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AWARENESS BUILDING

During the brief afternoon session, Kjell‚n and the Executive Secretary, Arba Diallo, summarized the outcome of Monday morning"s discussion on public awareness building and the resolution on World Day to Combat Desertification.

Diallo noted that there appears to be consensus on the fundamental need to raise the public"s awareness on the Convention in both developed and developing countries. This is a prerequisite to the implementation of the Convention at the local, national, subregional, regional and international levels. There is also consensus on the types of activities that need to be undertaken, some of which have already been initiated, such as the preparation and dissemination of documents. New ideas have also been generated, including: the commemoration of World Day to Combat Drought and Desertification on 17 June; the creation of a central information service to collect and disseminate information; issuing information bulletins and magazines; holding seminars for decision-makers, technicians, NGOs, local populations and bilateral cooperation agencies; and the involvement of other sectors of society, such as university institutions and intellectuals. However, there is a divergence of opinion on how this should be done. Developing countries want the Secretariat to have a strong active role and be provided with the means to catalyze action, especially in the least developing countries, without expropriating the roles of other groups. Developed countries prefer that national governments and other sectors play the key role, while a small Secretariat plays a limited role of compiling and disseminating the available documents to the Parties and granting advice upon request. NGOs and specialized agencies should be involved in information dissemination. Given these proposals, the function of the Interim Secretariat would: supplement those of other institutions; involve mobilizing resources on behalf of countries that may not find assistance elsewhere; prepare reports, on request, on the activities it has undertaken, in order to ensure transparency; and set up a partnership to meet the proposed needs, for which the Secretariat is awaiting guidelines from the INCD at the next session.

Kjell‚n then stated that he does not intend to circulate any written conclusions on the discussion on awareness building. The Secretariat has benefitted from the discussion and it would be desirable to organize a discussion of this kind at the next session. He noted the different levels at which public awareness should be raised: at the village level in affected developing countries; within the governments of both the North and the South; and in the general public in the North. There are variations in approach depending on the target group. More efforts should be made to show that desertification is a global problem. Although it is useful to raise the profile of desertification within the Security Council, by linking it to issues such as environmental refugees and migration that the Council deals with, it should also be addressed as an essential environment and development issue. The delegations could also raise the profile of the issue at the political level in their countries, by educating their leaders during the ratification process about the problems in the drylands. The important role of NGOs in awareness raising has been appreciated and the proposal to organize a global NGO meeting before INCD-7 has been noted. However, there may not be sufficient time to prepare for such a meeting before August, but such a forum is worthwhile. Commemorating World Day to Combat Desertification is important in raising awareness on the Convention. Kjell‚n concluded the discussion by stating that this issue may be taken up again at INCD-7.

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