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FAO and partners join forces to mitigate the impact of El Niño in the ASEAN region

15/12/2023 Bangkok -- El Niño has made its presence felt in Southeast Asia and is projected to persist for at least the next three months. In July, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) officially declared the presence of El Niño conditions for the first time in seven years, setting the stage for a surge in global temperatures and disruptive weather and climate patterns.

The next three to six months are critical as the region braces for the full potential impact, it is crucial to emphasize the imperative use of early warnings to enable anticipatory action for potential dry conditions associated with this climate phenomenon. This has prompted governments to mobilize preparations and limit impacts on health, agrifood systems, and economies.

In response to the challenge, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and WMO have called for joint action and necessary steps to take. A workshop to that effect was held this week in Bangkok “Bracing for El Niño: Getting Ready for Dry Years in ASEAN with Enhanced Early Warnings and Anticipatory Action” convened by the three. More than 50 experts, including government representatives, the ASEAN Secretariat and members from the Asia-Pacific Technical Working Group on Anticipatory Action attended the workshop.

These collaborative efforts have focused on strategies to enhance regional preparedness, improve early warning systems, and strengthen anticipatory action measures. The discussions also centred around linking regional frameworks – such as the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action for Adaptation to Drought (ARPA-AD) and the ASEAN Framework on Anticipatory Action in Disaster Management (AFAADM) - as well as a global initiative, the UN Early Warnings for All initiative, to guide their next steps and boost proactive measures against potential drought.

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Collaborative action: getting ahead of the emerging drought risk

“Early warning systems are the backbone of resilience, offering foresight for proactive action in a changing climate. Timely information empowers us to protect communities, preserve livelihoods, and ensure a sustainable future. With technology at our disposal, now is the time to showcase its transformative potential,” said FAO’s Senior Resilience Officer, Hang Thi Thanh Pham.

Emphasizing the collaborative potential of regional initiatives, Ben Churchill, Director of the WMO Regional Office for Asia and the South-West Pacific, highlighted that through the UN Early Warnings for All (EW4ll) initiative we can jointly support the roll-out of the ASEAN’s ARPA-AD and AFAADM Frameworks, benefitting from ASEAN experiences and capacities.

“There are three pathways which could strengthen drought adaptation. First, there is a need to shift to Transformative Adaption. Second, to minimize siloed action. And third, to adapt to protect the sustainable development of the region. The ARPA-AD and the AFAADM present a perfect opportunity for key stakeholders to do so and see real progress made on SDGs: 6 on water, 13 on Climate Action, 15 on Life on Land and 17 Partnership for the Goals” said Madhurima Sarkar-Swaisgood from ESCAP.

By identifying drought-prone regions and implementing sustainable practices, we can mitigate adverse effects on agriculture, water supplies, and livelihoods. Investing in innovative technologies and collaborating with local stakeholders fosters a holistic approach to drought preparedness. Prioritizing early intervention not only shields communities from immediate hardships but also establishes a foundation for long-term resilience in the face of evolving climate challenges.

As the region braces for the impact of El Niño in the coming months, FAO, ESCAP, and WMO emphasized the need to contextualize and prioritize concrete actions at the local, national and regional levels to enable timely anticipatory action.

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