Droughts hit the most vulnerable people the hardest. When this happens, everybody in the economy loses over the medium- to long-term. Proactive policies and planning based on vulnerability and risk assessments can reduce drought risk before the worst impacts occur. The aim of this article is to inform a global initiative, led by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), to mitigate the effects of drought on vulnerable ecosystems and communities. This is approached through a rapid review of experiences from selected nations and of the available literature documenting methodological approaches to assess drought impacts and vulnerability at the local level. The review finds that members of the most vulnerable communities can integrate available methods to assess drought risks to their land and ecosystem productivity, their livelihoods and their life-supporting hydrological systems. This integration of approaches helps to ensure inclusive assessments across communities and ecosystems. However, global economic assessments often still fail to connect to holistic consideration of vulnerability at a local scale. As a result, they routinely fall short of capturing the systemic effects of land and water management decisions that deepen vulnerability to droughts over time. To ensure proactive and inclusive drought risk mitigation, multiscale, systemic approaches to drought vulnerability and risk assessment can be further reinforced at a global level.
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