United Nations

A/51/510


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

16 October 1996

ORIGINAL:
ENGLISH


                                                        A/51/510
                                                              

General Assembly
Fifty-first session
Agenda item 97 (a)


        ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT:  IMPLEMENTATION OF THE
        DECISIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE 
                        ON ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT

            United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in  
              Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or     
           Desertification, particularly in Africa:  implementation
                             of resolution 50/112

                        Report of the Secretary-General


                               I.  INTRODUCTION

1.   By its resolution 47/188 of 22 December 1992, the General Assembly
established an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the
Elaboration of an International Convention to Combat Desertification
in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or
Desertification, particularly in Africa.

2.   The General Assembly decided, by its resolution 49/234 of
23 December 1996, that the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee
should continue to function in order (a) to prepare for the first
session of the Conference of the Parties; (b) to facilitate
implementation of the provisions of the Committee's resolution 5/1 on
urgent action for Africa; (c) to initiate measures relating to the
identification of the organization to house the global mechanism; (d)
to elaborate the rules of procedure of the Conference of the Parties;
and (e) to consider other relevant issues.

3.   In resolution 50/112 of 20 December 1995, the General Assembly
decided that the Committee should continue to prepare for the first
session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention.  The
Assembly requested the Secretary General to report to it, at its
fifty-first session, on the implementation of the resolution.

4.   The present report reviews recent developments and measures taken
in implementation of resolution 50/112.  It supplements the
information already provided to the General Assembly at its fiftieth
session in the reports of the Secretary-General (A/50/515 and
A/50/516).


                         II.  STATUS OF THE CONVENTION

5.   As at 3 October 1996, the United Nations Convention to Combat
Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or
Desertification, particularly in Africa, which was adopted on 17 June
1994, had been signed by 115 States and ratified, accepted, approved
or acceded to by 50 countries:  Mexico, Cape Verde, Netherlands,
Egypt, Senegal, Ecuador, Lesotho, Finland, Togo, Tunisia,
Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Peru, Sudan, Canada,
Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Niger, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Burkina
Faso, Spain, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Portugal, Panama,
Lebanon, Algeria, Gambia, Malawi, Germany, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
Oman, Bolivia, Mauritania, Eritrea, Benin, Norway, Mongolia, Central
African Republic, Gabon, Botswana, Turkmenistan, Zambia, Lao People's
Democratic Republic, Haiti and Chad.  The fiftieth such instrument was
deposited 27 September 1996 and, pursuant to article 36, paragraph 1,
of the Convention, the Convention will enter into force on 26 December
1996.   

6.   The first session of  the Conference of the Parties will take
place not later than one year after the entry into force of the
Convention, namely by 25 December 1997.  Members of the
Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee decided at the ninth session
to accept the offers of the Government of Italy to hold the first
meeting of the Conference of the Parties and of the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to provide
services and facilities for the meeting, and decided to hold the first
meeting of the Conference in Rome, at a time to be determined at a
later date.

7.   At the eighth and ninth sessions of the Committee, in February
1996 and September 1996, respectively, many other members indicated
that they had initiated the internal process for ratification,
acceptance, approval or accession and expected that it would be
completed in the coming months.  


             III.  IMPLEMENTATION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTIONS

A.  The eighth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating
    Committee                                              

8.   Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 49/234, the
Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee adopted, at its sixth session,
held in New York in January 1995, a resolution on the organization and
programme of work for the interim period leading to the first session
of the Conference of the Parties.  The two working groups established
to carry out the preparatory work continued to function at the eighth
session.

9.   Working Group I is responsible for (a) the initiation of measures
relating to the identification of an organization to house the Global
Mechanism to promote actions leading to the mobilization and
channelling of substantial financial resources, including its
operational modalities; (b) recommendations on the designation by the
Conference of the Parties of a Permanent Secretariat and arrangements
for its functioning; (c) financial rules; and (d) programme and
budget.

