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C. FINANCIAL RESOURCES AND MECHANISMS:

Several developed countries 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. 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. Canada disagreed with the African Group's proposal to mandate the contribution of 0.7% of GNP for ODA, as this goes beyond the Rio Agreements and does not belong in this Convention. Switzerland said that the flow of funds should be determined in accordance with programmes to be carried out, not measured in percentages of GNP.

Kenya, Bolivia and Malaysia pointed out that many of the commitments made as part of the UNCED process, as well as the Spirit of Rio, appear to be forgotten.

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, as it is still valid today.

Many developing country delegates called for new and additional financial resources from developed countries. Japan did not support this call. Developing countries 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. Senegal and Bolivia cited numerous other problems including lack of coordination, inefficient funding, debt, and terms of trade. Several delegates noted that existing funds have not always been used effectively. Germany noted that the problem is not the provision of funds, but the capacity of the governments and technical services to use them effectively. 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 suggested 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. Most industrialized countries did not support this. Portugal commented that the INCD should not discard the idea of a special fund until there is more substantive information on this proposed mechanism.

Nigeria, Senegal and Portugal supported the use of the GEF as the financial mechanism for this Convention. Australia, the Nordics and Malaysia did not think that a new window in the GEF for desertification should be established. The Nordics and the Netherlands added that some anti-desertification programmes could be funded through the existing windows of the GEF. Argentina said that perhaps the GEF could be used during the period before the Convention enters into force. Spain stated that the GEF could provide a compromise solution at "a later stage."

China, India, Australia, the Nordics and Switzerland supported the use of a "package approach" for financing the Convention, relying on a panoply of financial sources, resources and mechanisms. Australia stressed the need: to facilitate a consistent approach between bilateral and multilateral sources; to improve coordination with NGOs; and to provide funds within the context of a coherent country-driven approach designed to promote sustainable development.

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, supported by Australia and Switzerland, 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. Canada suggested that all affected and donor countries should estimate the level of resources that can be devoted to combatting desertification. Australia suggested that there might be need for a clearinghouse on methods of assistance through the various channels available. Bolivia suggested inviting representatives from international and regional financial institutions, including the GEF, to exchange views on the financial mechanisms for financing the Convention and to produce a report for the next INCD session in New York.

UNEP urged delegates to recognize that a cooperative effort is required by all participants when considering coordination mechanisms. With regard to financial resources, UNEP's 1991 estimate of the total recent expenditures on desertification control worldwide was less than US$1 billion per year. This is equivalent to only US$1 per year for each person at risk from desertification. Approximately US$12 per person per year is needed. This amounts to a global programme of about US$12 billion.

The Environment Liaison Centre International, on behalf of the NGOs, reminded delegates that only a few developed countries meet the UN target of 0.7% of GNP for development assistance. NGOs also supported: the establishment of an independent fund; reduction of debt burdens; improvement of market conditions; lowering trade barriers; and cushioning the effects of deteriorating foreign exchange measures. [Return to start of article]