The Three-Pillar Approach to Drought Risk Management

One of the major outcomes of the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy (see Chapter 2) and subsequent activities such as the development of the IDMP and the conduct of a series of regional capacity-building workshops on national drought policy sponsored by WMO, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (fAo), UNCCD, UN-Water and the Convention on Biological Diversity (see Chapters 3 and 4 and other chapters in Part IV) has been the emergence of a three-pillar approach to drought risk management and policy. These pillars are illustrated in Chapter 3, Figure 3.1. The three pillars are monitoring and early warning, vulnerability and impact assessment, and mitigation, preparedness, and response. The concept of the three pillars is discussed in numerous chapters throughout this book and is promoted as the new model for drought risk management.

Summary and Conclusion

Drought occurs without the level of predictability that we ascribe to seasons (e.g., winter, summer, wet and dry seasons), yet it is a normal part of the climate experienced in virtually all regions. It should not be viewed as merely a physical phenomenon. Rather, drought is the result of the interplay between a natural event and the demand placed on a water supply by human-use systems. It becomes a disaster if it has a serious negative impact on people in the absence of adequate mitigating measures.

Since many definitions of drought exist, it is unrealistic to expect a universal definition to be derived. Drought can be grouped by type or disciplinary perspective as follows: meteorological, agricultural, hydrological, and socioeconomic. Each discipline incorporates different physical and biological factors in its definition. But above all, we are concerned with the impact of drought on people and the environment. Thus, definitions should incorporate both the physical aspects of drought (i.e., the intensity and duration of the event) and the impacts of the event on human activities and the environment, in order to be used for planning and operationally by decision makers. Definitions should also reflect the unique regional climatic characteristics. The three characteristics that differentiate one drought from another are intensity, duration, and spatial extent. The impacts of drought are thus diverse and fundamentally depend on the underlying vulnerability of the population. Vulnerability, in turn, is determined by a combination of social, economic, cultural, and political factors, at both micro- and macro levels. In many parts of the world, it appears that societal vulnerability to drought is escalating, and at a significant rate. Two additional elements have now been introduced: awareness that risks are changing and additional risks may arise, and the need for creating and communicating new knowledge about future conditions that is understood, trusted, and used (IPCC 2012; Pulwarty and Verdin 2013). Cognizant of these emerging elements, modern early warning information systems should provide the underpinning of a preparedness strategy aimed at risk reduction, which depends on adequate resources and collaborative networks and engages both the public and leadership. Understanding vulnerability is a critical first step in reducing drought risk, impacts, and the need for emergency response measures (i.e., the three-pillar approach).

It is imperative that increased emphasis be placed on mitigation, preparedness, and prediction and early warning if society has to reduce the social, economic, and environmental damages associated with drought. This will require interdisciplinary cooperation and a collaborative effort with policymakers at all levels. This book provides concrete examples of how drought management can be enhanced through the development of research-based information and adoption of proactive actions that build institutional capacity directed at risk reduction. Numerous case studies are also presented that provide examples of how these proactive strategies are being crafted and applied in both developed and developing countries.

Going forward, there is considerable concern in both the scientific and policy communities about the linkages between drought and other key environmental and social issues. For example, the links between drought and climate change, water scarcity, national security, development, poverty, environmental degradation, food security, environmental refugees, and political stability are often cited in both the scientific and popular literature. Many of these linkages are discussed and explored in more detail for various settings in chapters included in this book.

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