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WORKING GROUP I

Since the Chair of Working Group I, Ahmed Djoghlaf, had not yet arrived in New York, and the Vice Chair, Erwin Ortiz-Gandanillas, was also absent, INCD Vice Chair Ren‚ Val‚ry Mongbe chaired Monday afternoon's session.

PREAMBLE: Bob Ryan of the INCD Secretariat introduced the preambular section of the draft convention, as contained in document A/AC.241/15. Delegates then began a paragraph-by-paragraph discussion. There were no comments on paragraphs 1 and 2, which mention the urgent concern about the adverse impact of desertification and drought and the recognition that drylands account for a significant proportion of the earth's land area.

Paragraph 3: This paragraph acknowledges the global dimension of desertification. The Gambia suggested referring as well to drought, since this is one of the main concerns of the Convention. The Netherlands and Australia requested time to reflect on this proposal. Greece, on behalf of the European Union, stressed that the paragraph should only mention drought as it affects desertification. Several other delegations made amendments to Gambia's proposed text.

Paragraph 4: There was no comment on this paragraph, which notes the concentration of developing countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification.

Paragraph 5: This paragraph reads: "Noting also that desertification is caused by complex interactions among physical, biological, political and socio-economic factors, including trade and other aspects of international economic relations." Greece, supported by the UK, Sweden, and the US, said that this paragraph contains elements that are not germane to the Convention and that the paragraph should end after "factors." Brazil, supported by other developing countries, argued that the effects of trade and other international economic relations on desertification are very important and should be retained in the text. Belgium and Norway pointed out that the term "socio-economic factors" encompasses many things and if the paragraph mentions trade, perhaps it should also mention demographic growth. Norway also noted that the problem may relate to the word "caused" and suggested the word "impacted" instead.

Paragraph 6: This paragraph reads "Conscious that economic growth, social development, and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries and are themselves essential to meeting sustainability objectives." Australia suggested substituting the word "developing" with "affected," since developing countries are not the only ones with these concerns. Several developing countries pointed out that poverty is more acute in developing countries. Pakistan suggested the phrase "affected countries, in particular in developing countries." India and Brazil suggested omitting any mention of countries. Australia supported replacing "poverty eradication" with the more realistic goal of "poverty alleviation." Brazil pointed out that "poverty eradication" is Agenda 21 language. The US questioned the use of the phrase "first and overriding." The Gambia and others insisted on maintaining this phrase. China suggested the following that was provisionally endorsed: "Conscious that economic growth, social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of affected countries, particularly affected developing countries, and are themselves essential to meeting sustainability objectives,".

Paragraph 7: This paragraph refers to desertification as both a cause and consequence of important social problems. Portugal suggested adding population pressures. Cameroon suggested mentioning drought. The UK noted the lack of clarity in the paragraph.

Paragraphs 8-10: These four paragraphs recall the benchmark texts and background to the Convention. Sweden and the Gambia suggested reordering these paragraphs to appear chronologically.

Paragraph 11: This paragraph calls for a new approach to combat desertification and mitigate drought. The European Union suggested replacing the phrase "a new approach" with "an improved approach." Brazil, Benin, Cape Verde, Mali and Gambia all supported the existing text as the approach should be based on the new path taken at Rio. Sweden, supported by Lesotho, suggested the phrase "a new and more effective approach." The European Union reserved its position.

Paragraph 12: This paragraph refers to the national and local responsibilities for combatting desertification. China suggested replacing "responsibility" with "critical role." Mali said that climate change and responsibilities for desertification rest primarily with developed countries so the paragraph should read "rest partly with national governments." Malaysia suggested "national governments in cooperation with the international community."

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