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Change and loss in the new year

Pema Gyamtsho

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December and January marked the beginning of a major internal shift for ICIMOD, but amidst our excitement we received news about the crash of Yeti Airlines Flight 691 on 15 January and the tragic loss of our colleague Yuvraj Sharma, who was flying to Pokhara with his mother, daughter, and son.

Yuvraj began his career at ICIMOD in 2011 and played an integral role as part of the IT team before managing our operations as Enterprise Resource Planning Developer. He has left an indelible imprint on ICIMOD’s work, and his humility, work ethic, and kindness will forever remain in our hearts and minds. While we were able to gather to honour Yuvraj’s memory, we will continue to mourn his passing and remember all of his contributions to our work. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Yuvraj’s family and to all the bereaved who lost loved ones in this tragedy.

 

Starting anew: Delivering with pace and at scale

On the work front, we have been focused on our delivery model within our Medium-Term Action Plan V (MTAP V) through staff consultations and increased coordination between and within teams. We kicked off December with an all-staff meeting to launch ICIMOD’s new Strategy 2030 and MTAP V, which set a new vision and mission that will be translated into action through our new portfolio. During the meeting, our Deputy Director General Izabella Koziell and I also announced a major organisational restructuring – with our results delivered by six action areas (AAs) housed in three strategic groups (SGs) – that aims to ensure that we are more agile, efficient, responsive, inclusive, and transparent.

In January, ICIMOD staff attended both a team-building session and an MTAP V results, portfolio design, and planning session. The first session allowed staff members to gain a better understanding of their new teams’ composition, create a common understanding of each person’s MTAP V commitments, and clarify how the new structure will function. The second session aimed to codesign a portfolio for MTAP V and build a sense of responsibility among AAs and SGs for results and interventions. At the end of the sessions, staff members identified the intervention their teams will work on and how best to collaborate with other AAs, SGs, and central support units.

Our Strategy 2030 continues ICIMOD’s mission to build and share knowledge, assisting the diverse countries and communities of the HKH region to transition to greener, climate-resilient development. Focusing on four Long-Term Impact Areas – cryosphere and water risks, air quality, green mountain economies, and ecosystems, our strategy acknowledges that we must work differently to meet our ambitions. First and foremost, we must improve the scale and quality of our contributions to on-the-ground impact while ensuring that our work is regionally relevant and needs driven.

Strategy 2030 focuses heavily on action and strong communication channels to effectively deliver resilient solutions to our stakeholders. Over the next seven years, ICIMOD will prioritise deeper engagement with governments and partners, harness innovation and digital technology, and develop best practices through a cutting-edge impact evaluation and learning system.

 

Other engagements

A cornerstone of both MTAP V and Strategy 2030 is to ensure we are reaching marginalised groups through an increased focus on social inclusion and on gender equality. The theme for International Mountain Day 2022 was ‘Women move mountains’, and our gender team participated in a workshop organised by the Ministry of Forests and Environment, Government of Nepal, in collaboration with ICIMOD, to exchange perspectives on the role of women in creating sustainable mountain solutions. Elsewhere, advancing ICIMOD’s recent partnership with UNDP, our colleague Kamala Gurung, Gender and Natural Resource Management Specialist, showcased the stellar work that ICIMOD conducted on women and landscape-based conservation at a UNDP India–ICIMOD event.

In the beginning of December, ICIMOD hosted a series of conferences that focused on topics such as loss and damage and air pollution. Focusing on solutions, we hosted an exciting Resilient Solutions Conference and Expo 2022 designed to unlock innovations and investments for green mountain economies in collaboration with the Government of Nepal. Alongside the conference, the one-day expo at Godavari Knowledge Park demonstrated resilient solutions for mountain communities to reduce the risks associated with a changing climate. Following this event, we worked with Nepal’s National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Authority to refine our multihazard risk assessment methodology framework. This consultative workshop responded to the urgent need for a thorough assessment of risk management decisions made to reduce loss and damage.

A woman browses through the 'Alps meet the HKH'
A woman browses through the ‘Alps meet the HKH’ photo exhibition, which depicted the experiences – shared and divergent – of mountain life across time and space. (Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

 

To continue our collaboration and engagement with other mountain regions of the world, we also hosted a photo exhibition –  ‘Alps meet the HKH’ – jointly with the Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention as a part of the resilient conference. The exhibition showcased the life and times of people from the mountains of the Alps and the HKH region through photographs taken by Austrian photographers Irmtraud Hubatschek and her mother Erika Hubatschek. We hosted the exhibition during 5–12 December 2022 at the ICIMOD headquarters, the ICIMOD Knowledge Park in Godavari, and the Nepal Tourism Board during the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF) 2022.

ICIMOD played an instrumental role
At CBD COP15, ICIMOD played an instrumental role in developing the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework which includes four goals and 23 targets to be achieved by 2030. (Photo: Sushmita Kunwar, ICIMOD)

 

Continuing to focus on transboundary cooperation, we organised and participated in several events at COP15 to the Convention on Biological Diversity in December. ICIMOD successfully advocated for the conservation of mountain ecosystems among the international community while encouraging investment in the restoration of biodiversity hotspots. The summit culminated in an international agreement to effectively conserve and manage at least 30% of the world’s land, inland waterways, coastal areas, and oceans by 2030, with a special focus on protecting vital ecosystems such as rainforests and wetlands. We are committed to preserving biodiversity in the HKH and balancing our focus on international agreements with our dedication to real, everyday sustainable solutions.

Also in early December, ICIMOD and UNDP participated in an intensive two-day regional workshop to share our organisations’ strategies and work plans, exploring programmatic areas for collaboration between UNDP and ICIMOD and identifying opportunities for joint resource mobilisation efforts. The workshop – which was attended by Sewa Lamsal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal – concluded with the preparation of the first draft of the joint workplan on 2 December.

Turning our attention to air quality, ICIMOD and the World Bank came together with government representatives from 24 institutions from across the region on 14–15 December for a science policy dialogue. The conference discussed applying localised and region-specific air quality monitoring, management, and policy tools to tackle the escalating challenge of transboundary air pollution. The event culminated with country representatives from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Nepal signing the Kathmandu Roadmap, which charts a path for a regional response to air pollution in the HKH.

ICIMOD and the World Bank
ICIMOD and the World Bank came together with government representative for a science policy dialogue

 

In mid-January, I attended the Arctic Circle Abu Dhabi Forum, along with a few members of the HKH High-Level Task Force. The forum was organised by the Arctic Circle and was part of The Arctic Circle – Third Pole Process, which aims to introduce the Arctic model of collaboration to the Third Pole region. The forum created a space for scientists to come together and discuss how Third Pole countries can best protect the region through collaborative research initiatives and swift dissemination of information to enable effective policy making.

The Third Pole representatives
Pema Gyamtsho, Director General (far left) with some distinguished The Third Pole representatives and partners during The Arctic Circle – The Third Pole Process in Abu Dhabi.

 

As we move into 2023, we are confident in ICIMOD’s ability to take all of the changes associated with MTAP V and Strategy 2030 in stride. We look forward to building a stronger, more fit-for-purpose ICIMOD dedicated to helping communities with scalable, sustainable solutions and effectively influencing policy.

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