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WORKING GROUP I

The ever-migrating Working Group I started in the Trusteeship Council and was then elevated in status Thursday afternoon when it convened in the cavernous halls of the General Assembly. During the course of the day the Group discussed Articles 10-15.

ARTICLE 10 -- NATIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: Senegal and Iran requested removal of the brackets in sub-paragraph (f) around "granting [NGOs and grassroots organizations] institutional recognition and appropriate assistance." Australia supported China and India on the need to redraft the article for greater clarity and supported reference to the idea of a new partnership, as called for in Rio. Norway suggested that the article places a disproportionate emphasis on new national action programmes, disregarding the fact that in some countries, resources would be better spent strengthening existing programmes.

ARTICLE 11 -- FIELDS TO BE COVERED IN NATIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: Austria, supported by Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Uzbekistan, Mali and Tanzania, all affirmed the importance of Article 11 in describing the types of activities that should comprise national action programmes. China, supported by Brazil, the Russian Federation, Greece, the US, Australia, Switzerland and Finland, called for the deletion of the entire article and suggested instead that the list of 13 fields be placed in an annex. Sweden noted that it was awkward to have a non-mandatory list of activities within a legally-binding Convention. Saudi Arabia highlighted the difficulty in prescribing fields without fully understanding the capacities of the affected countries. Kenya raised fears that by relegating this article to an annex, it would minimize the important commitments to combat desertification that were made in Geneva and Nairobi. The World Bank pointed out that: all donors and many other parties have expressed frustration at the number of overlapping environmental strategy-making exercises in existence; the draft text is unclear; and that the Convention should reflect existing on-going environmental action plans.

ARTICLES 12 AND 13 -- SUB-REGIONAL AND REGIONAL ACTION PLANS: These two articles were considered together after many delegations, including Brazil, Australia, Greece (on behalf of the EU), the US, Chile, Mexico and Japan supported merging them. The merge was proposed to avoid the proliferation of action plans. Brazil also noted that some of the sub-paragraphs in 12 deal with issues specific to one region or sub-region (Africa). China, Japan, and the US supported moving the sub-paragraphs in 12 (suggested measures for sub-regional action plans) to a technical or regional annex. Burkina Faso, Eritrea and Malawi did not support the merge as they felt that both regional and sub-regional action programmes are useful. Senegal, Benin, Gambia, C“te D'Ivoire and Cape Verde, however, supported the merge and Senegal also noted that the role of NGOs should be enshrined here. Turkey commented that the issue of shared resources, as expressed in 12(c), should not be left to multilateral agreements but negotiated between concerned parties.

ARTICLE 14 -- MEASURES IN ACTION PROGRAMMES TO MITIGATE THE EFFECTS OF DROUGHT: This article, which lists four types of measures to be undertaken to mitigate the effects of drought, was bracketed. Brazil, Gambia, Iran and most developing countries advocated removal of the brackets and retention of the article. Kenya and Senegal commented that removal of this paragraph would "eviscerate" the entire Convention. Greece, on behalf of the EU, noted that this Convention should focus on desertification and that the measures in the four sub-paragraphs here are already in Article 11. The US proposed moving this article to a technical annex. Australia, supported by Canada, Sweden and Norway, said that the Convention should reflect an anticipatory approach that seeks to "manage for drought" rather than deal with its effects. Australia also suggested merging elements of this article into the articles on national action programmes. Mali and Senegal commented, however, that in Africa drought is a permanent phenomenon and governments cannot always act in an anticipatory manner. Chile suggested that the preventive steps should be emphasized.

ARTICLE 15 -- ASSISTANCE IN THE ELABORATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF ACTION PROGRAMMES: This article states that developed country Parties and other Parties in a position to provide assistance shall support (financially and technically) the elaboration and implementation of action programmes. Malaysia, supported by India, Peru, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Iran, wanted to delete the phrase "other Parties in a position to provide assistance," in accordance with the comments made on Article 6 on Wednesday. Brazil added this Convention should not be using old terms like "assistance," but rather concepts such as partnership and cooperation. Sweden agreed with the notion of partnership, but asked Brazil why he denies other countries "in a position to provide assistance" from participating in this partnership. Greece, supported by Norway and the US, suggested deleting this article and incorporating these elements in Articles 22 and 23 on financial resources. Japan added that, according to this article, donor countries bear the responsibility for action programmes. Kenya, supported by Malaysia and Cameroon, pointed out that every time financial assistance is mentioned the square brackets are brought out. They warned against continuing this negative trend.

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