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PLENARY

The Chair, Amb. Bo Kjell‚n, opened the morning's Plenary with discussion of Agenda Item 2, Election of officers. The Eastern European Group's nomination of Nikita Glazovsky (Russia) as the rapporteur was agreed to by the Committee. There was no nomination yet from the Eastern European Group for the Vice Chair/Rapporteur of Working Group I, so this election was postponed. Finally, Ann de Lattre (France) was elected Chair of Working Group II, as a replacement for Jacques Alliot (France). The Chair then resumed the general debate.

MONGOLIA: The Environment Minister referred to the need to develop urgent measures to improve the fate of those people who are living in desertified areas. The Convention must identify the priority problems and the machinery needed to combat desertification. This machinery must be strengthened by financial guarantees. With 40 percent of its territory under the influence of desertification, Mongolia is undergoing a difficult period, exacerbated by the transition to a market economy.

CAPE VERDE: Maria Helena Semedo, Minister of Fisheries, Agriculture and Rural Development spoke on behalf of CILSS. She stated that Chapter 12 in Agenda 21 provides a good basis for defining desertification. She highlighted the need to recognize the role of women in combatting desertification. She further added that poverty will expand if external debt, structural adjustment and the insufficient transfer of resources continue to prevent developing countries from achieving sustainable development.

BURKINA FASO: Anatole Gomtirbou Tiendrebeogo, Minister of Environment and Tourism, stated that the agreement to negotiate a global convention is one of the major achievements of UNCED. He referred to desertification and drought as the primary sources of political and social instability in those areas affected. The Convention must set out a practical process that will ensure that local populations receive the assistance they require to sustainably use their land and resources. He noted that the selfish self-interest of certain governments is undermining the overall process.

UZBEKISTAN: A. Ovchinnikov, Deputy-Minister of Hydrometeorology, outlined the measures his government has undertaken to combat desertification: Uzbekistan no longer grows only cash crops; it has improved approximately 300,000 hectares for grain production; it has allocated over 33,000 hectares to farming enterprises; and it has installed 21,000 km of gas and water pipelines. Uzbekistan is an active participant in preparing the regional desertification programme for central Asia.

TUNISIA: On behalf of the Minister of Environment and Land Planning, the Tunisian delegate noted that his government's approach to combating desertification has been to develop community-based projects. About 40,000 hectares of mobile dunes have been stabilized and family planning measures have been implemented to reduce the demographic pressures on land.

UNEP: Franklin Cardy, who spoke on behalf of UNEP Executive-Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell, elaborated on the Secretariat's financial constraints. These are a direct result of UN funding cutbacks, which, in turn, are due to the failure of governments to honor their pledges. He lamented the apparent lack of commitment to solve developing country agricultural problems while the North, according to UNCTAD reports, spends up to US$100 billion in annual subsidizes for its farmers. This sum is ten times what is required to resolve the problem of desertification and rehabilitate semi-arid areas. He urged governments to give financial support to the INCD process.

SAHARA AND SAHEL OBSERVATORY: Marc Bied-Charreton described his organization's aims of enhancing African capacity in combating desertification, promoting integrated development closer to the needs of local populations, enhancing synergies between sectors, and strengthening the role of local populations.

UNSO: Acting Director Samuel Nyambi conveyed the commitment of UNDP Administrator Gus Speth regarding the INCD process. He stated that UNSO is convinced that solutions should provide greater influence on the lives of those people who live in dryland areas. A livelihood- centered approach would focus attention first and foremost on the inhabitants of those regions.

KENGO: Dominic Walubengo of KENGO made a statement on behalf of the Bamako NGO Forum. Among the issues raised by NGOs are: the need to consider land tenure practices; the participation of local populations in policies and decision-making; effective extension programmes; proper marketing for crops and animal products; environmental programmes in school curricula; the availability of financial resources; the creation of local information centres; the importance of culturally-sensitive donor programmes; and enabling political environments.

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