RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: The recurring question raised by delegates was the appropriate type of research to be promoted: applied or basic. The general consensus supported the need to coordinate "laboratory" research with field activities. Israel suggested the need to establish organs to link the two. Finland cited the newly established European Tropical Forest Research Network that promotes collaboration with research institutions in countries with arid and semi-arid areas. Mali highlighted the need for rural centres for research on local knowledge. Morocco emphasized the need to address "preventive" measures.
INFORMATION COLLECTION, ANALYSIS AND EXCHANGE: The central issue in this discussion was organized information dissemination. Mexico and Tanzania stressed the need for local, regional and international information networks.
TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AND COOPERATION: Tanzania said there is a need to establish institutions to facilitate the transfer of technology, in particular the strengthening of sub-regional monitoring centres. He also stated the need to develop alternative renewable energies. Burkina Faso stressed the need to develop solar energy, but Saudi Arabia stated that the issue of energy security discussed in paragraph 90(b)(iv) of document A/AC.241/12 is a "vague expression" that should be deleted, since it is being addressed by other institutions. In response, Tanzania and Benin explained that dependence on fuelwood leads to deforestation, which causes desertification, This necessitates the development of other alternatives forms of energy. Malaysia suggested deleting paragraph 90(a)(iv), which deals with the utilization of biodiversity, since it is covered under the Biodiversity Convention. Tanzania suggested an amendment that stresses biodiversity in "dryland areas." Tanzania also said there is need to promote technologies that improve traditional ones, such as water harvesting and agroforestry techniques as well as remote sensing facilities that supplement traditional monitoring mechanisms. Benin outlined Africa's five priorities that include food and energy security, which calls for the need to develop food storage and processing facilities.
Belgium re-emphasized the need for demand-driven technology transfer. Zimbabwe concurred, but emphasized that demand is also influenced by the awareness of existing technologies. She said that technology transfer should include the know-how necessary to build local capacity. Financial resources are also needed in this regard. Ethiopia and Gambia stated that acceptability of technology depends on basic literacy of the user groups.
China and CEDARE stated the need to address capacity building, but was informed by the Secretariat that Working Group I was discussing this issue.
During the discussions, several comments prompted the Chair to call upon the experience of the CILSS countries. Bolivia said their experience is unlike that of Africa, although similar to that of Asia. In that light, he suggested that direct exchanges between countries with similar characteristics would be useful.
Gambia charged that government policies were not always conducive to technology transfer and needed to be re-assessed. UNESCO mentioned the need to encourage the private sector to invest in these marginal areas, while providing patented and subsidized technology. Mexico outlined the three aspects of the pilot projects he proposed on Wednesday to include: training, demonstration of the best technologies and to support research.
INSTITUTIONS: The Secretariat pointed out that the main issue before the group was to assess what new institutions should be established under the Convention. Most delegations favored the establishment of a Permanent Secretariat to service the administrative needs of the Convention, but felt that it was premature to start defining its functions, size or structure. Botswana, on behalf of the African Group, argued that some minimum structure should at least be agreed upon.
Some delegations, such as the UK, Germany, Australia, Japan and the US, felt that the Conference of the Parties and not this Working Group should decide on the establishment of subsidiary bodies. The African delegations suggested that the actual functions of the Conference of the Parties should not be finalized until agreement has been reached on the substantive obligations of the Convention. They strongly supported the establishment of subsidiary bodies, especially a scientific/technical advisory board and a body to deal with financial matters. Senegal urged delegates to show support for the African position and stated that agreement on the establishment of subsidiary bodies would be the expression of a willingness to move discussions to a more operational phase.
Australia felt that it was premature to discuss the question of institutions until agreement has been reached on the substantive components of the Convention. Canada suggested that only those institutions be established that were absolutely necessary for the successful implementation of the Convention, in order to conserve limited financial resources. Canada, along with many other Northern countries, suggested making use of existing institutions established under other environmental conventions. This point represented clear divergence among the countries, with the African delegations urging that issue-specific instruments, such as the Desertification Convention, warrant their own institutions. Many African countries believed that despite the similarity of the goals with the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions, the nature, objectives and scope of the Desertification Convention were sufficiently different as to require an independent institution.
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