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EC statement on the role and operation of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services
(EC-LVII, Annex VII)

Key social and economic drivers

1. Governments are striving to improve the well-being of their citizens. Population growth, reducing poverty, water security, food security, increasing prosperity, and improving public health, safety and security are key drivers. To deal with these issues, governments have to develop and implement effective policy, and promote fundamental tenets of societal and environmental governance. However, as regards the environment, it is common knowledge that we are challenged by our natural environment, made worse by changes in the climate, which threatens the sustainable development of human societies through extreme weather events causing disasters, reduced food security, reduced availability of uncontaminated freshwater, and the rise and spread of diseases. This is further compounded by growing urbanization and the expansion of human habitation into previously unoccupied places, such as arid zones, mountain slopes, and flood plains. The sea's edge is exposing populations to air and waterborne diseases, heat stress, drought, landslides, floods, storm surges and tsunamis.

2. The safety of life and protection of property is important for all countries but especially for the sustainability of emerging economies. These countries are highly vulnerable to natural disasters, which can wipe out 10 to 15 per cent of a developing nation's gross domestic product on average. Only with a clear understanding of the potential threats, advanced warning, and adequate disaster reduction and mitigation efforts can we properly protect our societies.

3. These are issues that must be dealt with if the global community is to attain the targets set through the 2000 Millennium Declaration, which are also highlighted by the 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

 

The role of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services

4. As has been the case since the beginning of the modern era of societal and environmental management, knowledge of weather and climate is key to all aspects of human endeavours. It is within this framework that NMHSs in various countries have been well positioned to identify and deal with a wide range of weather, climate and water related issues that affect human life and socio-economic development. For example, with regard to natural hazards, NMHSs have been tasked to sensitize the population to their impacts, and to provide warnings of individual events, to save lives, to sustain productivity, and to reduce damage to property.

5. NMHSs constitute the single authoritative voice on weather warnings in their respective countries, and in many they are also responsible for climate, air quality, seismic and tsunami warnings. To reduce and mitigate disasters requires well prepared NMHSs as well as governments and populations to take appropriate action in response to warnings. NMHSs, within the framework of WMO, are working to help governments improve decision-making to enable populations to adapt to climate change, mitigate natural hazards and sustain development. By helping governments and the people to avert potential disasters, NMHSs are a fundamental component of the crisis management infrastructure of countries in their nation-building endeavours and, indeed, a contributor to sustainable development, particularly the poverty alleviation effort. NMHSs are working together to implement the WMO Multi-hazard Prevention Strategy, which aims to reduce by 50 per cent over the decade 2010-2019 the number of fatalities caused by meteorological-, hydrological- and climate-related natural disasters compared with the 10-year average fatalities of 1995-2004.

6. NMHSs are continuously monitoring the environment through observations of the Earth system and predicting changes in this system. They provide governments with timely and precise warnings of most potential natural hazards and contribute essential environmental information and services for urban planning, sustainable energy development, access to freshwater, and food production.

7. Cooperation between various organizations is essential to provide governments with these services. Partnerships between NMHSs and academia, government departments, international and non-governmental organizations, and where appropriate and possible, the private sector, help society make better decisions based on more complete and accurate weather, water and climate information. These partnerships provide better data coverage and information processing, higher resolution models, and more precise and useful specialized products for societal benefits, including opportunities to support better government and other decision makers regarding safety, economics, and security. NMHSs are encouraging these partnerships by adopting open and unrestricted data policies which make their information easy to access in real time, in useful forms, and at low cost.

 

Future requirements

8. In the year 2000, through the internationally-agreed development goals, including those contained within the Millennium Declaration, the international community set forth specific targets to be reached by 2015. To ensure that these goals are met, it is essential that governments take advantage of the myriad advances in science and technology provided by NMHSs and their partners, that include the provision of multihazard warnings and related services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 365 days a year, which when properly applied can provide societies with the underpinning information to reduce and mitigate natural disasters. International cooperation is essential, both between countries and within the larger United Nations framework of specialized agencies.

9. Access to good communication ensures that information is available wherever it is needed. Governments must recognize the importance of continuous monitoring of the environment and the ability of their NMHSs to provide timely and accurate information to inform of critical decisions. They should to support continuously NMHSs and their modernization and development.

10. It is essential that societies be prepared to act appropriately in response to warnings. Education and training is paramount for improvement of preparedness. Early warning systems for natural hazards work only if governments and their public know how to respond. Information must be easy to understand and use.

11. Climate change requires societies to understand and assess impacts and to develop the necessary adaptation strategies. By providing fundamental knowledge of the climate system and predictions based on climate models, NMHSs can help societies transform.

12. To be completely effective, NMHSs and their international network, coordinated through the WMO, must be recognized as critical partners in societies' goal to reduce poverty and increase the prosperity of the world's citizens

 

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