Tuesday, May 7, 2013

ICIMOD Youth Ambassadors Champion the Mountain Agenda (Summary 2012, and Jan-March 2013)

The year 2012 was an important one for the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD); it marked 20 years since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio recognized the importance of mountains by introducing Chapter 13 as a separate chapter in Agenda 21 – also known as the Mountain Agenda. As part of UNCED’s follow-up (Asia’s regional response to Agenda 21, Chapter 13), ICIMOD organized the first regional conference in Kathmandu, Nepal in December 1994. The participants of this conference adopted a declaration on the Sustainable Development of Mountain Areas of Asia – known as the SUDEMAA Call to Action – which resulted in the creation of the Asia-Pacific Mountain Network (APMN).

APMN is a communication platform that facilitates information and knowledge sharing and advocates for the mountain agenda in the Asia-Pacific region. Over the last two decades APMN has made significant contributions by involving different stakeholders (such as governments, development partners, local communities, civil society, youth and media), facilitating networking and partnerships among them at different scales, and promoting two-way communication and knowledge exchange. 

One of most important steps forward has been realizing the need to engage youth in the sustainable mountain development process and developing suitable platforms for them to advocate for the mountain agenda at the national, regional, and global levels. ICIMOD’s Youth for Sustainable Mountain Development (Y4SMD) initiative is such a platform. Since it began in 2009, the global membership of Y4SMD has grown to almost 4,000 members, the majority of whom are from ICIMOD’s regional member countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. Y4SMD has been involved in e-conferences, national campaigns, Climate Cafés, knowledge sharing workshops, the Earth Debate, capacity building events, and networking-advocacy meetings on the sideline of international events such as the Annual Adaptation Forum, Rio+20 Conference, and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (UNFCCC COP) 17 and 18. 

Several other youth-led initiatives in the HKH region have also benefitted from ICIMOD’s sponsorship, knowledge, and network. The Asia-Pacific Mountain Courier, APMN’s biannual periodical, and social networking platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, discussion lists, blogs) have proved to be important platforms for young emerging leaders to share their views and initiatives, network with others, and find out about different opportunities. In the last four years ICIMOD has trained over 500 youth on mountain issues from 20 Asia Pacific countries through capacity building workshops, Climate Cafés, and various forums such as the Asia Pacific and the Hindu Kush Himalayan Regional Forum, Eastern Himalayas Sub-Regional Forum, and national youth forums in ICIMOD’s regional member countries.

In 2012 alone, hundreds of youth were engaged in advocating for the mountain agenda from the national to global level through the Earth Debate (February), Mountain Youth and Green Economy side event at the Planet Under Pressure Conference (March), National Youth Rio+20 preparatory and follow-up campaigns in Nepal and Pakistan (throughout the year), various side events at Rio+20 Conference, and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) Youth Blast (June). Likewise, the Global Youth Forum in Rio de Janeiro (June), Asia Pacific Youth Forum on Green Economy (September), and national youth forums in Pakistan (November), Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (all in December), Myanmar (February 2013) and Afghanistan (March 2013) trained over 330 youth on the green economy in the context of mountain development. All of these events were driven by ICIMOD Youth Ambassadors with minimum guidance or support from ICIMOD. Some ICIMOD Youth Ambassadors attended the UNFCCC COP 18 in Doha, at which they organized the Second Global Youth Forum and a knowledge café on mountain issues. Last, but not the least, the Member’s Mountain Courier you are reading now is also prepared by Youth Ambassadors as part of ICIMOD’s efforts to take youth initiatives to the national level.

- Anja Møller Rasmussen, Senior Manager, ICIMOD; and Tek Jung Mahat, APMN Node Manager, ICIMOD

* This is the key highlights of the activities carried out in the year 2012 itself in preparation of and following –up Rio+20 conference in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012. All these activities were implemented by ICIMOD through the Asia Pacific Mountain Network (APMN) Project in partnership with several national, regional and global youth initiatives, youth organizations and youth alliances. Representative articles/pictures etc are available at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.570285699671252.1073741825.100000694825417&type=1


Special initiative for Youth (Youth for Sustainable Mountain Development – Y4SMD)

