Research meets Development: Early Warning Systems

Research meets Development: Early Warning Systems Panel discussion

As the second of the seven lecture series, “Research meets Development: Drought resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa,” the panel discussion focused on Early Warning systems to enhance drought resilience was held on 24 April at Geographisches Institut in Bonn, Germany.

The panelists were Joanna Post (UNFCCC), Daniel Tsegai (UNCCD), Joachim Post (UNOOSA/UN-SPIDER), Olena Dubovyk (University of Bonn/ZFL), Yvonne Walz (UNU-EHS) and Lars Wirkus (BICC). The panel was moderated by Joerg Szarzynski from the United Nations University.

After the moderator’s brief introduction followed by a short video on the drought episode and its severe impacts in South Africa, the panel discussion kicked off with Joanna Post who spoke about the science of climate change and drought trends, projections, temperature rise and the UNFCCC parties’ commitment to the Paris Agreement to reduce CO2 emissions. Daniel Tsegai addressed the UNCCD’s support to countries to develop and implement national drought policy plans and the efforts to support countries to strengthen their drought early warning systems. He elaborated on the key global milestones on the path of drought resilience including the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030), the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy in 2013 and the African drought Conference in August 2016. Leveraging drought as a connector of sectors and relevant actors was emphasized. Joachim Post explained the importance of space infrastructure to monitor hazards including droughts and how satellite data can be used in planning actions. He highlighted the global divide in space infrastructure and the use of earth observation data (EO) for resilience and early warning applications in Africa. Referring to the existing data gaps among African countries, Olena Dubovyk stressed that remote sensing data and indices (e.g., VCI) could be a viable option to characterize and predict drought. In developing countries, there is a lack of qualified experts to integrate drought indicators within such system. The lack of universal definition of drought is hampering the development of methods for drought assessments. Yvonne Walz stressed the importance of vulnerability and drought risk assessment (ecology, social, economic and political). Lars Wirkus spoke about drought as a migration and threat multiplier. Drought enhances migration which displaces millions of people. He showed relevant maps pointing out water resources-related conflicts. Drought areas are in many cases overlapping with conflict areas. Water scarcity could exacerbate the conflicts.

The other issues raised during the panel discussion were: challenges on drought preparedness; creation of comprehensive drought early warning systems to enhance communication and dissemination channels; strengthening the responding capacity of farmers to warnings; and the need for national drought policy to reduce risks of drought.

For more information about the lecture series, visit: