The Near East is a region with a high degree of aridity, and it experiences frequent droughts. Agriculture is a major and sensitive sector of the region's economy, consuming most of the available water resources. Agricultural production of major grain crops is strongly affected by fluctuations in precipitation. Crop and livestock losses attributed to drought can have severe repercussions on both the countries' balance of payments and on the livelihoods of individual producers. The response of the region's governments to drought has so far aimed at mitigating the worst effects of drought rather than treating it as a structural problem that can be incorporated into government policies and long-term management plans. While the required institutional changes are slowly taking place, the governments of the region are fully aware that drought has to be tackled within the context of a comprehensive dryland management strategy. The latter, in addition to its traditional drought mitigation aspects, has dimensions of agricultural stability and productivity and environmental sustainability.

Drought monitoring systems are important tools to implement such strategy. Strategic issues to be addressed are the institutional arrangements to ensure free information flow between monitoring and rapid response action teams at different decision-making levels. Particular drought research needs include the feasibility of drought prediction, the spatialization of drought, and the assessment of drought vulnerability from agroecological and livelihood perspectives.

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