In 2012, the youth initiative gained a different height in multiple ways. With support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), ICIMOD’s youth Initiative has now trained over 500 youth from 20 counties on mountain sustainability issues, and has rich membership base with 2400 subscribers, with more than 4000 people connected through social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and youth managed blogs (http://nepaliyouthrio20.blogspot.com/ and http://rioplus20.blogspot.com) representing more than 40 countries. This year ICIMOD Youth Ambassadors advocated Mountain Agenda at global and regional level (Rio+20 Conference in Brazil, Planet Under Pressure Conference in London, UK, 2nd Adaptation Forum in Bangkok, UK, and UNFCCC COP 18 in Doha among others). After organization of National Youth Forums in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan and finalization of events in Afghanistan and Myanmar, our youth initiative is one of most widely and uniformly distributed programme in the ICIMOD member countries (in seven countries, except China). The year 2012 was concluded issuing Member’s Mountain Courier with focus on Rio+20 related initiatives in the HKH countries, which can be seen as next level impact ICIMOD trained youth are showing. This was achieved through following major activities:

A. The Earth Debate in the Hindu Kush Himalayas: Can We Put a Price on Nature?, 24 February 2012

The Skype-enabled Earth Debate, “Can we put a price on nature?”, organized together with the British Council Nepal, with participation by country groups from Dhaka, Bangladesh; Vishakhapatnam and Kochi, India; Beijing, China; and Kathmandu, Nepal,  was held on 24 February 2012. The debate was moderated by Daan Boom, Programme Manager, Integrated Knowledge Management, ICIMOD, and Tek Jung Mahat, Node Manager, Asia-Pacific Mountain Network, ICIMOD. The highlight of the Earth Debate was the discussion that took place between country groups and the panel, which was comprised of three experts from the development, media, and tourism fields.

B. 2nd Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum, Bangkok, 12-14 March 2012
ICIMOD participated in the 2nd Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum, organized by the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Knowledge Platform for Asia and the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network in Bangkok from 12 to 14 March 2012. Attended by over 700 participants, the forum provided a unique opportunity to share findings, innovations, opportunities, and challenges in mainstreaming climate change adaptation into development. Building on from Adaptation Forum 2010, the forum this year aimed to focus on ‘Adaptation in Action’, signifying a shift from deliberations to decisions, plans to policies, and policies to practices. ICIMOD had three youth representatives selected for the Forum. Of them Dipesh Chapagain from Nepal was selected as invited youth speaker for opening planetary and Ms. Tian Wang was invited as invited youth speaker for the closing plenary. Both the speakers acknowledged ICIMOD’s contribution and highlighted importance of role of youth in climate change adaptation, including in mountain areas. Top 15 posters from ICIMOD Youth Forum 2011 were exhibited in the Market Place which was received very well by the participants. Additionally, Tek Jung Mahat led/managed a session on ‘Youth and Adaptation’ on 14 March (other panelists included representatives from Asia-Pacific Media Alliance for Social Awareness, SEAMEO/SPAFA, the World Bank, CANSA, and ICIMOD Youth Forum representative from Bangladesh Ms. The session was useful in knowing youth engagement in climate change in different countries and regions and through different means. Media Alliance presentation on ‘Hopenhagen’ campaign (aimed at COP15) and the World Bank Presentation on ‘Connect4Climate’ campaign were particularly interesting to raise mass awareness as well to mobilize the youth with effective use of social networks and artistic means. Similarly SEMAO presentation on their youth initiative, particularly in engaging youth in disaster management and raising awareness on bio-cultural heritage through artistic means was notable.

C. Special Panel on Youth and Mountains at the Planet under Pressure Conference in London, 27 March 2012
ICIMOD’s APMN together with Small Earth Nepal, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) Major Group on Children and Youth (MGCY), and the Asia Pacific Youth Task Force on Rio+20, organized a special panel discussion, ‘Youth Perspectives on Promoting Green Economy in South and Central Asia: With a Focus on Mountain Regions’ at the Planet Under Pressure Conference, which was held from 26 to 29 March 2012 in London. Chaired by APMN Node Manager Tek Jung Mahat, the session included presentations by youth delegates from Uzbekistan on Central Asian issues; from India on South Asian issues; and from Nepal on national-level youth movements in preparation for Rio+20. Mr Mahat shared key impressions from the Asia Pacific Youth Forum on Mountain Issues and Climate Actions, held in August 2011; the International Conference on Green Economy and Sustainable Development organized by ICIMOD in September 2011; regional assessment reports prepared for Rio+20 in October 2011; and a virtual consultation on youth perspectives on Rio+20 in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and Central Asian mountains organized by ICIMOD and Small Earth Nepal. An interaction session followed presentations by the panelists, with lively questions and suggestions from the floor. The event provided a major platform for sharing knowledge about sustainable mountain development in Asia and the Pacific with a global audience.

