While the idea of a convention to combat desertification had been discussed during the UNCED preparatory process, it was only in Rio where language was adopted requesting the General Assembly to establish an intergovernmental negotiating committee for the purpose of negotiating a convention. The General Assembly, during its 47th session in 1992, adopted resolution 47/188 calling for the establishment of the INCD, which will hold five sessions, with a view to finalizing a convention by June 1994. The organizational session of the INCD was held in January 1993. At that meeting delegates elected Bo Kjelln (Sweden) Chair of the Committee, elected the Bureau, adopted the rules of procedure, set the schedule of meetings and established two working groups.
The first session of the INCD was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 24 May - 3 June 1993. The first week of this session focused on the sharing of technical information and assessments on various aspects of drought and desertification. Divided into seven sections, the information sharing segment provided an opportunity for scientists, technical experts, delegates and NGOs to share relevant experiences and learn more about the scourge of desertification and its global dimensions. The second week focused on the structure and elements to be contained in the Convention. Delegates also exchanged ideas about the Convention and its objectives.
While agreement was reached on the mandates of the working groups, negotiations stalled in Nairobi over the elaboration of related regional instruments while still giving priority action to Africa. Kjelln proposed that an instrument on Africa, such as an annex, be negotiated once the main structure of the Convention had been defined and that similar instruments for other regions be negotiated subsequently. This proposal met with resistance from a few countries in regions other than Africa. They felt that their own problems with desertification deserved attention and that similar instruments for their regions should be negotiated simultaneously with the instrument for Africa. The decision on this matter was deferred.
The second session of the INCD met in Geneva from 13-24 September 1993. At this session, the Committee considered the compilation text of the Convention prepared by the Secretariat and agreed on the future programme of work of the Committee, including the elaboration of regional instruments for Africa, Asia and Latin America to supplement the Convention. As in Nairobi, the most difficult issue to resolve was the negotiation of regional instruments. At the conclusion of the second session of the INCD, the two working groups completed their discussion of the Secretariat's compilation text, identifying areas of convergence and divergence. There appeared to be consensus on a number of areas including the need for: a clear and concise preamble that refers to the history of desertification in the UN system; clear and concise objectives; and implementable commitments that are central to the Convention and articulated at different levels (local, regional and international). All delegates stressed the need for a public awareness strategy; improved education; and increased cooperation and coordination between North and South, South and South and among donors.
The 48th session of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution submitted by the INCD that urges the INCD to successfully complete the negotiations by June 1994. The INCD shall hold one session after the adoption of the Convention in order to review the situation in the interim period pending its entry into force, in particular with regard to the implementation of provisions adapted to the specific needs of each region. This extra session should be held not later than 31 January 1995.
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