The Plenary was responsible for discussing arrangements for COP-1, status of ratification of the Convention, review of annexes to the Convention, designation of a Permanent Secretariat and the Rules of Procedure.
AGENDA ITEM 2 ARRANGEMENTS FOR COP-1: On Friday, 10 February 1995, the Interim Secretariat introduced document A/AC.237/78, on arrangements for the COP-1 and invited delegates to comment on the establishment of a sessional Committee of the Whole, participation in the debate during the ministerial segment and duration of statements. The Chair reported on preliminary consultations concerning the election of officers for COP-1 and the subsidiary bodies. The head of the German delegation will serve as President. Pending the outcome of negotiations on Rule 22 of the Rules of Procedure (Officers), there will be seven Vice-Presidents, a Rapporteur and the Chairs of the two subsidiary bodies. Later in the week, it was announced that the regional groups had nominated their candidates for the Bureau, including: India, Japan, Mauritania, Zimbabwe, the Russian Federation, Hungary, Argentina and Antigua and Barbuda, Germany, Australia and Samoa.
On Wednesday, 15 February 1995, delegates adopted draft decision A/AC.237/L.25, which notes the allocation of tasks, statements and admission of organizations as observers to the COP. The Committee's report will also reflect the following: the Committee noted the agreement between the Interim Secretariat and Germany for the COP; heads of organizations have been invited to speak; and the Committee has requested the Secretariat to draft the provisional agenda for COP-1.
AGENDA ITEM 3 STATUS OF RATIFICATION OF THE CONVENTION: The Committee addressed the status of ratification of the Convention (A/AC.237/INF.15/Rev.2) on Monday, 6 February 1995. The Secretariat noted that 118 States and the EEC had deposited their instruments of ratification in time to participate in COP-1. Thailand, Kuwait, the Russian Federation, the Solomon Islands, Saudi Arabia and Mali announced that they had recently ratified the Convention. Tanzania expects to ratify the Convention before the first COP. Turkey has not signed the Convention because it is considered an Annex I country. Colombia expects to ratify the Convention soon. It was later announced that the instruments of ratification had been received from Kiribati and Lesotho (7 February 1995) and Oman (8 February 1995), bringing the total to 121 States and the EEC.
AGENDA ITEM 4 REVIEW OF ANNEXES TO THE CONVENTION: On Wednesday, 8 February 1995, the Czech Republic announced that his Government should be prepared to amend Annex I at COP-2. In response to a question from Japan, the Chair said Czechoslovakia was an Annex I country and since it has been succeeded by two countries, the annex has to be amended accordingly.
AGENDA ITEM 5 DESIGNATION OF A PERMANENT SECRETARIAT: This agenda item consisted of three sub-items that were discussed separately. A Contact Group was established at INC-10 to consider this item and its conclusions were circulated in document A/AC.237/79/Add.5.
(a) Institutional Linkages: At INC-10, the Chair was requested to invite the UN Secretary-General to advise INC-11 on an institutional arrangement for the Permanent Secretariat. The advice from the Secretary-General is annexed to document A/AC.237/79/Add.1. Additional documents to facilitate consideration of this matter included the conclusions of the Contact Group (A/AC.237/79/Add.5) and a note by the Executive Secretary on support for the Convention (A/AC.237/79/Add.6).
In the brief discussion on this matter, the EU supported the recommendation that the Secretariat should be attached to the UN without being incorporated into any department or programme. Australia supported a partnership between UNEP, UNDP and the DPCSD, but asked for assurance of Secretariat autonomy. The Chair suggested recommending that the COP request the Secretary-General to propose a concrete arrangement for the administrative management of the Secretariat.
(b) Financial Rules: Documentation for this item included A/AC.237/79/Add.2 and corrigenda 1 and 2, on the draft financial procedures. The Interim Secretariat introduced Annex 1 to A/AC.237/79/Add.2 and commented that the Committee must reach agreement on the deadline for drawing up the administrative budget and the review of the budget the COP could establish a Financial Committee or avail itself of the UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). He noted the Contact Group preferred the first alternative, with advice from the ACABQ.
