Suman K A: Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) we believe is fraught with significant challenges despite increased recognition of the mountain issues and concrete results in the direction of their resolution. Predominant among these are mountain communities vulnerability to growing scarcity of water, expanding tourism, climate change , increased incidence of natural disasters, out-migration, food insecurity, conflicts, pressures of growing population and lack of sufficient access to livelihood opportunities.
The report of the Secretary General to the UN General Assembly, 2009 highlights these state of world affairs in the SMD arena while acknowledging the initiatives undertaken so far and the tangible results achieved to date. The report brings to light the need for higher levels of funding and investment in mountain areas, enhanced coordination and collaboration and a strong enabling environment with supportive laws, policies and institutions.
While we concur broadly with the observations highlighted in the report, we believe there is a stronger need to learn from and adapt quickly from the learnings of the initiatives happened/happening thus far in the SMD realm to accelerate the process of structural changes that reduce the vulnerability of the mountain communities and increase their resilience to continuously evolving mountain challenges.
And the innovation concept in that direction to us emerges in the form of a ‘Learning-Alliance @ SMD’ which can potentially operate at the global, regional, national and local levels. To begin with various international initiatives with distinct SMD foci may consider coming together with an international secretariat hosted by the Mountain Division of FAO and facilitated by ICIMOD. The key international initiatives such as CBD (mountain biodiversity and mountain ecosystems ), World Land Slide Forum (Disaster Risk Management), World Water Forum (Mountain Water ), Mountain Partnership( PES, Mountain Products , Partnerships), FAO ‘s – SARD-M ( sustainable agriculture and rural development for mountains – policies and institutional assessments), Indigenous People’s Summit on Climate Change ( Indigenous Mountain People Issues) , World Tourism Organization (Mountain Tourism ), GLOCHAMORE(Mountain Research), Caucasus Process ( Transboundary Cooperation), World Bank (Funding Mechanisms) each with bracketed SMD mountain issue foci could bring together their past, current and proposed future project highlights, lessons .best practices, options to initiate/accelerate change to the learning alliance table in a controlled and facilitated , open and transparent mode.
Any examples of such initiatives happening elsewhere and in other sectors? We say yes, and with confidence with an example quote in ‘Post Harvest Innovation Learning Alliance‘ initiated and running in Tanzania. The results in terms of enhancing the interface between the supply and utilization of post harvest crops through enhanced technology transfer, bringing new products and services to economic and social use are noteworthy for this unique learning alliance initiative. Similar exemplars may be quoted in successalliance, logistics learning alliance, IRCs’ learning alliances for scaling up innovations in water, sanitation and hygiene, CGIAR – ILAC among others. Critical success factors among such quoted examples include clear objectives, shared responsibilities, costs and credits, differentiated learning mechanisms, long term trust based relationships, and phased and stepped approaches to setup and implementation ( review the framework, evolve and implement strategic actions, document and analyze results and iterate).
While there could be a number of challenges to overcome in such an alliance formation and substantial investments mandated for it to take off, but the effort, we consider, would be worthwhile and a step in the right direction of addressing the larger issues at stake in SMD.
Author: Suman K A wrote this article for Climate Himalaya’s Youth Leaders Speak Column. An Engineer by training Suman has great interest in climate change and mountain issues. She is the founder of Change Planet Partners foundation.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Himalaya Initiative’s team.
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