D. Mountain Youth Session at UNCSD Youth Conference – Youth Blast in Rio De Janeiro, 7-12 June 2012

Five ICIMOD Youth Ambassadors – Avishek Shrestha, Jaya Jung Mahat, Kabita Gautam, Sameera Zaib, Shreejana Bhattarai, guided by Tek Jung Mahat organized two side events (on ‘Mountain Youth and Green Economy’ and ‘My Sustainability Dreams’) as part of the UNCSD Youth Conference – Youth Blast. These events were particularly useful in mainstreaming ‘mountain issues’ in ongoing youth debates that lack mountain contexts.

E. Global Youth Forum on Mountain Issues and Sustainable Actions, Rio De Janeiro , 15 June 2012
Over 50 youth representing all regions of the globe participated in the Global Youth Forum on Mountain Issues and Sustainable Actions jointly held by ICIMOD, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the Mountain Partnership at the Mountain Pavilion on 15 June 2012. The Global Youth Forum commenced a busy week of mountain-related events to be held at the Mountain Pavilion – a global initiative at Rio+20 led by the government of Peru bringing together mountain countries from around the world. The event proved to be important platform to facilitate SMD relevant discussions among youth representing all continents, especially in preparation of the Rio+20 main sessions. The event concluded preparing an appeal to the Rio+20 Delegates which was later shared with them.

F. National Mountain Youth and Rio+20 initiatives in Nepal and Pakistan, April-August 2012

With guidance from ICIMOD, the Youth Ambassadors from Nepal and Pakistan launched local initiatives helping advocate Mountain agenda at national level. They organized series of interactions; conservation hiking and workshops in preparation of Rio+20 collect the views of youth and communicate that to the national governments. After the Rio+20 conference, they organized Rio+20 message sharing sessions in both the counties and shared their views using blogs and articles.

G. Asia Pacific Graduates Youth Forum on Green Economy, Kathmandu, 25-29 September 2012 and UNFCCC COP18

The youth forum brought together 40 motivated young people between the ages of 18-30 from 14 countries across the Asia-Pacific Region, with majority of them coming from the HKH countries, to deliberate on and better understand the promise of green economy in the context of mountain development. The goal of the forum was to build the capacity of the young participants on issues relating to green economy and climate change adaptation, especially in anticipation of the UNFCCC-COP process and COP18 events that followed directly after in Doha, Qatar. The main objectives of the youth forum were – (i) Developing the capacity of selected Asia-Pacific youth on green economy, environmental governance and climate change adaptation; (ii) Facilitating information and knowledge sharing, networking and advocacy in the Asia-Pacific Region through the establishment of virtual and physical networks of dedicated youth; and (iii) Improving participation of regional youth in the globally important meeting of UNFCCC COP-18.

The project was conducted fostering increased science-policy interaction by embracing the interdisciplinary approach of green economy. The workshop also included the formulation of a declaration that demands policymakers and other powerful stakeholders to listen to the voices of the young generation when debating policy agendas that must include measures that ensure sustainable development. Specifically, the program focused on the capacity building and knowledge sharing sessions, leadership workouts and excursions to neighboring environmental project areas. The workshop facilitated youth involvement through knowledge sharing in diverse aspects of green economy through various expert presenters with whom participants were given many opportunities to interact. The workshop communicated about the challenges and opportunities of green economy, REDD+, application of GIS, low carbon growth, social media, and quantification of energy, renewable energy technology, green entrepreneurship, ICT and climate change. A day-long visit to a nearby green entrepreneurship site motivated the participants by showing them how working in green sectors is often done by motivated individuals like themselves. The participants concluded the scientific discussion of the forum with the formulation of the declaration: Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies for Climate Change through Green Economy Initiatives. The declaration is aimed at government officials and decision-makers, asking them to take immediate steps towards implementing the six key areas chosen as crucial by the young participants. Those key areas are green entrepreneurship, sustainable energy, low carbon economy, climate change adaptation, collaboration, policy implementation and monitoring, and youth empowerment and inclusiveness.

Participation at COP 18: Four delegates amongst the workshop participants were selected to participate at COP18 as representatives of the Asia-Pacific region. They had the chance to participate in various events like the World Climate Summit, the revival of the Asian Youth Climate Network, Momentum for Change, etc. They utilized the moment by disseminating the workshop declaration to national and international stakeholders as well as to climate negotiators. Their participation also motivated them to be active role models within their communities, and especially for young people, and to further develop their genuine concern for the global environment. ICIMOD separately funded two additional youth from Myanmar and Pakistan to join them, who later organized the Global Youth Forum on 1 December 2012.

