The inaugural session of the Himalayan Consensus Summit 2018 provided perspectives on ways in which Himalayan Consensus has contributed to addressing contemporary global challenges. Speakers noted connectivity as a key tool to foster inclusive and sustainable growth in the Himalayan region. Key issues on impact of climate change on national, regional as well as global context and the importance of embedding mountain perspectives in the policy-making process for a sustainable mountain ecosystem were addressed.
Session I: The World of Himalayan Heritage
The developments of Himalayan Heritage Hospitality (3H) Fund, an announcement made in HCS 2017, was noted to be acting as a bridge between brand and publicity, sustainable tourism and living heritage in the first Session I. Speakers deliberated on business models of harnessing collective potential of Himalayan cultural heritage and history. They echoed on the idea that heritages have unique value and each of them needs a unique policy approach to address the dichotomy between tourism development and conserving national heritages. Incentivizing the communities to harness their resources to offset the development cost was noted as a way to harness the collective potential of Himalayan cultural heritage and history. The speakers emphasized on the need to realize the importance of community stewardship with a long-term vision to be keep unwanted development in check and make sure that the communities do not become victims of their own success.
Session II: Financing the Alternatives
In HCS 2017, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) announced the launch of Himalayan Consensus Renewable Energy and Water Conservation Fund, aimed at facilitating and investing in local renewable energy firms to foster growth and innovation in the sector. Speakers in Session II explored the potential for leveraging financial instruments for increasing investments in efficient energy systems. Speakers noted that ensuring resilient value-driven growth in the Himalayan region and solid/ stable returns for investors require local partnerships and people on the ground. It was also highlighted that to make Nepal more attractive to international investors, there is a need for regulatory changes in the country. Experiences form Bhutan, where it is a matter of principle for renewable energy projects to be culturally and environmentally sensitive, were also shared. It was also noted that most of the renewable energy projects in Nepal are operated through subsidies, which are not bankable—representing a key challenge for financing the alternatives in Nepal.
Session III: Insurance Against Future Disasters
In HCS 2017, Peak Reinsurance Company (Peak Re) announced plans to establish an insurance program for earthquake prone regions of the Himalayas, focusing primarily on emergency relief and reconstruction that is a new and innovative concept for the Himalayan region. Rebuilding entrepreneurial spirit of the communities as well as use of technology and data were considered as key disaster solutions to preserve the heritage, culture and tradition in the Himalayan region.
Session IV: Crisis And Conflict Mitigation Initiative
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Nepal and Himalayan Consensus Institute (HCI) have entered a partnership to collaborate in the areas of crisis prevention and conflict mitigation. During the Session IV themed “Crisis and Conflict Mitigation Initiative”, it was noted that burgeoning gaps in prosperity, unprecedented stress on natural resources and governance failures are all sources of intergroup conflict. Conflict and underdevelopment share a reciprocal relationship: conflict causes stunted development and lack of investment in inclusive development increases chances of conflict. There is a need for regional cooperation and sharing of data and information to mitigate natural disaster risks.
Session V: Cardamom Campaign For Peace
Session V focused on empowering community to mitigate crisis and conflict in vulnerable ecologies. Chhali Maya Thami, a community leader and a social worker; also a speaker for the session, was awarded with the Community Leadership for Resilience Award for bringing peace and harmony in the Thami community through entrepreneurship. It was noted that sustainable commercialization of high value mountain produce and climate smart agricultural practices should be in practiced in the region.
Session VI: Together We Can- Himalayan Consensus Think Tank Consortium
Session VI themed “Together we can- Himalayan Consensus Think Tank Consortium”, focused on the need to continue the conservation discourse and disseminate information to the public in the Himalayan region. The session opened by noting that think tanks have the unusual burden of making public policies more thoughtful. It was noted that the lack of buy-in from businesses on the virtue of cooperation contributed to the lack of regional cooperation in South Asia. Panelists highlighted the importance of making academic research accessible to the public by summarizing long reports into absorbable summaries. It was also suggested that India and China should take the lead on setting up a regional consortium of think tanks that could initially focus on regionally important issues.
The closing session had Huang Youyi, Nirupama Rao, Laurence J. Brahm and Sophia, the robot, as the speakers. Both Mr. Youyi and Ambassador Rao emphasized the need to rise above the differences and collaborate for the Himalayan Region to move forward. Ambassador Rao’s proposition of developing a Himalayan Charter was lauded by Laurence Brahm. He remarked that business and finance could actually take leadership in protecting the environment that can become the next mega trend. He also highlighted how connectivity along the Himalayan Region can be effectively deployed through technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Sophia, the final speaker, commented that China and India, both being leaders in technology can unleash the full potential of AI to mitigate and end climate crisis.