Building Capacity Around the World

Over the past 60 years, WMO has assisted the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of its Members with capacity building in a number of critical areas to foster their growth and development. NMHSs are extremely reliant and mutually dependent on exchange of data to provide weather, climate and water services to various socio-economic sectors in their countries. Over the years, WMO has worked to keep abreast of developments at regional and national levels, to regularly engage with various partners, to respond to countries’ needs and, at the same time, to work with NMHSs to support socio-economic sectors that are of key priority.

Activities have specifically focused on education and training for human resources capacity, institutional development and technological cooperation, and regional advocacy. Two additional recent areas of focus have been supporting least developed countries and small island developing states, as well as establishing strategic partnerships through resource mobilization. All of these activities are coordinated by a single unit within WMO, the Development and Regional Activities (DRA) Department.

Educating and training for growth

Education and training lie at the heart of development efforts; without human resources development, most development interventions would be ineffective. WMO activities in this area aim to help participants to increase their knowledge, skills and understanding and to develop the capabilities and competencies needed to bring about the desired developmental change. Unlike physical and financial capital, which can be developed or shared with relatively short time delays, human capital cannot be immediately generated to meet emerging needs. Its generation requires education and training, which is a long process. For the least developed and developing countries, determining how to build and retain human capital is a critical issue. The problem is exacerbated by the unavoidable mobility of human capital between least developed and developing countries and those in the developed world — the so-called brain drain and the knowledge divide between countries.

Over the past several decades, WMO has been pioneering the development of human resources of the NMHSs of its Members through training, provision of educational material and awarding of fellowships. It assists NMHSs, especially those in developing countries, in their efforts to attain the optimum level of staffing in order to contribute to national development and to become full partners in global collaborative efforts. Over the next decade, WMO will place greater emphasis on education and training activities and issues that will continue to help to bridge the gap and to build local capacities in science and technology.

Human resources development in Iberoamerican countries

The Conference of Directors of Iberoamerican NMHSs was established in 2003 to help strengthen the institutional capacity of NMHSs, enhance the education and training of personnel, and improve the operational and managerial capacities. In recent years, it has demonstrated that, through horizontal coop­eration, NMHSs are able to optimize resources, share experiences and integrate meteorological and hydrological development across two WMO Regions, III (South America) and IV (North America, South America and the Caribbean).

The Programme of Cooperation for Iberoamerican NMHSs is discussed every year by the Conference of Directors, which approves an annual work plan. This plan is supported through a Trust Fund created in the WMO Secretariat by the Spanish State Meteorological Agency with an annual contribution of about 1.1 million Euros.

students   A group of Iberoamerican meteorologists receive training on automatic weather stations and other instruments at the NMHS of Panama.

From 2006 to 2009, the annual work plans have featured a range of human resources requirements. One such activity has been the formulation of investment projects and develop­ment plans, which include an education and training component for 13 NMHSs (Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay). Some of these projects have already received national and international support for their implementation.

Several training courses have also contributed to the Programme, including: two training courses on climate change scenarios (Colombia and Venezuela); six courses on satellite meteorology (Bolivia, Colombia and Guatemala); six training courses on maintenance of automatic weather stations (Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Uruguay); a course on disaster risk management (Venezuela); three courses on numerical weather models (Bolivia, Colombia and Guatemala); a training session on flash floods management (Peru); and two training courses on climate time series given by the International Center for Research on El Niño–CIIFEN (Ecuador). E-learning training courses on management of NMHSs have also taken place in collaboration with the World Bank-funded Center for Training on Management.

Other support activities have included installation and training of EUMETCast Reception stations for 19 Iberoamerican NMHSs, and the development of case studies on socio-economic benefits of weather, climate and water information and services for the NMHSs of Chile, Peru and Panama.

