To build and share knowledge that influences regional policy, drives action and attracts investment that enables the diverse countries and communities of the HKH to transition to greener, more inclusive, and climate resilient development.

Transboundary risk reduction and adaptation: to enhance safety and socio-economic security
Air quality: to reduce adverse health impacts while securing mitigation co-benefits
Biodiversity and environmental health: to restore landscapes and sustain ecosystem services
Green mountain economies: to promote just transitions to green and low carbon enterprises

Table 1 describes some of the critical development and equity challenges within each of these long-term impact areas. Addressing the concerns of women and youth will be fundamental to each long-term impact areas, because they are disproportionately affected.

We will assess our progress against these long-term impact areas through a select number of relevant measurable indicators that will demonstrate our contribution to specific global goals and targets articulated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement, UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. We will ensure that we integrate and track progress on gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) and promote youth leadership.

Transboundary risk reduction and adaptation: to enhance safety and socioeconomic security More than one billion people in the HKH are at risk from increasing natural hazards, many cascading in nature, and one in ten floods are transboundary, responsible for 30% of death and injury, and 60% of human displacements.

The river systems of the HKH have an estimated hydropower potential of 500 GW. Up to 70% of dry season flows in these rivers come from upstream basins, while the demand for water and energy is mainly downstream. Ineffective transboundary cooperation deprives communities of water and clean energy.Seven of the 10 river basins of the HKH are transboundary and will be heavily affected by changes in the cryosphere. Yet while transboundary cooperation can support adaptation in this highly climate sensitive region, there is no formal mechanism to do so.

Across the HKH, adaptation responses are mostly national or sub-national; there are few systems-level and cross-border adaptation examples.

Women are more affected by natural hazards in terms of the number of deaths, vulnerabilities, and recovery. Young male outmigration can put women, and other vulnerable groups left behind at even greater risk.

This situation is made worse because vulnerable groups have very limited access to information on risks, disaster prevention and preparedness.

Biodiversity and environmental health: to restore landscapes and sustain ecosystem services

Two billion people across Asia depend on the HKH mountain ecosystem for water and a wide range of ecosystem services.

Global and regional drivers of change are impacting the HKH with up to 80% of habitat in biodiversity hotspots and over 50% of wild species in decline, undermining vital ecosystem services.

Alongside other drivers, climate change is causing further ecosystem instabilities with huge impacts on millions of people: glacier and snow cover losses impacting water flows in transboundary river basins; permafrost thaw leading to slope instability and landslides; agroecosystem disruptions and drying of springs affecting food security.

Changes in biodiversity threaten the livelihoods of up to 85% of mountain communities that depend directly on biodiversity and ecosystems. And despite much conservation effort, progress is slow.

Given the prevalent social and gender structures in the HKH, women and girls are impacted most when food and water availability declines or when essential ecosystem services are depleted.

Air quality: to reduce adverse health impacts while achieving mitigation co-benefits Air pollution in the HKH is on the rise and regional air quality has worsened in the past two decades, with the Indo-Gangetic Plain now one of the most polluted regions in the world.

The drivers of air pollution in the HKH, also linked to climate change, have multiple negative impacts on human health, the cryosphere, agriculture and water resources. Integrated, regional solutions are urgently needed.

While global PM2.5 exposure has declined slightly over the last decade, it remains persistently high in South Asia. Ozone induced decreases in crop yield are predicted to cause devastating loss for staple crops in South Asia.

The dominant cause for the decrease in South and Southeast Asian monsoon precipitation since the mid-20th century is particulate pollutants originating from human activities.

Indoor air pollution has emerged as a major contributor to morbidity and mortality incidence, especially among women, children, and the elderly.

Rural poor migrating to urban areas in the HKH face exposure to higher concentrations of air pollution because of their occupations and have limited capacity to take coping or preventive measures, with disproportionate negative effects on their health.

Green mountain economies: to promote just transitions to green and low carbon enterprises

The HKH has higher poverty rates than the national averages in the eight countries due to its remoteness and marginalisation. Nearly 30% of the population suffers from food insecurity, and around 50% face some form of malnutrition, with women and children particularly vulnerable.

Mountain livelihoods – based predominantly on agriculture and tourism – are highly vulnerable to multiple mountain specific shocks. There are few viable livelihood alternatives and limited financial services. Progress in developing new and innovative resilient, resource and energy efficient options is slow.

Despite the vast potential in hydropower and other renewables, the HKH remains energy poor. Lack of access to affordable clean energy is widespread, with adverse consequences, particularly for the rural poor and women.


