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21 Apr 2021 | Indus Basin Initiative

Fourth UIBN RSC meeting: Focus on stronger country ownership and sustainability

Sharmila Dhungana

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Participants virtually convene during the fourth UIBN RSC meeting. (Photo: Sharmila Dhungana)

The fourth Upper Indus Basin Network (UIBN) Regional Strategic Committee (RSC) meeting, held virtually on 28 January 2021, following the second Regional UIBN Annual Meeting (RUAM) on 26 and 27 January, brought together the chair of the network, country chapter coordinators, and co-coordinators from the four riparian countries (Afghanistan, China, India, and Pakistan), advisors, and members from the secretariat (ICIMOD). In the meeting, participants discussed ways to enhance country ownership of the chapters and sustainability of the network, and how to ensure that research is aligned with national priorities. The participants also discussed ways to promote regional cooperation among the riparian countries.

 

Reflections on sustainability, collaboration, and country ownership

During the discussion, members reflected on the following aspects of collaboration, sustainability, and government ownership – What does it mean to be working together? How do we move towards stronger government ownership? What are the avenues for UIBN’s sustainability? Based on these reflections, the group identified a need to align the country chapter’s research as per its needs and priorities. The former chairperson, Khalid Mohtadullah, noted that “a sensitive assessment of what is happening at the national level…” is important to identify relevant points of interventions for the chapters. Ashok P. Dimri (India chapter) underlined the need to identify grey areas where more research was needed. In response, Arun B. Shrestha (ICIMOD), suggested that the Theory of Change (ToC) framework for each of the country chapters would not only help them devise short-term and long-term priorities in the country context but will also help identify areas of collaboration with other chapters.

The participants also briefly reflected on ongoing collaborations – the manuscript on the UIBN for the special issue of the Science of Total Environment (STOTEN) – which was submitted in February 2021 with inputs from the country chapters. Members also initiated discussions between the Afghanistan and India chapters on a capacity-building training. An additional suggestion was put forward by Neera Shrestha Pradhan (ICIMOD) on bringing in PhD students from the riparian countries to a single institute to work on a collaborative project as a way for further knowledge and data exchange. The members also noted that one of the ways to foster collaboration and invite regional insights in the network would be for the new chair, Mohammad Naim Eqrar, to be a part of some of the country chapter meetings.

 

The future of the network

One of the key action points of the meeting was for the network to form a smaller team at the country level to focus on its sustainability. Vouching for a dedicated team, the country chapters promised to hold further discussions among the members to take the idea forward. Another key action point was that the Secretariat, after consultation with the Director General of ICIMOD, will share the vision, structure, and achievements of the UIBN during the meeting of the ICIMOD Board of Governors. This will help communicate the work of the network to the Board and also generate potential government interest and ownership from regional member countries. The members noted that such government ownership will be a crucial step towards the sustainability of the network.

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