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PLENARY DISCUSSION:

The Committee began its consideration of the work programme for the interim period and preparation for the first Conference of the Parties on Tuesday morning, 10 January 1995. During the debate, many delegates, including members of the G-77 and China, and the Russian Federation, expressed fear that the CCD had a lower status than the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Kjell‚n, the UK, the US and Japan assured them that this was not the case.

Most delegates agreed on the need to establish two working groups. They also agreed that discussion of the implementation of the resolution on urgent action for Africa should take place in Plenary, since no resolutions or decisions would have to be negotiated on this matter. Yet, it soon became clear that there was disagreement on the role of the Interim Secretariat and the need for scientific and technical activities during the interim period.

The Group of 77 and China supported an active and operational role for the Interim Secretariat. They asserted that the most important functions of the Interim Secretariat"s mandate should be: pursuit of urgent action for Africa; groundwork-laying for developing countries to elaborate action plans; awareness-raising, capacity-building and transfer of technology; preparation for the first COP; and response to emergency requests from affected countries. Benin, Burkina Faso and Mauritania supported these views. Senegal thought that the Secretariat should play a mediative role in the preparation of national action programmes and facilitating scientific training in developing countries. Morocco, Ghana, Uzbekistan and Bolivia added that the Secretariat should play a role in information dissemination and public awareness.

The UK pointed out that the problem was in the proposed operational role of the Secretariat, which could amount to a duplication of activities already undertaken by other agencies. The UK also thought that some of the proposals by the G-77 and China, such as responding to emergency relief and capacity building, were outside its mandate. The US shared these concerns. Canada did not think that the Secretariat should be involved in public awareness and capacity building since this should be done bilaterally. Norway thought that the Secretariat should: draft the rules of procedure; prepare the background documents on financial arrangements for the COP, subsidiary bodies, and communication of information; and prepare a paper providing a legal analysis of the options and modalities of using existing organizations. Switzerland reiterated the fact that the Secretariat should play a facilitative and coordination role, rather than an operative one.

Another contentious issue was the need for scientific and technology activities during the interim period. Australia called for a small working group to plan science and technology activities during the interim period. The US did not think there was a need for a scientific body at this point. Canada thought that the INCD should work on the terms of reference for the Committee on Science and Technology, since it will "hit the ground running" at the first COP. Ghana thought that a scientific working group, composed of scientists from developing and developed countries, should be convened to discuss problems as they arise. [Return to start of article]