From 1983 to 1987, ICIMOD went through a formative stage during which the Centre had to find its footing, build its identity and niche, and establish a base of operations. The Centre started in 1984 with five programmes: Watershed Management, Off-farm Employment Generation, Rural Energy Planning, Engineering in Fragile Environments, and Information Systems for Mountain Development, together with a Documentation and Information Exchange service. Major activities were confined to holding seminars and workshops on key mountain issues; and these were, for the most part, determined annually based on staff expertise and the nature of the funding available.
Between 1987 and 1993 the programmes were converted into five divisions: Mountain Land Use, Mountain Farming Systems, Mountain Social and Economic Development, Mountain Infrastructure and Technology, and Mountain Development Documentation and Information Services. New projects were developed in the areas of risk engineering, rural energy, seabuckthorn (Hippophae l.) cultivation, mountain farming systems, and mountain biodiversity. During this time, the documentation and information exchange was strengthened and the geographical information system (GIS) facilities were created.
It was during this period that ICIMOD firmly developed the Mountain Perspective Framework. This phase ended with the celebration of the 10th Anniversary Symposium, at which time a site was generously donated by the government at Godavari for research and demonstration.
During this period considerable attention was paid to packaging programmes and projects, increasing donor funding beyond conventional donors, and strengthening partnerships. The Regional Collaborative Programme (RCP) Phase I (1995-98) was thus born and a document was developed which served as the basis for programming and budgeting.
During RCP-I, ICIMOD was reorganized into three thematic divisions – Mountain Farming Systems; Mountain Natural Resources; and Mountain Enterprises and Infrastructure – and three service divisions/sections – Mountain Environment and Natural Resources Information; Documentation, Information, and Training; and Administration, Finance and Logistics. RCP-I identified a total of 25 outputs and 95 activities to be implemented over a four-year period in ICIMOD's regional member countries. Several new programmes and projects were initiated including the People and Resource Dynamics in Mountain Watersheds of the HKH Project (PARDYP); the Regional Rangeland Programme; Beekeeping; Gender, Environment and Sustainable Livelihoods; and Capacity Building in Geographical Information Systems/Remote Sensing Technologies. There was increased awareness of ICIMOD and its potential role as well as increased funding and ownership by regional member countries. There was also considerable emphasis on capacity building of partner institutions and the number and range of publications saw a dramatic increased. This was a big period of growth for ICIMOD.
The momentum gained during RCP-I was further strengthened and consolidated during RCP-II (1998-2002). RCP-II was developed to mainstream mountain development in the HKH region based on regional cooperation. By 2001, ICIMOD had truly carved a niche for itself and was acknowledged as a centre of excellence in mountain development. As a result, it played an important role in the celebration of the UN-declared International Year of the Mountains in 2002. It organized and co-organized several national, regional, and global events including the Asia High Summit in Kathmandu, Nepal, Celebrating Mountain Women in Paro, Bhutan, and parts of the Global Mountain Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. ICIMOD also played a lead role in forming the Global Mountain Partnership, which was launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002, and was selected as the host of the Global Mountain Forum Secretariat.
From 2002 onwards, the Centre started working on a new strategy and programme. An overall strategy and Medium Term Action Plan (MTAP, 2003–07) were developed, which encapsulated a strategic approach for better aligning the opportunities for development interventions with dimensions of physical, social, and economical vulnerability in the HKH region. Six integrated programmes were identified: Natural Resources Management (NRM); Agriculture and Rural Income Diversification (ARID); Water, Hazards and Environmental Management (WHEM); Culture, Equity, Gender and Governance (CEGG); Policy and Partnership Development (PPD); and Information and Knowledge Management (IKM).
These programmes evolved as a result of the need to consolidate the Centre’s earlier work, and following the recommendations of the 3rd Quinquennial Review conducted in 2001, directives from the Board of Governors, and the needs of the regional member countries as expressed during consultations held with partner institutions. The strategy was designed to provide more focus and relevance to the needs of the targeted clients, which are both grassroots-based beneficiaries and decision makers in mountain areas.
Progress was slow during the first year of operation, as a result of the uncertain status of continued core funding from some donors. However, by mid-2004, the Centre had received assurances of continued core funding from all its donors to implement the Medium Term Action Plan.
Based on ICIMOD’s accumulated experiences of more than 20 years, on the analysis of changing requirements, and on the External Review 2006, ICIMOD is bringing about a major shift in its working modalities and repositioning itself within the region. These changes pertain mainly to the following priorities:
From a project driven to an interdisciplinary centre
ICIMOD’s three strategic focuses (IWHM, ECES, SLPR) are complementary and closely interlinked, in many cases dealing with different aspects of the same physical or social reality. Both the strategic approach and the practical implementation are underpinned by explicit centre-wide policies and on competence in gender and gender mainstreaming, governance, poverty alleviation, human resource development and capacity building, partnership and intervention, scaling up, and monitoring and evaluation, as well as being integrated within the knowledge management framework.
An innovative systems approach
ICIMOD will assess and apply participatory knowledge development methods and will strengthen its knowledge management and capacity development areas both within the Centre and outside, involving key regional partners.
Enhanced alignment to stakeholder priorities
ICIMOD plans to have increased interaction with regional partners to develop a better understanding of their policies and priorities and to build up systematic cooperation with and through them. ICIMOD will also identify and support regional networks in academia and civil society.
Increased international cooperation
ICIMOD will seek the cooperation and support of international resource centres in order to increase its core competencies and to enhance the services it can provide to regional stakeholders.