Global environmental change coupled with increased demand for food and competition for diminishing water places the issue of disaster risk management high on the global political agenda. Drought is one of the most complex natural hazards, affecting natural resources and human development recurrently. Drought affects agricultural production globally, triggering significant food and health insecurity and habitat loss through land degradation and desertification. While the consequences of droughts can usually be predicted, preventive action is frequently absent or insufficient to prevent serious impacts in many regions of the world. We believe that lack of a common understanding of what drought is stands in the way of cohesive anti-drought action. This paper examines drought definitions emerging from influential scholarship, practitioners' discourse and multilateral policy processes that emphasise diverging aspects of the phenomena of dry periods, including the source, duration, spatial extent, impact and affected stakeholders. This paper begins by examining the concepts of hazard and disaster. It then explores the various perceptions associated with drought and the problems posed by inconsistency in definitions. It concludes that a common conceptual understanding of drought is essential for effective action to address the growing need for reliable food supply, poverty alleviation and increased agricultural productivity globally.

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