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A four-day discussion on resilience issues in the Hindu Kush Himalaya ended here on Wednesday with experts renewing the call for collective and inclusive action in the region.
At the closing session, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) Director General, David Molden, called attention to the crucial need to include youth and women in future mountain planning and development across all sectors.
Resilience is the ability of communities and ecosystems to be prepared for shocks, recover from shocks, and "bounce forward" to emerge stronger than before.
ICIMOD and its partners have been working on developing solutions for resilience building, promoting regional cooperation and enhancing knowledge for sustainable mountain development.
On topics ranging from disaster risk reduction to gender equity and building social capital, all the sessions held over the past four days repeated the theme of collective action for increasing the resilience of mountain communities in the HKH, where impacts from climate change, outmigration and dwindling natural resources pose formidable challenges.
Picking up on Molden's charge to change the narrative about mountains, Roland Schaefer, the German Ambassador to Nepal, said the HKH is well-positioned to harness the power of social capital in the region.
"The HKH has a unique brand that signifies trust, reliability, and inherent ability for planning that stems from the deep social (ties) of the mountain communities. This is a strong brand that should promoted and positioned outside," he said.
Changing the narrative will also require significant coordination and cooperation among HKH countries.
"HKH challenges are often transboundary and geopolitical in nature. Addressing such challenges requires transformative, inclusive and scalable actions at all governance levels," said Rojina Manandhar, a programme officer with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The conference focus on mountain resilience served more than just mountain people and communities.
The HKH sources 10 major river systems in Asia that provide water, ecosystem services, and livelihoods to more than 210 million people. The region holds and distributes water for more than 1.3 billion people living in downstream river basins. The HKH, all the panelists agreed, is an asset of global importance.
Prakash Mathema, Secretary, Population and Environment Ministry, Government of Nepal, said: "This conference has been able to raise awareness on resilience solutions from mountain perspective.
"It has also encouraged partnership for urgent actions to combat climate change and other threats to the lives and livelihoods of the vulnerable people of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region."
The European Union and ICIMOD jointly organised this conference through the "Himalica" initiative.
The EU's Ambassador to Nepal, Veronica Cody, said: "This international conference provided an excellent opportunity to bring international and regional stakeholders together to identify concrete, actionable steps for collective action towards higher resilience in the HKH region. This can be a valuable input for policymakers in the region."
Earlier in the day, scientists, policymakers and experts had urged the countries in the HKH region to take action without further delay to protect the region from the increasing impact of climate change.
Stressing on the need for large-scale action, they said it is important for addressing the challenges and complexities of climate change in the HKH region.
"Failing to take resilient action immediately would only deepen poverty, joblessness, food insecurity and malnutrition," the experts warned.
Mona Sherpa, Deputy Country Director, Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, Nepal, said: "A number of steps such as strong coherence in policies, plans and actions, blending of technical and social solutions and a strong political will."
She said large-scale action requires system-based thinking for bottom-up policymaking. The main mantra for sustainable large-scale action is building social capital and involving communities that address structural issues.
More than 400 experts from 26 countries took part in the conference "Resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya: Developing Solutions Towards a Sustainable Future for Asia".
(Imran Khan is in Kathmandu at the invitation of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development - ICIMOD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)