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A time for mountains

Pema Gyamtsho

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The year 2020 is behind us now and December was a busy month for us. We marked International Mountain Day – which is celebrated on December 11 each year – with a week-long celebration filled with virtual events and activities bringing together our partners, staff, and mountain experts from our region to reflect on issues ranging from food and nutrition security, biodiversity, transboundary cooperation, wellbeing of mountain people, and sustainable development in our mountain regions. We also had the privilege to contribute to the First World Virtual High Mountain Summit organized by the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environment Studies (IDEAM) in Colombia, and a high-level event on mountain biodiversity organized by FAO.

Our participation in these events further strengthens our resolve that the HKH mountains, its environment and people, be kept in focus within global discourses and processes but also regionally to forge deeper and broader levels of cooperation. In pursuit of these important overarching goals, we also organized with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) – through the British Embassy Kathmandu, and Adaptation Without Borders a significant virtual event called “HKH to Glasgow: Climate action in the Hindu Kush Himalaya”. In that event, stakeholders from the HKH region discussed transboundary climate risks and how our region can be better represented and contribute in the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow. This event included the presence of Member of UK Parliament, the Right Honourable Anne-Marie Trevelyan who reiterated the UK’s commitments towards a climate resilient HKH region and to the HKH Call to Action, which has been co-developed by the eight HKH countries and endorsed in the Ministerial Declaration signed on 15 October 2020.

Even as we aspire to have the HKH reach the highest level of exposure on the global stage, we also want to remain connected with people at the grassroots who are doing the important day-to-day work that preserves mountain environments, supports diversification of mountain livelihoods or helps amplify mountain voices. To that end, we sponsor an annual ICIMOD Mountain Prize where we seek to honour individuals, organizations or companies who may be considered mountain heroes. This year the award was shared by two winners – the Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group of Uttarakhand, India and Mr Binod Shahi of Nepal.

The Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group is a women’s self-help group based in Uttarakhand, India, which offers courses on resilient leadership to university students. This focused effort is currently relatively small, thus far involving nine households and 40 members who have benefitted from the project over the course of 10 years. The group has nevertheless collectively earned over two million Indian rupees, and their innovative approach is inspiring. They implement place-based learning to create an immersive learning environment for over 500 students, who are often also transformed by the experience. Within this model, there is a central focus on valuing the landscape and preserving and promoting traditional culture. Women from the community are the trainers, helping students understand how resilient leadership is manifest in the dignity of work and in the valuing of community capital.

Mr Binod Shahi has worked in Dolpo, Nepal, to promote quality primary-level education. One of the mottos of the organization he founded, the Snowyak Foundation, aptly describes his work: “Towards a self-sustained and self-developed Dolpo, led by responsible and dignified locals.” To reach that ideal, the organization promotes increased enrolment in local schools; develops and distributes educational materials honouring local culture; and engages “yak fellows” as outside motivators working in schools – living in local homes, developing educational resources, and encouraging teachers and students. Shahi’s work in 16 schools and engagement of 56 fellows and his passion to improve mountain schools and opportunities for youth are inspiring.

This year also saw special honourable mention given to:

I also wanted to mention one very significant change here at ICIMOD which took place at the end of the year when our Deputy Director General, Dr Eklabya Sharma retired from his 19 years of service to the institution. I had myself worked previously with Eklabya and have been the beneficiary of his wise counsel both at that time and as I transitioned into my new position as Director General. While many beautiful words were shared with Eklabya during the farewell events we hosted for him, I also wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge the immense impact Eklabya had within the institutional and across all areas of its work. He is an inspirational leader and we were privileged that he dedicated so much of his professional life to ICIMOD. We wish him and his beautiful family all the best and I know that I will continue to depend on his wise counsel as we move ahead.

At the end of this very unusual and challenging year, I am excited to be with ICIMOD as its new Director General and I am looking forward to a productive year in 2021. I would like to offer my gratitude to all our partners, colleagues, well-wishers for all your help and support in 2020. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy New Year 2021.  Thank you.


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由气候驱动的风暴、洪水、热浪和干旱的经济代价首次被计算出来,即在过去20年中,人类付出的代价已达到1600万美元/小时。其中,三分之二的费用是由于生命损失,剩下的则是因为财产和其他资产损失。 而这不仅是兴都库什-喜马拉雅的统计数据。今年,在我们整个地区,气候灾害给许多家庭来了难以承受的损失:数百人丧生,更多的房屋、农作物和财产在毁灭性的洪水和山体滑坡中被毁。最近,上周锡金蒂斯塔河(Teesta river)爆发冰川湖溃决洪水,这清楚地提醒了人类,大自然的愤怒是无止境的。 今年的国际减灾日与我们区域内的家庭、科学家和政策制定者共同评估了季风和全球升温给人类和经济带来的沉重代价,恰逢其时。 展望未来,气候驱动的灾难将激增。联合国减少灾害风险办公室(UNDRR)预计,到2030年,我们每年将看到560起灾难,使3760万人陷入极端贫困。 科学表明,我们处在风险热点地区。不仅与极端降雨和冰冻圈变化相关,还有热浪、干旱和空气污染。因此,在计算这次季风事件的成本时,我们所有为该地区及其居民服务的人都有责任以更高的速度和更强的雄心,将科学、政策和行动联系起来,实现让所有人都能得到早期预警的目标。 我们急需捐助者深入了解该地区居民所面临的风险,无论是从危险量级和程度来看,还是从受影响的人口规模来看。我们迫切需要适应基金、绿色气候基金和儿童投资融资基金更快地分配到该地区,以及加强补偿机制的运作。 在ICIMOD,我们将在全球范围内倡导双方,还将在整个地区努力建立一种围绕防灾和数据共享文化;对政策制定者进行差异和关键行动领域的教育;为社区配备创新及可行的技术,并扩大以社区为基础的洪水预警系统。 我们所在地区的情况表明,全球范围内面临的灾害存在着巨大的不平等。我们的研究发现,当危机来临时,妇女和弱势群体受到的影响尤为严重。 为了消除这种不平等,我们郑重承诺通过整合工具、知识和资金,确保该地区居民能够有效抵御未来的冲击,并将妇女和弱势群体纳入我们战略的核心。对于兴都库什-喜马拉雅的国家而言,全民早期预警尚需更及时的实现。   白马·嘉措 总干事

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