New Mountain Partnership Ambassador appointed


At a ceremony at the Stimson Center in Washington DC, USA, on 6 May, Eduardo Rojas-Briales, FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry, announced the appointment of His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang as Mountain Partnership Ambassador.

Based in Ladakh, India, His Holiness the Drikung Chetsang is known for his commitment to education, historical research and cultural preservation as well as his pragmatic approach to sustainable development projects. He has also traveled and taught abroad, visiting many research centres and universities.

In accepting this appointment, His Holiness pledged to be not only a goodwill ambassador of the mountain region where he was born and now lives, but also to give voice to the common issues and challenges faced by mountain communities around the world.

To celebrate HH Drikung Chetsang ‘s visit to Washington, DC, and his new ambassadorship, The Mountain Institute (TMI) and the Stimson Center organized an event, “Greening the World’s Highest Mountain Valleys”, to explore global mountain issues. Among the activities featured were the innovative sustainable development projects His Holiness now leads in the remote Hindu Kush Himalayan communities of India (Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh), Bhutan and Nepal. Of particular note was his Go Green-Go Organic initiative that promotes sustainable forest and agricultural practices in remote mountain areas and his Ice Stupa/Artificial Glacier project.

A key topic of the event was the role of the Himalayas as one of the great mountain water towers of the world. The impacts of current environmental challenges in mountainous regions are complex and severe, and these were discussed together with the role of climate change, which is driving glacial retreat, precipitation shifts, and increased natural hazards that are degrading habitats, threatening the existence of species and squandering water resources. The repercussions of these grave problems have extended far beyond remote mountain villages to the billions of people living downstream, who rely on the mountains' rivers for their sustenance and livelihoods, participants noted.

Ellen Laipson, President of the Stimson Center think tank, opened the afternoon session, while Andrew Taber, Mountain Partnership Steering Committee member and Executive Director of TMI, presented the Mountain Partnership Certificate of Ambassador to His Holiness. Also present at the event were representatives from the sustainable development, conservation, environmental security, climate change and Asian policy communities together with members of the press. David Michel, Director of Stimson’s Environmental Security Programme, moderated the question and answer session that followed.

The Mountain Institute is an international non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the world's mountains by conserving mountain ecosystems, preserving traditional cultures and working hand-in-hand with mountain communities. It was founded in 1972 and currently has programmes in the Andes, Himalayas and Appalachians—the world’s longest, tallest and oldest mountain ranges.

The citation on the Mountain Partnership Ambassadorship certificate reads: “This is to certify that His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang has been conferred the title of Mountain Partnership Ambassador on the 6th day of May in 2015 to inspire goodwill toward improving quality of life and sustaining healthy environments in the world’s mountain regions. It is signed by Thomas Hofer, Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, located at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy.

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