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COVID-19 impacts, challenges, and the future in the Hindu Kush Himalaya: Perspectives from the mountains


Online (MS Teams)

Date & Time

02 September 2020 to 02 September 2020


As governments and societies around the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region reel from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clearer than ever that immediate, medium-, and long-term responses must be inclusive of mountain realities to be truly effective and meaningful and to concurrently address the region’s significant climate change challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused much disruption at a time when attention and much work to conserve the environment and improve the lives of HKH mountain communities was starting to gain much needed traction. Challenges posed by this disruption have affected HKH mountain regions particularly hard economically and socially, and they have further exacerbated many pre-existing difficulties. The very survival of mountain communities requires bouncing back in ways that increase resilience and enhance livelihood opportunities for them, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized.

About the webinar

Based on a recent COVID-19 policy paper released by ICIMOD, this policy-focused webinar aims to share key findings and messages with policy makers of the eight HKH countries and strategic partners working in this region. The webinar will offer a platform for exploring what is happening in our mountains, what is at stake, and some concrete actions needed for resilient recovery.
The webinar will feature ICIMOD experts and policy makers from the HKH countries speaking briefly on pressing mountain issues, along with questions and discussions. During the webinar, ICIMOD experts from multiple disciplines (economics, livelihoods, policy, and the environment) will also be available to answer any related questions.

