Message from the Director General, ICIMOD 

HKH Call to Action

Dear all,

It has been absolutely delightful to see the response and acceptance, across the board, of the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment over the last couple of months. This has given us tremendous hope that some of the serious issues and challenges outlined by the Report are being taken up in earnest by governments, policymakers, academicians, the media and the people of the HKH and beyond. I would therefore like to use this platform to let you know what we at ICIMOD are planning, moving forward.

While we are committed to continue monitoring the HKH region through our Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Program (HIMAP), we are already acutely aware that cost of inaction is too high. The findings of the Assessment Report has already established that immediate action from all quarters is not only urgent but that is an absolute necessity to sustain mountain environments and improve livelihoods in the region. As such we have now put together what we are calling the HKH Call to Action.

This Call to Action identifies six urgent actions (see figure) which aim to chart a way forward for more robust regional cooperation around mountains to sustain this globally critical region. For an effective and compelling response to the complex challenges facing the HKH, multiple actors need to come together and develop a collective action agenda for the region’s sustainable development that is mountain specific, environmentally sustainable and focused on improving people’s well-being and prosperity. Today I would like to focus a little more on Action 1 and Action 6, which I believe go very much hand-in-hand. 

Figure 1 The HKH Call to Action

Action 1: Promote and strengthen cooperation at all levels across the HKH region

The Assessment Report and all our other research clearly shows that the HKH region is very much one interlinked, interdependent, and shared system. This means that actions to reduce disaster risk, to mitigate and adapt to climate change and to adopt good governance, are central to ensuring prosperity in the HKH region. Strong collaboration among state and non-state actors at the sub-national, national and regional level is therefore going to be crucial. 

Regional cooperation among HKH countries is essential for translating conservation and development challenges into sustainable development opportunities, as many of the HKH ecosystems are transnational and development challenges are shared. A range of opportunities lie in improved connectivity in the region that includes transportation and communication, which increases access to information, partnerships, and markets. Greater connectivity and collaboration will also nurture and strengthen people to people, business to business and government to government cooperation and contribute towards trust building, drawing investments, and building a momentum for a more robust regional cooperation in the region.

One of the pillars of a strengthened regional cooperation would be through the sharing of knowledge, data, and information. A priority and urgent need is for all levels of government between neighbouring riparian countries to share data more easily and coordinate their disaster risk programmes. End to end information sharing can promote action on ecosystem management in transboundary landscapes and transboundary river basin management, especially under a common disaster risk reduction framework. This then brings us naturally to Action 6 of the Call to Action.

Action 6: Promote regional data and information sharing and science and knowledge cooperation

There is inherent variation in science and data generation capacity among the eight countries in the HKH and hence, there is a strong case for science cooperation, capacity building and transfer of mountain specific knowledge among these countries. The first step towards better data sharing is data generation. This is the responsibility of national statistical agencies and capacities of these agencies across all HKH countries needs to be developed through knowledge transfer among HKH countries. While many countries in the region do have good national statistical agencies, often mountain specific data is not collected systematically, which is a major gap. This needs to change at the soonest.

Second, there is a need for proactive HKH-wide cooperation: in open data sharing, investment of funds for generating and exchanging knowledge, enhancing public awareness, and stimulating action. Dissemination of data, especially environmental data to the general public can be a very effective way of raising public awareness and creating pressure groups for better action. It is through such awareness that we will eventually see better policies.

Next time, I will go in-depth into some of the other urgent actions as outlined in the Call to Action. Meanwhile, however, we are going to start our journey to all the HKH region countries for consultations to share and validate the findings of the HKH Assessment report, solicit inputs on the HKH Call to Action for integration with national and regional priorities, and discuss the road map for the HKH and its mountain agenda. I will certainly continue to update you all about progress we make in the months to come.