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International Mountain Day 2018: Mountains Matter!

David James Molden

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This year’s theme for International Mountain Day reminds us that mountains matter.

They matter for water, but glaciers are retreating and springs are drying up; they matter for tourism, but many communities do not benefit from it; they matter for disaster risk reduction, but face disproportionate risk; they matter for food, but host some of the hungriest people on the planet; they matter for indigenous people, but many of them are marginalized; they matter for biodiversity, but many species and habitats are at risk; they matter for youth, but many young people are abandoning their mountain villages.

Today, we are renewing a call that we make at every national, regional and global forum—that mountains matter and they need urgent attention.

At this year’s 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) taking place right now in Poland, we are releasing a major report, “Outlook on climate change adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalayas”. The report presents the main climate change impacts, current policies and gaps in the HKH. The report has benefited from co-financing and knowledge generated through our Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP) which we implemented jointly with GRID-Arendal and the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo (CICERO), in collaboration with local partners. We developed the report with our partners, the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and GRID-Arendal and are excited to have it highlighted at COP24.

As one of the network partners of Sustainable Mountain Development for Global Change (SMD4GC) Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), we contributed to the organization of the fourth World Mountain Forum (WMF 2018), which took place from 23-26 October 2018, in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz Republic. The forum was co-organized by the University of Central Asia (UCA) and the government of the Kyrgyz Republic with the overarching theme, ‘Mountains in a Changing World: Strengthening Partnerships and Pathways towards a Thriving Mountain Future’. Our experts provided thematic inputs to the conference outcome document – ‘A Call for Mountains’.

We are also eagerly anticipating the imminent launch of the HKH Assessment Report. Gathering expertise from the region and across the globe, we worked together with over 350 scientists, policy-makers and practitioners to author a comprehensive assessment report which is a first of its kind for this region. This HKH Assessment Report will provide clear reference for an extraordinarily broad array of compelling environmental and livelihood-related issues for this region. Do stay tuned for announcements about the release and launch of this important report!

Today, we also honour those who are reminding the world that Mountains Matter through their work. We will be announcing the winners of the ICT for Mountain Development Award, held for the fifth consecutive year. The regional award recognizes innovations, uses, and applications in Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICTD) that help promote development and environmental conservation in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region. These are ICT-enabled innovations and good practices that others can learn from, replicate, scale up, or use for the benefit of mountain communities across the region, and the world.

We will also be honoring the work of photographers and who trained their lenses at the issue of gender in the Koshi River basin through the The Koshi Gender Photo Competition. We asked photographers to send in photo stories detailing the complex social relations among men and women. These photo stories have captured a range of topics from resilience in the face of earthquakes, to the relationship that women share with water.

We will also be presenting the fifth annual best film prize that ICIMOD awards to films that are featured at the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival. The films are judged for their treatment of social and environmental issues faced by mountain people throughout the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

2019 is also the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Linguistic diversity is threatened all over the world. If present trends continue, at least half of the world’s 7000 languages are expected to become extinct by the end of this century. The Hindu Kush Himalaya is estimated to have around 1000 living languages and many of them are at risk of extinction or being reduced to symbolic identity markers.

Let us use this occasion to highlight the issues of mountains and mountain people. Let us use every opportunity to bring these issues to the attention of policymakers. Use your social media presence to amplify the message. Use the hashtag #MountainsMatter.

Wish you all a happy International Mountain Day!

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