The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region is shared by eight countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan – and home to 240 million people.
Regional cooperation has long been promoted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), founded in 1983, almost ten years after discussions at the International Workshop on the Development of the Mountain Environment raised the idea.
The governments of Switzerland and the Federal Republic of Germany as well as UNESCO (under the framework of the Man and the Biosphere Programme) acted as founding sponsors; an agreement between the Government of Nepal and UNESCO provided the Centre’s legal basis, legitimzed by an Act of Parliament in Nepal in 1983.
Headquartered in Lalitpur, Nepal, ICIMOD has focused on knowledge generation and exchange but also supports cooperation efforts, mostly through scaling up management innovation or implementing river basin and transboundary landscape conservation at the subregional level. Over the last two years, mountain-focused regional cooperation has also emerged in the context of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.
Key governance dimensions
While local transboundary cooperation has a long history in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, rangewide governance is a very recent phenomenon. In an unprecedented move, the eight HKH countries created the HKH High-Level Task Force to follow up on the 2020 HKH Call to Action approved by all eight HKH countries during the first HKH Ministerial Mountain Summit. This landmark meeting of Ministers from across all eight of the HKH countries signed an historically significant declaration agreeing to strengthen regional cooperation in the HKH. Senior government officials collaborate in the Task Force to monitor the progress on the HKH Call to Action and assess the potential for an institutional mechanism to strengthen regional cooperation.
The Call’s Mountain Priority 9 calls on partners to “Promote a mountain-specific agenda for achieving the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) through increased regional cooperation among and between mountain regions and nations. The work of the Task Force is supported by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
The importance of policy integration receives particular emphasis in the context of climate change adaptation, both at the national and regional levels. Of particular significance are links to disaster risk reduction, SDGs, and resilience building. Accordingly ensuring “integration between adaptation to climate change, disaster risk reduction, and sustainable development for the mountains through evidence-based decision making” is specifically identified as a priority in the HKH Call to Action.
Regional cooperation in the context of the HKH High-level Task Force is primarily an intergovernmental process. However, the Call also promotes transboundary cooperation for landscapes and river basins and suggests an important role for actors at the subnational level, for instance in bottom-up investment to complement large-scale investments in sustainable development with regional cooperation; piloting, adopting, and scaling up transformative adaptation measures; and in integrating freshwater and aquatic ecosystems into relevant policies and strategies.
As a self-described “regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre,” ICIMOD serves its eight member countries from the HKH region. Founded in 1983, ICIMOD is based in Lalitpur, Nepal, and brings together a partnership of its regional member countries, partner institutions, and donors to secure a better future for the people and environment of the extended Himalayan region.
With more than 200 staff, ICIMOD has six programme areas: Adaptation and Resilience Building; Transboundary Landscapes; River Basins and Cryosphere; Atmosphere; Mountain Environment Regional Information System; and Mountain Knowledge and Action Networks. While ICIMOD seeks to promote policy processes, knowledge creation has been its core business.
During a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Regional Meeting in Kathmandu, under the framework of the Man and the Biosphere Programme, concrete commitments were made to establish ICIMOD.
The Government of Nepal offered to host ICIMOD, and the Governments of Switzerland and the Federal Republic of Germany and UNESCO agreed to act as the founding sponsors. His Majesty’s Government of Nepal and UNESCO signed the agreement that provided the legal basis for establishing the Centre in September 1981 in Paris.
ICIMOD was established and inaugurated on 5 December 1983 with its headquarters in Lalitpur, Nepal, and legitimized through an Act of Parliament in Nepal in the same year.
Elaboration of the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP) and Himalayan Adaptation, Water and Resilience programme (HI-AWARE) responding to the need of addressing critical knowledge gaps on the impacts of climate change in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region and to better understand under what conditions mountain communities can best adapt to change.
ICIMOD launches the Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP).
Based on the HKH Assessment report, during the first HKH Ministerial Mountain Summit on 15 October 2020, ICIMOD publishes the HKH Call to Action, which elaborates six urgent actions, including: 1) promote and strengthen regional cooperation at all levels to sustain mountain environment and livelihoods; 2) recognize and prioritize the uniqueness of the HKH mountain people; 3) take concerted climate actions; 4) take accelerated actions to achieve the SDGs, consistent with the nine mountain priorities; 5) take decisive actions to enhance ecosystem resilience; and 6) promote regional data and information sharing.
The eight HKH countries also signed an historically significant Ministerial Declaration on the HKH Call to Action agreeing to strengthen regional cooperation in the HKH; to promote a united voice for the HKH at regional, global and UN platforms; to enhance the uptake of scientific evidence for improving policies in the region focusing on mountain environments and livelihoods; and to assess the feasibility of establishing a regional institutional mechanism.
Senior government officials from all eight HKH countries come together virtually for the first meeting of the HKH High-Level Task Force, which was constituted as a result of the 2020 HKH Call to Action. The Task Force will monitor the progress on the HKH Call to Action and assess the potential for an institutional mechanism to strengthen regional cooperation.
At the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow, HKH countries cooperate in the context of the HKH2Glasgow campaign to amplify mountain voices, promote ambitious climate action for the HKH, and scale up investment in mountain-specific climate priorities.
- International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) (-> link)
- Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment (-> link)
- Hindu Kush Himalaya Call to Action (-> link)
The HKH region in Mountains Connect videos
- #2 Crafting Collaboration (-> link)
- #3 Policy Integration (-> link)
- #4 Coordinating Multiple Levels of Governance (-> link)
- #6 Bringing Science and Policy Together (-> link)
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