Lessons Learned and Next Steps
The three pillars framework introduced through this Program has resonated strongly within Brazil. MI, ANA, and many of the Northeast state partners have elected to pursue future drought policies and strategies along this framework, particularly strengthening the second and third pillars
(vulnerability/risk/impact assessment and mitigation and response planning and measures, respectively). Overall, there has been an improvement in awareness of drought definitions and declaration and response processes, and partners are confident that recent advancements will bring more perma- nence/institutionalization to drought preparedness planning and management, but this will not be truly visible until the next drought hits.
While the Monitor and drought preparedness plans have served as important technical and tangible underpinnings, the most significant progress made over the past 3 to 4 years has been the institutional advancements and the change in mentality and approach to droughts. The network of institutions, people, and processes across the Northeast states that are now committed to the Monitor and the broader drought paradigm shift (as reflected by the robust authors and validators processes and networks) is indicative of these fundamental advancements. Despite these achievements, other agencies and ministries (e.g., those responsible for implementing policies and actions) still need to be more involved with the Monitor.
The drought plans all represent significant strides in local/state collaboration and agreements toward improving resilience in these respective communities, as well as the building of capacity and buy-in for the broader drought paradigm shift. The various meetings, planning workshops, and other capacity-building activities that were supported by the Program will help institutionalize drought preparedness planning. One very positive sign is that several states have already started to integrate drought preparedness concepts into statewide planning and policy decisions, as informed by the efforts of the Program. This includes discussions of a state drought plan for Ceara that will incorporate the Monitor and preparedness planning, as well as a development policy loan from the Bank to the state of Sergipe, which has drought policy preparedness as one of its requirements for disbursements.
Despite these achievements, there is still work to do to solidify the paradigm shift. Moving beyond the strong support of MI and ANA (as well as the three authoring states of Ceara, Pernambuco, and Bahia), other federal and state partners still need to become acquainted with the new approach to drought policy and management, and the benefits of implementing proactive measures. Since the official launch of the Monitor, the process has sought to maintain and continue to build higher levels of trustworthiness and relevance. This has been challenging with the current transitions in politics and leadership, particularly the replacement of champions at the highest levels of MI. The drought preparedness plans will also face challenges in remaining relevant during these political changes. And perhaps the most significant test for both the Monitor and the plans will be whether they can maintain relevance and support once the current drought eventually begins to subside.
To overcome these challenges, Brazil needs to focus on further integrating institutional processes associated with drought preparation and response, including by making drought committees, which are typically
ad hoc intergovernmental emergency planning mechanisms put together in the middle of the crisis, more permanent institutional coordinating bodies. Moving these away from ad hoc response mechanisms and toward deliberative decision-making forums through which leading agencies can regularly discuss long-term and short-term programs, policies, and approaches will help to institutionalize the drought policy paradigm shift. It will also provide a vehicle for implementing policy actions based on the Monitor, as well as developing and coordinating between various drought preparedness plans.
A proactive approach to managing droughts will take continued communication efforts across government and society. It is imperative for the main partners within the state and federal governments to make clear two key arguments for those policy officials not yet familiar with the benefits of drought preparedness: (1) it reflects good management of public expenditures because it saves money and reduces hardship associated with drought impacts, and (2) it is a way to minimize political losses throughout the duration of their term as the current droughts persist, or in the wake of a new drought.
It is also important for Brazil to embark upon efforts to develop and institutionalize pillars two and three of the three pillars framework, and to do this by continuing a national drought policy dialogue and building from the strong foundation of the Monitor and drought preparedness plans. Establishing the Monitor, which will in itself still require tremendous effort and commitment moving forward, was an important first step. However, to fully realize the benefits of drought preparedness and to achieve the desired paradigm shift, strengthening vulnerability and risk/impact assessment and decision-making through mitigation and response planning and measures is critical.
There is also a need and an opportunity for the country to adapt to the achievements in the Northeast over the past few years in other areas of the country, particularly the Southeast. The recent water scarcity crisis in and around greater Sao Paulo catapulted drought into the spotlight as an issue of national concern and debate. Internationally, the world is now looking closely at how Brazil is addressing drought preparedness.
Finally, it will be important for governing bodies in Brazil to situate the drought preparedness efforts within medium- and long-term development and water security objectives, including how to capitalize on the progress of the Program to more broadly build climate resilience. For example, Brazil is making major investments in water infrastructure such as irrigation schemes, reservoirs, and strategic water transfers between river basins in the Northeast, including the integration project of the Sao Francisco River (PISF). The PISF will soon bring considerable water flows to the Northeast and therefore increase water systems' resilience to climate variability and boost development in the region. Important challenges are thus on the horizon with respect to how to develop planning and management strategies for maintaining longer-term resilience and how to harmonize such processes against future droughts and water shortages, energy supply and demand, ecosystem goods and services, rain-fed and irrigated agriculture needs, and regional economic development policies and programs.
At present, the discrepancy between the design assumption of the water allocation planning and the operational reality of needing to manage greater uncertainty with climate change impacts and demand increases leaves little margin to maneuver and is often a main driver of water conflict. Analyzing, documenting, and understanding the key vulnerabilities across these integrated sectors and projects will help facilitate adaptation to the hydrological effects of climate change, particularly increasing droughts and water shortages. The ability to mitigate the impacts of future droughts is, therefore, inherently tied to regional economic development, ecosystems recovery and management, and water and energy investments, among other factors. Using the momentum from the drought preparedness efforts to date will help Brazil to begin making these important connections.
Cadaval Martins, J., N. L. Engle, and E. De Nys. 2015. Evaluating national drought policies. A comparative analysis of Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Spain and the United States. Centro de Gestao e Estudos Estrategicos (CGEE). Parcerias Estrategicas 20(41):57-88.
De Nys, E., N. L. Engle, and A. R. Magalhaes. 2016a. Drought in Brazil: Proactive Management and Policy. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
De Nys, E., N. L. Engle, and A. R. Magalhaes. 2016b. Secas no Brasil: Politica e Gestao Proativas. Brasilia: Centro de Gestao e Estudos Estrategicos (CGEE) e Banco Mundial.