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Desertification: United Nations Conference

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 23 November 1977

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What conclusions were reached at the United Nations conference on desertification; what proposals the United Kingdom delegation made for international co-operation in and financing of, action to contain and fertilise the deserts; and how they voted on any issue on which there was a decision.

The Conference Secretariat submitted a comprehensive Plan of Action to combat desertification. The Plan emphasised the monitoring and mangement of water resources, range lands, livestock, wildlife and ecological balance. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), through its Environment Co-ordination Board, was given responsibility for harnessing the resources of the UN system to implement the Plan.

The United Kingdom delegation supported the need for a Plan which adequately reflected the priorities of countries most affected and concerned by desertification, and stressed that this country had a wealth of expertise to offer in this field. The Plan of Action was adopted unanimously, apart from proposals for a Special Account which, in common with other Western donor countries, the United Kingdom could not accept. We voted against this proposal because we believe that the creation of "special purpose" funds could distort the development priorities of recipient Governments; and consequently British aid will continue to be channelled through existing multilateral and bilateral machinery.

There was a roll-call vote on a resolution sponsored by Arab States and others, deploring a study of anti-desertification measures in the Negev desert submitted by the Israeli Government. In common with our Western partners, we voted against this, but the resolution was carried by 45 votes to 17, with 14 abstentions.

House adjourned at five minutes past eleven o'clock.