3 December 2017
I would like to extend a hearty welcome to everyone attending our conference this week in Kathmandu. I’m very pleased to tell you that we have colleagues from all eight of our regional member countries with us, and together, our gathering represents 26 countries around the world, over 250 people from outside of Nepal. This event bears special significance for ICIMOD as our long-term vision is to build a sustainable and resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya for mountains, for people. ICIMOD will use the outcomes of the conference to guide our work, and I hope that our meeting will provide inspiration for all of us.
One of the key outcomes of the conference is a network of practitioners, professionals, policy makers, private sector, communities, journalists who can share and develop new resilient building solutions. These bonds will be formed irrespective of national boundaries, and will serve to develop friendship and communication bonds – bonds that will last for years.
Right Honorable President, on behalf of ICIMOD, I would like to thank you and the people of Nepal for hosting and supporting ICIMOD, and providing a platform where this diverse group of people can get together and make a difference for their countries, for the HKH, for Asia and the world.
If you flew into Kathmandu, or if you live here, you have seen a part of the magnificent Hindu Kush Himalaya, or what we refer to as the HKH. This mountain range extends from Afghanistan to Myanmar and, is an incredibly diverse and valuable resource to more than 200 million mountain people living in eight countries, plus over a quarter of humanity in Asia who benefit from food, water, energy, biodiversity, culture and countless ecosystem services.
However, today we find mountains are under immense pressure from climate change and a host of other factors like rapid outmigration and dwindling natural resources, among others. What happens in the mountains matters for Asia, and by extension, the world. When we invest our resources for mountain solutions, it is not only mountain people who benefit, but people downstream.
The narrative that we hear most often about mountains portrays life in the HKH as risky, vulnerable, and limited.
Let us change the narrative about mountains in a positive direction. Let us speak about new economic opportunity for communities and youth, about stories about public-private partnerships that create these opportunities, and about solutions.
Let us build a narrative in which the HKH inspires change, driven by a sustainable and resilient mountain societies and ecosystems. With this gathering here today, we are in a good position to make this change.
This conference focuses on resilience, so let me take a moment to explain how we view resilience. Changes and disasters are “shocks” to our way of life. A flood, an earthquake, drying springs, migration, or a fall in the market price of crops can “shock” our lives – albeit in different ways – and set us back, hurt our livelihoods. In this context, to be resilient is to be prepared for such shocks, to be able to recover from shocks, and to bounce forward to a state stronger than before.
Here’s an example of resilience I want to share… from Kavre District, not far from here. The farmers there supply many vegetables to Kathmandu. In Kavre, we met a woman farmer whose husband had gone abroad for work. She was ready to give up farming because of the growing demand for vegetables grown without chemical pesticides. In her experience, it wasn’t possible to grow enough produce without using pesticides. She thought to herself, “How can I compete?”
A local ICIMOD partner called CEAPRED had demonstrated an organic fertilizer and pesticide called jhomal, which is a mixture of cow urine and local herbs. Using jhomal, this woman turned her farm around. Not only that, but she became a leading spokesperson in the area for jhomal and other climate resilient practices and with her local women’s organization. This woman showed resilience by recovering from a shock and taking that moment to begin preparing to address future shocks. Through her work she formed networks with government, extension agents, and knowledge organizations. Altogether, this work represented an important step forward in transforming her village.
And so over the next four days, we’ll hear more stories like this one from Kavre. We’ll be looking for more solutions and ideas that build resilience for mountain people throughout the HKH… to prepare for shocks, to bounce back and bounce forward.
I want to end my opening remarks by saying that as mountains are a shared resource, we also know that decisions about mountains are better made through cooperation and joint efforts between countries.
We also need other forms of cooperation. We need to bring in the voice of women and marginalized groups to assume more responsibilities in decision making.
We need to encourage and cultivate the voices of mountain youth who will be future leaders and vital to realizing a better future.
Mountains bring people together. It’s quite amazing that ICIMOD routinely brings people from its eight regional member countries to discuss issues of the environment and livelihoods. This kind of regional cooperation around the mountains will have immense payoffs.
I would like to thank the European Union and the Ministry of Population and Environment for supporting and hosting the event.
Thank you, and I look forward to this conference moving us forward.