Workshop between Nepalese industry group and ICIMOD links business activities to sustainable mountain development
ICIMOD Headquarters, Kathmandu, Nepal –
The effects of climate and socioeconomic changes are challenging the health of the greater Himalayan region’s vulnerable mountain environments and the productivity of those who use their valuable natural resources. Impacts from these changes have the potential to disrupt daily, as well as long term, business operations, and the over-exploitation and degradation of these natural resources threaten the lives and livelihoods of mountain people. As users of mountain resources, the private sector can play a crucial role in ensuring the long-term, green economic growth of the region as well as the protection of its invaluable resources.
On 28 September, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) held a joint workshop to bring together leaders of the private sector from FNCCI and experts from ICIMOD to develop a partnership between the two that links private sector activities to sustainable mountain development in Nepal.
Opening the workshop, entitled IMPACT-Nepal (Innovative Mountain Approach Partnership for Commerce and Trade in Nepal), Dr David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD, explained why ICIMOD’s engagement with the private sector is so important. “The knowledge that ICIMOD produces needs to put into action through better practices and policies. That’s where the business community comes in. There are many opportunities to work together to achieve ICIMOD’s mission of improving the lives of people in the mountains.”
Sanjay Giri, the Coordinator of the Environment Forum of FNCCI, reiterated the need for cooperation. Understanding the potential impacts of climate change should be a long-term concern for businesses. By working with ICIMOD, FNCCI can promote an “understanding of business with a different, sustainable perspective – business sustaining business”, Giri said. “Sustainable development is about meeting our needs today, but also thinking about the generations to come.”
During the workshop, participants explored areas for collaboration in five key areas: forestry, agriculture, water, medicinal and aromatic products and non-timber forest products, and information and communication technologies for development. Collaboration in these key areas must go “beyond corporate social responsibility”, said Dr Rajan Kotru from ICIMOD. “By working in the interests of both the private sector and ICIMOD, we will be innovative and forward looking, and our work will be appreciated for years to come.”
Areas identified for possible collaboration included the development of a model that would demonstrate to policy makers that communities and the private sector can work together for responsible resource management, not only resource use. Creating and improving existing information and communication technologies that improve access to market information is another area where ICIMOD’s expertise can be put into practice and up-scaled with inputs from the private sector.
In the area of water resources, Gyanendra Lal Pradhan, Chairman of the FNCCI Energy Committee, stressed the need for greater transboundary cooperation to make real progress in the sector in order to ensure water, food, and energy security in the long term for the entire region. Although countries have generally tended to act in their own short-term interest, this need is slowly being realized among the countries of South Asia. As Pradhan said, “Shall we take another 10 years for this mindset to change more, or take three years to try to better understand each other? These countries need to come together now.”
A common problem across the areas discussed was existing national policies that are not conducive to sustainable business practices. The participating business leaders identified this as an area where ICIMOD could play a key role – in sharing knowledge with politicians to help them better understand the needs of the private sector as well as mountains and mountain communities. As Sanjay Giri said, “Improved national policies will lead to better development of our industries”.
Assessing business vulnerabilities and the emerging needs and opportunities in key areas was the first step to joint understanding and harnessing of the potential to address pressing challenges. The workshop improved understanding of the interests and needs of both FNCCI and ICIMOD and looked at how their combined strengths can be leveraged to develop initiatives in the context of sustainable mountain development. An impressive convergence in the thoughts of the private sector and ICIMOD was evident during the workshop. Collaboration will help both ICIMOD and FNCCI influence policy and share knowledge that will make business more vibrant, relevant, and sustainable.
Through partnership with FNCCI, ICIMOD will share knowledge and expertise with the private sector to develop inclusive business opportunities that encourage the responsible use of natural resources while increasing profits. The centre will also seek to identify ways to link private sector stakeholders to local producers in the value chain, thus enhancing livelihood options for mountain communities.
In closing the session, Anja Moller Rasmussen, Programme Manager of Integrated Knowledge Management at ICIMOD, highlighted “the need to network, to continue this series of meetings, and to continue to learn from and inspire each other” to take the outcomes of the workshop forward.