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My main role as Director General is to provide direction to the overall operation and governance of ICIMOD in line with the policies and strategies approved by the Board of Governors. I’m deeply committed to and at the same time deeply humbled by my work providing strategic leadership to the organisation in pursuing its mission, developing strategic plans, establishing a results framework for its programmes and services, and upholding the highest professional and ethical standards. Engaging with constituents from our regional member countries is part of what I do, to make sure our programmes match needs, and that we have good relations with each country and between countries. Although I try to stay out of the way of great colleagues who so effectively lead all of our units focused on this work, I also engage in our programmatic work to assure high standards, to ensure that we do work in an integrated manner, and to ensure that we’re looking at issues of gender and inclusive development. I’m also involved in a range of other activities such as fund raising, human resource management, and financial management. I seek always to ensure that we achieve positive impact. In order to achieve positive impact, I try to make sure that ICIMOD has a conducive environment so that our staff and partners can be innovative, work constructively together, and deliver results.
Short profile for introduction purposes
David James Molden
How do you protect the pulse of the planet?
Our HKH mountains are a hotspot for sustainable development and climate change and I feel honored that leading ICIMOD allows me to be directly involved in meeting some of the biggest challenges facing humanity.
What is your favorite part of the work you do at ICIMOD?
I have so many favorite parts of my work at ICIMOD, but one of the biggest joys for me is the inspirational staff who work at ICIMOD and partners who work with ICIMOD. I’m often overwhelmed with a deep sense of hope generated through the incredibly diverse and talented people I meet and the awe-inspiring places where ICIMOD works.
What are you passionate about?
My passion is to do all I can to enable positive change. To rejuvenate, I love to experience nature.
Reflecting back on my career, and although it may not have been clear to me in these particular terms at the time, I can see now that everything I’ve done professionally has been dedicated to science diplomacy – the convergence of science, policy and action – and to bringing the world’s most marginalized people to center stage in efforts toward sustainable development. I’ve sought to bring to bear my specialties in water resource management and sustainable mountain development to the integration of social, technical, and environmental aspects of natural resources management.
I’m proud of the work we do at ICIMOD, working across all of our eight regional member countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan – in one of the most complex socio-political geographies in the world. I work hard myself to emphasize that this work is of global significance, ensuring that the HKH is on the global agenda and that mountain communities are not left behind in global fora. There are always institutional achievements about which I am proud (many of which can be found in our Annual Reports), but personally I am particularly proud of our focus on gender transformative change across the HKH region. Since the HKH region has some of the largest gender gaps in the world, we need long-term committed efforts focusing on dialogue across difference. I strongly believe that opening minds is the first step towards changing behaviour. Our collective ICIMOD vision for gender transformative change begins from within and among all of us staff who number about 300 people, hailing from 20 different countries.
I’m also particularly proud of one of our recent major achievements, which is the release of a deeply significant research publication, The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment: Mountains, Climate Change, Sustainability and People. The result of over five years of extensive deliberation, original research and synthesis of existing research, the report’s most compelling message focuses on the projection that 1/3 of the glaciers across the HKH will disappear by 2100 if global warming is not held to 1.5 degrees as outlined in the Paris Agreement. I was honored to act as Chair of the Steering Committee which initiated this consultative process bringing together 350 experts, policymakers, and scientists, and of my role in shepherding this publication that also identifies SDG-consistent HKH priorities, helping to put mountains on the map in that critically important global discourse. This convergence of science-policy-action is what is required to sustain confidence in science, and to support evidence-based decisions by governments and actions that help populations prepare for contingencies that result from climate change.
My qualifications certainly have to do with all of the professional positions I have held since as early as 1977 when I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho, but they also have to do with the people who have influenced me along my way. There are people I’ve met in the course of my work and people whose images are at the front of my mind throughout my work days: a young Nepali glaciology student, now enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Edinburgh; an elderly woman herding sheep in Chitral, Pakistan; yak herders in high altitude pastures of Bhutan; my wife, with whom I revel in experiencing nature’s wealth, a woman who has discovered species of dragonflies; Me ‘Masebabtso from Lesotho whose seemingly ceaseless agricultural labor and arduous water fetching responsibilities never dimmed her enthusiasm to nurture her son’s education; and the many mountain people living in challenging mountain environments. For me, “for mountains and people” is not just a slogan, it’s what I love so deeply and what I work for.
Microplastics in the sea now outnumber stars in our galaxy. It’s high time we woke up to the problem