Male outmigration from the mountains is causing women to take up additional responsibilities, but services and technologies are not customized for women, and there are few viable opportunities for youth.

Valuable mountain-specific experience and traditional know-how possessed by Indigenous peoples and disadvantaged groups are being rapidly eroded, reducing important adaptation and resilience capacities.


We have committed to the challenging and ambitious task of driving policy and practice change towards greener, more inclusive and climate resilient development in the HKH. To fulfil our aims, ICIMOD will deploy its strengths to catalyse necessary transitions in policy, investment and action, both regionally and globally.

Delivering against our ‘green’ ambitions will require identifying policy and practice solutions that are more: environmentally responsible, regenerative, circular and/or climate neutral. Solutions that can, for instance, promote socio-economically viable nature-positive enterprises, reduce air pollution and carbon emissions through innovations, or protect and regenerate biodiversity, watersheds and other environmental services with policy incentives, will be considered. Delivering against our ‘climate resilient’ ambitions will entail identifying policy and practice solutions that protect communities, developing their ability to withstand and bounce back from shocks and stresses, while enabling them to adapt to change. In every case, we will tackle risks and opportunities that are common to the region and transboundary in nature. We will emphasise the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups.

There will need to be consideration of the right balance across: (i) short-term measures and long-term transformative approaches; (ii) national and regional policy in fostering the enabling environment and reducing negative spill over effects; (iii) relying on existing technologies and approaches and investment in innovation; (iv) public and private finance to support and sustain these endeavours.

Our institutional theory of change (Figure 2) describes how we will bring about and trigger changes required to meet our 2030 ambitions, operating within our HKH regional context. It identifies how our strategic objectives, through impact pathways, will contribute to our high-level outcomes and long-term impact areas. The institutional theory of change will steer the design of our new areas of action, or programming, which will be articulated and defined through our Medium-Term Action Plans V (2023-2026) and VI (2027-2030). Each area of action will design its specific theory of change that will be nested within, and linked to, the institutional theory of change.

To focus our actions on delivering our vision and mission, we will be guided by four strategic objectives: playing the essential roles of a knowledge and innovation hub, an enabler of regional cooperation and collaboration, and a global knowledge lead and voice for sustainable mountain development, while also ensuring ICIMOD’s internal organisation is more than fit for purpose to 2030 and anchored in its core values.

Building on our strategic objectives, four impact pathways will operate creatively together in various combinations and will be underpinned by a set of assumptions and consist of a set of actions to be defined in the MTAP-V, culminating in our three high-level outcomes.



The scaling impact pathway fosters collaborative endeavours through co-design and co-creation to build research, evidence, skills and approaches required for effective proof of concept, such as through translational and implementation science, that will, in turn, lead to the scaling readiness and uptake of viable solutions.

The regional cooperation impact pathway creates formal mechanisms for collective
actions on regional and transboundary risks and opportunities. For instance, developing the science-policy dialogues will trigger the need and demand for regional protocols that will better support the sustainable management of the HKH region’s natural assets.

The policy impact pathway will deepen our support to our RMCs on matters of national and regional relevant international policy through the provision of robust evidence from regional monitoring, analysis, and advice on policy responses.

The capability impact pathway will develop the understanding, awareness, skills and capabilities of relevant institutions, partners, and communities.

Our creation, brokering, communication, and uptake of knowledge are critical ingredients across all four pathways. The regional cooperation and policy pathways combine towards our first outcome on regional cooperation and collaboration. Combining the scaling, policy and capability pathways will lead to our second outcome on policy and practice solutions. The combination of all four pathways will lead to our third outcome that integrates HKH risks and opportunities into global policy fora, which attracts greater global attention and financial resources for HKH. Our three high-level outcomes will, in turn, focus our contributions to the following long-term impact areas: transboundary climate risk reduction and adaptation; biodiversity and environmental health; air quality; green mountain economies; and with cross-cutting: gender equality and social inclusion (GESI), youth leadership and digitalization.

We will measure and learn from our progress along the impact pathways through more relevant and innovative methods. We will focus on the systematic collection of evidence on progress at the strategic objective and outcome levels in a way that enables learning together with our partners about our collective contributions to the long-term impact areas. These performance management designs will be developed into performance measurement and learning frameworks and reflected in MTAPs V and VI.

The strategic objectives lay out what we need to do to fulfil our mission and vision and meet our high-level outcomes and long-term impacts. The strategic objectives are linked to the HKH Call to Action’s Six Urgent Actions (Figure 1).



