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Myanmar – ICIMOD day 2015

“Pleased with the progress, but much more to do”

We celebrated our partnership with the government and people of Myanmar on 25 March by organizing a Myanmar-ICIMOD Day at Nay Pyi Taw. Myanmar is a founding member of ICIMOD and has been instrumental in supporting the Centre’s mission and vision. The Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry is the nodal ministry and the Department of Forest represents Myanmar in ICIMOD’s Board of Governors. Approximately 42% of Myanmar is mountainous or hilly, and there is immense potential in the work for mountains and people for Myanmar.

David James Molden

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The purpose of the Myanmar-ICIMOD Day was to provide a platform for mutual learning, sharing, and networking among the national partners and to showcase works of ICIMOD’s partners in Myanmar for increased ownership and visibility. The event provided the government partners to give an overview of their ongoing activities. It provided an opportunity to seek guidance from the government and people of Myanmar to deepen our engagement and ensure that we are responding to their priorities.

Of late ICIMOD has stepped up its activities in Myanmar, and while the progress has been promising, I can say that there is much more to do. The government of Myanmar hosted the annual Board Meeting in 2012 where ICIMOD’s Strategic Framework and the Medium Term Action Plan were endorsed. Today, there are five major areas of cooperation between ICIMOD and Myanmar. These include: Landscape Initiative for Far-Eastern Himalayas (Hi-LIFE) engaged with conservation and development of the mountainous north, Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalayas (Himalica Initiative) and Livelihoods and Ecosystem Services in the Himalayas (AdaptHimal Initiative) both focusing on community-based adaptation for improved livelihoods, the REDD+ Initiative that works with the people and government to reduce deforestation, and capacity building on remote sensing. ICIMOD is actively supporting the development of Myanmar Ecotourism Policy and Management Strategy aimed at conserving protecting areas and providing important livelihood opportunities to local people.

ICIMOD stands for mountains and people and our mission is to enable sustainable and resilient mountain development for improved livelihoods of men, women, and children in a healthy mountain environment through knowledge sharing and regional cooperation. As a knowledge center, we not only generate and disseminate knowledge but also engage with policy and practice through our various programmes. We seek opportunities to integrate across disciplines, across boundaries, connect upstream and downstream, and bring mountain people together. This is primarily because as most mountain issues transcend local and national boundaries a broad regional approach and transboundary collaboration is required to find effective solutions.

One of the bigger roles we play is to bring global recognition of mountains so that resources flow into the mountains, and mountains stand on top of global agenda, especially as we embrace the new Sustainable Development Goals. Further, we also seek to make visible impact in the lives and livelihoods of the mountain people through the use of good knowledge, through capacity building, and policy engagement at various levels.

The various partner presentations at the Nay Pyi Taw meeting indicated that Myanmar’s mountains are unique, but face a similar set of critical challenges like other mountains of the Hindu Kush Himalayas: rapid social and ecological change; degradation and deterioration of ecosystem services; biodiversity loss due to unsustainable land use practices; high rates of poverty and outmigration; and other changes brought about by climate change and variability. However, these are also the areas of opportunity for us to work together in our pursuit of a better future for all. These include identifying niche high value products and linking mountain and hill people and products to markets through value chains. Ecotourism would not only bring benefits to local people but also promote conservation. Sustainable land and water management practices in the hills can better support livelihoods through increased production and provide adequate drinking water for health. And information technology can provide critical information to isolated communities by connecting ‘village to space’.

We are happy to know that the Government of Myanmar takes our partnership seriously. Indeed, Honorable Minister U Win Tun put it succinctly when he said that his government considers the partnership with ICIMOD as “one of our international collaborations to fulfil our endeavor, determination, and commitment to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services as well as to support development and climate change mitigation.”

David Molden

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