Message from the Director General

ICIMOD celebrates 
the International Year of Biodiversity 2010

(15 February 2010)

Welcome to ICIMOD's International Year of Biodiversity website!

Biodiversity is vital for sustaining life on earth. Its exploitation and loss have reached an alarming rate threatening nature's capacity to continue providing global ecosystem goods and services. Globalisation and climate change are further aggravating the loss of biodiversity, particularly in ecologically rich mountain systems, home to biodiversity hotspots, like the Hindu Kush-Himalayas (HKH), putting regional environmental security and mountain livelihoods at risk.

The year 2010 has been declared as the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) by the UN General Assembly to raise awareness about the value of biodiversity, communicate the human costs, and get people involved in efforts to conserve and use sustainably our natural and cultural heritage. ICIMOD as a regional knowledge centre and intergovernmental organisation, serving eight countries in the HKH region (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan), with its partners, joins hands with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for the cause of the IYB.

The HKH region is enormously rich in biodiversity. The natural resources serve more than 200 million people living in the mountains, help support a further 1.3 billion people living in the downstream river basins, and contribute significantly to global goods and services. The region includes all or part of four of the 34 global biodiversity hotspots (Himalayan, Indo-Burman, Mountains of South-West China, and Mountains of Central Asia), 6 UNESCO natural heritage sites, 330 Important Bird Areas, 60 ecoregions (including 30 critical ecoregions and 12 global 200 ecoregions), 29 Ramsar sites, 488 protected areas and 53 Important Plant Areas. The biodiversity includes approximately 25,000 angiosperm species, 75,000 insect species, 1200 bird species, and also the wild relatives of much of the agro-biodiversity.

ICIMOD has adopted CBD’s ecosystem approach for managing biodiversity and we are promoting regional cooperation to support this. Our programme focuses on protecting and/or restoring mountain biodiversity by adopting a landscape approach in transboundary areas; promoting the development of biodiversity corridors between protected areas; supporting the conservation and management of wetlands for maintaining hydrological, biodiversity and cultural services; building institutional capacity and promoting transfer of appropriate technologies for mitigating negative impacts on mountain ecosystems; promoting innovative livelihood options for mountain communities through livelihood diversification and pro poor value chain interventions; building the capacity of local communities for documenting and preserving indigenous knowledge and innovations; and promoting ‘Access and Benefit Sharing’ through policy innovations. 

Recently ICIMOD has ventured into developing a ‘trans-Himalayan transect’ approach to facilitate long-term monitoring of climatological, ecological, and socioeconomic variables. This information will help our understanding of the impact of climate change and other factors on biodiversity, and facilitate efforts to increase ecological resilience and support adaptation by society through enhanced ecosystem services, improved livelihood systems, and disaster risk management. Our new approach includes developing reward mechanisms for the provision of ecosystem services by mountain communities, particularly by engaging in carbon financing and other innovations.

Climate change has created a new awareness of the importance of biodiversity. In mountain systems like the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, this also means new opportunities. On the occasion of the International Year of Biodiversity, we want to emphasise both conservation and management of biodiversity for the benefit of resilient mountain communities and the heritage of mankind.
The IYB theme Biodiversity is life Biodiversity is our life reminds us of the significance of the variety of life forms on earth for our lives. ICIMOD is observing the year with a focus on creating awareness of the need to reduce biodiversity loss and safeguard this irreplaceable natural wealth for present and future human wellbeing. We will celebrate IYB with various activities to raise awareness in the HKH region, and also by contributing to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) process through various programmes during the CBD SBSTTA-14 and COP 10. 

Conserving biodiversity and assuring continuous ecosystem services for the lives on Earth is our responsibility and ICIMOD is committed to it!

ICIMOD calls for everyone’s contributions to the cause of IYB in whatever form possible so that we make a difference.

Andreas Schild