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WORKING GROUP I

CAPACITY BUILDING: All delegates supported the need to address capacity building and many stressed that capacity building is the cornerstone of the Convention. Finland and Belgium, on behalf of the EC, suggested that due to the close linkages between capacity building and the next section on education and public awareness, these sections be combined. In fact, many delegates addressed both of these sections in their interventions.

Some delegates, including Canada, suggested that capacity building should be included in other sections of the document. Canada also mentioned that the OECD is exploring how to increase the effectiveness of capacity building. They will share the results when available. Canada and the Russian Federation highlighted the need for more effective utilization of existing institutions. Israel stated that capacity building should be enhanced by an initial process of long-term interactive learning and study of the problems, their causes, and the available and missing means for capacity building. This process should be executed through long-term, mutual exchange of expertise. Israel expressed its willingness to participate in these learning processes with all prospective partners.

Japan urged that capacity building measures should be regionally and nationally relevant. Tanzania stated that paragraph 97 in A/AC.241/12 was counter-productive because new institutions must be locally based. Zimbabwe stated that capacity building should be locally driven, not donor driven. This point was echoed by China and Benin who said that local communities must take over their resources on a democratic basis. Burkina Faso identified women and young children as the key potential in local populations. Niger pointed out that strengthening the capacity of local populations includes, in part, combatting illiteracy and sharing knowledge, assets and power. Niger also referred to the importance of youth and NGOs. He noted the "worrisome" phenomenon of NGO proliferation in the Sahelian region, especially among NGOs who have not proven their effectiveness. Malaysia stated that special mention of the importance of the participation of women was unnecessary since this point should be implicit. Many other delegates, however, stated that specific reference should be given to women.

Lesotho, supported by Norway, stated that capacity building should be carried out in conjunction with public awareness and education. Kenya highlighted the importance of promoting capacity building at the primary, secondary and university levels. Sweden suggested that non-formal education should also be addressed, and that there is a need to educate decision-makers.

Norway asked UNDP, within its Capacity 21 initiative, to prepare a comprehensive review of national level capacity and to identify where capacity will be needed to implement the Convention. Norway disagreed with Malaysia's refusal to incorporate any reference to South-South cooperation in the Convention. Armenia referred to the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions as useful models for capacity-building regimes.

UNESCO stated that the Convention should ensure the improvement of national research structures. In many countries, institutional problems could be rectified by increased coordination and cooperation.

Bolivia highlighted the importance of an integrated approach in national training. He also stated that poverty eradication should be one of the factors considered in this section since it is an essential pre-condition to capacity building. Sweden pointed out that awareness raising must be carried out in those countries that are not directly affected by desertification.

CONGAC (Cameroon), on behalf of the NGOs, stated that there is a lack of political will in many African countries to ensure popular participation. The representative urged increased cooperation between governments and NGOs.

EDUCATION AND PUBLIC AWARENESS: Algeria supported Senegal's earlier call for an international training centre headquartered in Africa. The centre would train scientific, technical and management personnel and develop programmes for training institutions. Algeria offered to host this centre. Malaysia emphasized the need to address the sustainable management and use of natural resources and the use of extension services. Tanzania called for sustained public awareness measures. Ghana stated that a public awareness strategy should use a network approach and begin with the aspirations of the people. Togo said public awareness should take into account local realities and the need to address poverty that leads to migration and refugees. Saudi Arabia said media-initiated public awareness should target peasants, women and children. As well, school curricula should include issues on drought and desertification. World Vision International (Mali), on behalf of the NGOs, stressed the importance of rural community education, community radio broadcasting and primary education.

FINANCIAL RESOURCES AND MECHANISMS: In the afternoon, Working Group I focused on the divisive issue of financial resources and mechanisms. Mali, on behalf of the African Group, introduced its recommendations: existing mechanisms should be improved qualitatively and quantitatively (including the need for developed countries to fulfill their commitment to devote 0.7% GNP to development aid); the need for new resources (improvement of the GEF and the establishment of a special fund for combatting desertification); and debt relief. Tanzania suggested that these proposals (paragraph 104 of A/AC.241/12) should serve as the basis for further negotiation.

Malaysia commented that if the spirit of Rio is adhered to, there should be strong international cooperation on financial resources. However, there is no evidence of such commitment. Some countries have even reduced their ODA. Sustainable development is "just hot air" if commitments are not implemented. Malaysia does not favor linking the financial mechanism for this Convention to the GEF.

In a lengthy intervention, Egypt provided numerous statistics on the amount of funds needed to combat desertification and how much is currently available. He cited a number of lessons to be learned from the attempts to mobilize funds for the 1977 Plan of Action. First, a special account was set up by the General Assembly and after ten years it had only collected US$236,000. After that, an international consulting group (DESCON) was set up to mobilize resources and after eight meetings it ceased to exist. Finally, UNEP conducted a study on how to finance the Plan of Action, but the recommendations were never implemented. He suggested that the Secretariat provide delegates with a copy of this 1981 report that is still valid today.

China, India and Morocco said that new and additional financial resources from developed countries are necessary. Brazil, Algeria and Tanzania stated that many programmes and plans are unsuccessful because of a lack of resources to implement them. Burkina Faso said that the problem in the past has been lack of coordination between donors and duplication of activities at the national level. The UK stated that there is no indication that resource flows are insufficient. Belgium, on behalf of the EC, pointed out that lack of funds has not been the problem, rather scarce human resources and coordination of external resources has undermined programme success.

China advocated using Articles 20 and 21 of the Biodiversity Convention, where each contracting party will seek to provide financial support in accordance with its national plans, priorities and programmes, and developed country parties will provide new and additional financial resources. Zambia added that financial resources should be mobilized from both the national and international levels. Mexico stated that political will is an important part of mobilizing resources at the national and local levels. The US, Canada and the EC supported paragraph 103(a)(ii), which suggests that the bulk of resources will come from the affected countries.

Brazil, Malaysia, Morocco and Zambia supported the establishment of a new fund for desertification (paragraph 103(a)(i)). The UK thought that the establishment of such a fund would, in effect, reduce the flow of external funding. The UK also supported the more general formulations on financial mechanisms in paragraphs 104(d) and 106(a). Canada did not support the creation of a new fund. Argentina said that perhaps the GEF could be used during the period before the Convention enters into force. It would be appropriate for the Conference of Parties to establish the required fund.

Malaysia, Zambia and others urged the need for democratic and transparent financial mechanisms.

China and India supported the use of a "package approach" (paragraph 102(b)) for financing the Convention, relying on a panoply of financial sources, resources and mechanisms.

The US and the UK pointed out that at this point, it is unclear what the financial requirements will be until the negotiating process has advanced further and commitments are better defined. The UK stressed the need to consider what actions and activities are to be provided for by the Convention. This list should be specific and directly related to the causes and prevention of desertification.

The US said that a three-step process will be necessary: what is currently being spent on desertification; what can be done more efficiently or reoriented from existing programmes; and what is a realistic estimate of what is needed. The US and Canada commented that they may be able to increase bilateral aid. In the two countries there is a general emphasis on the implementation of environmental programmes; a renewed interest in regional programmes; and an emphasis on public participation.

Canada suggested that all affected and donor countries should estimate the level of resources that can be devoted to combatting desertification. Canada endorsed a number of paragraphs in the Secretariat's document, including 104(d) and (g). However, 104(c), mandating the contribution of 0.7% of GNP for ODA, goes beyond the Rio Agreements and does not belong in this Convention. Financing of Convention activities (paragraph 106) should be left to the Conference of Parties.

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