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11 March 2013


Major Drought Policy Conference Opens

A High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy, organized by three United Nations institutions, aims to promote practical and proactive policies at the national level to make drought-prone countries more resilient.

The scientific segment of the week-long conference, organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), opened 11 March. A ministerial session will be held 13-14 March.

Droughts cause more death and displacement than cyclones, floods and earthquakes combined, making them the world’s most destructive natural hazard. They are expected to increase in frequency, area and intensity due to climate change. There is therefore an urgent need for coordinated drought and proactive policies.

“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 impact of droughts. Today, only one country in the world has a formal national drought policy. What we need now is a policy framework and action on the ground in all countries that suffer from drought,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told the opening session.

“Since 1900 more than 11 million people died as a consequence of drought. From 1979 to 2008, 1.6 billion people were affected by droughts.  Almost in the same time span the number of people affected by drought doubled in the EU. In Latin America and the Caribbean, between 2000 and 2005 drought caused serious economic losses. In Africa, one third of all people already live in drought-prone area. Given the prevailing climate change scenario, combined with the effects of land degradation and population dynamics, almost half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water scarcity by 2030,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja.

“FAO’s experience shows that sound policies grounded in science and shared knowledge are the first, and the best, line of defense against drought and the basic foundation for drought risk management. We must boost national capacity to cope before a drought occurs, preventing the decline into disaster,”. Unless we secure a shift towards such policies, we face the prospect of repeated humanitarian catastrophe stemming from drought, and the persistent threat drought poses to global food security. This will jeopardize our efforts to meet the challenge of increasing food production by 70% by 2050 in order to feed  a population of 9 billion,” said Ann Tutwiler, Special Representative of FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

Nicholas Goche, Minister of Transport, communication and Infrastructural Development of Zimbabwe and Chair of the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology, said the  meeting was long overdue. “Droughts are causing havoc and mayhem in our countries,” he said, adding that they were becoming more frequent and extreme. “Droughts do not recognize national boundaries,” he said.

More than 300 experts are attending the scientific segment. Donald A. Wilhite, Professor of Applied Climate Science, University of Nebraska, USA, presented the keynote speech to the opening plenary.

Details of UNCCD/WMO side event on Practical Steps to Drought Preparedness and Risk Management (SG speech to the side event / UNCCD speech to side event)

Full details of the programme are available at

The conference is being webcast









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