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WORKING GROUP I

Working Group I reconvened Wednesday morning in the frigid confines of Conference Room 1. During the course of the morning delegates expressed their views and amendments to articles 4-6 of the draft convention. By afternoon, the Working Group moved to the warmer Trusteeship Council Chamber to discuss Articles 7-10.

ARTICLE 4 -- GENERAL OBLIGATIONS: Following Tuesday's discussion, the United Kingdom argued that paragraphs 2(b) and (c), which are currently bracketed and refer to trade, marketing arrangements, debt and poverty eradication, should be deleted. The UK maintains that if the Convention is turned into a "receptacle" for economic, political and development objectives, it will be more difficult to convince authorities that this Convention will be effective in combatting desertification. Japan, the US, Belgium, Norway and Sweden supported this view.

Austria proposed a compromise, which was supported by numerous developing countries. The first version of 2(b) would be retained (give due attention to the situation of affected developing countries with regard to international trade, marketing arrangements and debt) and 2(c) would be reformulated to read "to integrate strategies for poverty eradication into efforts to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought;". Benin suggested new wording for 2(b) that would commit the parties to establishing a healthy environment at the political and economic level in developing countries affected by desertification or drought.

Finland suggested adding cultural aspects to the obligation in 2(a), which addresses physical, biological and socio-economic aspects of the processes of desertification. Sweden commented that 2(e) should be broadened to "strengthen sub-regional, regional and international cooperation" or to "strengthen sub-regional and regional cooperation within affected countries." Sweden, supported by Cape Verde and Bangladesh, also suggested broadening 2(g) to extend beyond the notion of developing institutional mechanisms.

ARTICLE 5 -- OBLIGATIONS OF AFFECTED COUNTRY PARTIES: China expressed difficulty with the phrase "conscious of their special responsibility," which refers to affected countries. He understood this to mean the responsibilities related to the causes of desertification and proposed, instead, the phrase "critical role." A number of developing countries supported this amendment, but developed countries interpreted this phrase to mean responsibility for combatting desertification and insisted that it be retained as is. Uganda agreed with China that developing countries lack the capacity to devote "substantial resources" to combatting desertification. Uganda also proposed a new sub-paragraph addressing the need to develop or strengthen laws, long term policies and action programmes. Norway suggested deleting Article 3 on principles and moving some of the principles to this section. A number of African countries disagreed.

ARTICLE 6 -- OBLIGATIONS OF COUNTRY PARTIES IN A POSITION TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE: Malaysia suggested deletion of the phrase "and other Parties in a position to provide assistance." She said this was a blatant attempt to expand the traditional donor community to include non-developed countries. Saudi Arabia agreed, explaining that this did not indicate reluctance but that providing assistance should be voluntary. India, Pakistan, China, Brazil, Venezuela and Korea concurred. Cameroon, the EU, Mali, the US, the UK, Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Norway stated that assistance should not be limited to the traditional donors.

Austria and Australia pointed out that assistance also includes knowledge and that sustainable development suggests a partnership where old categories of donors and recipients may no longer be appropriate. Israel felt that the article should be broadened to reflect joint action between donors and recipients.

Kenya, supported by Burkina Faso, proposed a new sub-paragraph, which would oblige donors to allocate a percentage of the UN target of 0.7% of GNP for ODA to efforts to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. Uzbekistan said this article should consider the new political realities and the countries with economies in transition.

ARTICLE 7 -- PRIORITY TO AFRICA: Article 7 gives priority to affected African countries, while not neglecting other regions. Bangladesh suggested that the reference to other regions should be qualified by the phrase "experiencing similar problems." Kenya, supported by Senegal, requested reference to the African instrument in this article.

ARTICLE 8 -- RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER CONVENTIONS: Article 8, paragraph 1 states that the Parties shall encourage the coordination of activities carried out under this Convention and other instruments. The sub-paragraph also calls for the conduct of joint programmes. Paragraph 2 states that this Convention shall not affect the rights and obligations of any Party deriving from a bilateral, regional or global agreement entered into before this Convention. There was concern expressed by China and Saudi Arabia that some countries are not Parties to all these other conventions. The US requested that paragraph 2 be revisited at a later date to ensure that it does not conflict with the rest of the Convention.

PART III: SECTION 1 -- ACTION PROGRAMMES: ARTICLE 9 -- BASIC APPROACH: Article 9 states that affected countries needing assistance shall prepare national action programmes and that developed countries and other parties in a position to provide assistance shall support affected countries. Venezuela, Malaysia, Brazil and China insisted on deletion of the phrase "Parties in a position to provide assistance." Benin, Gambia and Kenya suggested adding a new paragraph recognizing that NGOS, academics and research institutions also contribute to combatting desertification.

ARTICLE 10 -- NATIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: The article outlines the functions of the national action programmes. Switzerland felt that Articles 10-16 are too long and detailed and difficult to read. Austria suggested that the three different levels of programmes (national, regional and sub-regional) should be merged. Gambia, supported by Niger, Sudan and Cameroon, opposed Austria's suggestion, noting that the description of the three separate levels of programmes is necessary to ensure that the Convention is fully operational on the ground.

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