Message from the Director General

Time for Third Generation reforms in forest management

ICIMOD’s Director General Dr David Molden’s Statement at the 
International Symposium on Transforming Mountain Forestry in Dehradun, India

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) stands for mountains and people, and therefore we clearly understand the importance forestry plays in our work, and what it means for the livelihood of the people in the region. The many valuable ecosystem services provided by mountain forests, including climate stabilization, carbon sinks, protection of hydro-ecological functions and biodiversity conservation desperately need greater attention.

Frequently, from all across the Hindu Kush Himalayas, we hear disturbing stories of forest fires, devastating floods, drying springs, loss of biodiversity, spread of invasive species, and increasing human-wildlife conflicts. These are clear indicators that mountains are becoming hotspots of ‘ecological instability’ and such instability will only aggravate if we persist with our business-as-usual actions. Does this mean we have a mountain forestry crisis on our hands? Or is it a crisis of forest management?

The HKH region is marked by change. There is a continuous outmigration of people, especially men, because there is an earnest desire to move beyond subsistence; people are becoming more educated, and find less opportunity to apply their learning in mountains; information technology is providing people with faster and more comprehensive access to information and speeding up globalization processes; and market forces are playing an increasing role in once isolated mountain valleys. 

Given this context of change, it is therefore time for a shift in paradigm in the way mountain forests are maintained and managed. It is time for a third generation of forest management that takes into account the changing nature of the Himalayas and the changing aspirations of people dependent on forests.

We have already gone through two paradigms: the first marked by state control of forests, and a second, involving more community and more participatory approaches. What are the key ingredients of the third generation of forest management?

Holistic and integrated approaches are required recognizing that forests cannot be looked at in isolation. For example, there are forest-water interactions critical for communities and people downstream; the way people use forests has implications for energy, water, and for agriculture downstream, and there is an important role for commercial benefits.

The third generation of forest management must take long- and short-term perspectives. We know that many benefits from forests are derived after several generations, and forest conservation ideals are already imbedded in our first and second generation of forest management. In addition, a short-term perspective would take in account more immediate benefits to people, especially those living in poverty on the fringes of development.

To reach the third generation, we have to cross boundaries to move forestry management to another level. There are many types of boundaries to cross: between governments and communities; between foresters and social science; and between sectors like energy, water, agriculture, private sector and forestry.

One way to cross boundaries is the landscape approach, where we look at the interaction of forests with other sectors. The landscape is an appropriate unit of management that takes into consideration the interaction between forests, villages and towns, agricultural lands and rangelands, wetlands and roads, and where individuals, communities, government agencies, and private sector players interact. We use this approach now at ICIMOD to integrate our work. But it does require institutional mechanisms that cross different sectors.

We have to cross boundaries between countries. At this meeting today, there are seven regional member countries of ICIMOD represented. This is a remarkable opportunity to share knowledge and experiences across national boundaries. We recognize that there are many success stories in forestry about community mobilization or the use of technologies within our countries. Let us use this opportunity to come together as a regional forestry community and to learn from each other, and keep this group together as we move forward.

In addition, there are a range of transboundary issues related to forests and Natural Resources Management that have to be considered for third generation forest management. Forests, plants, and animals do not recognize boundaries, and we have to work together across countries to best manage our forest and natural resources.

In the context of climate change and the consequent emission-reduction impasse, there lies an opportunity to view mountain forests as potential long-term carbon sinks even as they continue to provide vital ecosystem services. What is important for the forest-mountain communities is to raise their voice about forest issues in global processes like the UNFCCC. And let us really redouble our efforts to make REDD+ a reality.

This Symposium is an important milestone where we can assess current management practices in mountain forestry, the direction and quality of science, and key forest sector-related policies. This will bring forth the much desired shift in the approaches to counter challenges of epic proportions in the Himalayas. This Symposium aims to create an interactive knowledge sharing platform for developing and adopting innovating approaches to make third-generation reforms a reality.

I am happy to include 10 key messages from Dr Eklabya Sharma, Director Programme Operation of ICIMOD, during the conference in the quest for transforming mountain forests for the third generation paradigm (

  1. People and forests are intrinsically inseparable and must be taken together while designing programmes, policies, and plans.
  2. The key issue is resource governance for regulated use where the local and national institutions have important roles to play. Enhanced capacities of the institutions are vital to meet the new challenges of the transformation. 
  3. The Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) is a treasure trove of natural capital, cultural heritage, and ethnic diversity, and the enormous ecosystem goods and services the mountains provide need to be sustained. Therefore, addressing degradation and deforestation has never been more urgent. 
  4. Degradation and deforestation issues are multi-pronged and so must the answers be. We should try to achieve multi-functionality of landscapes by maintaining a mixture of both old (old growth forests) and new forest structures (plantations and managed forests). This would not only help in soil fertility and retention, but would also keep the springs alive.
  5. The changes happening at both local and macro levels and the drivers of these changes must be holistically understood; and to tackle this, all three pillars of development - social, environmental, and economic - need to be integrated.
  6. Transboundary learning (both geographical and disciplinary), knowledge and data sharing, and cooperation are critical in achieving the third generation paradigm. Further, learning from best practices in the region, for example, community forestry in Nepal could be up-scaled in the neighboring countries. Forests are important carbon sinks and both their stocks and sequestration abilities are vital, therefore, young and old forests should be balanced in a landscape. 
  7. Benefit sharing mechanisms for communities have to be practiced to stop degradation. Some of these mechanisms can be established through Payment of Ecosystem Services on hydropower, non-state forest certification involving all stakeholders in the value chain, and implementation of access and benefit sharing mechanisms under the Nagoya Protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Other non-land based employment opportunities such as ecotourism could also be used for preserving biodiversity hotspots and pristine forests against degradation.
  8. The most challenging drivers of forest degradation is cross-border illegal trade of resources and logging which need immediate regional attention. Other issues that must be addressed urgently are conflicts, forest protection, poaching, human-wildlife tensions, and cross-border concerns.
  9. Transboundary cooperation on mountain forestry should be supplemented by efforts to address transboundary issues supported by complementary policies across the countries.
  10. Forests and mountains should be well reflected in Sustainable Development Goals. This is what the symposium participants and the eight regional member countries of the HKH should advocate in 2015 and beyond.