Droughts threaten societies, economies and ecosystems worldwide. A three-year drought in the UK has been estimated to lead to potential losses of £1.5 billion. Yet our ability to characterise and predict the occurrence, duration and intensity of droughts, as well as minimise their impacts, is often inadequate. This symposium brings together global experts on the processes that cause drought and their consequences. It will take an interdisciplinary approach, looking at the climatic and socio-economic factors that are contributing to the changing risk of drought. The symposium will explore potential approaches to the sustainable management of drought risk.