This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

                               15 June 1999


The United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP) will give $650,000 for a project focused on improving early warning mechanisms and general preparedness for El Niño and La Niña climatic impacts. The grant, which uses a part of businessman Ted Turner’s billion-dollar gift to the UN, will fund a 19-month project to be implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the United Nations University (UNU), National Center for Atmospheric Research of the United States, World Meteorological Organization and Secretariat for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. Participating countries will include China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Kenya, Mozambique, Panama, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Viet Nam.

A strong El Niño phenomenon, caused by unusually high temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, can disrupt global climate patterns and lead to severe droughts, wildfires, floods and tropical storms. In recognition of El Niño's disruptive influence, the United Nations General Assembly at its 52nd Session adopted a resolution calling on Governments and the UN system to increase international cooperation on reducing the impacts of El Niño on human activities worldwide. Prof. Hans van Ginkel, Rector of the UNU, said "The importance of learning the lessons from the 1997-98 El Niño event and preparing for such events in the future is paramount. Looking back at one of the most severe El Niño events during this century, we know that it created weather anomalies that caused havoc on a global scale."

In accordance with the UN resolution, the UNEP-led project will assess forecasts and impacts of the 1997-98 El Niño in the participating countries, with the aim of helping them improve their forecasting mechanisms and thereby reduce adverse impacts on human society and the environment through preparedness. For highly vulnerable areas, guidelines for improvement of National Disaster Plans will be developed.

Prof. van Ginkel said that the UNU will play a key role in disseminating the study results within participating countries and other at-risk parts of the world. Additionally, the UNU will also lead development of a collaborative programme for building a pertinent educational capacity and knowledge base.

Study leaders from participating countries will meet with an advisory group of experts from the partner organizations early next month at the International Conference Centre in Geneva.

*     *     *    

For further information, please contact the UNU Public Affairs Section.
    Tel: (03) 5467-1243, -1246     Fax: (03) 3406-7346.

Dr. Zafar Adeel, Academic Programme Officer, Environment and Sustainable Development, UNU:
    Tel: (03) 3499-2811     Fax: (03) 3499-2828     E-mail:

Return to UNU Press Releases

Return to UNU Homepage