Message from the Director General

Celebrating International Mountain Day 2013

Forging partnerships for practical solutions

11 December 2013

As we observed the 30th Anniversary of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) on 5 December last week, we took the opportunity to once again thank our partners because the impact of ICIMOD work has always been attained through partnership. The occasion was preceded by a four-day international conference on ‘Addressing Poverty and Vulnerability in the Hindu Kush Himalayas’ attended by over 200 participants from 19 countries. The Conference, jointly organized with the Planning Commission of Nepal, primarily aimed at forging broader partnerships to enable transformative change, and to define the contours of a sustainable mountain development agenda. On this Mountain Day, let us seek new partnerships for sustainable mountain development, for mountain people, and the billions dependent on mountain services.

In the spirit of partnership, I am happy to mention that coinciding with our 30th Anniversary, and in collaboration with GlacierWorks, together with the American Embassy, Thinc Design,, Nepal Tourism Board, Nepal Art Council, and other partners, we have put up an exhibition titled ‘Climate+Change’ in the heart of Kathmandu. The exhibition, featuring some incredible images of the mountains and glacial retreats, opens today at the Nepal Art Council building.

I am also happy to mention that ICIMOD joins our regional member countries of Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh in observing this very important Day. This year, the theme for the Day is ‘Mountains - Key to a Sustainable Future’. The focus is on celebrating how mountains are crucial in moving the world towards sustainable economic growth in the context of poverty eradication, and on drawing attention to their generally sustainable and low-emission production models.

Mountains cover about 24% of the global land surface and are home to 12% of the world’s population. They are a direct source of livelihood to 10% of the world’s people, and another 40% derive indirect benefits from the wide varieties of goods and services afforded by the mountain socio-ecosystems. Mountains provide most of world’s freshwater and are repositories of cultural and biological diversity. Today, it is acknowledged worldwide that mountain socio-ecosystems are crucial for sustainable development.

In the HKH region, sometimes referred to as the Third Pole or the Water Towers of Asia, mountains are a direct source of livelihood for 210 million people. Further, mountain goods and services support another 1.3 billion people downstream. Glaciers of the HKH feed 10 major rivers that support extensive irrigation systems in the region. Yet, despite this vast natural wealth, mountain people are the ones who have often lived and continue to live in the margins of societies. In a succinct metaphor, they are like the poor and hungry servants who live in a palace made of gold and diamonds.

Let me recall what the chief scientific adviser to the UK government, Sir John Beddington, cautioned in March 2009: that food, energy, and water shortages will unleash unrest and international conflicts. This food-energy-water security is intrinsically linked to mountains and mountain communities, and mountains therefore will play a very important political role in the future.

However, mountains and their fragile socio-ecosystems today face a host of challenges: out-migration, mostly male; impacts of climate change including retreating glaciers, changing monsoon patterns, disaster frequency, and extreme events; depleting resources and ecosystem services; government neglect and insufficient private investment; and slow development progress compared to lowland areas.

Let us recognize that change also brings significant opportunities. For these opportunities to bring about meaningful benefits to mountains communities, a sea change in the attitude of both policymakers and policy implementers is urgently required. Among others, mountains should not be seen as inaccessible or conflict zones, instead communities must rally around the common mountain agenda through collaborations and partnerships. Social development must focus on sustaining functional ecosystems, and broader partnerships must be forged to share mountain knowledge and data. The bond between democracy and sustainable development must be deepened by empowering local people, particularly women.

At ICIMOD, in the last few years, we have been issuing forth a rallying call for a broader partnership for all actors to collaborate in finding practical solutions to the challenges facing the mountain communities. We have to seek ways to improve community resilience and explore sustainable livelihood options. We must work across disciplinary boundaries and focus on inclusive growth so that no one is left behind. We must devise innovative financing mechanisms and bring private sector on board the Mountain Agenda. And we must foster and enhance transboundary cooperation to share data and knowledge. In this connection, ICIMOD will continue to find ways to address the cross-border issues in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and partner for talks on processes and the agenda being developed for UNFCCC to help share the voice of vulnerable mountain communities at the global level.

As a mountain resource center, ICIMOD will continue to generate information, package it, and disseminate it to all the stakeholders. We will facilitate partnership building among various actors and stakeholders to enhance the capability of the mountain people to transform their own future. We will continue to raise awareness about the importance of mountains and highlight opportunities and constraints in mountain development. We will continue to promote development approach that incorporates mountain people’s traditional knowledge in the context of a green economy. Above all, we will continue to seek new windows of opportunities in the area of sustainable mountain development. 

I wish everyone a happy International Mountain Day.

David Molden