The Drought Initiative

The Drought Initiative


Planning early is key to achieving drought resilience



The Conference of the Parties (COP) at its thirteenth Meeting (COP13), requested the Secretariat and appropriate UNCCD institutions and bodies including the Science-Policy Interface to implement the Drought Initiative during the 2018-19 biennium. The new initiative focuses on:

  • Drought preparedness systems
  • Regional efforts to reduce drought vulnerability and risk; and
  • A toolbox to boost the resilience of people and ecosystems to drought

Planning early is key to achieving drought resilience

Drought is considered one of the most far-reaching natural disasters, bringing short and long-term economic and social losses to millions of people worldwide. Many countries across the globe that soon may face the impacts of intense drought still lack a comprehensive plan of action at the first signs of drought. Drought and water scarcity – interconnected phenomena that often aggravate each other’s effects – can trigger major setbacks for the most disadvantaged populations: from famine to migration and displacement. A single year of drought can undermine years of social development, in particular for vulnerable members of society. Water scarcity alone could cost some regions up to six percent of their GDP by 2050, in turn triggering mass migration and conflict over diminishing resources. In 2017, drought led to the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, when 20 million people across Africa and the Middle East came to the brink of starvation, according to UN-OCHA. 

According to the 2018 United Nations/World Bank High Level Panel on Water, 40 per cent of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity, with as many as 700 million people at risk of being displaced as a result of drought by 2030. A lack of water,  which is often the outcome of drought , threatens people’s livelihoods and fuels migration. The Panel called for evidence-based policies and innovative approaches at the global, national and local levels to make water management more disaster-resilient. 

The UNCCD helps address these challenges through a recently launched Drought Initiative that works to enhance the resilience of communities and ecosystems to drought by developing national action plans. The goal is to promote a paradigm shift in approach to the way drought is managed – from a reactive and crisis-based towards a proactive and risk-based one. The convention supports over 70 countries in designing comprehensive national plans of action ready to be activated well before the drought strikes. A second call for interest was announced in March 2019 to support additional countries in developing their national drought plans. 

Validated National Drought Plans

With the permission of the governments who have successfully completed the exercise, fourteen validated national drought plans are now available in order to showcase best practices and promote learning among countries. They are available in the  Drought Toolbox.