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Press Release No. 777

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Ministers and dignitaries address opening of WMO Congress

GENEVA, 9 MAY 2007 (WMO) – The work of meteorologists and hydrologists around the world is “a magnificent example of cooperation in a field which goes beyond national boundaries and affects all aspects of human life”, delegates were told at the opening session of the Fifteenth Congress of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

In his keynote address, WMO’s President Alexander Bedritskiy underlined the very significant progress made during recent years. Some 600 Heads of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), ministers, senior officials and representatives of meteorological organizations are meeting until 25 May 2007 at the Congress, which is held every four years to establish the WMO’s future direction.

“The last four years saw a significant increase of public awareness regarding the role and importance of NMHSs, as well as more developed cooperation with international financial institutions, aimed at enhancing the potential of NMHSs in Least Developing Countries (LDCs),” he noted.

WMO Secretary-General, Mr Michel Jarraud read a message to the delegates from United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon who said: “WMO also plays an important role in promoting scientific understanding of the global climate at a time when climate change is rising on the international agenda. According to the most recent assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which your Organization sponsors together with the United Nations Environment Programme, warming of the planet is now unequivocal, its impact is clearly noticeable, and it is beyond doubt that human activities have been contributing considerably to it.”

“WMO and national meteorological and hydrological services can greatly assist societies in adapting. At no other time in history have there been so many expectations from the sciences of meteorology and hydrology. I urge you to continue your efforts to promote enhanced applications of science and technology, including the use of climate and weather information, and to improve predictions and early warnings on impending weather and climate hazards. Governments and the public are also placing greater demands on national meteorological and hydrological services in key areas such as tourism, energy and transport. I call on all relevant officials to give these services the budgetary and other support they need,” Mr Ban Ki-Moon added.

In reference to the fraud investigations of 2003, Swiss Secretary of State of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Michael Ambühl said: “Switzerland, in association with 15 other Members, will present a resolution to Congress with the aim of improving the overall transparency of the organization vis-à-vis the other Members, while maintaining the organization’s technical and scientific character. If adopted, this resolution will enable Members to participate, as observers, in meetings of the Executive Council and other subsidiary bodies which deal with important questions of governance. As a result, WMO will only become stronger as it takes on the numerous challenges facing us all.”

Another message was read on behalf of Mr Shavkat Mirzieev, Prime Minister of the Uzebekistan who said: “Only close mutual understanding and co-operation of NMHSs can promote the safe and stable development of mankind and the solution to global, regional and national problems concerning the environment.”

H.E Hon. Minister of Communications of Ghana, Professor Mike Oquaye, said: “The concern of Congress should be focused on the encouragement of Members to implement systems and services aimed at supporting the reduction of the burden of the underprivileged in our society – especially women. It is the majority of women who are involved in the provision of food and potable water for our families in the developing world and they need every encouragement to go about their duties as we inform them in simple language about weather conditions for cropping, harvesting.”

Minister of Transport of Liberia, H.E Hon. Jeremiah C. Sultunteh, stressed the difficulties facing a war-torn nation: “As a post-war country, Liberia faces enormous challenges. Currently, the country can hardly boast of adequate meteorological and hydrological services because of the loss of significant resources in terms of its physical infrastructure and trained manpower,” he said.

H.E. Hon. M. A. Zahoud, Secretary of State of Morocco focused on regional partnerships: “The efforts of the Kingdom of Morocco have led to our country becoming an associate member and Euro-Mediterranean partner of the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts. Our activities, which are aimed at encouraging and increasing cooperation with the Mediterranean, Arab and African countries, are being consolidated every day in partnership with the relevant WMO departments.”

