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DESIGNATION OF A PERMANENT SECRETARIAT

Delegates covered two issues related to the Permanent Secretariat: the physical location, as contained in documents A/AC.241/54 and Add.1-3; and administrative arrangements, as contained in documents A/AC.241/55 and Add.1-3, and a G-77 and China proposal from INCD-7 (A/AC.241/WG.I(VII)/L.1).

PHYSICAL LOCATION: The issue on physical location was addressed during a meeting where the three countries bidding to host the Permanent Secretariat made presentations on their offers. In a well-attended session, Spain’s Minister for Environment made the first presentation, which was followed by a film on Spain and the host city, Murcia. She enumerated several cultural, social, economic and infrastructural benefits of the city, and noted ongoing desertification research in the region. Spain would provide 1100 square meters of office space indefinitely. In addition, Spain would provide US$1 million every year in technical assistance to the Secretariat and nearly US$8 million for desertification projects in developing countries.

Canada’s offer was presented by the tri-lingual Mayor of the bidding city, Montreal. The Mayor’s statement, which was given alternately in Spanish, French and English, was delivered alongside a slide presentation. The low cost of living and the presence of other international organizations were among the advantages he noted. Canada’s total offer amounts to approximately US$5.2 million.

Germany’s Director General for Development Cooperation offered the city of Bonn as host, and stressed: the city’s relatively low cost of living by European standards; its proximity to cities in other continents; and the need for CCD to have similar working conditions as the Climate Change Convention. Among many other commitments, Germany will provide: approximately US$1.3 million annually, without a time limit, for the Secretariat and Secretariat events for the CCD, in addition to their assessed contributions; rent-free office space without a time limit; and relocation costs and German language courses for the Secretariat staff.

When the floor was opened for discussion, no clarifications were requested or questions raised. At the suggestion of the Chair of the Working Group, it was agreed that a committee, comprised of INCD Chair Kjell�n, representatives of regional groups, the Chairs of the Working Groups and representatives from the three cities, should be established to prepare a proposal for submission to COP-1 on how the selection process should proceed.

ADMINISTRATIVE ARRANGEMENTS: The Group held two formal sessions and one informal one on this subject. In addition to the documentation provided and the opening Plenary statements by UNEP’s Executive Director and the Deputy Administrator of UNDP, the two institutions provided supplementary information during a Working Group meeting. WMO also made a brief statement.

In accordance with the mandates given to it during UNCED, by the UN General Assembly and by its own Governing Council, UNEP said it would continue to support activities to combat desertification and is therefore willing to provide administrative assistance. UNEP also clarified that its offer was not linked to any of the bidding cities. UNDP noted that its offer was to provide some support but it was not bidding to become the host institution. WMO said it would continue to offer its support to the Convention. When the Chair opened the floor for debate, no questions were raised.

During the second formal meeting on this subject, the Chair reminded delegates of the proposal made by Uganda at INCD-7, which is contained in an INCD-7 draft decision proposed by the G-77 and China, that calls on the UN Secretariat to host the Permanent Secretariat. He asked delegates to have an exchange of views on the subject, and to discuss the offers from UNDP, UNEP and WMO, in order to make a decision in favor of one of them. The Chair noted that in accordance with a decision at INCD-8, the Programme and Budget (of the Permanent Secretariat) would be taken up at INCD-10. He therefore proposed transmitting the financial aspect of the Permanent Secretariat referred to in the G-77 and China’s document to INCD-10 as well. He also presented a Chair’s draft decision that closely resembled the proposal the G-77 and China tabled at INCD-7, with blank spaces left to fill in the name of the institution selected.

The OECD group of countries said a decision could not be reached at this session because they still need additional information regarding: how the arrangements with the UN Secretariat would work; whether or not the WMO offer is linked to a decision for the permanent location to be Switzerland, given that WMO’s headquarters are in Switzerland; what the partial support from UNDP entails; and what the reforms expected at UNEP would be. The G-77 and China stressed their wish to have the UN Secretariat as the host, since the UN hosts the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). Tunisia stated that, unlike the Convention on Biodiversity, the FCCC and CCD have been under the aegis of the UN General Assembly since the beginning and the twin conventions on climate change and desertification should be reunited. The US stressed the importance of studying the budgetary implications of each arrangement.

A two-hour informal evening meeting was convened during the second week, with the intention of receiving clarifications from the host institutions to enable the Group to reach a decision. The Chair retabled his draft decision and asked delegates to fill in the blanks. The OECD group of countries said they could only proceed to do so on the understanding that the G-77 and China draft decision would be withdrawn, to which the G-77 and China objected. The Working Group eventually adopted a procedural draft decision that was proposed by the OECD group of countries, calling on the UN Secretary-General and UNEP to answer questions posed by INCD members, for consideration at INCD-10.

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