10.  Working Group II is responsible for (a) the organization of
scientific and technological cooperation, in particular the terms of
reference of the Committee on Science and Technology, the
establishment and maintenance of a roster of independent experts and
the terms of reference and modalities of work of any ad hoc panels
that the Conference of the Parties may decide to appoint; (b) the
rules of procedure of the Conference of the Parties; (c) procedures on
questions of implementation; (d) procedures for conciliation and
arbitration; and (e) procedures for communication of information for
the review of implementation of the Convention and its institutional
arrangements.

11.  The Committee decided that the following questions would be
examined in plenary:  the facilitation of the implementation of the
resolution on urgent action for Africa through the exchange of
information and the review of progress made thereon and the promotion
of action in other regions and the agenda for the first meeting of the
Conference of the Parties.  The Committee requested the interim
secretariat to prepare a draft programme and budget for the first
financial period following the first Conference of the Parties, for
consideration at the last session of the Committee prior to the first
session of the Conference.

12.  The Committee also reviewed reports on measures taken to implement
the resolution on urgent action for Africa and interim action in other
regions.


          B.  The ninth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating
              Committee                                         

13.  At its ninth session, held in New York from 3 to 13 September
1996, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee reviewed updated
reports on measures taken to implement the resolution on urgent action
for Africa and interim action in other regions.  The discussion
demonstrated that all signatories were taking active steps to promote
interim action as briefly described in paragraph 25 below.  Many
delegations expressed their satisfaction with the efforts of the
interim secretariat to facilitate urgent action for Africa and interim
action in other regions.  Members of the Committee and international
organizations were encouraged to provide supplementary information at
future sessions of the Committee.

14.  Members of the Committee had before them offers from the
Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the
Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
and the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization
(WMO) to provide overall administrative support and/or support
services to the permanent secretariat and decided to consider the
matter further at the tenth session.  In addition, members heard
offers from the Governments of Canada, Germany and Spain to host the
permanent secretariat in Montreal, Bonn and Murcia, respectively, and
will also consider the matter further at the tenth session.

15.  In addition to discussions in plenary, the two working groups
continued an examination of the questions relating to the preparation
for the first session of the Conference of the Parties.  The
atmosphere was constructive throughout the discussions and progress
was made on all issues under review.  Recommendations were made by the
Committee for submission to the first session of the Conference of the
Parties relating to the terms of reference of the Committee on Science
and Technology, the establishment and maintenance of a roster of
experts and appointment of ad hoc panels.  A recommendation was also
made for submission to the first Conference of the Parties on
procedures for communication of information and review of
implementation.  The working groups will continue their work at the
tenth session on the basis of documentation reflecting the outcome of
discussions, as well as analysis and suggestions, to be prepared by
the interim secretariat.


                C.  Participation in the work of the Committee

16.  Participation by States in the Intergovernmental Negotiating
Committee process remains high.  A large majority of delegations
included representatives from capitals.  The participation of
developing countries was facilitated by the contributions of
Governments to the special voluntary fund set up for that purpose by
the General Assembly in its resolution 47/188, paragraph 15.  However,
since their participation remains dependent on the availability of
financial resources, there is a concern that, should replenishment of
the voluntary fund be insufficient, many countries affected by
desertification might not be adequately represented at future sessions
of the Committee.

17.  Participation in the Committee by institutions of the United
Nations system, other international organizations and non-governmental
organizations remained active and constructive.  FAO, the
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), UNDP, UNEP and
WMO, in particular, continued to support the process actively by
making financial or human resources available to the secretariat
and/or by providing expertise and resources, both human and financial,
in support of preparatory activities carried out in a number of
affected developing countries.

18.  At its ninth session, the Committee accredited 31 non-governmental
organizations, bringing the total of such organizations accredited to
it to 363.  Representatives of 50 non-governmental organizations
participated in the ninth session.  At the close of the plenary
session, on 6 September, the non-governmental organization
representatives presented a panel discussion on women and
desertification highlighting some of the gender aspects covered in the
Convention, in particular the constraints faced by women because of
land tenure systems and limited access to credit.  The panel
discussion was informative and enriching.  Overall the contribution
from the non-governmental community was relevant and useful to the
work of the Committee; however, it must be noted that the degree of
participation from the non-governmental community is highly dependent
on the availability of financial assistance.

