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Press Release No. 931

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Global Efforts to Strengthen Integrated Drought Information Systems

Casablanca/Geneva/Washington, 9 November 2011 (WMO) – Lessons learnt from droughts in the Greater Horn of Africa will be one of the topics discussed at an international symposium on drought which will focus on the need for more coordinated, proactive policies to manage the risks of the most damaging of all natural hazards.

The International Symposium on Integrated Drought Information Systems will group more than 50 experts from all over the world. It is being organized in Casablanca, Morocco, from 9 to 11 November 2011 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the National Meteorological Service of Morocco (Maroc-Meteo). 

The droughts in 2010 and 2011 in different parts of the world including East Africa, the southern USA, Russia and China are reinforcing the experts’ views that the impacts of droughts have become more severe over the past two decades.

Drought risk management is a critical component of disaster reduction programs and public water resources policy. The conference aims to help countries, regions and communities move away from reactive, crisis-driven approaches to broader policies which embrace drought preparedness and mitigation.

Policy development related to national and regional management of drought is lacking in most countries. Likewise, drought early warning information systems, consisting of monitoring, prediction, risk assessment and communication, are inadequate in most regions. There is insufficient capacity in many drought-prone countries to use drought prediction results and decision support tools effectively in management practice.

Adaptation to Climate Change

“A better scientific understanding and use of inputs such as indicators and thresholds for drought management in different regions of the world and implementation of early warning systems across different timescales is critical”, said Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the WMO. “It is essential to develop an integrated drought information system involving stakeholders from the communities and sectors affected by drought to better manage drought risks. Such a system would offer a sound basis for longer-term adaptation to climate change.”

Abdalah Mokssit, Director of the Moroccan National Meteorological Service (Maroc-Meteo) and third Vice-President of WMO noted that “Drought is a chronic problem in Morocco. In 1995, the country's worst drought in 30 years forced Morocco to import grain and adversely affected the economy. Another drought occurred in 1997, and another in 1999–2000. Reduced incomes due to drought caused GDP to fall by 7.6% in 1995, by 2.3% in 1997 and by 1.5% in 1999. In the context of climate change, it is important to improve climate information and drought early warning systems concerning countries that may be negatively impacted by global warming such as Morocco.”

"Prolonged and even short-term drought can cause extensive impacts to local and regional social and economic systems.  Having well-connected and coordinated drought monitoring, research, prediction, and forecasting capabilities is crucial to help individuals, businesses, and communities throughout the world prepare for and manage drought-related impacts," said Chester Koblinsky, director of NOAA's Climate Program Office. "Water providers, agricultural producers, and managers in other sectors can reduce the effects of drought by using the information provided by drought early warning systems."

The symposium will consider issues including:

  • Need for integrated drought information systems
  • Partnerships for drought early warning, assessment and mitigation
  • Lessons from droughts in the Greater Horn of Africa
  • Drought information systems in West Africa, South Asia, South America, Southwest Pacific, Europe and North America
  • Towards a global drought monitoring portal
  • Core concepts in early warning to support adaptation
  • The role of water information in planning and managing droughts
  • Ecosystems
  • Trans-boundary issues 
  • Disaster risk reduction The symposium should result in enhanced capacity to understand, anticipate and respond to droughts and their impacts in different sectors. Emphasis will be placed on adaptation; drought mitigation and the different aspects of integrated drought management.

The symposium should result in enhanced capacity to understand, anticipate and respond to droughts and their impacts in different sectors. Emphasis will be placed on adaptation; drought mitigation and the different aspects of integrated drought management.

It is the second event in 2011 which WMO and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification are jointly organizing as part of the process leading up to a High Level Meeting on National Drought Policy, planned for March 2013.

The previous event was the Expert Meeting on the Preparation of a Compendium on National Drought Policy at the George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia (USA), from 14 to 15 July 2011 (see press release 921).


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