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The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) Partnership for Sustainable Mountain Development was launched during a ministerial-level panel discussion organized on 24 May 2016 on the sidelines of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA2) in Nairobi, Kenya, in collaboration with theUnited Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) andGRID-Arendal.
The HKH Partnership was endorsed by ministers and high level government representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan and delegates from UNEA and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. The declaration – ‘Healthy Mountains, Healthy Planet: The Hindu Kush Himalayan Partnership for Sustainable Mountain Development’ – recognizes the importance of the HKH region as a global asset providing goods and services to almost one-fifth of the global population.
At the Ministers’ Panel discussion, the environment ministers and the high-level government representatives expressed and highlighted the following points on behalf of their respective governments.
Prince Mostapha Zaher, Director General of the National Environmental Protection Agency, Afghanistan, stated that as a mountainous country Afghanistan underscores the importance of sustainable mountain development, and as a founder member of ICIMOD, it provides excellent platform for learning from other countries in the region. He stressed that women and marginalized segments of the society need the most attention in Afghanistan.
Prince Zaher added that strengthening certain HKH related policies and mechanism would help in the preparedness for and countering impacts of natural disasters in Afghanistan and other countries. Collectively there is a need to get out of the inertia as a united block and to rise to the occasion for one strong voice for mountain development. The mountain solidarity would help to foster closer collaboration among the HKH nations and together with ICIMOD and UNEP, the major challenges can be addressed and the opportunities tapped. Prince Zaher stressed the need to create closer working relationships for mountain development, especially to support marginalized mountain communities. “Let us come together to forge regional cooperation and harness the global resources as a united block for the benefit of mountain communities,” he said.
Mr Nurul Karim, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Bangladesh, reminded the audience that the Brahmaputra-Jamuna River System, the Ganges-Padma, and the Surma Meghna all have their springs and sources in the mountainous regions north of Bangladesh before they converge after a long journey through their flood plains in the Bay of Bengal. These rivers provide Bangladesh with huge hydropower potential, fertile agricultural lands, and rich aquatic resources that sustain the livelihoods of millions of people in the hills and the plains alike. He highlighted the direct links between the mountainous areas of the HKH region and downstream, riparian areas, like Bangladesh.
“The adverse effects of climate change in the mountains, including hazards such as floods, landslides and increased river erosion, have direct impacts downstream,” Mr Karim said. “Upstream and downstream linkages provide a foundation for forming partnerships among HKH countries for sustainable mountain development”. This was the reason, he added, why Bangladesh takes the fight against climate change very seriously. Mr Karim reiterated that Bangladesh believes mega challenges like climate change and disaster risk reduction need to be tackled from regional cooperation. A partnership for the mountains in the region is extremely important as all developments upstream have profound repercussions for the lowlands downstream as well.
Mr Chencho Norbu, Secretary of the National Environment Commission, Bhutan, informed that Bhutan’s rich natural resources endowment has more than 70% forest cover, hydropower potential supports the national economy, and growth of green tourism is important for the country’s economy. There is a need for consolidated effort in dealing with SDG agenda and low carbon development. Despite the Government of Bhutan’s commitment to be carbon neutral, the effects of climate change, including rapidly melting glaciers and the formation of glacial lakes, present challenges to the Himalayan nation.
“Solutions lie in forging partnerships with neighbouring mountains countries, international agencies, and UN bodies to contribute to global efforts while still addressing local problems,” said Mr Norbu. Bhutan is a founder member of ICIMOD and closer cooperation with ICIMOD is welcomed especially with the launch of the Hindu Kush Himalayas Partnership for Sustainable Mountain Development.
H.E. Mr U Ohn Win, Union Minister of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Myanmar, mentioned that Myanmar is highly vulnerable to climate change, and even more so to extreme weather events. He added that the mountain ecosystem is fragile and needs special attention and protection. In general, the mountain regions are left behind in conservation and development. H.E. Mr Win believes that to create HKH partnership development of sound technology, regional integration, effective evaluation and monitoring at all levels and capacity building are key ingredients. Translating the SDGs to create actions will require effective partnerships. He stressed that in order to meaningfully adapt to climate change and to achieve the SDGs – especially for the marginalized mountain people of the HKH region – further financing is urgently needed.
H. E. Mr Win reassured all that Myanmar is committed to be part of the Hindu Kush Himalaya Partnership for Sustainable Mountain Development. “No single country will reach the SDGs alone,” said Mr Win adding that to translate SDGs into action, effective partnerships are needed at all levels. “There is an urgency to build alliances among the HKH countries and mobilize emerging financing instruments and opportunities.”
H.E. Mr Vishwendra Paswan, Minister of the Ministry of Population and Environment, Nepal, highlighted the intricate linkages “from Sagarmatha [Mount Everest] to samudra [the ocean]”. He explained that for Nepal the UNEA2 side event on the HKH Partnership for Sustainable Mountain Development underscores three important points. Firstly, with regards to climate change and what it means for Nepal. Climate-induced disasters have repeatedly claimed lives and properties, not to forget the devastating Nepal earthquake in 2015. The related development cost has increased by many folds.
Second is the SDGs which continue to be in-built in Nepal’s socio-economic development. Nepal’s efforts for the successful implementation of the MDGs has also opened new avenues for the implementation of SDGs planned for 2016-2030. H.E. Mr Paswan stated that he believed the side event is a key milestone to foster partnership with stakeholders and cooperation with Hindu Kush Himalayan member countries and urged ICIMOD to work in this direction. Third was the partnership for sustainable mountain development, and on behalf of the Government of Nepal he proposed convening a global forum to forge a stronger alliance between mountain countries and promote the Mountain Agenda.
Mr Raza Bashir Tarar, High Commissioner of Pakistan to Kenya and Pakistan’s permanent representative to UNEP and UN-HABITAT, highlighted that Pakistan’s vulnerabilities became most visible in the unprecedented flood disasters of 2010, 2011, and 2014 that affected the lives of millions of people. In addition, landslides and recurrent droughts add to Pakistan’s vulnerabilities. Pakistan fully endorses the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Very much in line with this, the Government of Pakistan has adopted the Pakistan Vision 2025 – which is based on the imperatives of embracing change and transformation, and to create new opportunities based on sustainable development. Climate Change has been recognized in Pakistan as a core component of the economic growth model which is required for growth, poverty reduction, and the wellbeing of the population.
Mr Tarar mentioned that the Government of Pakistan very much welcomes the initiative of ICIMOD, supported by Grid Arendal and UNEP for this excellent and very timely side event and he assured Pakistan’s commitment to be part of the Partnership. In addition, Mr Tarar stressed the importance of improving connectivity in the HKH region and identifying ways to mainstream the Mountain Agenda into SDGs. “To take the Mountain Agenda forward, let us combine our efforts for the next UNEP global meetings,” he said.
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