H. Global Youth Forum on Mountain Issues and Green Solutions (1 December 2012): ICIMOD Youth Ambassadors organized event offered opportunities to  youth delegates to discuss on appeal, declaration, views and concerns of the youth of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific. At the end of the event they issued an appeal to the world leaders and COP18 delegates to take into consideration the voices of the youth as the decisions taken today will affect them in future, and the future belongs to them so it is time to Act Now.

I. National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Pakistan, 5-6 November 2012

National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Pakistan was held at the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad, Pakistan, 5–6 November. The event was organized under ICIMOD’s Youth for Sustainable Mountain Development (Y4SMD) initiative by the Asia Pacific Youth Task Force (APYTF) on Rio+20 with support from the Peace and Development Organization (PDO) and a network of ICIMOD youth forum alumni in Pakistan. Over 40 youth representing all the provinces of Pakistan participated in the event.

The two-day forum provided Pakistani youth with an opportunity to interact and network while helping them identify potential green economy initiatives. The forum included speeches by notable scientists, plenary discussions, group exercises, and field visits to sites with a focus on green solutions suitable for mountain communities.

Dr Abdul Wahid Jasra, ICIMOD Country Representative for Pakistan, provided inputs on how youth can benefit from ICIMOD’s various endeavors. Dr Jawad Ali Khan, Director General of Environment and Climate Change, gave the keynote address and Sardar Shahjehan Yousaf, Minister of Education and Training, graced the closing ceremony of the event. Tek Jung Mahat of ICIMOD provided an overview of youth activities at ICIMOD and opportunities for youth from the region, and Utsav Maden shared an overview of social media tools being used for advocacy, information sharing, and collaboration.

Two outcome documents were developed during the forum: a post-2015 agenda and the Youth Appeal for COP 18. These documents, drafted though group work, also formed the agenda of the Global Youth Forum on Green Solutions organized by APYTF as part of the UNFCCC COP 18 event in Doha. The Global Youth Appeal for COP 18 drafted at the forum was fine-tuned and shared with policy makers and delegates at the international conference.

J. National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Nepal, 6-8 December 2012

A National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Nepal was held in Kathmandu, Nepal, 6–8 December. Under ICIMOD’s Youth for Sustainable Mountain Development (Y4SMD) initiative, the forum was organized by Safe Environment Nepal-Youth 4 Conservation (SEN-Y4C) – an organization led by ICIMOD Youth Ambassadors – in collaboration with Eco-Friends Nepal (EFN). The event saw participation from over 40 youth from districts across the country.

The three-day forum provided a platform for Nepalese youth to gain greater understanding of the theoretical concepts and underlying practical issues related to green economy in Nepal and to discuss the possibilities of developing environmental entrepreneurship and to expand the network of like-minded people. In his keynote address, Dr Golam Rasul, Programme Manager at ICIMOD and green economy expert, highlighted the importance of green economy in mountainous countries and emphasized the need for establishing a strong link between water, food, and energy. During the forum, participants interacted with notable scientists and green entrepreneurs, and were briefed on vermicomposting and ecotourism projects. Through group exercises, participants also presented their vision for a cleaner country post-2015. The forum culminated with the participants attending the ICIMOD Green Solutions Fair at the ICIMOD Knowledge Park at Godavari where they had the opportunity to interact with environmental entrepreneurs. Participants with the best posters submitted to a poster contest during the Youth Forum were awarded at the Green Solutions Fair by Dr David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD. Awards for posters were given to Prizma Ghimire, Nirmal Jnawali, Kanchan Upadhyay, Laxman Kandel, and Prachan Bhujel.

K. National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in India, 9-11 December 2012

ICIMOD and the YUVA Foundation, together with Plant a Tree India, the Asia Pacific Youth Task Force on Rio+20, and SEED, organized a National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Rishikesh, India 9-11 December. About 40 youth participants from seven mountain states of India – Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Mizoram - attended talks by various mountain experts, made presentations on issues facing their states, participated in team building and leadership activities, and explored their role in shaping the emerging green economy. The event, which coincided with International Mountain Day, culminated with a Youth Declaration on Green Solutions in India, which will guide youth activities across the Indian Himalayas. Shantanu Gupta, founder and director of the YUVA foundation, briefed participants on the objectives and expected outputs of the Youth Forum. Speakers from various institutes presented on a range of topics including:
-impacts of climate change on mountain ecosystems;
-the need to change consumption habits to reduce our carbon footprint;
-challenges facing mountain agriculture due to climate change and various adaptation and mitigation measures;
-issues, challenges, and solutions to address pollution of the Ganges River;
-the importance of corporate social responsibility and its implications; and
-linkages between the sustainable mountain development agenda and the movement toward a greener economy.

