Inaugural African Drought Conference Issues Windhoek Declaration, Adopts Strategic Framework
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The High-Level Meeting of the inaugural African Drought Conference, comprising African member States and Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), adopted an overarching Strategic Framework to enhance resilience to the impact of drought events in Africa, issued the 'The Windhoek Declaration,' and underscored the importance of drought resilience in achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

unccd_namibia_au19 August 2016: The High-Level Meeting of the inaugural African Drought Conference, comprising African member States and Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), adopted an overarching Strategic Framework to enhance resilience to the impact of drought events in Africa, issued the ‘The Windhoek Declaration,’ and underscored the importance of drought resilience in achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Drought Conference took place from 15-19 August 2016 in Windhoek, Namibia, following the conclusion of the 3rd Africa Drylands Week. It was hosted by the Government of Namibia, with support from the UNCCD, the African Union (AU) and diverse partners. The Conference was one of the main outcomes of the Namibia Declaration adopted at the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 11) to the UNCCD, which emphasized a stronger UNCCD to achieve the SDG target 15:3 on land degradation neutrality through an increased focus on mitigating the impacts of droughts and the development of national drought policies.

The High-Level Meeting issued ‘The Windhoek Declaration for Enhancing Resilience to Drought in Africa,’ which calls for operationalization of the Strategic Framework for Drought Risk Management and Enhancing Resilience in Africa, and the implementation of ‘Drought Resilient and Prepared Africa’ (DRAPA) programmes at the national level. It requests African Union Heads of State and Government to “adopt a decision under the framework of the UNCCD” to develop a binding protocol on Drought Risk Management for Enhancing Resilience to be submitted for consideration to the UNCCD COP 13 in 2017.

The Windhoek Declaration also notes the need for all African countries and partners to ensure that the implementation of the Strategic Framework is considered as part of national SDG implementation frameworks and to enhance synergies among the existing international agreements and other Conventions particularly among the three Rio Conventions, namely the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), UNCCD and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Strategic Framework was finalized during the technical segment of the Drought Conference, which also considered, among other issues: African perspectives on drought, land degradation and desertification; linkages to the SDGs and the African Union’s Agenda 2063; outcomes of the 3rd Africa Drylands Week; best practices in drought management; national, regional and global drought monitoring and early warning systems; vulnerability assessments; innovative sources of finance for enhancing resilience to drought events; and appropriate response and relief measures during and after drought events.

Conference participants committed themselves to, inter alia: establish a continent-wide African Network with national institutions for Drought Monitoring and Early Warning Systems; convene a biennial African Drought Conference concurrently with the African Drylands Week to consider progress on implementation of the Strategy; facilitate timely drought information, vulnerability and impact assessment, and mitigation measures at the country, regional and continental levels; and systematically and strategically tap into existing financing opportunities, in particular climate change adaptation financing and other financing mechanisms including from the private sector.

The African Drought Conference was preceded by the 3rd Africa Drylands Week from 8-12 August 2016, which convened under the theme of ‘Promoting sustainable development in African drylands.’ Discussions brought together diverse stakeholders, including representatives of farmers, women and youth organizations, scientists, policy and decision makers, practitioners and development specialists, with a focus on the sub-themes of land tenure, migration, conflict and land valuation in drylands, and opportunities presented by the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Week also sought to build the scientific basis for the implementation of African Drylands initiatives and to strengthen synergies in the implementation of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) and other flagship drought and resilience programmes. Participants called for the Africa Drylands Week to be institutionalized by the African Union Assembly, as a regular and sustained means of promoting development in drylands.

The Drylands Week was co-organized by the African Union Commission (AUC), the Government of Namibia, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the Permanent Inter-States Committee on the Control of Drought in the Sahel (CILSS), and other international and regional partners, with support from the African Union (AU) and the European Union.

In the lead up to the Drylands Week and Drought Conference, publications released by the World Bank and UNCCD highlighted new data as well as innovative approaches to building drought resilience in Africa. The UNCCD study, titled ‘The ripple effect: A fresh approach to reducing drought impacts and building resilience,’ calls for proactive and “risk-based” approaches to tackling the impacts of droughts, floods and other extreme weather events in an integrated way. The publication presents new data on the interlinkages between drought and water scarcity, and notes that demand for water is estimated to grow by an estimated 55% by 2050, which could lead to a loss of up to 6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of some regions. The publication highlights the impact of climate change on water scarcity and food price volatility, and explores how drought and falling land productivity impact migration and conflict.

The three World Bank publications, ‘Improved Crop Productivity for Africa’s Drylands,’ ‘Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands,’ and ‘Social Protection Programs for Africa’s Drylands’ explore, among other issues: the impact of drought on more than 200 million people in dryland regions of sub-Saharan Africa who depend on agriculture and livestock for their survival; the “economics of resilience” in Africa’s drylands; and the role of social protection programmes in enhancing resilience. [UNCCD Press Release on Conference Opening] [UNCCD Press Release on Conference Closing] [Windhoek Declaration for Enhancing Resilience to Drought in Africa] [African Drought Conference Website] [UNCCD Press Release on Drylands Week Opening] [SAWAP Press Release on Drylands Week Closing (in French)] [UNCCD Press Release on Drylands Publications] [The Ripple Effect: A Fresh Approach to Reducing Drought Impacts and Building Resilience] [Improved Crop Productivity for Africa’s Drylands] [Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands] [Social Protection Programs for Africa’s Drylands]


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