WMO Message on the Occasion of the
World Day to Combat Desertification 2013
On behalf of WMO and the international meteorological and hydrological communities, I would like to congratulate the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification UNCCD and Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja, on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification 2013.
This year, the day’s goal is to create awareness about the risks of drought and water scarcity in the drylands and arid zones, calling attention to the importance of sustaining healthy soils as part of post Rio+20 agenda, as well as the post‐2015 sustainable development agenda.
WMO has a long record of actively supporting international efforts to combat desertification, dating back to the tragic 1968-1974 Sahel droughts. WMO participated in the historic Nairobi UN Conference on Desertification in 1977 and contributed its Plan of Action on the meteorological and hydrological aspects of combating desertification.
This year’s slogan, “Don’t let our future dry up” calls for action to promote preparedness and resilience to water scarcity, desertification and drought. This has a strong echo in the ongoing actions and plans in water management and drought of WMO, in close liaison with UNCCD and other UN Agencies.
The slogan embodies the message that we are all responsible for water and land conservation and sustainable use and that we can find integrated and coordinated solutions to these serious natural resource challenges. The 2013 World Day to Combat Desertification is aligned with the appeal of the International Year of Water Cooperation, which calls for joint efforts to mobilize resources for sustainable solutions to water scarcity and the effects of drought.
Freshwater is a limited renewable resource. Precipitation or river flows have a short term effect on water availability, while water storages in dams, groundwater, glacier ice or vegetation are midterm storage resources. Fossil water provide long term resources but with a world growing population and the increase of water needs in agriculture, good quality drinking water and other uses, those resources could not be considered as unlimited and sound and sustainable management of freshwater is essential for every country. Some 70 per cent of the water available globally is held in the soil and only 11 per cent is accessible as stream flow and groundwater. Globally, agriculture accounts for at least 70 per cent of freshwater use, but could reach up to 90 per cent in some countries.
Droughts have serious impacts and in recent years have severely affected agricultural production in many countries contributing to soaring food prices and shortages worldwide. In 2012, landholders large and small, in food exporting countries and poor importing countries, were hit hard by drought. The drought of 2012 was a multi-billion dollar agricultural disaster in the United States, for example, and was on a par with the drought of 1988, which—according to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center—caused US$ 77.6 billion in mostly agricultural losses. Since 1980, the only U.S. weather or climate disaster with a greater damage estimate than the drought of 1988 was Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in US$ 146.3 billion in losses and 1 833 fatalities in New Orleans, Louisiana, and along the U.S. Gulf Coast in late-August 2005.
But it is people in the drylands, especially small holder farmers and the landless poor in rural areas in the developing world, who are most likely to go hungry and even lose their lives. The prolonged droughts in the Horn of Africa (2011) and the Sahel (2012) resulted in major humanitarian crises, leaving millions hungry and malnourished, especially children.
Today, the partnership of WMO and UNCCD is stronger than ever. In 2009, the third World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3) unanimously approved the concept of a Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) and UNCCD expressed its willingness to contribute to the GFCS through its thematic programme at the regional level and by establishing desertification monitoring centres.
In the past year, WMO was very pleased to participate in the UNCCD Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 11), in the support to the Drought Management Centre for South Eastern Europe in Ljubliana (Slovenia) and in the United Nations Decade (2010-2020) for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification Inter-Agency Task Force.
WMO, UNCCD, and FAO collaborated with many other UN agencies in organizing the High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policies in Geneva, Switzerland from 11-15 March 2013. The ultimate goal of this meeting was to highlight the need for proactive national drought policies that will create more drought-resilient societies. Based on this meeting, several important initiatives were launched:
WMO and the Global Water Partnership (GWP) established the Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP), in which UNCCD will be an important partner. The wider scope of the IDMP is to contribute to national efforts for poverty alleviation in drought-affected regions of the world through an integrated approach to drought management cutting across sectoral, disciplinary and institutional jurisdictions. As a response to the problem of drought and its complex cross-sectoral impacts on local and national economies, particularly on water, land, agriculture, ecosystems and energy sectors, the objective of the IDMP is to support stakeholders at all levels with policy and management guidance through globally coordinated generations of scientific information and by sharing best practices and knowledge for integrated drought management. The IDMP is an important contribution to the GFCS.
Also, a joint initiative entitled “Capacity Development to Support National Drought Management Policies”, bringing together the expertise of several UN agencies to advance capacity to develop effective drought management policies in targeted drought-prone countries, was launched. Under this umbrella, UNCCD, WMO, FAO and the UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC) are supporting training workshops in different continents.
All these initiatives could contribute to a more efficient management on drylands in relation with drought events.
Therefore, on this auspicious occasion, I would like to reiterate our sincere appreciation to Mr Gnacadja for this vital partnership and to wish UNCCD a successful celebration of World Day to Combat Desertification.