The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC) jointly established a UN-Water Capacity Development Initiative to support National Drought Management Policies. The initiative was launched with an international kick-off in the framework of the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HMNDP) in Geneva on March 12, 2013. It will be followed by a series of regional workshops in several drought-prone regions of the world throughout 2013 and 2014 and a final wrap-up conference in late 2014.
Droughts are considered to impact nations around the world with dramatic ecological and socio-economic damage. It has been estimated that droughts are the world’s costliest natural disasters, accounting for a cost of 6 to 8 billion US dollars annually, and affect more people than any other form of natural disaster (Wilhite, 2000). They are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic losses as well as significant secondary and tertiary impacts, particularly in the food, water and energy sectors.
Drought affects virtually all climatic regions and climate change is projected to increase the intensity, frequency and duration of drought. Despite the evidence of this trend and the diverse and tremendous effects on livelihoods and economies throughout human history, no concerted efforts are taking place to formulate and adopt national drought management policies. The usual approach taken by countries is to respond to crisis. Mostly such reactive responses are poorly coordinated and thus ineffective because they focus on addressing the impacts (Wilhite, 2011). Countries need to move away from such reactive, piecemeal and crisis-based approach to a more pro-active and risk-based approach.
Risk based drought management is multifaceted and requires the involvement of a variety of stakeholders, and, from a drought management policy perspective, capacities in diverse ministries and national institutions are needed. Based on the identification of capacity needs from national to local levels, the initiative aims to develop such capacities to enable countries develop pro-active, risk-based drought management policies and overcome prevailing structures of reactive and post-hazard management strategies. Supporting the development of such capacities is at the core of this joint initiative under UN-Water.