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B. SUB-REGIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES:

The African Group's proposals for sub-regional action programmes were 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.

Benin stressed the importance of management of transboundary waterways, grazing lands and biodiversity, adoption of legislation on nature protection and promotion of eco-tourism. Finland and Jordan supported paragraph 78 that mentions the need to take into account migratory flows of people and animals.

Egypt commented that while sub-regional programmes may be scientifically-based and technologically feasible, often they are not implemented for political or financial reasons. It was agreed that sub-regional action programmes should complement, strengthen and be coordinated with national action programmes. Botswana urged strengthening and increasing coordination between sub-regional programmes. Senegal agreed, adding that data collection, research, participation by local communities, training and administration should be strengthened.

Mexico stressed the need for international cooperation networks on science, technology, training and exchange of experiences. Morocco suggested establishing linkages between transboundary and geographically-separated projects. China, supported by India, suggested that sub-regional centres should be established, with assistance from the international community, to implement the regional action programmes.

Brazil stressed the need to strengthen existing institutions, but in their absence, new ones should be created. Belgium said that the rationalization of existing institutions is important and should precede the establishment of new ones. He added that any new institutions should support national policies and not drain limited financial and personnel resources. The UK added that most regional cooperation agreements in Africa have not been effective.

A number of African countries added that sub-regional institutions should be created to fill the many gaps that exist in Africa, especially with regard to satellite imagery and shared water resources. Niger listed three criteria for regional initiatives: action that no one country can successfully undertake alone; significant benefit to countries; and specific national components. Bolivia also mentioned the need to develop criteria to determine which institutions are working on desertification and if they have used an integrated approach. Norway and Zimbabwe agreed that the areas requiring subregional action should first be recognized and only then should the necessary institutions be identified.

Austria described the Central European Initiative as a successful sub-regional institution that does not have its own bureaucracy, but relies on civil servants and others working in their national capacities who communicate with each other on early warning systems and other matters.

III. SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL AREAS OF COMMITMENT

A. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: There was consensus regarding the section on research and development, although it was seen as too detailed and specific. Delegates thought that it will be necessary to prioritize issues and to cover strategies instead of detailed plans of action.

Canada suggested that the distinction between desertification and drought be made because the former is reversible while the latter is not. It is necessary to look at the relationships between these two problems in order to address the problem of poverty in combatting desertification. It is also necessary to distinguish between prevention and restoration of desertified areas. Research work should be focused on on-farm or off-station research in order to involve farmers at all levels. The specific areas that require more attention include: the role of women in farming and training children on the appropriate methods; concentrating on farm and pastoral systems and not just crop production; the socio-economic factors relating to drought and desertification; and the establishment of production-oriented land management systems. A bottom-up approach is needed for research and the integration of local indigenous knowledge with modern technology and research.

The EC suggested that existing networking centres should be supported and should tailor their work to increasing local capacity to assess local needs. It is necessary to ensure coordination between existing networking agencies. Most delegates, including Norway and India, agreed with this approach. It was further proposed that the Secretariat compile a list of institutions that are already networking, such as the CGIAR. Some African governments continued to call for local research centres. [Return to start of article]