Magazine article UN Chronicle

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead for WMO

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead for WMO

Article excerpt

I sometimes challenge my interlocutors, asking whether they can name one human activity that is not in one way or other influenced by weather, climate or water. Indeed, every person and nearly all social and economic activities are affected by these three elements--the major areas falling within the mandate of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Moreover, nothing is more global: weather, climate and the water cycle know no national boundaries. They are, therefore, among the most obvious areas for beneficial cooperation among nations.

Indeed, it is opportune to recall that even at the peak of the cold war, meteorology was among the very few fields where the superpowers were able to collaborate easily and openly. Such collaboration gave rise to some of the most important advances in the science of meteorology, including in the fields of observation, as well as data and information processing and exchange. That era saw the dawn of meteorological satellites, which enabled global coverage and the conduct from 1968 to 1982 of one of the most extensive and universal research programmes in any scientific discipline. The seeds for such cooperation were sown some '150 years ago with the First International Meteorological Conference, held in Brussels in 1853, which led to the creation of the International Meteorological Organization in 1873, and ultimately of WMO in 1950.

Since then, the meteorological community has learnt to harness every advance in related sciences and technology, and to apply it to the understanding of the behaviour of the atmosphere, its impact on the Earth system and on human activities and, inversely, how human beings are changing the nature of the atmosphere and the Earth's climate WMO remains the nexus of such advances, awareness of the changes taking place, and collaboration among nations in addressing these issues. I must say that the concept of WMO includes the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of its 187 member States, its supreme body--the Congress; its executive body--the Executive Council; its scientific bodies--the technical commissions; its regional associations; and the Secretariat.

All operational, research and training activities are carried out by the members, primarily through their NMHSs and other relevant institutions.

Over the next four years, overall priority will be to strengthen the NMHSs, provide them with the necessary support, and contribute to the promotion of their image and visibility and to awareness among the community at large of their vital role as major contributors to the well-being of humanity. The success of WMO is measured, first and foremost, by the ability of the NMHSs to meet national requirements. They provide the data, forecasts, expertise and services at national and international levels, and form the building blocks and unique network on which the global meteorological edifice is built. Every Service contributes to the WMO system according to its capability, and benefits according to its needs.

Self-help or voluntary cooperation programmes seek to help meet the needs of weaker Services. A programme for the least developed countries has been launched. Greater emphasis will also be placed on capacity-building, joint programmes and strengthening of regional institutions.

In order to achieve this overarching objective over the next four years. WMO priority actions will aim at: strengthening of WMO scientific and technical programmes: closer cooperation with other organs of the UN system, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, the media and the private sector; improved communication with all WMO partners; enhanced use of new technology; and a secretariat that is adapting in a proactive way to the evolving needs and concerns of Member States and the world community.

In addressing these priority areas, WMO will take fully into account the decisions, programme and budget, and the sixth long-term plan adopted by the World Meteorological Congress--the supreme body of WMO--which met in May 2003. …

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