Co-create and share insights, scalable solutions, policy responses and digital tools that catalyse action on regional and transboundary risks and opportunities


Significantly increase our responsiveness and support to regional partners on regional trends and events. In support of this, introduce new methods, tools and technologies and become the leading regional platform for HKH-specific data and information on climate, cryosphere, biodiversity, water, air and society links (A6).

Embed our work directly with HKH’s primary policy and practice actors to co-create knowledge and capacity on regionally relevant solutions that will strengthen mountain communities’ absorptive and adaptive capabilities to better respond to natural hazards and improve their livelihoods (A3, 4 & 5).

Establish transformative collaborations with world-class organisations and thought leaders, promoted through regular exchanges of experts, hosting of visiting scholars, practitioners, and investors. These collaborations will help facilitate the co-creation and publishing of cutting-edge syntheses and reviews on critical HKH regional and transboundary issues (A2, A6).

Strengthen abilities to develop and share innovations by establishing HKH innovation labs and demonstration sites that will act as focal points for exchange and learning on sustainable approaches and technologies. This would involve promoting inter-regional technology transfers on green and resilient solutions from the government and private sector of economically strong and technologically advanced RMCs to others (A1, 3, 4, 5, 6).



Strengthen regional cooperation and collaboration to create the enabling environment for uptake and scaling of solutions to address regional and transboundary risks and opportunities and attract international climate and development finance


Organise biennial HKH Ministerial Summits (MS) to discuss and provide strategic recommendations on current and emerging socio-economic, climate, and environment issues (A1).

Establish a high-level institutional mechanism that will provide policy directions, approve regional approaches and strengthen cooperation towards fulfilling regional obligations under the UN SDGs, UNFCCC Paris Agreement, UNCBD Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (A1).

Significantly strengthen our scaling partnerships with governments, bilateral and multilateral development organisations, and the private sector, and diversify our partnership base to include civil society, with an emphasis on youth and Indigenous, marginalized, and vulnerable peoples (A1, 2, 4).

Work with international funders and regional and global financial institutions to create partnerships
to attract, distribute and manage regional climate and development finance, significantly enhancing RMCs’ access to climate finance and promoting green banking and mechanisms to assess investments based on ‘do no social and environmental harm’ and ‘carbon neutrality’ principles (A1, 3, 4, 5, & 6).



Amplify the voices of mountain communities to build worldwide recognition of the HKH as a critical global asset


Deepen engagement with RMC focal points and other high-level mountain champions to raise the profile of the HKH, advance the mountain agenda, and ensure targeted engagement with international decision-making institutions and policy processes (A2).

Host regular high-level regional science-policy fora on climate and environmental issues in mountain regions with other regional bodies, and science, policy and business communities. In conjunction with these fora, establish joint science-policy advisory committees on key focus areas (e.g., cryosphere, disaster risk reduction, air quality, biodiversity and ecosystem conservation (A1, 3, 4, 5, & 6).

Deepen existing and build new strategic partnerships with other global and regional organisations leading on sustainable mountain development to strengthen the collective voice of mountain communities across the world. Within our existing alliances we will actively seek opportunities to increase our amplification. We will also reach out to entities representing regional and subregional groupings in the Alps, Andes, Caucasus, and Carpathian Mountain regions and build stronger connections with our neighbouring mountain countries, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (A1).

In collaboration with others, track progress in the HKH against relevant multidimensional and mountain-specific indicators (SDGs, UNFCCC, UNCBD, Montreal Protocol, Malé Declaration and Sendai Framework) and deliver a comprehensive HKH assessment report on a regular basis (A3, 4, 5 & 6).


Make our organisation agile, responsive, robust, and anchored in our core values of integrity, neutrality, relevance, inclusiveness, openness, and ambition


Undertake an organisational change process to review and transform ICIMOD’s institutional processes to support the successful delivery of this strategy.

Secure a healthy balance of funding and establish a dedicated Resource Mobilization (RM) Unit that will work in collaboration across the institution to further institutionalize RM, bridge communication, outreach and RM, strengthen and diversify the funding base, and broaden financial instruments.

Reposition our operations to respond to the needs and priorities of all our eight RMCs more effectively and ensure that we are much more representative of our regional diversity.
Ensure GESI is fully embedded within ICIMOD, with gender equality and pay parity across all levels of the organisation and address these issues firmly but with sensitivity in our external relationships through project design, training, and other support.

Develop cutting-edge integrated monitoring, evaluation and learning that enables collective and progressive measurement of results and performance progress across our theory of change. This system will also facilitate learning and adaptive management.

Periodically conduct a light-touch review of our strategy and reflect on our theory of change to allow course correction in a rapidly changing context.