National Drought Management Policy Guidelines: A Template for Action

Introduction

The implementation of a drought policy based on the philosophy of risk reduction can alter a nation's approach to drought management by reducing the associated impacts (risk). This was the idea that motivated the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with a number of UN agencies, international and regional organizations, and key national agencies, to organize the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HMNDP), which was held March 11-15, 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland. The theme of the HMNDP was "Reducing Societal Vulnerability—Helping Society (Communities and Sectors)" (see Chapter 2).

The spiraling impacts of drought on a growing number of sectors is cause for significant concern. No longer is drought primarily associated with the loss or reduction of agricultural production. Today, the occurrence of drought is also associated with significant impacts in the energy, transportation, health, recreation/tourism, and other sectors. Equally important is the direct impact of water shortages on water, energy, and food security. With the current and projected increases in the incidence of drought frequency, severity, and duration as a result of climate change, the time to move forward with a paradigm shift from crisis to risk management is now. This approach is directed at improving the resilience or coping capacity of nations to drought.

The outcomes and recommendations emanating from the HMNDP are drawing increased attention from governments, international and regional organizations, and nongovernmental organizations. One of the specific outcomes of the HMNDP was the launch of the Integrated Drought Management

Programme (IDMP) by WMO and the Global Water Partnership (GWP). The IDMP is addressing these concerns with a number of partners with the objective of supporting stakeholders at all levels by providing them with policy and management guidance through globally coordinated generation of scientific information and sharing best practices and knowledge for integrated drought management. The IDMP especially seeks to support regions and countries to develop more proactive drought policies and better predictive mechanisms, and these guidelines are a contribution to this end.

During the opening session of the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy in March 2013, the Secretary General of the WMO, Michel Jarraud, stated:

In many parts of the world, the approach to droughts is generally reactive and tends to focus on crisis management. Both at the national and regional scale, responses are known to be often untimely, poorly coordinated and lacking the necessary integration. As a result, the economic, social and environmental impacts of droughts have increased significantly in many regions of the world. We simply cannot afford to continue in a piecemeal mode, driven by crisis rather than prevention. We have the knowledge, we have the experience and we can reduce the impacts of droughts. What we need now is a policy framework and action on the ground for all countries that suffer from droughts. Without coordinated national drought policies, nations will continue to respond to drought in a reactive way. What we need are monitoring and early warning systems to deliver timely information to decision makers. We must also have effective impact assessment procedures, proactive risk management measures, preparedness plans to increase coping capabilities and effective emergency response programmes to reduce the impact of drought.

In 2013, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, stated:

Over the past quarter-century, the world has become more drought- prone, and droughts are projected to become more widespread, intense and frequent as a result of climate change. The long-term impacts of prolonged drought on ecosystems are profound, accelerating land degradation and desertification. The consequences include impoverishment and the risk of local conflict over water resources and productive land. Droughts are hard to avert, but their effects can be mitigated. Because they rarely observe national borders they demand a collective response. The price of preparedness is minimal compared to the cost of disaster relief. Let us therefore shift from managing crises to preparing for droughts and building resilience by fully implementing the outcomes of the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy held in Geneva last March.

(The complete statement from Ban Ki-moon is available at: http://www. un.org/sg/statements/?nid=6911)

 
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