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MANDATE OF THE WORKING GROUPS

While delegates were sharing their countries' experiences with drought and desertification and exchanging views on the format and possible elements of the Convention, informal consultations were taking place behind closed doors on a proposal submitted by the Chair on the mandates of the working groups. Two issues were discussed informally: the first was the actual responsibilities of the working groups and the second was the issue of priority action for Africa.

One item discussed was the responsibility of the working groups with regard to financial resources. The G-77 proposed that Working Group I, under the Chair of Ahmed Djoghlaf of Algeria, be responsible for the issue of financial resources "including additional financial resources as well as financial mechanisms." The developed countries were unable to accept the terminology "additional financial resources," however, they did not object to "financial arrangements" being taken up by Working Group I. Thus, the governments were able to agree to the following mandates for the working groups: 1) Working Group I is responsible for the preamble, principles, objectives and commitments, including financial arrangements and capacity building; 2) Working Group II is responsible for institutional, administrative, technological and scientific provisions; research, data collection and exchange of information; procedural arrangements; and other legal provisions.

The most divisive issue during the entire session was the timing of the negotiation of related regional instruments, while ensuring priority action for Africa. General Assembly resolution 47/188 includes, within the official name of the Negotiating Committee, the expression "particularly in Africa", indicating that priority action should be taken for this region. Kjell‚n originally proposed that an instrument on Africa, such as an annex, which would form an integral part of the Convention, be negotiated once the main structure of the Convention has been defined. He also proposed that similar instruments for other regions be negotiated subsequently.

This proposal, "Mandates for the Working Groups", circulated as document A/AC.241/L.6, was discussed at length by the regional groups and in informal consultations held by Kjell‚n. It met with resistance from a few countries in regions other than Africa that believed that their own problems with desertification deserved attention. Delegates from these regions felt that similar instruments for their regions should be negotiated simultaneously with the instrument for Africa. After hours of consultations, Kjell‚n proposed a compromise that read, "Similar instruments for other regions will be negotiated without delay, according to modalities to be decided by the Committee at its second session." It was this text that formed the basis for the formal discussion in Plenary that took place on Thursday, 3 June.

The Asian Group, supported by the Latin American Group, proposed amending this text by adding the following phrase after the word "delay": "within the timeframe of the negotiating process." However, in the debate, India then proposed changing this amendment to read "within the timeframe of the INCD." Kjell‚n, Japan, the African Group, Australia, Norway and others preferred the original formulation, since the INCD does not have a mandate beyond June 1994 but the negotiating process could continue after the convention was adopted in June. Austria mentioned the impracticality of negotiating the convention and additional regional instruments between now and June 1994. The Russian Federation proposed that discussion on this matter come to an end and the report reflect that the Committee was unable to reach consensus and that this matter would be discussed at the second session. After a further exchange of views, Kjell‚n adjourned the meeting hours to allow informal discussion that might break the deadlock.

When the meeting reconvened two hours later, Kjell‚n proposed the following text: "...In order to enable the INCD to negotiate similar instruments for other regions promptly, the Secretariat should prepare required background material for such negotiations to be initiated without delay and according to modalities to be agreed at the third session. The General Assembly would be invited at its 48th session to consider extending the negotiating process to enable additional regional instruments to be adopted. The Convention and the regional instrument on Africa to be adopted by June 1994 and the other regional instruments which shall have the same legal status as the regional instrument for Africa shall enter into force according to modalities to be specified in the Convention."

Brazil and Mexico, later supported by Peru and Pakistan, immediately announced that they could not accept this text. Numerous delegations, including Benin, Australia, Austria, France, Kenya, C“te d'Ivoire, Mauritania, the EC and others, stated that although they did not want to rewrite the mandate given in Rio and by the General Assembly, they would be willing to accept this text in the spirit of compromise to allow the process to move forward. Despite widespread support for the Chair's proposal, consensus was impossible. Kjell‚n proposed instead that the four delegations in opposition to this proposal allow it to be adopted by consensus and then make whatever statements are necessary. Once again, Brazil and Mexico refused. Kjell‚n then took a decision as Chair to note that consensus could not be achieved but that the report would include both this latest proposal as well as the text contained in document L.10/rev.1. These two proposals would be annexed to the report as guidance to the Chair and the Secretariat in preparing for the next session. A decision will then be taken on the mandates of the working groups at the outset of the September session in Geneva.

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