Michel Jarraud

Interview with Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General World Meteorological Organization

Imagine that your organization did not exist and you were asked to invent it. What would you do? How would it be fundamentally different from what exists? What would be the differences regarding mandate, resources and objectives?

To answer your question, I cannot avoid giving a little background. Weather and the climate ignore all borders. No country can handle, even in a limited way, the problem in a national context. It is essential to have a global approach and cooperation is essential. The solution that was set up is based on a number of assumptions that I think are still valid. Given this global nature, all countries must share information, make observations with the same standards, in the same way, in a coordinated, synchronized and transparent manner. If we tried to do this on a bilateral basis, it would take about 17,000 bilateral agreements - it couldn’t work. Only one organization can do it. Second, every single government on the planet must accept responsibility for protecting the lives of its citizens. This responsibility is often interpreted in a military way, but it also includes “protection against natural disasters” and that would require creating a multilateral intergovernmental organization with universal membership. So, we are already talking about something like WMO, because we have no choice. The third aspect to coordinate and synchronize is the decision-making process. Multilateral institutions are criticized for their cumbersome decision-making process. In a scientific and technical institution such as WMO it is difficult to reach a decision, but, once a decision is made, it is very sound because this consensual process is remarkably well suited. It may not be appropriate in all cases, but it has been shown to work; it has resisted two World Wars, the Cold War and many other upheavals. On the other hand, the world has changed and there are probably a number of things one would do differently today. When WMO was established, they were thinking much more in terms of weather forecasting and much less about the problem of climate, which was then considered a question for the discipline of geography. Times have changed, but this idea has been recognized in the WMO mandate only very recently. So, if we tried to create something new, we would try to consolidate it in an even more logical, clearer and more specific fashion. If you have a very focused mandate, the tendency

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