The Chair, Ann de Lattre, stated that the group would discuss definitions, transfer of technology, research and development, information gathering and analysis, institutions and procedural matters, as elaborated in the draft Convention. The Group decided that the first reading of text will be done up until 20 January. Where delegates differ with the text, they should state their reasons and submit written proposals. A second reading of text will then be done starting on 20 January, based on the revisions. If there are major difficulties contact groups will be established.
DEFINITIONS: France, Russia and Belgium said that some of the translations did not correspond to the English text. Belgium also said that it is difficult to have a complete and comprehensive list of definitions.
Paragraph 1a: Refers to the definition of desertification as resulting from various factors including climatic variations and human activities. Belgium said the French text should refer to climatic variations and not changes. Egypt proposed that the definition in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 be maintained. The Secretariat explained that climatic variations is the term used in Agenda 21.
Paragraph 1b: "Drought" means a sustained, regionally extensive deficiency in precipitation. Delegates debated the use of the term "drought" as opposed to "desiccation." Egypt offered to submit definitions on both for reconsideration by the Group. Niger suggested a less restrictive definition that includes agricultural and animal production. China, Morocco, Niger, Tunisia and the United Kingdom all proposed changes to the text.
Paragraph 1c: As amended by the Secretariat, this paragraph outlines the processes that lead to "land degradation." The US, supported by Uganda, said the causal nature of human settlements in the process should be included. Egypt, Malaysia, China, Greece and Russia said the text should refer to land degradation and not soil deterioration since the causes are different. Malaysia, supported by Brazil, suggested the deletion of the causal factors outlined above as they are already dealt with in the Convention and are consequences and not causes. Burkina Faso, Morocco, Israel, China, Niger and Tunisia said they should be retained and made amendments. Greece said the reference to soil deterioration through physical and chemical processes in (c) (ii) was too specific while Morocco suggested that it belongs to 1 (b).
Paragraph 1d defined "arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas" also called "affected areas", in terms of ratio of average annual precipitation to evapo-transpiration and with an average annual temperature greater than 0 degrees Celsius. Australia, supported by Egypt, Morocco and Tanzania, argued that not all arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas are affected by drought. France, supported by Lesotho, suggested that "affected areas" be defined. Malaysia, supported by Russia, Mongolia and Brazil, wanted the reference to temperature deleted but Canada said that the Convention refers to the hot dryland areas.
Paragraphs e, f and g: Paragraph (e) defines the countries "affected by drought"; (f) "affected countries needing assistance" with a list of these in the annexes; and (g) countries in a position to provide assistance" including developed and other countries. Malaysia suggested that this reference to "other countries" bound the economically well-off developing countries to provide financial assistance, and should be deleted. The Chair, supported by Belgium, Algeria and the US, suggested that assistance be addressed in a broader context to include technical assistance as well. The proposed list of the various categories was debated extensively. China suggested that the list should be as flexible as those in the Convention on Climate Change. The Group then appointed Egypt the Chair of a contact group to deal with paragraphs 1 (c) to (g). The modified text will be discussed in the second reading.
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