Section II Drought Risk Reduction: Shifting the Paradigm from Managing Disasters to Managing Risk

The High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy: A Summary of Outcomes

Mannava V. K. Sivakumar, Robert Stefanski, Mohamed Bazza, Sergio A. Zelaya-Bonilla,

Donald A. Wilhite, and Antonio Rocha Magalhaes


Drought is widely recognized as a slow, creeping phenomenon (Tannehill 1947) that occurs as a consequence of natural climatic variability and ranks first among all natural hazards according to Bryant (1991). In recent years, concern has grown worldwide that droughts may be increasing in frequency and severity given the changing climatic conditions. Responses to droughts in most parts of the world are generally reactive, and this crisis management approach has been untimely, less effective, poorly coordinated, and disintegrated. Consequently, the economic, social, and environmental impacts of droughts have increased significantly worldwide, as water is integral to the production of goods and the provision of several services. The socioeconomic impacts of droughts may arise from the interaction between natural conditions and human factors, such as changes in land use and land cover, and water demand and water use. Excessive water withdrawals can exacerbate the impact of drought. Some direct impacts of drought are reduced crop, rangeland, and forest productivity; reduced water levels; increased fire hazard; reduced energy production; reduced opportunities and income for recreation and tourism; increased livestock and wildlife death rates; and damage to wildlife and fish habitat. A reduction in crop productivity usually results in less income for farmers, hunger, increased prices for food, unemployment, and migration.

The lessons learned from crisis management of droughts make it clear that future responses must be proactive. Despite the repeated occurrences of droughts throughout human history and their enormous impacts on different socioeconomic sectors, no concerted efforts have ever been made to initiate a dialogue on the formulation and adoption of national drought policies. Without a coordinated national drought policy (Sivakumar et al. 2011) that includes effective monitoring and early warning systems to deliver timely information to decision makers, effective impact assessment procedures, proactive risk management measures, preparedness plans aimed at increasing coping capacity, and effective emergency response programs directed at reducing the impacts of drought, nations will continue to respond to drought in a reactive, crisis management mode.

In order to address the issue of national drought policy, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Congress at its 16th session in Geneva in 2011 recommended the organization of a High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HMNDP). In parallel, the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNCCD) at its 10th session (held in 2011 in Changwon, Republic of Korea) welcomed the WMO recommendation. The member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) also requested the organization of the HMNDP for support in addressing drought issues since 2000. Accordingly, WMO, the Secretariat of UNCCD, and FAO, in collaboration with a number of UN agencies, international and regional organizations, and key national agencies, organized the HMNDP from 11 to March 15, 2013, in Geneva. The theme of the HMNDP was "Reducing Societal Vulnerability—Helping Society (Communities and Sectors)."

The HMNDP was sponsored by the African Development Bank (AfDB); the Ministry of National Integration (MI), Brazil; the Center for Strategic Studies and Management (CGEE), Brazil; the China Meteorological Administration (CMA); the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID); the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Norway; Saudi Arabia; the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC); and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Four hundred and fourteen participants from 87 countries as well as representatives of international and regional organizations and UN agencies participated in the HMNDP.

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