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WORKING GROUP II

ARTICLE 24 -- CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES: Working Group II continued its reading of Article 24, which establishes the Conference of the Parties.

Paragraph 4 concerns the timing of COP meetings. Botswana suggested that the COP meet every two years in the interest of cost savings. Sweden proposed deletion of the reference to the interim secretariat convening the first session of the COP since Article 25 provides for a permanent secretariat, which she assumed would undertake this function. The secretariat noted that the COP is empowered to set up the secretariat. As such, it will be the responsibility of the interim secretariat to convene the COP's first session since the permanent secretariat will not yet exist.

Paragraph 5 governs extraordinary sessions of the COP. Botswana said that it should specify how and by whom decisions to convene these sessions should be made.

Paragraph 6 states that the COP shall elect its own Bureau with adequate representation from affected African countries. Greece, supported by China and Australia, called for the deletion of the paragraph suggesting it would be better dealt with in the rules of procedure. Botswana called for retention of the paragraph, noting the importance of the special criteria. The UK said that most environmental treaties provide for the size and composition of the Bureau to be addressed in the rules of procedure. He added that it would be premature to set the scope and membership at this point without first knowing how many signatories there will be. Benin proposed that if this matter is deferred to the rules of procedure, then the criteria outlined in paragraph 6 must be specified in the rules of procedure.

Paragraph 7 defines who may attend COP sessions as observers. There were no comments.

ARTICLE 25 -- SECRETARIAT: Article 25 outlines the functions of the secretariat. Benin suggested changing the title to "Permanent Secretariat." Greece asked that the proposal be bracketed.

Sub-Paragraphs 2(a) and 2(b) refer to the functions of the secretariat in arranging COP sessions and in compiling and transmitting reports to it. There was no substantive debate.

Sub-Paragraph 2(c) refers to the secretariat's role in facilitating assistance to Parties needing assistance in the compilation and communication of information. The INCD Secretariat clarified that the type of assistance envisaged is of a technical nature. Sweden suggested brackets since the exact wording will be linked to the general discussion on secretariat functions and financing. Brazil suggested substituting "Parties needing assistance" for "affected developing countries." The INCD Secretariat noted that agreement could not be reached on this point until the conclusion of discussions on Article 1.

Sub-Paragraph 2(d) refers to the secretariat's responsibility to report on its activities. There was no substantive debate.

Sub-Paragraph 2(e) calls for coordination between the desertification secretariat and the secretariats of other conventions. Switzerland, supported by Tunisia, noted that this sub-paragraph is ambiguous and that the secretariat cannot be mandated to coordinate with other bodies.

Sub-Paragraph 2(f) authorizes the secretariat to enter into the necessary administrative arrangements to discharge its responsibilities. There were no comments.

Sub-Paragraph 2(g) states that the secretariat will perform other functions as specified by the Convention and as determined by the COP. There was some debate regarding the words "other secretariat functions." The UK noted that only the COP can determine the scope of its functions.

Paragraph 3 states that the COP shall designate a permanent secretariat at its first session. Canada, supported by Austria and the Netherlands, highlighted the importance of using expertise and resources within existing institutions, as opposed to establishing a new one, and proposed that UNEP should be considered in this regard. Switzerland pointed out that the head of the secretariat, once appointed, should be able to decide on the location of the secretariat, as was the case with the Biodiversity Convention. He warned that if UNEP is chosen as the secretariat, further action would have to be undertaken with regard to the relationship between UNEP's Governing Council and the Conference of the Parties. Egypt supported the establishment of an independent secretariat. Botswana, Morocco, Bangladesh, Tanzania and Mauritania all concurred.

Botswana noted that placing the secretariat in an existing institution may prove to be more costly. Spain and the EU proposed allowing the COP to decide on the location of the secretariat. However, they differed with regard to placing the secretariat under an existing institution and Spain offered to host the secretariat. Norway, the UK, Austria, France and the US supported the view of the EU and said that the suggestion does not prejudge the institution or location. The WMO also reminded delegates of their original offer to host it.

ARTICLE 26 -- SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL COUNCIL: This article generated heated debate. Greece, on behalf of the EU, stated that the institution is unnecessary in light of the costs involved as existing global networks are sufficient. Botswana, on behalf of the African Group, supported by the US, said that the institution is necessary to provide advice to the COP. Benin said this was consistent with other international environmental instruments. Norway, Sweden, France and the UK agreed with Greece.

Egypt expressed surprise that a proposal dealing with an issue affecting the poor is dismissed on the basis of cost. He questioned the rationale for the expensive scientific and technological investment in the Convention on Climate Change, through the IPCC, an issue that is primarily of interest to the rich. In an effort to achieve consensus he proposed new text. The new title would be "Scientific and Technological Counsel/Advice." The text would read: "The Conference of the Parties shall in its first session consider means and ways of receiving independent advice on scientific and technological matters including: (i) gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed and technological advances that need to be promoted under the requirement of Article 19 of the Convention, and (ii) evaluation of information on desertification as required by Article 18 of the Convention and on monitoring implementation of the Convention and its annexes." The EU and other Northern delegates expressed interest in this new proposal. Although the entire Article was put in brackets, the African Group pushed for a paragraph-by-paragraph reading. Only Southern countries made amendments, with Israel intervening twice and Sweden once.

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