Namibia – sub-Sahara’s driest country which is currently gripped by its worst drought in three decades – is hosting the Eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP11) to the U.N. Convention on Drought and Desertification (UNCCD) 16-27 September.
The theme of COP11 is a stronger UNCCD for a land-degradation neutral world and it will focus on financing, knowledge brokering and the Rio+20 outcome in which world leaders called for global action towards a land- degradation neutral world; monitoring of land degradation and land restoration; and strengthening of the scientific basis of the Convention.
The World Meteorological Organization will be attending the conference to promote the need for integrated drought management and science-based national drought policies, as recommended by a High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy organized by WMO, UNCCD and the Food and Agriculture Organization in March 2013.
Integrated Drought Management is a critical component of disaster risk reduction programmes, climate adaptation strategies including land management and national water resources policies, bringing together the needs of the different stakeholders affected by droughts. In order to address drought issues in a more effective and coordinated way, WMO and Global Water Partnership have launched the Integrated Drought Management Programme together with partners as the UNCCD. This aims to provide preventive and demand-driven support mechanisms for the communities, countries and regions affected by drought with especial attention to those affected by desertification.
The Integrated Drought Management Programme will be showcased at a side event Wednesday 25 September organized by WMO.
Arid, semi-arid and dry-sub humid areas, which are collectively known as drylands, make up 34.8% of the Earth and are inhabited by over two billion people. Due to their extensiveness, dryland ecosystems play a critical role in the regulation of the global climate. The sensitivity of the dryland ecosystems to human and climatic variations makes land degradation, commonly referred to as desertification, a persistent problem.
The drylands are also particularly prone to droughts. Droughts are slow-onset events that cause more loss of lives, livelihoods and permanent displacement of people than cyclones, floods and earthquakes combined. From 1991 to 2000, drought took over 280,000 lives and cost billions of US dollars in damage. The scientific community predicts that droughts may become more intense, more frequent and more severe as a result of climate change.
Namibia, the conference host, is characterized by arid conditions and recurring droughts and has a long history of battling its vulnerability to desertification and the marginal nature of farming that dominates much of the country. Namibian President Dr. Hifikepunye Pohamba, in March declared an emergency situation because of the 2012/2013 drought, which has been described as the worst for 30 years.