MOPE, EU, and ICIMOD host International Conference on Resilient HKH

A group photo of participants to the conference (Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya)

After four days of invigorating discussion on resilience issues in the Hindu Kush Himalaya, Nepal’s Ministry of Population and the Environment (MOPE) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) closed the international conference Resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya: Developing Solutions towards a Sustainable Future for Asia on 6 December 2017 in Kathmandu.

ICIMOD Director General David Molden opened the conference on 3 December asking the attendees to help change the narrative about mountains from one of vulnerability to one of opportunity and innovation. Bidya Devi Bhandari, the President of Nepal, inaugurated the conference. Ministers, high-level dignitaries, and over 400 delegates from the HKH countries and beyond attended the inaugural. At the closing session, Molden called attention to the crucial need to include youth and women in future mountain planning and development across all sectors.

Right Honourable Bidya Devi Bhandari, President of Nepal, inaugurated the conference (Photo:Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

Resilience is the ability of communities and ecosystems to be prepared for shocks, recover from shocks, and “bounce forward” to emerge stronger than before. ICIMOD and its partners have been working on developing solutions for resilience building, promoting regional cooperation, and enhancing knowledge for sustainable mountain development. 

On topics ranging from disaster risk reduction to gender equity and building social capital, all the sessions held over the course of the four-day conference repeated a theme of collective action for increasing the resilience of mountain communities in the HKH, where impacts from climate change, outmigration, and dwindling natural resources pose formidable challenges. 

Picking up on Molden’s charge to change the narrative about mountains, Roland Schaefer, the German Ambassador to Nepal, said the HKH is well-positioned to harness the power of social capital in the region: “The [HKH] has a unique brand that signifies trust, reliability, and inherent ability for planning that stems from the deep social [ties] of the mountain communities. This is a strong brand that should be promoted and positioned outside,” he said.

High-Level Policy Panel: Committing to resilience-building solutions: Mapping the way forward [L-R] VK Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog, Government of India; Mozaharul Alam, UNEP; Rojina Manandhar, UNFCCC; Solveig Andresen, Embassy of Norway to Nepal; Kallur Murali, IDRC; David Molden, ICIMOD; Eklabya Sharma, ICIMOD

Through a collective and participatory process, the conference attendees developed a 12-point action agenda for a resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya. They proposed that the agenda be shared widely with governments and other stakeholders.

Changing the narrative will also require significant coordination and cooperation among HKH countries. “HKH challenges are often transboundary and geopolitical in nature. Addressing such challenges requires transformative, inclusive and scalable actions at all governance levels,” said Rojina Manandhar, a programme officer with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The conference focus on mountain resilience served more than just mountain people and communities. The HKH sources 10 major river systems in Asia that provide water, ecosystem services, and livelihoods to more than 210 million people. The region holds and distributes water for more than 1.3 billion people living in downstream river basins. The HKH, all the panelists agreed, is an asset of global importance.

Secretary Prakash Mathema delivering his closing remarks

Secretary Prakash Mathema, Ministry of Population and Environment, Government of Nepal said, "This conference has been able to raise awareness on resilience solutions from mountain perspective. It has also encouraged partnership for urgent actions to combat climate change and other threats to the lives and livelihoods of the vulnerable people of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region."

The European Union supported this conference through ICIMOD’s Himalica initiative. The EU’s Ambassador to Nepal, Veronica Cody, said “This international conference provided an excellent opportunity to bring international and regional stakeholders together to identify concrete, actionable steps for collective action towards higher resilience in the HKH region. This can be a valuable input for policy makers in the region.”