During the first two sessions of the Committee, regional instruments became a contentious issue since it appeared as if the priority given to Africa (as stipulated in UN General Assembly Resolution 47/188) implied that no regional instruments would be prepared for Latin America and Asia. But a new resolution by the UN General Assembly last year recognized that other regional instruments will be accepted, although the Committee must ensure that the African instrument is ready by June 1994. During the third session, INCD Executive-Secretary Arba Diallo presented a copy of the Secretariat's proposal for the contents of the regional instrument for Africa.
Diallo summarized the Secretariat's work undertaken so far with the regional instruments. He also reviewed the Secretariat's draft annex for Africa, document A/AC.241/17, and called for guidance on the type of document needed to facilitate the development of an annex for Africa. Egypt noted that the Secretariat's document provided all the background information and ideas needed for preparation of the regional instruments and annexes for any region. He also suggested that brief regional instruments should address: the action to be taken; the transnational issues and problems; and the technical and financial resources needed at the national and sub-regional levels. Mauritania noted that the financing element was missing from the Secretariat's document. Benin said that the annexes will enable each region to highlight its own specific problems and approaches. He added, however, that the African countries are not prepared to have the Convention and the African annex "held hostage" to the conclusion of the other regional annexes.
France suggested that the regional annexes should be operational, based on national action plans, and should improve the management of resources. Botswana noted that the African annex should be specific with regard to the activities to be undertaken in the field. Switzerland suggested that existing mechanisms should be used for allocating financial resources. He also called for better integration of the case studies into the regional instruments. Colombia called for a timetable for the negotiation of the other instruments to ensure that the Convention and the regional instruments will be adopted simultaneously. Colombia also urged that the regional instruments for Latin America and Asia receive the same juridical status as the African instrument.
Canada, supported by Austria and Brazil, insisted that the regional instruments must not be duplicative of the Convention or the action programmes. Rather, the annexes must be considered as connecting instruments between the Convention and the action programmes. On the Secretariat's document, Canada noted that responsibilities for regional organizations, the specificities of regional cooperation, and the resources needed, should be mentioned. Canada supported Switzerland and the US in the need for more emphasis on Africa in the Convention. Russia echoed previous delegates' call for the annexes to focus attention on specific features of each region. He suggested the creation of a mechanism to periodically review the regional annexes. The US added that the legal status of the regional instruments is still problematic. He also noted the probability that few donor countries will be able to provide new and additional resources. The US added that the document does not reflect a bottom-up approach.
Cameroon noted that the draft text for the African instrument prepared by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) should be referred to by the Secretariat in the development of the regional annexes. He added that it is important to allow the African countries to draw up their own instrument. Australia said the primary goal is to conclude a Convention that is strong and effective and that gives priority to the most affected regions. She noted the difficulty in agreeing on the form and content of the regional instruments before the Convention is concluded. She also suggested that the regional instruments should be the vehicles for the implementation of the Convention. France said that the regional instruments should define the regional institutional and administrative aspects of implementation of the Convention. Greece, on behalf of the EU, suggested that the instruments for other regions, such as the Northern Mediterranean, should not be overlooked. He added that difficulties will arise if the other regional instruments are not completed by June 1994.
The Netherlands stated that clear distinction should be made between the regional instruments and the regional action programmes. He added that the instruments should only cover matters specific to the region. Algeria, on behalf of the G-77, said that regional instruments should be considered as integral parts of the Convention. He added that the instruments should be seen as the operational face in the struggle against desertification and drought. Norway suggested that the annexes should be short, descriptive rather than prescriptive, technical rather than political, flexible, and participatory. She also added that the results of the case studies should be reflected. She noted that Norway would have difficulty ratifying the Convention if only one of the regional instruments was ready in June. Spain suggested that the Mediterranean should be considered within the framework of the African instrument. Sweden noted two categories of information that should be addressed in the regional instruments: elements to be included in the action programmes and reference to the elements of effective follow-up. Gambia expressed concern regarding Spain's proposal and the call by several delegates that all regional instruments must be ready by June.
Based on these comments, the Secretariat is expected to provide text for discussion for the next session.
[Return to start of article]