Central Asian forum focuses on mountains


More than 120 representatives of organizations from across Central Asia and from around the world whose work is dedicated to the concerns of mountain societies and environments, gathered on 8 June 2015 in Dushanbe, Republic of Tajikistan, for the first Forum of Mountain Countries to take place in Central Asia, to share perspectives and best practices on sustainable mountain development.

Co-organized by the Mountain Partnership Central Asia Hub, hosted by University of Central Asia, in partnership with the State Committee on Environmental Protection of Tajikistan and with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the day-long Forum work was kicked off with a Knowledge Fairfeaturing the launch of Sustainable Development Good Practices of some 20 organizations. The photo exhibition which attracted much of interest featured the work of two photographers on mountain glaciers, snow and ice in high Alps by Maralgua (Mongolia) and Laurence Piaget (Switzerland) under the Sustainable Mountain Art (SMArt) programme, implemented by the Foundation on Sustainable Development of Swiss Valais and the photos provided by the forum partner organizations: Oxfam Tajikistan, ACTED Tajikistan, CAMP Kuhiston (Tajikistan) and photo reportage by Alma Uzbekova, the Hub’s communication officer during her field trips throughout Kyrgyzstan.

Opening remarks were delivered by Azim Ibrohim, Deputy Prime Minister, Republic of Tajikistan, followed by Akbar Pesnani, AKDN Resident Representative to Tajik Republic,  Regina Gujan, Programme Coordinator of the Swiss Cooperation Office, Tajikistan, Olimjon Boboev, Chairman of the Ecological Commission, Lower House of the Tajik Republic Parliament and Sara Manuelli of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.

The forum brought together government representatives at various levels, civil society groups, development agencies and researchers to explore the links between mountains and water and the contextual issues for sustainable mountain development including: climate change and its impacts on mountain agriculture, nutrition and health, the role of women in mountain ecosystem stewardship, integrated watershed management and disaster risk mitigation.  Illuminating examples from across the region and around the world, eight sessions with 44 presentations and group discussions moderated by subject-matter experts from the global mountain community offered multiple perspectives on the challenges facing mountain communities. Issues explored included food security and creating conditions for entrepreneurship and better livelihoods, particularly among women; methods for conflict-resolution about pasture management, water and access to resources including frameworks for encouraging proactive participation by communities in the design of solutions; sustainable land management practices and the necessary governance mechanisms for achieving sustainable land management; land-use management practices and the need for integrating disaster risk mitigation into these systems; design and delivery of knowledge management solutions about water and mountains that offers not only technical solutions and platforms, but the capabilities to help transform information into action on the ground, designed by and for the communities it is intended to benefit; multidisciplinary and cross-cutting approaches to research problem formulation and project delivery and the requirement to strengthen communication between research and policy.

The conference concluded that priority actions should be to:

  • Diversify food systems by supporting mountain farmers and encouraging climate-smart agriculture;
  • Promote participatory governance of natural resources in watersheds;
  • Upscale sustainable land management practices, including community-based climate risk mitigation plans;
  • Introduce equitable benefit sharing and compensation mechanisms to properly reflect the services provided by mountains for all;
  • Enable better knowledge exchange between practitioners, communities and researchers;
  • Invest in decision-support tools and programs that integrate the concerns of mountain communities by working directly with them;
  • Place sustainable mountain development concerns in development plans and use international meetings and conventions to emplace mountain issues in sustainable development goals and actions.

The forum results were presented by Svetlana Jumaeva, CCDR Tajikistan, at the final session of High Level International Conference “Water for Life” on 10 June 2015.

News and photos by Alma Uzbekova

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