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GENERAL ASSEMBLY HIGHLIGHTS

The 49th United Nations General Assembly began its consideration of Agenda Item 89(d), "Elaboration of an international convention to combat desertification in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa," on Friday, 21 October 1994. Although the debate on this issue was held in the General Assembly Plenary, action was taken in the Second Committee. In connection with this item, the General Assembly had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (document A/49/477) and a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the reports of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the Elaboration of an International Convention to Combat Desertification (INCD) on its third, fourth and fifth sessions (A/49/84 and Addenda 1 and 2).

During the course of the debate, most governments noted that this Convention was innovative in its recognition of the physical, biological and socio-economic aspects of desertification. The Convention also recognizes the importance of redirecting technology transfer so that it is demand driven. The involvement of local populations in the development of national action programmes was also cited as an innovative provision. Most delegates stressed that political commitment is essential at this stage if the Convention is to be a success. Developing countries specifically mentioned the need for new and additional financial resources. While many were pleased with the fact that 87 nations signed the Convention in Paris, they urged more governments to sign the Convention in New York and called for rapid ratification and entry into force.

In his introductory remarks, INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n commented that the Committee managed to produce a robust Convention that is coherent, legally consistent, innovative and balanced between the perception of desertification as a global problem and the obvious need for specific recognition of regional differences. Although there was disappointment over the relative lack of precision in the financial provisions of the Convention, the global mechanism in the Convention may turn out to be a useful tool. He stressed the importance of implementing the resolution on urgent action for Africa and called on developed countries as well as international and multilateral organizations, agencies and programmes to provide enabling funds to support partnerships at the national and subregional levels in Africa. He urged the General Assembly to adopt a resolution on interim arrangements, which would include the convening of further sessions of the INCD in 1995 and 1996 and the continuation of the interim Secretariat to provide the necessary support for the work of the Committee. [Return to start of article]