H.R.H Prince Turki bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Meteorology and Environment and President of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment of Saudi Arabia said: “During his visit to the KSA in December, His Excellency the Secretary-General of WMO visited the Regional Center for Meteorology and Environmental Protection (RCMEP) in the Kingdom’s Southern Province (Abha). An agreement in principle was reached with His Excellency to expand the terms of reference of the Training Center attached to the RCMEP to include highly developed programmes in meteorology and environment, making it the nucleus of a specialized Arab training center for meteorological and environmental sciences, both at the theoretical and applied levels.”

H.E Hon. Natan Teewe is Minister of Communications, Transport and Tourism Development of the Republic of Kiribati, a nation of low-lying islands in the Central Pacific where the highest point above sea-level is only some three metres: “We are now experiencing a change in the weather pattern. The temperature has changed. The wet and dry seasons have changed. WMO is playing a vital role in providing the guidelines, training and required instruments to enhance our capabilities.”

H.E. Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights in Sri Lanka, expanded on progress made after the tsunami of 2004, based on principles central to WMO: “Sri Lanka has established a framework for disaster risk management centering on a holistic approach, leading to a policy shift from relying on too much on response based mechanisms to adopting a more proactive mitigation approach.”

The Republic of Montenegro joined WMO in January 2007 and H.E. Hon. Predrag Nenezic, Minister of Tourism and Environmental Protection said: “The Montenegrin Government recognizes the importance of international cooperation in the field of meteorology and hydrology for sustainable development and safety of all weather, climate and water sensitive activities. Thus within our economic powers and our abilities, we will support all WMO Programmes and the activities of our national hydro-meteorological service in this respect.”

H.E Professor Jan Szyszko, Minister of the Environmental of the Republic of Poland underlined the importance of mitigating natural disasters and said: “WMO has played an important role among public services to protect countries and societies against severe effects of natural hazards occurring in the atmosphere and hydrosphere, and in a broader context, WMO has contributed to the protection of biodiversity. WMO, through its system of technical and educational assistance should equalize opportunities and bridge gaps in working environments in all NMHSs to reach an efficient model of international cooperation in weather forecasting and warnings issues.”

Hon. Sarah Sayifwanda, Minister of Communications and Transport in Zambia focused on climate change and how to combat it: “More effective use of climate information and services will enable many climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, energy and water resources, health, among others to cope better with the natural variability of climate and to develop climate change adaptation actions.”

Hon. Idriss Jazairy, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Algeria with the United Nations in Geneva, highlighted the importance of international unity: “In partnership with the other Organizations of the United Nations System, WMO must continue to actively participate in the implementation of international conventions such as the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on Biological Diversity and especially the International Framework Convention on Climate Change,” he said.

H.E. Hon. Paul Karalus, Minister for Transport, Kingdom of Tonga was another official concerned with climate change and the threats it poses for his developing nation and vulnerable population; he called for increased training: “Further assistance is required to help us measure and map the meter of our climate. We urgently need to multi-skill our observers and recorders. The demands of both science and livelihood insist on the correct reading and correct reporting of day-to-day climatic occurrences. This requires our personnel to be trained to understand their tasks and to be proficient in the use of equipment to measure, record, compute and communicate.”

The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism of the Republic of South Africa, Rejoice Mabudafhasi said that more needed to be done to improve vulnerable NMHSs: “WMO has been able to encourage collaboration between member NMHSs and other regional centres in order to improve forecasting tools and build skilled human resources. There has been considerable investment by Governments on the latest Meteorological infrastructure. However, the challenge in NMHSs of developing countries remains, particularly in LDCs and I trust the deliberations during Congress will lead to some concrete solutions.”

Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Mr Hui Liangyu, underscored the importance of international unity: “In the future, China will continue to enhance cooperation with WMO and other countries and regions, and China will actively participate in construction of a network of the Regional Climate Centres within the WMO framework.”

Mr Youssouf Mahamat, Director-General of the Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) explained the role of his organization: “Through its network of satellite communications, the Agency exchanges thousands of messages every day with WMO Members. This greatly contributes towards increasing the availability of observations in Africa for the benefit of international meteorological centres all over the world.


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