Delegates considered the resolution on urgent action for Africa and interim measures taken in other regions during two Plenary meetings on Wednesday, 15 January. Delegates heard 47 statements from country delegates, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Russia stated that desertification is taking place in Europe and suggested adding an Annex on European countries.
URGENT ACTION FOR AFRICA: Executive Secretary Diallo called delegates attention to an overview he had prepared that takes stock of actions taken.
Activities on the development and implementation of National Action Programmes (NAPs) were the central issues addressed in most statements. Morocco is setting up a NAP and a partnership between the State and groups of villages. The Gambia has conducted zonal and divisional level consultations for the NAP. Botswana said its NAP process will culminate in a national forum process to discuss arrangements for its implementation. South Africa is creating capacity to plan and monitor its NAP. France is supporting NAPs in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cape Verde, Mauritania and Chad, with co- financing from the French Global Environmental Facility.
Delegates also discussed specific CCD-related projects. Egypt said projects, including better water harvesting and irrigation techniques, will increase the countrys inhabited area from five to 25 percent by 2025. Denmark and Burkina Faso presented their joint Burkinabe Sahel project, which gives high priority to the participation of communities and uses an integrated approach in addressing issues on food security and environmental restoration. A student campaign in Eritrea included the planting of millions of trees. Algeria carries out research on desertification trends using satellite imagery and plans to develop government-NGO partnerships. Senegal has created a desertification information system on the Internet. Norway is funding UNSO, the ILO and LDCs, especially in Africa, on desertification initiatives linked to poverty reduction, food security and the participation of women, indigenous peoples and grassroots organizations. Japan is developing desertification control technologies appropriate for local communities, such as underground dams, in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
National Environmental or Desertification Funds (NDFs) are being considered or established in a number of countries, including Niger, Kenya and Senegal. Benin has set up an NDF and is eager to mobilize funds to translate plans into reality. Uganda, among others, called for support for the development of an NDF.
Many called on partners to provide financial assistance and coordination of their NAPs. Zambia and others stated that efforts have been constrained by a lack of resources. The EU encouraged African countries starting NAPs to explore the advantages of the chef- de-file concept. Canada said it is a donor countrys responsibility to play the role of chef-de-file at a technical and political level. Germany noted the growing willingness of donors to become genuine partners and regretted that official bilateral and multilateral negotiations on development cooperation often do not properly refer to the Convention.
NGO efforts were recognized by some, such as Cameroon, which paid tribute to its new, but energetic, NGOs. Switzerland suggested a greater role for universities, scientists and NGOs.
Public awareness campaigns are underway in most of the African countries that spoke. In many cases, these were connected with World Desertification Day. Togo said it has launched a national information and sensitization programme, but the NAP is still in the identification phase.
Legislative changes or reviews are contemplated or in force in a number of countries. The Gambia has revised its national forest policy to enable community forest management. Ethiopia reviewed all policies and strategies by the Environmental Protection Authority. Eritreas national activities include decentralization and further democratization of the political system. New government structures have also been contemplated or created, including Ghanas national committee on desertification.
The integrated nature of the Convention and implementation was noted by a number of speakers, including Burundi, who noted close connections between biodiversity, climate change and desertification. His country has integrated the implementation of the three conventions into a national strategy.
Subregional activities were also discussed. CILSS noted activities to devise a subregional action programme and to consider a methodology for organizing transborder village projects. The OAU noted that participants in subregional meetings appreciated the value of the exchange of experiences. IGAD is planning two subregional workshops on science and technology and regional prioritization. France is supporting regional scientific cooperation in West Africa. Mauritania brought together 15 African focal points in a workshop.
Additional comments included the ECs statement that the Commission is undertaking a review of the various Community CCD-related policies. Sweden said the commitments made at the World Food Summit relate to desertification problems and how to solve them. He also said the concept of environmental refugees has become more crucial and that the Convention has a role to play.
NORTHERN MEDITERRANEAN REGION: Portugal, on behalf of Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey and France, described coordination of activities under Annex IV. A meeting will be held in 1997 on benchmarks and indicators. Spain said it is preparing a NAP and is committed to the CCD process.
LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN REGION: Five delegates from Latin America and the Caribbean discussed national and regional activities. Haiti takes a comprehensive approach to sustainable development, after ratifying the biodiversity, climate change and desertification conventions. Brazil is elaborating a National Plan to Combat Desertification and establishing a National Network on Desertification. Brazil has been active in fostering technical cooperation with other affected countries. Argentinas national activities have included bringing together NGOs involved with desertification and developing an advisory group in the area of science and technology. Mexico has adopted a new environmental law, and is drafting a forest law and a technical assistance agreement. A committee to combat desertification is being coordinated by an NGO. Bolivias national actions include: ratification of the Convention; establishment of a NAP; work to mitigate poverty; and organization of awareness campaigns.
ASIAN REGION: Four delegates from the Asian region reported their activities. Kazakstan called attention to reports on the national preparatory activities to combat desertification and the international conference to combat desertification in countries with economies in transition. Israel highlighted national, subregional, regional and international activities, including development of orchards that will be irrigated by waste water, the experts meeting on synergies in implementing the Rio Conventions and the Rio Forest Principles, and the creating of an international school for desert studies. China has reviewed its projects to combat desertification, which resulted in increased funding for those projects that performed well. Syrias ratification instrument will soon be deposited. National activities include a greenbelt and an afforestation project.
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS AND NGOS: UNDP, UNEP and NGOs also made statements on this agenda item. UNDP stressed the importance of ensuring coordination, capacity building and local participation. With the financial assistance of Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, France, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands and Switzerland, UNDP is facilitating projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia including: small grants for local community and public education initiatives; 20 NAPs; and 18 NDFs, mainly in Africa. UNEP said it is still an active participant in support of the CCD and, in particular, to the interim and urgent measures in Africa. UNEP is in the process of revising its desertification atlas and continues to serve as the secretariat for the African Deserts and Arid Lands Committee. The Nigeria Environmental Study Team, on behalf of RIOD (NGO Network on Desertification), called on Governments of affected developing countries to allow NGO participation in the NAP process and of developed country partners to provide funds.
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