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WORKING GROUP I

Working Group I reopened discussion of the sections on structure and nature of commitments and national action programmes in response to the request of certain delegates.

STRUCTURE AND NATURE OF COMMITMENTS: Bolivia commented that the commitments should be substantive, concrete, action-oriented, operational and linked to the other sections of the Convention, specifically the objectives and preamble. The commitments should address the physical and environmental aspects of desertification, as well as the economic, social and human aspects. Mongolia said that the commitments must be specific and must respond to the realities facing different countries.

Armenia stressed the need for commitments aimed at poverty eradication. Sudan said that there should be additional provisions for monitoring the implementation of commitments. Finland stressed the importance of commitments relating to land use. Bolivia and Uganda said that developed countries should make the commitments to provide the necessary financial resources and technology to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought.

Egypt said that although a number of speakers commented on the importance of public participation, it is crucial to "de-marginalize" people in the rural areas who suffer from famine and desertification. The representative from the Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe stressed the need to make commitments to provide NGOs with funds and the capacity building to implement and prepare projects.

On the question of structure, Bolivia said that there should be two categories of commitments: global, regional and subregional on the one hand and domestic commitments on the other. Iran agreed that commitments at various levels, and not just South-South cooperation, will be required. Finland suggested that the text of Agenda 21 should form the basis for the negotiations on structure.

Canada proposed that in order to facilitate the process the Secretariat should produce an initial draft structure and format for this section of the Convention to serve as the basis for informal discussion during the second week of the session. The US and Finland supported this proposal. The Chair responded that he would raise this at the Bureau meeting that evening.

NATIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: Canada said that national action plans should be coordinated with regional and subregional plans and that consideration should be given to countries working actively with UNDP's Capacity 21 initiative. Belgium, on behalf of the EC, said that national plans should focus on concrete activities that can be properly implemented and evaluated. Many action plans have failed because there is a lack of focus or prioritization. The EC does not support general statements on poverty eradication: the plans should be specific to desertification and subject to monitoring. National strategies should form the basis for coordinated support from the international community. Spain added that these plans should have strict follow-up and implementation provisions and should limit activities involving the use of "hard" technologies.

Guinea Bissau, Burundi, Kenya, Peru and Malawi responded that matters relating to poverty cannot be left out. Morocco said that poverty eradication and population stabilization should be key elements. Niger stressed the need for an integrated approach. Senegal reminded delegates of the human dimension of national planning.

Botswana stressed human-centered action programmes and the need for greater coordination at different levels to improve efficiency. Bangladesh and Denmark said that national programmes should be long-term, focussed, multi-sectoral and concrete. Italy and Peru mentioned the need to involve local communities. Egypt suggested four elements: action related to the management of drought; preventive action; rehabilitation of damaged and desertified lands; and the development of land and water resources. Israel supported these points and added that the economic development of hyper-arid deserts should be a part of national and regional plans. KENGO, on behalf of the NGOs, argued for a revision of land-tenure laws and the adoption of national plans using the participatory approach.

Mali listed a number of reasons why past plans have failed. These include: the haste in drawing up plans; insensitivities of the experts drawing up the plans; and inadequacy of resources. New plans may succeed since countries are now undergoing decentralization and democratization and have learned from past experiences. Mauritania echoed these points, but stressed the lack of resources.

Bolivia responded to Belgium's statement about international support being contingent on good quality plans. He said it is better to have 100 projects or programmes that target the hard-hit areas and involve local communities than a situation where each country has to develop a programme and then wait for it to be approved by the Conference of Parties before it can receive international support. Kenya warned that this Convention cannot interfere with national government expenditures and policies, including land tenure.

SUB-REGIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: Mali, on behalf of the African Group, introduced its proposals for sub-regional action programmes. The Africans are guided by three concerns: the need to ensure consistency between national programmes; rationality; and the adjustment of present provisions and positions. The US cautioned that the language should not be too Africa-oriented as this Convention is supposed to be universal in its scope. He said that organizations, such as the Niger River Basin, should not be created that may detract political attention from the problems of desertification. Benin stressed the importance of management of transboundary waterways, grazing lands and biodiversity, adoption of legislation on nature protection and promotion of eco-tourism.

Kenya, India and Brazil requested that the meeting adjourn to allow the various regional groups to meet and resolve some outstanding issues. Since no delegation objected, the Chair suspended the work for the afternoon.

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