The Chair reported that in A/AC.237/79/Add.5, the Contact Group on the Permanent Secretariat analyzed both the financial procedures and the budget outline for 1996/97. The Contact Group supported the establishment of a Finance Committee, consisting of 10-15 Parties, which could meet during sessions of the COP or the subsidiary bodies. The Contact Group also proposed establishing a small group at this session to study the 1996/97 budget outline. This Group met during INC-11.
The EU and the US suggested that the scale of contributions to the budget be more explicit. Benin recommended establishing a floor as well as a ceiling for contributions from the Parties. Developing countries noted that two considerations must be taken into account: the determination of developing country contributions on the ability to pay; and the principle that no developing country must pay more than any developed country.
With regard to reviewing the budget, the EU noted that the composition of the ACABQ did not coincide with the Parties to the Convention. The Interim Secretariat replied that the ACABQ, a standing body, was only included to alleviate concerns about the new Secretariat and that more guidance was needed from the Parties before they could develop a detailed budget. The Russian Federation thought consultations with the ACABQ would be useful. The EU, Japan and Australia expressed doubts about bringing this matter before the ACABQ.
With regard to funding for the IPCC, the Executive Secretary said that consultations are underway on the type of services the IPCC is expected to deliver and that the Secretariat would possibly contribute 10-15% of the IPCC budget. Australia and New Zealand supported setting aside Secretariat funds for the IPCC.
On Wednesday, 16 February 1995, the Chair introduced document A/AC.237/L.26 on financial rules. The G-77 and China agreed with the draft decision, but reserved the right to revisit the paragraphs on contributions and funds. Japan and the US asked questions about the voluntary nature of contributions. The Plenary will recommend the financial rules to the COP and all comments will be recorded in the report.
(c) Physical Location: During the initial discussion on this matter on Wednesday, 8 February 1995, the Chair gave the floor to the representatives of the countries offering to host the Secretariat. The information about each offer is contained in A/AC.237/79/Add.4. Canada explained that Toronto is a leader in environmental protection and a multicultural city well suited to host the Secretariat. Germany outlined its proposal to host the Secretariat in Bonn, which has excellent communications and transportation facilities and is a major academic, scientific and cultural center. Switzerland said that the choice for the Secretariat's location should be based on effectiveness, not finance or prestige, and that Geneva, as a UN center, would be the most effective. While Uruguay could not offer monetary subsidies or financial assistance to developing countries, the low cost of living and services in Montevideo would amply offset the absence of generous subsidies. Kenya announced that it has withdrawn its offer to host the Secretariat.
The Contact Group recommended that the Committee take three criteria into account in assessing the offers to host the Permanent Secretariat: convenience of access by delegations to the Permanent Secretariat and meetings; possible budgetary savings by locating the Secretariat near other UN offices or secretariats; and the contribution offered by the potential host government in cash and/or in kind.
Italy and Poland supported Bonn. Mexico supported Toronto. Australia supported Geneva, because co-location of secretariats allows cross-fertilization among secretariat personnel and saves costs. It also saves costs for governments that would be able to maintain fewer diplomatic missions. For similar reasons, the US, New Zealand and Norway also prefer Geneva. Nigeria said that economics and co-location are logical considerations, but hoped that this would not prevent developing countries from hosting other UN secretariats. Canada added that the logic of the Contact Group's report is that if a city is not a UN center, it should not apply.
By the conclusion of the session, the Contact Group was unable to make a recommendation and asked Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Uruguay to hold consultations among themselves before COP-1 to facilitate a decision on the issue.