IV.  ARRANGEMENTS TO ENSURE THE SUCCESS OF THE OBSERVANCE
     BY THE UNITED NATIONS OF WORLD DAY TO COMBAT        
     DESERTIFICATION AND DROUGHT                         

                               A.  Introduction

19.  By its resolution 49/115, the General Assembly proclaimed 17 June
World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, to be observed
beginning in 1995.

20.  The resolution invited States to devote the World Day to promoting
public awareness on international cooperation to combat
desertification and the effects of drought and on the implementation
of the Convention to Combat Desertification. 

21.  The resolution also invited the Secretary-General to make
recommendations on ways and means by which the Secretariat could
assist Member States, at their request, in organizing their national
activities for the observance of the World Day, and to make the
necessary arrangements to ensure the success of the observance of the
World Day.  His recommendations are contained in his report of
6 October 1995 (A/50/516). 

22.  On the occasion of World Day on 17 June 1996, the interim
secretariat undertook, or supported, a variety of significant
activities in Geneva, Mexico, New York and Nairobi.  These activities
were undertaken with the cooperation of specialized agencies, United
Nations programmes and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental
organizations.  The aim was to promote and raise public awareness of
the problem of desertification and to promote the implementation of
the Convention. 

23.  The interim secretariat's main activities on World Day 1996 were
as follows:

     (a) Screening in Geneva of the film "Po di Sangui", made in
Guinea-Bissau.  Apart from its strong links to the issue of
desertification, the film's cinematographic and artistic qualities
made it a major success at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival;

     (b) Participation with the Department of Public Information in
producing a special CNN documentary on desertification in its series
"UN in Action".  It was aired on CNN World Report on the occasion of
the World Day;

     (c) Launching of the first issue of a Newsletter in English (Down
to Earth) and in French (Cap sur Terre).  This will be continued on a
regular basis and directly complements the secretariat's information
kit and simplified guide;

     (d) Distribution of T-shirts printed in English, French and
Spanish;

     (e) Contact with and encouragement of journalists to cover the
issue prior to, during and after 17 June.  Various news agencies
produced stories on desertification for the World Day and the Day
itself was well covered.

24.  Furthermore, many activities of a similar nature were organized by
subregional organizations, Governments and non-governmental
organizations at the subregional and national levels.


V.  ACTIVITIES IN SUPPORT OF THE RESOLUTION ON URGENT MEASURES
    FOR AFRICA AND INTERIM ACTION IN OTHER REGIONS        

25.  Reports and discussions at the eighth and ninth sessions of the
Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee demonstrated that all
signatories to the Convention are taking active steps to promote
action during the interim period, with the support of competent
international organizations. Members of the Committee are particularly
committed to implementing the resolution on urgent action for Africa
and are taking measures accordingly.  The discussions also
demonstrated that concrete action is being taken in other regions,
underlining the global dimension of desertification and the readiness
of countries to initiate response measures.  


                               VI.  FUTURE WORK

       A.  Tenth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee

26.  The Committee decided in decision 9/5 that the tenth session
should aim at finalizing all outstanding negotiating issues and that
the negotiations of the two working groups should be concluded at that
session.  In the same decision, they authorized the Chairman of the
Committee to organize such consultations in the period after the tenth
session of the Committee as he deems necessary for the appropriate
preparation of the first Conference of the Parties.


        B.  Maintenance of the interim arrangements to 31 December 1998

27.  In its decision 9/4, the Committee recommended that the General
Assembly maintain the arrangements within the current programme budget
for the interim secretariat to support the Convention until 31
December 1998 and to maintain extrabudgetary funds.


                          C.  Calendar for 1997-1998

28.  In its resolution 50/112, the General Assembly decided to convene,
as necessary, a further session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating
Committee in 1997 following its tenth session, the exact dates and
venue to be determined at a later stage.  In its decision 9/4, the
Committee recommended to the Assembly that it include in the calendar
of conferences and meetings for 1997-1998 the sessions of the
Conference of the Parties and of any subsidiary bodies that the
Conference may need to convene. 


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