About the speakers
David James Molden
David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD
David Molden is the Director General of ICIMOD. He comes from a background specializing in water resource management and sustainable mountain development with an interest in integrating social, technical, and environmental aspects of natural resources management. Molden has experience in leading and implementing development and research work across Asia and Africa. He has contributed to the publication of over 200 works in books, refereed journals, research reports, and educational materials. He has received many awards, including the Outstanding Scientist Award of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in 2009.
Eklabya Sharma
Eklabya Sharma, Deputy Director General, ICIMOD
Eklabya Sharma is committed to supporting the conservation and development of natural systems for sustaining global goods and services. With PhD and MSc degrees in botany with a specialization in ecology, he has a strong foundation in social and environmental values as well as the conservation of nature and development in the HKH region. Sharma has received many national and international awards, including the Young Scientist Award of the Indian National Science Academy (1988) and the Eminent Scientist Award from the Government of India (1995). The Government of Sikkim has conferred on him its “Social Status Award” for his contributions to the environment in 2004.
Brij Mohan Singh
Brij Singh Rathore, Chief Policy Advisor, ICIMOD
Brij Mohan Singh Rathore is Chief Policy Advisor focusing on Natural Resources Management at ICIMOD. He has served within the Indian Forest Service and holds over 37 years of professional experience in the field of participatory forest management, regeneration of degraded lands, landscape approach to bio-diversity conservation and development, and environmental education. As Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, he was country focal point for the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) and represented India as Vice Chair on the UNCCD CoP Bureau, as well as Chair of Asia the Pacific region. He has received the Indira Priyadarshini Vraksha Mitra national award for community-based forest management, and the state governments’ Gold Medal for professional excellence in forestry. A gold medallist in his Masters of Science study in botany, he also holds a Masters’ degree in forestry from the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy located in Dehradun.
Sayed Ahmad Khalid Sahibzada, Acting Rangeland Management Director at the General Directorate of Natural Resource Management, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock
Sayed Ahmad Khalid Sahibzada is in charge of the Rangelands Management Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock and oversees extensive services and interventions focusing on sustainable restoration of degraded rangelands. During his 8 years of service in the field of natural resource management, he has contributed to the development of national strategies, plans, polices and legal frameworks for sustainable and effective management of natural resources, including taking the lead of the Kabul Greenbelt Project in 2015 delivering climate resilient and environmental services for urban communities of Kabul city. Sahibzada first served as a Protected Areas Specialist with the Protected Areas Directorate of the General Directorate of Natural Resource Management (GD-NRM) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock in 2012 and in 2014 was promoted to Senior Advisor to the GD-NRM in capacity building and change management affairs.
Mohammad Razib Siddique, Senior Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs
Mohammad Razib Siddique has been Senior Assistant Secretary within the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Government of Bangladesh for the last 7 years. He has served the Government of Bangladesh since 2008 and is a member of the Bangladesh Civil Service Administration Cadre. He obtained a Masters’ degree in Disaster Management and Sustainable Development from Northumbria University, United Kingdom and earned a BSc with Honours from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. His interests range from indigenous issues, disaster-related issues, environmental governance, and the Sustainable Development Goals. He is married and blessed with two daughters.
Tenzin Wangmo, Chief, Climate Change Division, National Environment Commission
Tenzin Wangmo currently works as the Chief of the Climate Change Division in the National Environment Commission, Royal Government of Bhutan where she is responsible for leading, facilitating and coordinating climate change policies, strategies, plans and programs on climate actions in Bhutan. She also serves as an alternate National Focal Point of Bhutan to the UNFCCC and focuses on obligations under various UNFCCC protocols as well as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. For 2019-2020, Bhutan is Chair of the Least Developed Country (LDC) Group of the UNFCCC and thus she serves as a lead negotiator for the LDC Group at technical sessions of the negotiations, along with her previous work in areas and capacities ranging from climate change to water management and her previous roles as Planning Officer in the Gross National Happiness Commission and in implementing development activities at the local level.
Yang Yongping, Vice Director of the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Yang Yongping is Professor and Deputy Director of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences and a professional researcher of adaptive evolution and gene function of alpine plants. His current research focuses on the study of molecular regulation networks of turnip (Brassica rapa var. rapa), a traditional crop cultivated in the Tibetan Plateau and its adjoining regions.
Lalit Kapur, Advisor, Mountain Division, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
Thaung Naing Oo, Director, Planning and Statistic Division of the Forest Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation
Thaung Naing Oo is Director of the Planning and Statistic Division of the Forest Department and has worked previously as a Director of the Forest Research Institute, Forest Department, Myanmar from 2015 to 2020. He obtained a PhD degree in forest environmental science from Seoul National University in Korea, an MSc degree in tropical forestry from Dresden Technical University in Germany and a BSc in forestry from the University of Forestry in Yezin, Myanmar. He has about 23 years of experiences working across areas including reforestation, silviculture and forest management, community forestry, forest ecology, carbon accounting and REDD+. He is also serving in various roles for international organizations such as the UN-REDD Programme, UNFF, AFoCO, ICIMOD, ITTO, APFNet, INBAR, and AKECOP in addition to his role as the ASEAN Senior Official on Forest (ASOF) Leader of Myanmar.
Maheshwar Dhakal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Environment
Maheshwar Dhakal is a senior Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Forests and Environment and Chief of the Climate Change Management Division with a background on sustainable forest management, protected area management, sustainable community development, and landscape level planning and decision-making. He has extensive experience on forest and watershed management, biodiversity conservation and climate change in Nepal and in international relations focusing on Multiple Environmental Agreements (MEAs) mainly associated with the Ramsar Convention, CITES, UNCBD, UNFCCC, UNCCD, IUCN and IPCC. He obtained a PhD and Masters’ degree from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, where he investigated valuation of forest products in Nepal’s community forestry program. He also holds a Masters’ degree in Sociology and a B Sc degree in forestry from Tribhuwan University, Nepal. His prior roles include Chief of the Biodiversity and Environment Division in Ministry of Forests and Environment as well as Deputy Director General and a Senior Ecologist at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal.
Javed Humayun, Senior Joint Secretary, Ministry of National Food Security and Research
Dr. Javed Humayun is Senior Joint Secretary in the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Pakistan which is also the focal Ministry in Pakistan for ICIMOD. He comes from the economists group within the civil service of Pakistan and is largely responsible for science-policy interface through evidence-based research to achieve food security. His long and diverse experiences in public policy have focused on short, medium and long term issues and his tenure extended within the Ministry, serving within different positions has facilitated the sustained continuity of past, present and future policy process to achieve the related SDGs. He has been instrumental to organize and promote research in the agriculture sector taking into account future climate change impacts.
Time Programme Duration
10:30–10:40 Welcome remarks by the moderator – Laurie Vasily, Head of Knowledge Management and Communication, ICIMOD 10 minutes
10:40–10:50 Opening remarks and introduction – David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD 10 minutes
10:50–11:10 Resilient recovery from COVID-19 in the HKH – Eklabya Sharma, Deputy Director General, ICIMOD 15 minutes
11:10–11:50 Reflections by government representatives from the HKH countries 5 minutes each
  • Afghanistan (Sayed Ahmad Khalid Sahibzada, Acting Director, Rangeland Management, General Directorate of Natural Resource Management, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock)
  • Bangladesh (Razib Siddique, Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs)
  • Bhutan (Tenzin Wangmo, Chief, Climate Change Division, National Environment Commission)
  • China (Yang Yongping, Vice Director, Kunming Institute of Botany Chinese Academy of Sciences)
  • India (Lalit Kapur, Advisor, Mountain Division, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change)
  • Myanmar (Thaung Naing Oo, Director, Planning and Statistic Division, Forest Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation)
  • Nepal (Maheshwar Dhakal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Environment)
  • Pakistan (Javed Humayun, Senior Joint Secretary, Ministry of National Food Security & Research)
11:50–12:20 Audience Q&A 30 minutes
12:20–12:30 Summary and closing remarks – Brij Mohan Singh Rathore, Chief Policy Advisor, ICIMOD 10 minutes
12:30 Closing