|Volume 56(4) — October 2007
News from the WMO Secretariat
The Secretary-General, Mr Michel Jarraud, recently made official visits to a number of Member countries as briefly reported below. He wishes to place on record his gratitude to those Members for the kindness and hospitality extended to him.
On 12 June 2007 the Secretary-General visited the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) in Paris. He met with the Director General, Mr Michel Laurent ,in the presence of Mr Pierre-Etienne Bisch, Permanent Representative of France with WMO, to sign an agreement in the context of the World Hydrological Cycle Observing System (WHYCOS). Carib-HYCOS is expected to contribute significantly to reducing the loss of human life and material damage caused by water-related natural disasters in the Caribbean, through the introduction of modern flood forecasting and warning systems.
The project will also serve to support sustainable development through the integrated management of water resources. In order to meet these objectives, the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of the participating countries will be supported in the modernization and strengthening of their water-resources-related activities, especially in terms of disaster risk reduction. The project will help to promote the exchange of information, technology and experience among participating countries, through the development of a regional database that will be accessible to all participants via the Internet. The IRD and WMO have reiterated their resolve to work closely on WHYCOS implementation and other water-related issues of common interest, such as climate change adaptation in the water sector.
At the kind invitation of Mr Francesco Frangialli, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UN WTO), Mr Jarraud visited Tunisia to participate in the Fifth International Tourism Forum for Parliamentarians and Local Authorities: “Resilience, sustainability, poverty reduction and effectiveness of tourism policies”, which was held in Yasmine Hammamet from 13 to 15 June 2007. Mr Jarraud gave a keynote speech on the subject “The impacts of climate change on tourism”, in which he referred to the potential impacts of climate variability and change in the context of natural disaster prevention and mitigation, as well as the increasing relevance of weather, climate and water information for the tourism community and its operations.
The Secretary-General joined the President of WMO, Mr Alexander Bedritskiy, in representing the Organization at the funeral service for the late WMO Secretary-General Emeritus, Godwin Olu Patrick Obasi, in his hometown of Ogori, Kogi State, on 16 June 2007. Prof. Obasi was born in Ogori on 24 December 1933 and died on 3 March 2007 in Abuja, Nigeria.
At the kind invitation of its Director, Mr Dominique Marbouty, the Secretary-General participated in the inauguration of a new office block at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Shinfield Park, on 28 June. In his presentation, the Secretary-General recalled some of the major contributions of ECMWF, which will celebrate its 32nd anniversary in November 2007. Mr Jarraud also mentioned some personal memories from his years at the Centre.
He further recalled that the ECMWF Convention was signed in October 1973, 100 years after the founding of WMO’s predecessor, the International Meteorological Organization, and that its first Director, Aksel Wiin-Nielsen, was subsequently appointed Secretary-General of WMO by the Eighth World Meteorological Congress (1979). Mr Jarraud stressed that WMO appreciated the collaboration that has developed with ECMWF over more than three decades. He acknowledged the assistance that the Centre provides to WMO’s 188 Members, in particular developing countries, which went beyond its responsibility to ECMWF Members.
The Secretary-General visited Rome on 29 June 2007, on the occasion of a meeting at the headquarters of the International Fund for Agricultural Development to discuss United Nations System cooperation in the issue of climate change and in response to an invitation made by the UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB). The meeting was organized to identify all current and potential climate-related roles of the UN System and to develop a basis for further work in response to climate change, drawing upon the different capacities of the system. Discussions focused, in particular, on adaptation, mitigation, science and monitoring, technology and financing, in preparation for the regular autumn 2007 meeting of the CEB.
At the kind invitation of its Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Mr Efthimios Mitropoulos, Mr Jarraud addressed the 56th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee in London on 9 July 2007. Mr Jarraud recalled that WMO’s predecessor, the International Meteorological Organization—which at the time was also known as IMO—was established in 1873 in response to the growth in international trade and increasing concern for safety in marine transportation. He also referred to a long history of cooperation in the provision of meteorological forecasts and warnings in support of safety at sea, in particular within the context of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.
The Secretary-General addressed the opening ceremony of the Third International Conference on Climate and Water, organized by the Finnish Environment Institute in Helsinki on 3 September 2007. This was part of a sequence of such events that began in 1989. Mr Jarraud noted some specific indications of changes in the hydrological cycle, observed in connection with global warming over the past several decades and stressed the importance of the potential consequences for the world’s freshwater resources, specially in terms of poverty alleviation and food security. The Secretary-General met with Ms Sirkka-Liisa Anttila, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, and Ms Lea Kauppi, General Director of the Finnish Environment Institute.
On 10 September 2007, the Secretary-General visited the European Commission in Brussels. He met with the Deputy Director General of the Directorate General for Development, Mr Bernard Petit, to discuss WMO’s role in climate change issues and disaster management, especially in connection with the European Union’s development policies and the needs of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Mr Jarraud also had a meeting with Mr Olli Rehn, European Union Commissioner for Enlargement, to discuss the South-East European Project and possible avenues to fund its implementation, including the establishment of a Drought Management Centre for South-Eastern Europe (DMCSEE) in Slovenia.
The Secretary-General also participated as an expert in the first public session of the new European Parliament Temporary Committee on Climate Change (CLIM) and gave a presentation entitled “Climate change and sustainable development—a WMO perspective”. He recalled the long experience and involvement of WMO in climate change issues and highlighted a number of significant examples with particular reference to LDCs and SIDS. Mr Jarraud stressed that more efforts will be required; among them, observation networks and research activities will have to be maintained or augmented to determine the future evolution of climate change and to ascertain any progress being made.Although the task would be global, it was not yet sustainable for many developing countries.
In Madrid, on 12 and 13 October 2007, the Secretary-General participated in the High-Level segment of the eighth session of the Conference of Parties (COP-8) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Mr Jarraud took part in a Ministerial Round Table on Climate Change and Desertification, chaired by HE Ms Cristina Narbona, Minister of Environment of Spain and President of the COP-8 session. Eleven ministers, deputy ministers and heads of UN agencies gathered to discuss the issues of climate change and desertification. The Secretary-General also addressed the High Level segment of COP-8 to deliver WMO’s statement, as in previous years.
Mr Jarraud held discussions with Mr Luc Gnacadja, the newly appointed Executive Secretary of UNCCD, on cooperation and the strengthening of linkages between WMO and UNCCD. He also met with HE Mr Constantin Mihailescu (Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of the Republic of Moldova), HE Laurent Stefanini (French Ambassador for the Environment), Mr Francisco Cadarso González (Director of the National Meteorological Institute of Spain and Permanent Representative of Spain with WMO), as well as with all permanent representatives with WMO participating in the COP-8 session.
UN New York
The Secretary-General of WMO took part in the High-Level Event (HLE) on Climate Change on 24 September 2007 at the invitation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. HLE was one step in the process leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2007. It was attended by top officials from more than 150 nations, including 80 Heads of State or Government and Executive Chiefs of other UN programmes and organizations. The President of WMO, Alexander Bedritskiy, also attended as head of the Russian Federation delegation.
The United Nations system, a unique international institution with diverse capacities, is developing a strategic vision of its role in tackling climate change. It will bring to bear the collective strength of its different entities, including the specialized agencies, in addressing a wide variety of relevant issues.