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URGENT ACTION FOR AFRICA AND INTERIM ACTIVITIES IN OTHER REGIONS

The UK is prepared to work with Africans on activities consistent with the Convention and urgent action for Africa. The UK is also preparing a user"s guide to the Convention, which is expected to be completed by INCD-7, and is giving further consideration to how to support NGOs. In March, JAPAN will send a mission to Senegal to discuss the development of a concrete pilot project that could be adapted for other affected African countries. Japan, in cooperation with Indonesia, some UN agencies and the Global Coalition for Africa, also held the Asia-Africa forum aimed at promoting South-South cooperation.

IFAD said that the lack of awareness about the Convention may be the single-most serious obstacle to its implementation. The preparation of national action programmes (NAPs) cannot be hurried. NAPs must be dynamic, and evolve as experience is gained. The Secretariat should be strengthened, but it should be small, dynamic and versatile. IFAD will assist in resource mobilization and the co-financing of programmes aimed at food security in the drylands. The OECD has designated the Club du Sahel as the institution"s focal point on the Convention. In February, the CILSS and Club du Sahel will meet with donors to refine their joint programme of work. The implementation of the resolution on urgent action for Africa is expected to be the subject of its next General Meeting in Canada.

Drawing from its experience, EGYPT stated that desertification projects are usually expensive and may need to be implemented at the regional and subregional levels. Egypt hopes that a regional manifesto to combat desertification can be developed.

UZBEKISTAN said that the States in central Asia have set up a council and a fund on the Aral Sea. They are trying to attract international assistance to finance this programme, which includes regional water management, hydro-meteorological monitoring, water quality control, restoration of land productivity, pure drinking water supply, and improving land resources.

The RUSSIAN FEDERATION reported that it has signed a treaty with Kazakhstan on the use of jointly-shared water resources. With the support of UNEP, Russia has started training specialists in the area of space monitoring of desertification. They will hold an international seminar on combating desertification in September.

In implementing the resolution, MALI has taken measures to: ensure increased decentralization; develop a new code on collectives and a new law on the taxation of collectives; start the process of ratifying the Convention; and undertake awareness raising campaigns. BURKINA FASO's Minister of Environment and Tourism, Anatole Tiendrebeogo, called attention to Burkina Faso"s emergency plan and its national plan of action, distributed by his delegation. In 1994 Burkina Faso drafted a national Agenda 21, held roundtable discussions, and gave priority to drought and desertification ahead of other problems such as unemployment.

GHANA has created a national desertification agency and a national environmental protection plan. Additionally, a committee on drought and desertification with representatives from the government, the scientific community, NGOs and local populations has been set up. Ghana is presently preparing for ratification.

When speaking about urgent action for Africa, DENMARK stressed that it is important not to rush implementation, but begin the process by disseminating information. Denmark has started to provide information about the objectives of the Convention to its embassies and is allocating new and additional funds to combat desertification.

KAZAKHSTAN has entered into bilateral treaties with other countries to solve desertification problems and notes with interest the experiences of Israel, which has similar conditions as Kazakhstan. There is also cooperation with UNDP. Regarding urgent action for Africa, it is natural to give priority to Africa, but we need progress in other parts of the world as well.

PORTUGAL is preparing for ratification and is setting up a national committee to implement the Convention. The northern Mediterranean countries are now planning the next steps in implementing their regional annex, including contacts with countries in the Mahgreb and the Middle East.

In BOTSWANA, a national conservation strategy has been developed, with the help of ministries and NGOs. Botswana is also working on a national action plan and a state of the environment review. For a report on PAKISTAN"s activities, see document A/AC.241/30.Add.1. Pakistan has also developed a national plan to combat desertification, with the assistance of UNEP.

SPAIN has: drafted three desertification-related national plans; organized and participated in international conferences and seminars; and is supporting projects in the Canary Islands, Mauritania, Mozambique, Tunisia, Syria, Brazil, Peru, Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Philippines.

BELGIUM reported that although his country had not signed the Convention due to its complex institutional structure, the process has been initiated in the five Parliaments to facilitate this process. Belgium is also supporting reforestation programmes in Benin, Burkina Faso and C“te d"Ivoire.

TUNISIA is undertaking awareness raising campaigns.

In MAURITANIA, institutional, technical and awareness related activities have been undertaken, including the creation of an Inter-Ministerial Committee to oversee coordination, the organization of national forums, workshops and research activities, as well as the use of television to raise awareness.

INDIA said that with regard to the sensitivities in the compilation of information on the implementation of the resolution on urgent action for Africa, five aspects should be considered: public awareness campaigns; training; capacity building; technology transfer; and empowerment of people.

BOLIVIA said that reports on urgent action for Africa must be more specific. The Secretariat should compile and analyze this information and list institutions that are already working on desertification and how assistance is being channelled to Africa.

IGADD is reviewing existing institutional arrangements and is making an effort to work with developed countries. The IGADD work programme is focusing on public awareness, prompt ratification, action programmes at the national and subregional levels, and exchange of and access to information.

URUGUAY said that although it is not on the list of countries directly affected by desertification, it does suffer from recurring droughts and variations in rainfall. This must be reflected in UNEP"s report to the CSD.

MOROCCO is focusing on reforestation, soil and water conservation, mobilization of water resources, irrigation, dune stabilization and development of pasture areas. Morocco has set up a national committee to combat desertification and has begun to work on its national action programme.

IRAN"s desertification control activities include: public awareness; decreasing rural-urban migration through rural development; restoration of degraded lands; and dune stabilization. Iran wishes to share its experiences in combating desertification with African countries.

CILSS asked if the Interim Secretariat could prepare a simplified version of the Convention to facilitate public awareness activities. CILSS is holding consultations aimed at developing a subregional programme of action.

The PHILIPPINES stated that awareness raising should be done within the UN system as well, as he had heard earlier in the day that the UNDP"s Executive Board was unaware of the contents of General Assembly resolution 49/234.

GREECE, as one of the affected country Parties, welcomed all interested Mediterranean countries to learn from its experiences. SUDAN has undertaken a GIS survey in the affected parts of the country and hosted an IGADD meeting. It has also contacted IGADD regarding funding for scientific research.

Solidarit‚ Canada-Sahel, on behalf of the NGOs, reported that the NGOs have presented their plan of action to the delegates, but noted that the action plan requires funding. He cautioned that some of the activities that governments have reported on may not be in line with the spirit of the Convention.

Executive Secretary Arba Diallo expressed satisfaction with the enthusiasm with which delegates have reported on implementation of the resolution on urgent action for Africa. He noted that the Secretariat does not want to take the place of States and organizations, but in some cases States need support and perhaps the Secretariat could step in and identify the assistance needed.

Kjell‚n then summarized the discussion, which showed that there is an impressive amount of activity in Africa and other regions. Affected countries have established coordinating bodies and initiated public awareness campaigns and measures to integrate actions to combat desertification within their broader sustainable development plans. Consultations are underway for the preparation of subregional action programmes. There are significant activities with regard to scientific research and technical assistance. Developed countries have reviewed their development assistance to ensure consistency with the Convention and there are increased efforts towards coordination. Intergovernmental organizations are actively supporting the process. Nevertheless, there is no reason for complacency since the situation in the drylands of Africa continues to be a cause for concern.

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