Drought prevention and cooperation (UN News Centre)

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Cooperation key to drought prevention, UN officials stress at high-level meeting

Countries need to work together to use their experiences, science and technologies to create formal national preventive policies against droughts, United Nations officials said today at the opening of a high-level international meeting designed to make the world less susceptible to the impacts of water scarcity.

“Prevention must be our priority,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his video message to the opening of the High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy in Geneva.

“No single nation can insulate itself from global shocks. The only way to respond is through cooperation – between countries and among civil society, government and business.”

Organized jointly by the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and partners, the five-day meeting brings together policymakers, development agencies and leading scientists and researchers.

“We have the knowledge, we have the experience, and we can reduce the impact of droughts,” said the WMO Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud, in his opening remarks.

“What we need now is a policy framework and action on the ground in all countries that suffer from drought,” he added. Australia is the only country with a formal national drought policy.

Droughts have affected the Greater Horn of Africa and the Sahel region, the US, Mexico, Brazil, parts of China and India, Russia and South-east Europe. In addition, 168 countries claim to be affected by desertification, a process of land degradation in the drylands that affects food production and is exacerbated by drought.

“Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages, particularly in developing countries,” said the Special Representative of the FAO Director General, Ann Tutwiler.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.