International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

EIRD Global


The World's meteorological priorities

• Results of World Meteorological Congress (Geneva on 15-24 May 2003)

Armed with both a new vision and concrete plans, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) held its fourteenth Congress in Geneva on 15-24 May and set new priorities, among them a framework for reducing the impact of meteorological and water-related disasters.

Some 80 percent of all disasters, and 90 percent of the loss of human lives as a result of those disasters, are caused by meteorological and hydrological phenomena, according to WMO data. During the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg in 2002, participants called for measures to reinforce monitoring and early warning systems, particularly to improve flash floods forecasts and make better use of satellite data on extreme meteorological phenomena.

At the 2003 WMO Congress, some 800 delegates from national meteorological and hydrological services worldwide agreed on the importance of reinforcing adverse-event monitoring in order to meet the needs of their fellow citizens and ensure the sustainable development of their countries.

The Congress’ task was to follow up on the progress of the various WMO programmes as well as elect the organization’s new President, Vice-President and Executive Council, which is made up by a total of 36 heads of national meteorological and hydrological services (NMHSs). Among the newly elected members, Central America will be represented by meteorologist Eladio Zárate Hernández. The director of Costa Rica’s National Meteorological Institute, he has worked in the field for 32 years.


The main challenges identified during the Congress were the following:

• Disaster prevention and mitigation;

• A reliable assessment of water resources worldwide;

• Research on climate change and practical applications of that
• Technical and scientific research for fighting environmental
degradation; and

• Technical capacity building among NMHSs.

In addition to acknowledging the scientific and technical contributions of the WMO, the Congress outlined the policies and vision that will guide all work in the future.

During his closing speech, outgoing WMO Secretary General G.O.P. Obasi, who is retiring after 20 years in charge of the organization, highlighted “the determination of Congress to pursue, in a forward-looking manner, activities relevant to the sustainable socio-economic development of all countries of the world.”

He added that the “Congress provided guidance on the scientific and technical programmes and agreed on new strategic programmes related to Space, [least developed countries or] LDCs, and disaster mitigation, as well as on a number of issues that will strengthen the capacity of NMHSs, their visibility and the recognition of their role in support of sustainable development.”

The Disaster Programme

At the Congress, the WMO agreed to launch a new cross- cutting programme for the prevention and mitigation of meteorological and hydrometeorological disasters by means of international cooperation.

In order to carry out this programme, the WMO will coordinate its efforts with the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction; it will also reinforce its Tropical Cyclones Programme. Another step in this direction was the inauguration in January of the International Centre for Research on the El Niño Phenomenon (CIIFEN) in Ecuador as a result of a cooperation agreement among the WMO, the ISDR and the government of Ecuador.

Water resources

International concern over limited freshwater resources worldwide has increased significantly in recent years. The role of the WMO as the organization in charge of assessing and forecasting the quantity and quality of water resources is recognized around the world, leading Congress participants to call on the reinforcement of activities in this field.

It is necessary to know how much water is actually available, where it is located and how stable its sources are. In order to achieve this, countries must establish or enhance national monitoring networks and databases on water resources, and produce relevant national indicators.

Climate change and the ozone layer

In spite of all efforts in this regard, much remains to be done to clarify the uncertainties and misunderstandings regarding global climate change and disseminate what is known.

The continuing degradation of climate observation systems around the world is another matter of concern, particularly the disparities that persist in certain areas of Africa, Asia, the South Pacific and South America.

Participants called on greater support to developing countries regarding the collection, exchange and use of climate data, as well as greater emphasis on poverty relief, food security and disaster prevention.

The Congress asked the WMO to continue with its periodic assessments of greenhouse gases and aerosols as a contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the state parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The international exchange of meteorological data and products
The World Meteorological Organization continues to pay a great deal of attention to the need for a balance between the free and unrestricted exchange of meteorological data while taking into account the interests of those who produce the data and related products.

As part of this effort, the WMO has been closely following the debate in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on the ownership of databases.

Future articles will outline the programmes and projects underway in Costa Rica as part of national and international meteorological priorities.

For more information please contact
Sandra Salazar Vindas
Information Management and Marketing
National Meteorological Institute of Costa Rica
+506 222-5616x114,