Reflecting together over the past decade

Dear friends and well-wishers of ICIMOD,

As I write this note in June 2022, the long shadow of the COVID pandemic seems to be retreating, and the tremendous difficulties we were facing in 2021 seem behind us. Nevertheless, reflecting on the past year, it is important to recall the challenges we faced – continued lockdowns that required us to adapt our annual workplan, and political shifts in Afghanistan and Myanmar that significantly reduced our work in these countries.

Despite the challenges, we were able to fulfil our recurring institutional commitments to both an external quinquennial review (QQR) process and a five-yearly independent gender audit. Although we would have preferred to engage in-person with the external review and audit teams, we appreciated their ability to adapt to the constraints and have listened to their feedback.

A significant finding of the gender audit was that our gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) work has historically been heavily weighted towards gender and less focused on social inclusion. Responding to this feedback, we have elevated our GESI work both as an explicit core value honouring diversity and as a key cross-cutting element of all our work in the new strategy, which will take effect from 2023 and extend through 2030.

This QQR, the sixth in our close to four-decade history, concluded:

“Overall, ICIMOD is a well-functioning organisation with core strength, coherence, and stability across its different functional areas.”

However, it also recommended some “resets” in our strategy and structure. In responding to this call, we have been tremendously fortunate in having our new Deputy Director General, Izabella Koziell, join us in July 2021. Leading the process, she mapped out broad consultations to develop both a new strategy and our new Medium-Term Action Plan (MTAP V). While we will detail these processes in next year’s annual report, I want to mention here that our draft strategy was unanimously endorsed by our Board of Governors in its Extraordinary Meeting in April 2022. This endorsement has been a strong affirmation that our highly consultative process has worked well to build stronger engagement across our Regional Member Countries (RMCs).

As part of our ongoing work in this MTAP period, we continue to support our RMCs in their obligations under the HKH Call to Action. To this end, we facilitated the formation of a High-Level Task Force, helping to organise two meetings and draft clear terms of reference for its work monitoring the call to action and building the foundations for an institutional mechanism for regional cooperation.

On the global stage, we supported our RMCs’ engagements at COP26 in Glasgow while hosting and participating in a range of events that together comprised the #HKH2Glasgow campaign with its three ICIMOD asks: Recognizing the HKH as the “pulse of the planet” – a region most vulnerable to climate change; promoting the “mountains of opportunity” investment framework for the region; and leveraging the “power of 8” which is the coordinated strength of our eight RMCs to address transboundary risks and leverage opportunities to accelerate ambitious climate action for the HKH.

2021 was also an important year for flagship publications. In an exquisitely captured book on primates in the Far Eastern Himalayan landscape, we collate information about 16 primate species from the Far Eastern Himalaya, their conservation status, their place in the ecosystems and folklore, the threats to their survival, and ongoing conservation efforts. The book is the first of its kind for the landscape. In another publication, Earth observation science and applications for risk reduction and enhanced resilience in Hindu Kush Himalaya region: A decade of experience from SERVIR, we draw from a decade’s worth of experience gleaned over the course of implementing the SERVIR-HKH Initiative to build capacity for using Earth observation (EO) and geospatial technology for effective decision making in the HKH. From our SANDEE network, we published Climate change and community resilience: Insights from South Asia, which documents the myriad ways community-based adaptation and resilience programmes are being implemented in South Asian countries, which have been dealing with climate change impacts for decades and can offer valuable learning opportunities for other countries confronting the wrath of climate-induced natural disasters.

The rest of this report will detail stories of achievement from our initiatives and programmes, but here I want to mention an invigoration project that is taking place at the ICIMOD Knowledge Park in Kathmandu. We have started our journey towards building an HKH eco-village model within the park – a project that we hope will provide inspiration for eco-entrepreneurs in the region – through broad-based discussions on developing buildings representing traditional architecture from our eight RMCs, which would run on renewable energy and use harvested rainwater, providing a living example of tourism that is place-based, eco-harmonious, sustainable, comfortable, and reflective of the richness of our mountains’ cultural and architectural traditions.

We continue with a “reset” attitude both in our work at the Knowledge Park and all of our work through 2022, which is the last year of our MTAP IV period.

I hope that the remainder of 2022 will continue to point us all towards renewed health and well-being – for our families, our mountain communities, and our planet.

Annual report 2021