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Recognizing uniqueness

David James Molden

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Recognize and prioritize the uniqueness of HKH mountain people – this is what we have always sought to do through our work at ICIMOD – and I’m particularly thrilled that it has formalized into one of the Six Urgent Actions within our HKH Call to Action, which is our roll-out campaign for the HKH Assessment Report.

Our HKH region is extremely diverse in cultures, traditions, and livelihoods. There is an incredible tapestry of cultures, languages, practices, and ways of viewing the world that needs to be understood as we look to address some of today’s great challenges. But it’s not often that national, regional, and global decision making and policies take this into account. We believe that this needs to change and that we need to work together to bring to centre stage the uniqueness of people from the mountain regions. Without doing so, we cannot advance towards prosperity in the HKH.

Data from the HKH Assessment report shows that mountain communities across the HKH have lower than national average status in food security, energy security, health, education, and overall living standards while also having higher incidences of poverty and higher risk of disaster impact. Yes, to reduce these disparities, policy-making processes and adaptation plans need to focus on mountain areas, but we also need to tailor our programmes to the uniques context of mountain communities that differ from place to place.. Indigenous people from the HKH need full representation in decision-making at all levels in order to include their first-hand knowledge and address their challenges.

To help in defining the mountain agenda, we’re launching an HKH-wide awareness-to-action campaign “The HKH Calling,” The campaign is about listening to the mountains, mountain people and downstream populations and bringing larger societal awareness for collective actions to solve the problems of the region. This will evolve as a people’s movement to foster resilience building throughout the HKH. Using innovative processes and tools, HKH Calling will be a collective endeavour of multiple stakeholders including government, civil society, youth, academia, research and training institutions, schools/colleges, people’s representatives, community leaders, the private sector, media, regional organizations, and donor communities.

We plan to use this platform to share evidence, communicate the findings of the HKH Assessment Report, and foster collaborative actions from the ground up. This we believe will go a long way in spreading awareness about mountain cultures and their special character, needs, and significance.

Concurrently with the public awareness and action campaign, we’re also focusing on helping national governments and regional institutions to appreciate the benefits of trans-boundary cooperation. Ecosystems, climate change, disasters, pollution know no boundaries and beg solutions that are trans-boundary in nature. Thus without a common understanding and collective input and efforts, our chances of tackling current and future challenges are going to remain slim.

Thankfully, we’re already seeing some positives on this front. In late April our team visited India for a round of consultations on the HKH Call to Action where we were hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Niti Aayog. The discussions were very positive indeed and the Government of India expressed their support and willingness to work towards the HKH Call to Action vision with other HKH countries. As we continue to visit other countries in the months to come, we’re hopeful that they too will express their support and acknowledge the unique realities and needs of mountain environments and people.

We need to collectively define the HKH mountain agenda with inputs from all stakeholders from the eight HKH countries and we can do this through the HKH Call to Action and the HKH Calling campaign. Please join us!

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