By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
Thimphu, Bhutan and Kathmandu, Nepal: Termed as an important platform for mutual learning and networking among the national partners in Bhutan, the first Bhutan-ICIMOD Day was marked on 10 October in the Bhutanese capital.
The day-long event, organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), was attended by over 80 participants from different government agencies and local partners.
Delivering the keynote address, Prime Minister Lyonchen Tshering Tobgay said the Hindu Kush Himalayas is a special region in the world. Apart from being home to many biodiversity hotspots, its river systems have immense potential for clean energy. However, the region faces many challenges such as: galloping population, deepening poverty and climate change.
He said Bhutan’s answer to these challenges is Gross National Happiness (GNH), a philosophy that places the people at the centre of development, but fully aware of that fact the focus must be balanced by preserving the country’s unique culture and protecting its pristine but fragile ecosystem.
“Bhutan’s answer is GNH, the region’s answer is ICIMOD, because the principles of ICIMOD are largely similar to the principles of GNH,” the prime minister stressed. “ICIMOD is, therefore, important to the region, to our mountains, and to our people. On behalf of the Government and people of Bhutan I would like to thank ICIMOD, and through ICIMOD the development partners who have contributed financially and provided other forms of support to ICIMOD.”
ICIMOD’s Director General Dr. David Molden said ICIMOD has had a long and fruitful partnership with Bhutan for the last 30 years, and the Bhutan-ICIMOD day is an important milestone on the journey of ICIMOD in Bhutan and in the region.
“In the last few years we have been ramping up on efforts and doing much more in Bhutan. But the real success of our partnership will be measured by the use and impact of the knowledge generated for the benefit of the men, women and children of the HKH,” he said.
At the event, various partners spoke about their ongoing and emerging programmes, challenges, and opportunities. The event showcased works of ICIMOD’s partners in Bhutan for improved coordination and increased visibility.
ICIMOD’s Director of Strategic Cooperation, Basanta Shrestha, said the event is aimed at strengthening and expanding partnerships between ICIMOD and national institutions, particularly aligning with national priority programmes. He said the interactions with various national partners will provide an opportunity to respond to the needs and specific priorities of Bhutan. “We have had the highest level of partnership and support from the Royal Government of Bhutan,” said Basanta Shrestha. “We hope to engender a sense of ownership over ICIMOD-related activities in Bhutan.”
The officiating Secretary of the MoAF, Namgay Wangchuk, said Bhutan was a founding member of ICIMOD and that ICIMOD has been playing an important role in the interest of mountain communities since last three decades.
“ICIMOD has been actively engaged in the capacity building of our national partners, notably in the areas of natural resources management and Geographic Information System,” he said. “The programmes of ICIMOD have been consistent with the priorities of the 11th Five-Year Plan.”
Since the launch of its first Medium Term Action Plan (MTAP, 2003-2007), ICIMOD’s engagement in Bhutan has deepened in the areas of rural livelihood and climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, disaster risk reduction and flood early warning system, monitoring of glaciers and snow fields, establishing climate observatory for air pollution monitoring, and national geospatial system and portal.