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INTRODUCTORY REMARKS

BURKINA FASO: Anatole Tiendrebeogo, Minister for Environment and Tourism, noted that although the negotiated Convention formed a good basis for compromise, the issues of the financial mechanism and financial resources still need to be resolved. He outlined the interim measures Burkina Faso has undertaken, including: awareness raising among decision-makers, NGOs, technical experts and local populations; the adoption of a plan of action; and the establishment of an organ to oversee the implementation process. Tiendrebeogo lamented that there seems to be a "backsliding" by affected countries, other Parties and the international community at a time when the issue of ratification is being raised. He asserted that urgent measures require the prompt mobilization of funds as early as February 1995. He called on the INCD to announce what it can and intends to do in this regard.

Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development Nitin Desai welcomed delegates on behalf of the Secretary-General and noted that the successful negotiation of the Convention in spite of difficulties shows the determination of delegations, the Chair and the Secretariat. Desai expressed hope that the successful conclusion of the Convention should not cause a loss of momentum, and reminded the Committee that the transition from policy development into policy implementation demands political commitment. Desai also noted the need for the INCD to provide input to the CSD"s consideration of desertification at its meeting in April.

The Chair, Bo Kjell‚n, said that in this phase of the process, there is less pressure on texts, but it is now more important to translate words into action. He noted with satisfaction that when Resolution 49/234 on the INCD was adopted in the General Assembly there were many important statements supporting the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD). Kjell‚n stressed that the participation of NGOs has been essential, as well as the contribution of the Panel of Experts and the scientific community in general, especially the social and economic experts.

The Committee"s main task at this session is to organize its work for the interim period. He noted the possibility of establishing working groups during the second week of this session. On substantive issues, the main focus will be the work programme for the interim period and the preparation for the first Conference of the Parties (COP). He asked the delegates to comment on the document with respect to time schedules and organization of work for the interim period, including the possible establishment of sessional working groups. On the resolution on urgent action for Africa, the statements made by governments at the signing ceremony are contained in documents A/AC.241/30 and Add.1. The General Assembly mandated the INCD to facilitate implementation through information exchange, which can begin here, but will be the central issue at the Nairobi session in August. Other issues to be considered at this session are extrabudgetary funds, the report to the CSD, and the global mechanism.

PHILIPPINES: On behalf of the G-77 and China, Jos‚ Lino B. Guerrero said that subregional, regional and international collaboration is critical to arrest the causes of desertification and drought and to rectify their effects. Proof of international commitment to combat desertification and drought may be expressed concretely in terms of contributions to the Special Voluntary Fund and the Trust Fund and the mobilization of financial resources. The INCD must formulate a national and realistic work programme for the interim period that includes: support to developing countries in the elaboration of action programmes at all levels; the marshalling of scientific and technical advice; identification of an organization to house the global mechanism to promote the mobilization and channelling of substantial financial resources; and consideration of INCD inputs to the Commission on Sustainable Development.

FRANCE: On behalf of the 15 States of the EU, Anne de Lattre observed that the large number of signatories to the Convention in Paris and thereafter attests to the importance of the CCD. For this Convention to be effective, affected countries should take the initiative and establish medium-and long-term plans of action that involve local populations. She further noted that donors must act as true partners of affected countries. Genuine partnership and transparency are major aspects of the Convention. All cooperation agencies should feel responsible for the evolvement of this process and should set up funds to facilitate the mobilization of scientific expertise and local and traditional technology. The States that have signed the Convention should state their positions on the organization of work modalities; the role of the interim Secretariat; funding for the interim period; cooperation and information exchange on the urgent action for Africa; and the relationship between the work of the INCD and the CSD. The EU believes that the role of the interim Secretariat should only be facilitative and not operative, as some of the documents suggest. The EU does not support the increased funding requirements for the interim period before the first COP, which assume that the Secretariat will be playing an operative role.

MONGOLIA: The Minister for Environment, Dr. Batjargal, stated that adopting this Convention is moving one step towards the implementation of Chapter 12 of Agenda 21. He explained that over 40% of Mongolia is arid or desert and that cropland degradation increases each year. A National Plan of Action to combat desertification has been developed in cooperation with UNEP and ESCAP. Mongolia is also preparing for ratification. Although land erosion and degradation are often caused by natural causes, such processes are sometimes caused by the negative interaction between people and their environment.

CILSS: The Executive Secretary, Mariam Ciss‚, reported that the region had started the implementation process as recommended in the resolution on urgent action for Africa. The CILSS member countries have convened two meetings, at which affected neighboring states attended, to take stock of the actions to be initiated, including: national action programmes; the organization of national forums; time tables; participatory measures; and preparatory documentation. The resolutions on these items have already been applied by several of the participating countries. Ciss‚ said that the CILSS is in favor of establishing a maximum of two working groups to look at the preparations for the COP.

INDIA: The delegate expressed solidarity with Africa regarding the resolution on urgent action. He outlined the extent of desertification in India, noting that although several initiatives have been undertaken to redress the problem, the activities suffered serious financial constraints. He said that India is willing to provide information on specific research, afforestation and water conservation activities undertaken in relation to desertification.

BRAZIL: The delegate noted that in spite of his Government"s efforts to deal with the scourge of desertification, Brazil still needs global partnerships involving the participation of rural organizations, NGOs, and international and regional organizations. He declared that combating desertification is a priority issue.

NGOS: Heinz Greijn (ELCI) reported that in November some 50 NGOs from around the world met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to establish a global network on desertification called RIOD (R‚seau International d"ONG sur la D‚sertification) and to develop an action plan for the implementation of the Convention. The NGO action plan calls for: organizing consultations between NGOs and Community Based Organizations at the national level; informing people in affected communities about the Convention and developing methods for consulting them about action to be taken; raising awareness about desertification and the Convention in donor countries; promoting women"s involvement in the implementation of the Convention; and building a communication system that links the actors of the network at all levels. In other activities, NGOs established an electronic mail conference on desertification for NGOs in Africa and organized a meeting in Brussels to inform European NGOs about the Convention.

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