The main highlight of the event was a series of presentations by youth on their role in the emerging green economy. Presentations were followed by a knowledge café on identification and prioritization of climate change and adaptation-related challenges and issues in the context of the Indian Himalayas from a youth perspective.

On the last day, a field trip to the Ganges River led by Dr K.K. Upreti gave participants an opportunity to interact with a groups of villagers that had led a participatory 37-day hunger strike for their right to access various government services.

L. National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Bhutan, 14-16 December 2012

To build the capacity of the youth in Bhutan to promote green solutions and action, ICIMOD partnered with the Happy Green Cooperative, a Thimpu-based youth organization, to organize a three-day National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Thimphu, Bhutan, 14-16 December. The forum successfully brought together government officials, local green entrepreneurs, and over 40 youth from different parts of the country to discuss the development of green solutions in Bhutan.

Opening the forum, Dr Pema Gyamtsho, minister of Agriculture and Forests, acknowledged ICIMOD’s efforts to engage youth in the area of green solutions and encouraged participants to keep an open mind while discussing pertinent issues. In addition to technical sessions by experts, the forum also included a lively interaction session with young Bhutanese entrepreneurs that provided a platform for participants to share and discuss their ideas. The participants also visited an organic farm run by Druk Organic Growers Cooperatives where Rinchen Dorji, manager of the farm, and Hitoshi Yokota, an integrated agriculturist and organic food consultant from Japan, introduced participants to some of the farm’s activities. In addition, a knowledge café gave participants an opportunity to brainstorm ideas to incorporate into a National Youth Declaration on Green Solutions in Bhutan.

M. National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Bangaladesh, 11-18-19 December 2012

Together with ICIMOD, Green Hill and the Bangladesh Youth Forum organized a two-day National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Bangladesh in Rangamati District 11 and 18-19 December 2012. Organized in the framework of ICIMOD’s National Youth Forum initiative, which aims to prepare youth to take action to promote green solutions in their own countries, the event was attended by 40 youth from different parts of the country, the majority of which had backgrounds in the hilly part of the country.

The meeting brought youth together with representatives of central and local governments, experts from the Chittagong Hill Tracts, non-governmental organizations, and local communities to discuss potential areas for development of green solutions in the hilly areas of Bangladesh. The programme consisted of technical sessions, a knowledge café, and a visit to villages located in the Kaptai Lake area where participants were able to interact with local communities. At the end of the event, the participating youth prepared a National Youth Declaration on Green Solutions in Bangladesh, which will guide youth activities in the hilly areas of Bangladesh.
N. National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Myanmar, 2-4 February 2013
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) together with the Myanmar Council of Churches and the Youth Informed, a youth led NGO based in Yangon, organized a National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Myanmar 2–4 February 2013 in Yangon. Attended by over 30 participants from across the country, the 3-day event provided participants opportunities to learn about green economy and low carbon pathways, including eco-friendly lifestyles and eco-agriculture. Maung Maung Than, Director, Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry in Myanmar; Tek Jung Mahat, ICIMOD; Prof. Dr Khin Ni Ni Thein; Dr Tun Lwin, Former Director General of Department of Meteorology and Hydrology in Myanmar and other experts highlighted environmental threats and potential areas of youth engagement in Myanmar. During the event participants had the opportunity to visit organic farms where they were able learn about animal husbandry practices, soil and land management techniques, and water harvesting. The forum was coordinated by May Zin Thaw, an ICIMOD Youth Ambassador and founder of Youth Informed.

O. National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Afghanistan, 26-27 March 2013

National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in Afghanistan, 26-27 March 2013 at Kabul University went very well. The Forum had wonderful start with Keynotes from Dr. David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD; Mr. Mr. Gulam Hassan Amiry, Deputy Director General of NEPA (Deputy Minister) and Dr. Habibullah Habib, Chancellor of Kabul University as well as special message from Dr. Eklabya Sharma, Director Programme Operations of ICIMOD, Welcome note from Mr. Azim Doosti, ICIMOD Afghanistan Country Representative and Overview Remarks on Youth for Sustainable Mountain Development (Y4SMD) by Mr. Tek Jung Mahat, Initiative Coordinator ICIMOD :) The event received around 100 participants from Afghanistan, including 80 full time participants who were trained on different issues related to green economy and environmental management in Afghanistan.

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