During discussions in the Plenary, delegates described activities launched in their respective countries related to public awareness. In awareness building, it seemed important to consider three questions: what information should be provided; to whom; and by whom. The audiences will be found 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. The important role of NGOs in awareness raising was emphasized by a proposal to organize a global NGO meeting before INCD-7, but the Chair did not think that there would be sufficient time to prepare for such a meeting before August.
There appeared to be consensus on the fundamental need to raise the public"s awareness on the Convention in both developed and developing countries, as well as on the type of activities that need to be undertaken. Some had already been initiated, such as the preparation and dissemination of documents, but new ideas also came up during the discussion, including: the commemoration of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on 17 June; the awarding of a Desertification Prize; 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.
Developing countries wanted the Secretariat to have a strong active role in order to catalyze action, especially in the least developing countries, without expropriating the roles of other groups. Developed countries preferred 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, upon 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.
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