AGENDA ITEM 6 RULES OF PROCEDURE: On Friday, 10 February 1995, the Chair of the informal consultations on the Rules of Procedure, Amb. T.P. Sreenivasan, proposed that delegates exchange views on the outstanding issues in A/AC.237/L.22/Rev.1 and then establish a drafting group to work out the details. The drafting group met on Monday, 13 February 1995, and was able to reach agreement on some of the rules. Consensus remained elusive on Rule 42 (Voting). One delegation put forward new amendments to Rule 22 (Officers) and Rule 27 (Subsidiary Bodies), which were not discussed until Tuesday, 14 February 1995. In addition, Japan raised concern once again with Rule 54 (Languages). At the closing Plenary, the Chair announced that there was still no agreement on Rules 22, 42 and 54 and that he would have to submit the Rules, brackets and all, as contained in A/AC.237/L.22/Rev.2, to the COP. The following is the current status of the Rules of Procedure.
Rule 4 (Dates of Sessions): At the start of the session, there was a bracketed sentence prohibiting COP sessions during religious holidays of a significant number of delegates. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Sudan called for its retention. The EU, Fiji, Australia, Kenya, Benin and the UK, while sympathetic, worried about setting a precedent. The final compromise reached by the drafting group is "The Conference of the Parties should endeavor not to hold such a session at a time which would make the attendance of a significant number of delegations difficult."
Rule 6 (Observers): Delegates agreed to remove the brackets so that "any international entity or entities entrusted by the COP pursuant to Article 11 of the Convention with the operation of the financial mechanism" can be represented at the COP as observers.
Rule 12 (Agenda): Two issues remained at the start of the session: should the Secretariat consult with the President or the Bureau when submitting additional items for the agenda, and should there be a time limit. The agreed language reads as follows: "The secretariat shall, in agreement with the President, include any item which is proposed by a Party and has been received by the secretariat after the provisional agenda has been produced, but before the opening of the session, in a supplementary provisional agenda."
Rule 22 (Officers): The last-minute amendment proposed to this rule would add a representative from the oil exporting countries to the Bureau. The US, the EU, Australia, Canada and New Zealand objected to this proposal because there are many categories of special needs countries, besides AOSIS (which has had a seat on the INC Bureau), and opening the Bureau to one will require opening it to the others. The EU added that the small island States face a physical threat, whereas the OPEC countries face only economic adjustments like every other Party. There was no agreement.
Rule 42 (Voting): The major issues to be resolved include the general rule on matters of procedure, deviations from that rule, the general rule on matters of substance, the rule on the adoption of protocol, and the rule on financial matters. There was disagreement on whether matters of substance and/or protocols should be decided by consensus or, if that fails, by a 2/3 or a 3/4 majority.
Venezuela, Kuwait, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Iran, China and Zaire preferred Alternative B in A/AC.237/L.22/Rev.2, which ensures that substantive decisions, including the adoption of protocols, are taken by consensus. The EU, Australia, Japan, Canada, Czech Republic, Brazil, Switzerland, South Africa and Slovakia expressed favor for Alternative A, provided that a decision to adopt a protocol would be taken by a 3/4 majority. New Zealand and the US preferred Alternative A but were flexible on either a 2/3 or 3/4 majority. Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of AOSIS) the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Micronesia, Norway, Mauritius, Solomon Islands and Cuba preferred Alternative A, provided that protocols are adopted by consensus or, as a last resort, a 2/3 majority vote. Both options remain bracketed.
Rule 54 Languages: Japan proposed that the official languages of the COP should be English, French and Spanish. The Russian Federation and China objected and threatened to bracket the entire document unless all six UN languages are listed. During the final Plenary discussion on this matter, Japan proposed instead that Rule 54 remain unaltered, but that a second paragraph or a footnote should be included stating, "The lack of documentation or interpretation in any these languages due to budgetary constraints shall not interrupt the smooth proceeding of COP and its subsidiary bodies." The Russian Federation, supported by the EU, China and Kuwait, said this proposal was unacceptable.
AGENDA ITEM 10 REVIEW OF ACTIVITIES OF THE INTERIM SECRETARIAT: The Interim Secretariat introduced document A/AC.237/80, a review of Secretariat activities and extrabudgetary funds. He explained the geographic diversity of the staff, estimates for funding needs and contributions to the Special Voluntary Fund. The EU, supported by Germany, Switzerland and Canada, proposed a working group to address budgetary matters and asked that it review both the 1995 and 1996/97 budgets.
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