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Experts from the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region and around the world came together to map new ways forward for sharing knowledge, increasing engagement, and building strong partnerships to open the door to further adaptation action in the region at a four-day international conference on ‘Mountain People Adapting to Change: Solutions beyond Boundaries Bridging Science, Policy, and Practice’. The conference was jointly organized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE), Nepal and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) from 9 to 12 November.“There is no limit to the importance of the Hindu Kush Himalayas, both for people in the mountains and for those living downstream”, said KC Paudel, MoSTE. However, climatic and socioeconomic changes in the region are threatening the balance of the ecosystems of the HKH, impacting the lives of millions. To effectively support communities in adapting to these changes, solutions must be developed that look beyond political, sectoral, and national boundaries. “Adaptation is the lifeline for the mountains”, Paudel added.
Stressing the urgent need for action in the mountains, Christiana Figureres, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, said, “Mountains are upstream early warning systems that signal significant risks to downstream communities”, via a recorded video.
At the inaugural session, Chief Guest Govind Raj Pokharel, Vice Chair, National Planning Commission, Nepal highlighted the importance for governments to integrate climate change and adaptation issues as a part of national development plans and policies. “Poverty will increase if we do not address disasters induced by climate change”, he said.
More than 300 experts, scientists, policy makers, government representatives, high-level dignitaries, journalists, and practitioners from 22 countries participated in dynamic discussions at the conference spanning a wide range of topics within the three thematic pillars of science, policy, and practice.
Underlying many of the discussions was the push for greater involvement of rural mountain communities and the need to better integrate scientific and traditional knowledge for effective adaptation action.
“The region may be data deficient, but it is not knowledge deficient. We need to harness our own knowledge and transform this into action”, said Anil Sinha, Bihar SDMA. “Scientific advancements are being brought into policy and practice, but there is a need to look at issues from the point of view of the people to make them more relevant for adaptation”, he added.
“There is a need to introduce the concept of adaptation as a regional public good”, said Dr Arabinda Mishra, TERI University, reiterating the need to develop synergies and enhance cooperation between local, national, regional, and global institutions.
In addition to the discussions, the event showcased poster presentations from 20 young professionals from the HKH and innovative solutions from over 20 organizations working with climate and adaptation issues.
Through the deliberations at the conference, participants developed a list of actions needed to effectively support adaptation to change in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and other mountain regions, including the following:
“Development could be undercut by issues related to climate change and adaptation. Keeping these issues in the global agenda is not only essential, it’s imperative”, said Jamie McGoldrick, UNDP-Nepal. “Mountain countries need more platforms, like this conference, to bring together science, policy, and practice to create a unified voice to take these issues to the global stage.”
At the closing session, Dr David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD, made several key commitments on behalf of the Centre including: to promote good science and contribute to regional knowledge generation, including by coordinating the HKH Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP); to support the process of developing and implementing NAPs at regional, national, and local levels; and to act as a platform to foster the regional cooperation needed to support sustainable adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.
Key messages and outcomes from the conference will be taken forward by conference participants in regional adaptation efforts and global forums, including the discussion tables of COP 20 in Lima, Peru in December 2014.
“The next few years will determine the future of global action on climate change and adaptation”, said Dr David Molden. “Mountains have not received due recognition in global and national development agenda”, said Dr Molden, adding, “it is crucial that knowledge from the HKH and mountain regions is given a strong voice in these processes”.
At the conference, H.E. Kjell Tormod Pettersen, Ambassador of Norway to Nepal, launched ICIMOD’s Regional Database System. The RDS portal (http://rds.icimod.org) is an open access web-based portal that allows users to browse and search through all of ICIMOD’s published datasets and provides tools for visualization and the creation of custom maps and graphs. “By promoting data sharing, ICIMOD’s Regional Database System will improve research, support policy, and enhance the benefits to the people and environments of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region”, Pettersen said.
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Ms Nira Gurung
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