Institutional and technological development for growth

Oftentimes, WMO capacity building will focus on building centres of excellence, training or technology that bolster the capabilities of NMHSs to respond to the needs of their countries. In many cases, these institutional development efforts connect NMHSs in a region, allowing them to better share data and capitalize on human and technological resources. For example, Regional Climate Outlook Forums (RCOFs) work to bolster infrastructure and skills at NMHSs to promote the use of advances climate forecasting systems and exchange of research and operational resources for provision of reliable climate information.

Seasonal forecasting emerged as an operational science in the 1990s, and countries from the developing world in particular still have very limited capacity in providing climate outlooks. Consequently over the past several years, RCOFs capacity building initiatives have focused on developing technological infrastructure, as well as training events, for climate forecasting.

RCOFSs are but one example of such institution and technological developments. The following examples from several parts of the world illustrate the range of such activities.

Expansions in India

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has undertaken a major drive for modernization and extension, with the cooperation and assistance of WMO. Meteorological services are a high priority in the country, which supports a population of more than 1 billion and the world’s largest agricultural community across 127 different agroclimatic zones.

In 1943, India established a Regional Training Centre for training in operational meteorology, agrometeorology, instrumentation and hydrology. Some 40 years later in 1986, it was designated as a WMO Regional Meteorological Training Centre (RTC) for Regional Association II (Asia). The RTC is well equipped with modern teaching aids, experienced faculty, a good library and laboratories, and it includes lodging and boarding facilities. To date, the RTC has trained more than 15 000 meteorologists, especially from Asian and African countries.

One recent advancement has been the designation of IMD, New Delhi as a WMO Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre for tropical cyclones. The Centre is responsible for issuing tropical weather outlooks and tropical cyclone advisories to WMO and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific countries in the region. The recent cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar in April 2008, was accurately tracked with timely warnings, thus saving valu­able like and property in the area. Accurate warning for tropical storm Aila, which struck Bangladesh and the Indian coast in May 2009, also enabled timely action that saved lives.

African ministers to meet on weather, climate and water in Nairobi

For the first time ever, African Ministers responsible for meteorology will meet to address ways of strengthening weather, climate and water information for decision-making. This first ministerial Conference, organized by WMO in partnership with the African Union, will be held in Nairobi, hosted by the Government of Kenya, from 12 to 16 April 2010.

African NMHSs have an important role to play in evaluating and monitoring climate change. Their early warnings are essential to help prevent natural disasters. The Conference will be addressing the role and contribution of the NMHSs to efforts by African Governments for developing initiatives to mitigate, and adapt to, the negative impacts of weather and climate.

The African continent is especially vulnerable to climate change. Already, the number and magnitude of natural hazards are increasing in the face of a warming climate. All sectors in Africa are affected, from agriculture, water, health and food security, to forestry, transport, tourism and energy.

Famine is primarily the result of drought that leads to consistent food shortages. Millions of African people suffer hunger with relentless regularity. Famine and climate change increase drastically the population’s vulnerability to diseases, poverty and other hardships. Likewise, catastrophic floods can devastate agricultural lands: in 2000, Mozambique was hit by the worst floods experienced in 150 years, with the Limpopo River basin submerged in water for up to three months.

In the light of this event, Mozambique is now proactively using meteorological information to manage flood risks. Likewise, other countries, such as Mali and Malawi, are using meteorological information for agricultural management.

Climate community building in Africa

In 1987, the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD) was created by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and WMO. Since 1992, it has worked with NMHSs and other stakeholders at regional, sub-regional and national levels in the provision of weather and climate information and prediction products, as well as early warnings, research and development, and regional capacity building.

With strong collaboration and support from WMO and partners, ACMAD has helped to improve the critical mass of meteorologists and climate scientists within NMHSs and in the user communities in Africa. More than 500 members of NMHSs and collaborative partners in different domains have been trained in forecasting tools and have been provided methodologies, computing and communications equipment, and related software.

