial uncertainties. However, this is not the case with land degradation and, thus, this should be an operational convention. He added that the INCD should not spend its time defining desertification, rather it should define how to combat desertification. Finally, on the issue of financial resources, he advocated exploring prospects of additional resources and means of managing available resources more efficiently.

KJELLN: At the beginning of the afternoon session, INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n made the following concluding remarks on Agenda Item 4. There is a strong commitment to the negotiations by all participants including NGOs and IGOs. The procedures for negotiation outlined by the Chair on 24 May and the format as set out in the Secretariat document were generally agreed to. Most delegates believe that Chapter 12 and other relevant chapters in Agenda 21, as well as the Rio Declaration and the Forest Principles, should be built on. There should be linkages to, but no duplication of, other conventions. There was a strong consensus on using a bottom-up approach that reinforces local action. There was consensus on a number of elements and that the group will come back to ways that commitments from all sides can be framed. The differences expressed were not surprising, however, the strength of the consensus on the fundamental issues will move us forward. Delegations will send proposals by the deadline of 1 July and the Secretariat will prepare documents to help structure the discussion of the working groups at the next session. Finally, he expressed satisfaction with the efforts of the participants in constructively presenting their views.

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