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International Day for Biological Diversity

Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity in the HKH

David James Molden

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This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) is focused on “Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity.”

In the past twenty-five years, global environmental governance mechanisms such as the CBD have helped countries in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) sustain mountain biodiversity. Although meeting the CBD’s national and global targets is a tremendous challenge, this IBD is an opportunity for us to reflect on what we might count as our major achievements and what we have yet to do.

The HKH is home to 240 million people and provides water through its river basins to 1.9 billion people, a quarter of the world’s population. It contains the Himalaya, the Indo-Burma, the mountains of southwest China, and the mountains of central Asia. These are traditionally connected cross-border biological hotspots that support livelihoods and provide food security for three billion people, among whom are some of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged.

A respect for the variety of life in the HKH and a focus on its people informs all of ICIMOD’s work. This is particularly evident in our initiatives under the Transboundary Landscapes Regional Programme. Through a range of partners, these initiatives have filled data gaps, established long-term environmental and socio-ecological monitoring, tested biodiversity conservation models, built human and institutional capacities, influenced national biodiversity conservation strategies, and pushed the uptake of evidence in national and global fora to effect inclusive change. The Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KLCDI), for example, has added to the KL biodiversity database an updated bibliography, as well as additional bird (618 species), butterfly (600 species), and floral checklists (5198 species). It has also helped the Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiative conserve the red panda as a flagship species.

The Far Eastern Himalayan Landscape (HI–LIFE) initiative works in a similar vein. It has developed thematic maps and facilities that manage and monitor biodiversity hotspots, ecoregions, protected areas, bird watching, and habitats of key species such as takins, gibbons, and Mithun. These species are common across the landscape and are highly regarded for their economic as well as ethnic, cultural, and agro-genetic value.

The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conversation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) and the REDD initiative have helped prepare people’s biodiversity registers and bio-cultural protocols focusing on traditional knowledge, binding local conservation wisdom with modern geospatial tools. They enable people-centric strategies, planning, and implementation processes in conservation and development work. Similarly, KSLCDI has supported mapping and planning human-wildlife hotspots and building capacity to combat wildlife trafficking. By emphasizing the value of cultural services, it has attracted much-needed attention to traditional knowledge and incentivized communities in the Hindu Kush Karakoram Pamir Landscape to improve conservation. Across the transboundary landscapes where ICIMOD works, the biodiversity data we have collected has been made publically accessible on a web portal. Our data and regional learning is used in academic and global fora, such as the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, to shape global conservation strategies.

However, challenges remain, particularly in managing human-wildlife conflicts, invasive alien species, forest fires, and wildlife trafficking. The solution to such problems lies in a “landscape approach” that demands strengthened institutional capacities and commitments. Whether institutions are strengthened enough will determine whether the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity Conservation 2011–2020 succeeds. In the coming years, we need to further consolidate biodiversity monitoring, innovate from on-the-ground learning, and integrate agricultural, forestry, energy, water, infrastructure, and service agendas across landscapes and river basins. To address land degradation in the mountains, we need to reward communities for sustainable conservation and development.

On this International Day for Biological Diversity 2018, it is evident that much has been achieved in the last 25 years, but also that much more work remains. I wish all mountain communities and stakeholders a day to appreciate the progress that has been made and a day to rekindle our resolve to preserve biological diversity in the HKH, to benefit our people and our planet.

With best wishes on the International Day for Biological Diversity.

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