Drought monitoring in Eastern and Southern Africa

In 1989, WMO established a Drought Monitoring Centre (DMC) in Nairobi, Kenya, with a subcentre located in Harare, Zimbabwe, in support of 24 eastern and southern African countries. The centres were established under a project funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Harare centre was recently relocated to Gaborone, Botswana. The main objective of establishing the two centres was to enhance the capacity of the member countries in the two sub-regions of Africa to respond to the devastating droughts, floods and other weather-related disasters that negatively influence their socio-economic development.

In an effort to increase ownership of capacity building initiatives and to ensure their sustainability, the Nairobi DMC became a specialized institution of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and was renamed the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre. Over the years, these initiatives have made considerable contributions to the development and application of climate information and products in support of the various climate-sensitive socio-economic sectors.

Specific activities have included, among others, development of capacity of regional climate experts and meteorological tools for seasonal climate prediction and climate modelling, establishment of a network of climate journalist in the Greater Horn of Africa, and development of prototypes for some downscaled climate information to meet requirements of specific sectors, such as agriculture and food security, livestock, water resources, energy and health.

Technological advances in Bangladesh

In 1973, two years after the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) was established, Bangladesh became a member of WMO and subsequently a member of ESCAP. Through the auspices of WMO financial and technical support, the existing surface observatories were gradually upgraded and a new one added to its existing network, 35 total stations now.

Also under the same support, several facilities were set up: a Meteorological Training Institute with a library; a Climate Division with computing facility for data archival; an Agro-meteorological Division with 12 agro-meteorological observatories, including two pilot observatories; and an automatic weather station at the International Airport for aviation.

In 2007, the Global Telecommunication System link was upgraded from the speed of 2.4 to 64 kilobits per second with WMO financial and technical assistance. Along with these infrastructure developments, BMD, with government funding, launched a project on the introduction of numerical weather prediction techniques, to be completed in three phases.

Over the past 30 years, through the support of WMO, Japanese Grant Aid and the local UNDP, BMD has achieved an excellent and timely contribution to disaster management and capacity enhancement. BMD has made a significant improvement in cyclone forecasting and warning, as well as in the timely prediction of other severe weather phenomena, thereby contributing directly to reduction in losses.

In Bangladesh, cyclone forecasting and warnings have reduced loss of lives from the natural disasters. The six projects described are financed by Japanese Grant Aid.

Regional and national advocacy for growth

WMO recognizes that capacity building efforts require that national governments and regional organizations understand the benefits of investment in NMHSs. WMO promotes the inclusion of NMHSs in national and regional development plans, and offers advice to governments concerning the value of weather, climate and water information — provided by the meteorological services — to the health, safety and economic well-being of their citizens.

The sharing of best practices, sectoral case study examples and the need for international sharing of data and standards by all countries are also a part of this advocacy. The following examples illustrate some national and regional success stories from around the world.

Chinese meteorological services

Sixty years ago, China had about 200 meteorological staff and 101 poorly equipped weather stations. Since then, China’s meteorological services have witnessed significant achievements. Now, the meteorological services cover a full range of socio-economic sectors, extending to almost all households, and providing important support in disaster prevention and mitigation, in response to climate change, in environmental protection and for national socio-economic developments.

Weather modification in China is of special attention and has expanded from drought relief to various other applications, including water resources management, improvement of ecological and environmental conditions, forest and wild fire control, emergency response to air pollution, experimental rainfall reduction for major open-air public events and fog-depletion operation over airports.

Xiamen weather radar   A new generation doppler weather radar in Xiamen, China, is part of the expanding role of weather services in China.

Weather forecasting and climate prediction skills have steadily improved, and an operationally technical system has been established using numerical weather prediction-based products through a human-computer interactive platform with multiple application-oriented techniques and methodologies. Regional rainstorm and typhoon track forecasts have been substantively improved, as have the accuracy of 24-and 48-hour weather forecasts. The composite meteorological observation system is being gradually improved — all in coordination with WMO.

