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INSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS:

The question of subsidiary bodies also provoked intense debate. A common problem in international environment and development negotiations is that decisions are too often based on political considerations, rather than scientific and ecological realities. In Working Group II, a proposal was tabled by a contact group under the chairmanship of Prof. al-Kassas (Egypt) to develop a model that would ensure independent advice from the world's top desertification experts to the Conference of the Parties. The Latin American countries were firmly opposed to this proposal, arguing instead for a more broad-based Scientific and Technical Council. Northern delegates urged the working group to accept the Kassas Group's proposal, maintaining that it represented a broad-based consensus and the best possible solution. Brazil held firm that matters as important as this should not be left to small drafting groups to produce final proposals that should be expected to be ratified automatically by the formal Working Group. Since the OECD countries remain firmly opposed to the establishment of an elaborate new body, this matter will be deferred to the COP, unless a compromise solution can be found in Paris.

But even if this issue is resolved, a more fundamental issue still remains on the table. Unlike other conventions, the INCD is negotiating an international instrument on an issue that has previously been addressed by the international community. While the creation of new bodies may not make sense, it is clear that existing bodies have not been effective. On the one hand, the legal implications of relying on existing institutions whose decision-making powers are outside the mandate of the COP will have to be addressed. On the other hand, new institutions will almost certainly replace existing ones. Since it is unlikely that any new resources will be provided, existing bilateral funding may be diverted to meet commitments for the newly established bodies.

Other matters related to institutions have also generated a number of problems. First, delegates have not agreed on how the Bureau will take account of the special problems faced in Africa. The African delegates have proposed that there should be additional African representation on the Bureau; however, many other countries are opposed. Another problem is the question of the Secretariat. African countries insist that it should be an independent body outside any existing UN body. Developed countries are firmly opposed to the creation of new and additional institutions, arguing that better use of existing ones is the only financially viable option. [Return to start of article]