Policy for mountains discussed at the Asia Pacific Forestry Week


The Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS) hosted a side event, titled “Policy Reforms for Mountains in Agenda 2030”, at the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week 2019 on 19 June in Incheon, Republic of Korea. The event was an opportunity for outreach in the Asia-Pacific region, specifically within the MP Framework for Action for Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Mountains.   

Five speakers presented to the audience, which then participated in a discussion forum. The event focused on the need to build a stronger alliance of mountain advocates to enhance stakeholders’ awareness of mountains’ important role in food, water and energy, especially taking into consideration the Agenda 2030 process.

Presenters included Thomas Hofer, senior forestry officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and former coordinator of the MPS; Surendra Shrestha, senior expert with the MPS; Kai Windhorst, natural resources manager at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD); Thinley Wangdi, chief forestry officer at the Department of Forests and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests of Bhutan; and Andrew Taber, senior forestry officer at FAO and former chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee.

The event was also an opportunity for stakeholders to come together to present and discuss their perspectives and their planned or ongoing activities to promote the development of mountains in Asia.  

Windhorst presented ICIMOD’s work, specifically the Kailash Sacred Landscape Initiative. The organization is preparing several transnational landscape programs in the Hindu-Kush Himalayas, bringing multidisciplinary teams for collective action to restore and preserve the ecosystems. These initiatives have a wide geographic scope, supporting national outputs and transboundary cooperation on aspects such as establishing value chains and enterprises, valuing biodiversity and traditional knowledge and sharing datasets for environmental and socio-economic monitoring.

Wangdi provided an insightful perspective regarding mountain issues in his nation, noting that environmental conservation is one of the four pillars of Bhutan’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness. He described the challenges posed by the need to find a balance between development and environmental conservation, as 64 percent of population lives on subsistence farming in rural areas; the increased intensity and frequency of natural disasters; and the inadequate capacity in terms of human, infrastructure and finance capacities. He presented the Bhutan for Life project, projects with UN-REDD, IKI Climate Change projects and the Kangchenjunga Landscape project as opportunities for environmental conservation. The panel agreed that significant progress has been made on behalf of mountains (such as earning coverage in three targets in two Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs]), yet mountain environments and peoples continue to struggle to gain deserved specific policies and investments that would allow for the full implementation of  the 2030 Agenda and for the reduction of the gap between lowland and highland areas. The MPS needs sustained support to maintain momentum in backing this effort. To make this happen, strong leadership and a concerted effort will be needed by all sectors invested in mountain issues.

Photo by Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation

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