The China Meteorological Admini­stration (CMA) has benefited from legislation related to meteorology and weather modification. With WMO support, it has conducted extensive bilateral cooperation and exchanges with 140 countries and territories in the field of meteorological science and technology. CMA has also provided more than 70 countries with multifaceted assistance, including meteorological instruments and equipment. The efforts in boosting code of conduct and ethics, as well as organizational culture, have enabled rapid development.

Disaster-risk reduction in Hispaniola

The Caribbean island of Hispaniola, shared by Dominican Republic and Haiti, is highly vulnerable to natural hazards. Lying in the path of tropical cyclones, both countries are often affected by atmospheric phenomena that cause loss of lives and severe socio-economic damage.

For example, in September 1998, Hurricane Georges traversed and devastated the island of Hispaniola, leading to 282 deaths, 595 injured people and 156 missing people in the Dominican Republic, including more than US$ 1.5 billion of loses in public infrastructure. In Haiti, Georges led to at least 400 fatalities and damages to property to the tune of worth more than US$ 200 million. Thousands of farm animals were either killed or lost, and the agricultural sector suffered extreme damage in both countries.

After the disaster, an evaluation in the Dominican Republic concluded that the warnings and recommendations transmitted by the National Meteorological Office were not adequately taken into account by the Dominican agency for civil protection. Furthermore, coordination failures were identified in the institutional chain. Consequently, the National Meteorological Office demanded the reinforcement of its role in the prevention and mitigation of hydrometeorological events.

automatic weather station   Several visits and maintenance sessions for automatic weather stations were organized during a training course in El Salvador, within the Programme of Cooperation for Iberoamerican NMHSs.

Since then, with the support of WMO, fatalities due to such natural hazards have been dramatically reduced. In 2008, four tropical cyclones struck the island (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike). The Dominican Emergency Operations Centre reported 13 deaths total (five during Fay and eight with Gustav). In this context, the Dominican Republic got a positive response after implementing the new strategy of a National Early Warning Programme, with a joint effort by the Dominican National Meteorological Office (ONAMET), the Dominican agency for civil protection and the Dominican Institute for Telecommunications, with support from national media.

As is the case with several other similar initiatives that have born success worldwide, WMO has in the past decade been assisting ONAMET to sustain and build this capacity through various international programmes and projects in cooperation with funding and development agencies. Such efforts continue to make tangible contributions towards the enhancement of early warning systems and improvement of meteorological forecasts and operational procedures.

Sustained meteorological development in Pakistan

Established in 1947, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has increasingly responded to growing national and international challenges in the areas of weather, climate and water. Cooperation with WMO and development partners has helped to ensure sustained development of meteorological services at both the national and international levels.

In 1950s, PMD was given the responsibility of seismic and geomagnetic monitoring. PMD established the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics (IMG) at Karachi for training meteorological personnel and, at the same time, strengthened its network of meteorological observatories. Since 2006, IMG has been affiliated with University of Karachi for granting post-graduate diplomas in meteorology and has also been offering fully funded training courses to the selected nominees/participants from NMHSs of neighbouring countries through the WMO Volunteer Contribution Programme since 2007.

After devastating floods in 1973, the government decided to establish a modern flood forecasting system in Pakistan. PMD, with the financial and technical assistance from WMO, established a specialized National Flood Forecasting Bureau (NFFB) at Lahore. In the 1990s, NFFB was upgraded into Flooded Forecasting Division, now supported by a network of sophisticated radar stations established with an Asian Development Bank loan and Japanese grant-in-assistance.

During the 1980s, with the financial and technical assistance by WMO, PMD established a specialized National Agro-Meteorological Centre at Islamabad with three Regional Agro-Meteorological Centres. A specialized Climate Data Processing Centre was also established with assistance from WMO. For human resource development and capacity building, WMO provided a number of fellowships for long-term and short-term training in meteorology and hydrology.

During the past decade, PMD has implemented many development projects and has established various specialized units and centres. The development budget of PMD has increased fourfold during the second half of the decade. With continued cooperation with WMO and its partners, there is no doubt that NMHSs such as PMD will continue to meet national and international development challenges.

