Message from the Director General

Building resilient livelihoods 

Just as we were beginning to come to terms with the difficult reality left behind by the earthquake in Nepal, a fresh trail of destruction and human misery has been unleashed in a number of our regional member countries – Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, and Pakistan. The flash floods in north Pakistan have inundated several villages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces in the past three weeks. In the Chitral district, where some ICIMOD staff come from and where ICIMOD has worked previously, homes, roads, crops, and livestock were destroyed and damaged in the floods. In India and Bangladesh, floods caused by Cyclone Komen has affected millions of people. Similarly, in Myanmar, incessant monsoon rains have led to flooding and landslides in four western states.

This is not the first time that extreme vulnerability of ICIMOD’s regional member countries, and the Hindu Kush Himalayas, has been exposed; and it will not be the last. Therefore, people and communities must stay prepared. The biggest lesson we learn after each disaster is that preparedness is critical.

Disaster risk reduction primarily focuses on mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015 – 2030) has identified four priorities for action:  understanding disaster risk; strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk; investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience, and; enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to ‘Build Back Better’ in recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. It’s in the last phase – recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction ¬– where the affected people must be actively engaged to rebuild their own lives. Recovery doesn’t mean building back infrastructure alone, but at a more humane level, it means giving people the hope that their lives can be rebuilt and they can continue to aspire and work towards a more resilient future. 

At ICIMOD, we believe that people must be at the center of any recovery and rebuilding effort after a disaster. Therefore, in the wake of the earthquake in Nepal, we recently developed and launched a strategic framework for building resilient livelihoods of the disaster-affected people.

A joint publication of the Government of Nepal’s National Planning Commission and ICIMOD, the document - ‘Strategic Framework for Resilient Livelihoods in Earthquake-Affected Areas of Nepal’ - offers a roadmap to restore, revive, and revitalize livelihoods and the country’s economy. The Framework aims to add value to the existing knowledge base on developing resilient livelihoods, especially in the mountains and hills.

Arguing why recovery of livelihoods must be the top priority in the reconstruction process, the Framework outlines some key elements that should be included in a livelihood recovery strategy. These are:

  • Engaging and coordinating diverse stakeholders
  • Strengthening the skills and capacity of affected people 
  • Tapping the potential of internal and external job markets 
  • Facilitating structural transformation from low to high productivity sectors 
  • Ensuring gender equality and social inclusion by integrating women and marginalized groups 
  • Promoting community empowerment
  • Integrating ecosystem and biodiversity conservation 
  • Revitalizing farming and tourism sectors 
  • Revitalizing micro, small, and medium enterprises
  • Creating an enabling policy and institutional environment 

The message I would like to personally convey is that recovery efforts, from early on, must focus on people and their livelihoods. If early responses are centered on the affected people it will help them improve coping capabilities and build resilience. The idea must be to build resilient mountain communities that are able to cope with and respond suitably to certain degrees of shock from unforeseen disasters without major disruption in their daily lives.