Focus on developing countries

The WMO Programme for the Least Developed Countries was established by the Fourteenth World Meteorological Congress in May 2003 in order to contribute to the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action for the decade 2001 to 2010, which was adopted by the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. The WMO Programme was established to enhance and strengthen the capacities NMHSs to contribute effectively, and in a timely manner, to the sustainable development of the respective countries.

A special WMO Trust Fund for NMHSs of least developed countries has been established. Various advocacy and capacity building activities have been carried out at United Nations headquarters level, at regional levels and at the country level to mainstream the contributions of WMO and the NMHSs to the socio-economic development process of least developed countries. An example of this recent work, specific to small island developing states, is the project Preparedness to Climate Variability and Global Change in Small Island Developing States of the Caribbean Region (SIDS-Caribbean).

In the spirit of collaboration, the Finnish Government and WMO launched the SIDS-Caribbean project in 2000, to cover Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos Islands. Based at the campus of the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology in Barbados, the project was aimed at developing better meteorological and climate knowledge and improving the scientific capabilities for better planning for sustainable development in the region.

Completed in 2005, the SIDS-Caribbean project contributed to the reinforcement of the NMHSs in the region and made it possible to improve the telecommunication systems of the participating countries. The project, among others, produced a number of beneficial societal effects. As a primary vehicle for gender mainstreaming in meteorology and hydrology in the region, the project has provided support under the training and awareness-building component for Caribbean participants in the Conference on Women in Meteorology and Hydrology. The project demonstrated the importance of cooperation among Caribbean institutions and meteorological personnel for development, capacity building and prevention and mitigation of frequent natural hazards.

Investing for the future

One of the most important ways to ensure that NMHSs deliver critical products in an effective and sustainable way to the end-user is by ensuring the availability of necessary infrastructure and human and financial resources for the long term. While realizing that WMO cannot of itself ensure adequate maintenance of resources for NMHSs, experience in the past 60 years has revealed that the Organization can do much to augment various national-and international-level activities.

Looking to the future, education and training is a critical area of focus for technical matters, as well as planning, management, communication and public affairs, and other administrative and support functions. Priority needs to be given to those human resource development issues that affect the capacity of NMHSs to have influence within their governments and societies. WMO will continue to work with partners in support of human resource development in the fields of meteorology and hydrology worldwide.

Through its Resource Mobilization Office and Regional Offices, the DRA Department will continue to focus on the establishment of strategic partnerships with key organizations, development banks, foundations, national aid agencies and private sector entities to support development activities. Increased focus in this area in the past two years has already yielded positive results.

WMO has established new or enhanced partnerships with the World Bank, various Directorates of the European Commission, United Nations System Partners — in particular, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme and UNDP — the Rockefeller Foundation and regional economic groupings, as well as WMO Members and the corporate sector for delivery of regional-scale development projects. Resource mobilization efforts have also been supporting the NMHSs themselves to work to enhance the level of support and funding provided both in-country and through external mechanisms, especially for developing countries and post-conflict countries.

Building resilience in the developing economies of south-eastern Europe

WMO is working with the World Bank, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and international partners on the South Eastern Europe Disaster Risk Management Initiative (SEEDRMI). In line with the Hyogo Framework, the project aims to reduce the vulnerability of south-eastern European countries to the risks of natural disasters.

This initiative focuses on building the foundation for regional and country-specific investment priorities in the area of early warning, disaster risk reduction and financing. SEEDRMI incorporates three focus areas: hydrometeorological forecasting, data sharing and early warning; coordination of disaster mitigation, preparedness and response; and financing of disaster losses, reconstruction and recovery and disaster risk transfer (disaster insurance).

Investments have been secured from the World Bank, European Commission and other bilateral donors, such as Finland and the United States of America, to commence the establishment of modern, sustainable and more coordinated weather forecasting in south-eastern Europe.


Thanks to the NMHSs that contributed their stories and experiences to this article.


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