The opening session of the Himalayan Consensus Summit 2019 highlighted the need for an innovative and integrated approach to secure a sustainable future and explain the role played by platforms like Himalayan Consensus to develop the concept in the region. Elisabeth von Capeller, Her Excellency Ambassador of Switzerland to Nepal shared some best practices for sustainable inter-linkages between business and nature in the region. Mahendra P. Lama, Senior Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University stressed on the importance of integrating the traditional Himalayan practices and knowledge into the global chain. Valerie Julliand, Resident Coordinator, United Nations Nepal and Veronica Cody elucidated upon circular economy and made its linkages to the bigger agenda of SDGs.
Richard Howard, Director of International Labour Organization delivered the first presentation. Howard discussed on the major findings of a report ‘Work for a Brighter Future’. He highlighted that demographic advances, moving towards green economy and technological advances will help to create sustainable jobs, though few people may be unemployed during this transition. He also discussed the potential solutions wherein the different agendas of the report were highlighted including the three pillars of the human-centered agenda including – increasing investment in peoples’ capabilities, institutions of work and decent and sustainable work.
Session I was themed ‘The Himalayan Circular Economy’ where speakers discussed the crucial transformation towards a low-carbon, prosperous economy in the region. The discourse highlighted five key themes of the circular economy – addressing the human behaviour, designing correct legal and policy frameworks, significance of innovation, enhancing sustainable procurement and taking initiatives towards dematerialization.
Following Session I, Pietro Mona, His Excellency Ambassador for Development, Forced Displacement and Migration, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland, rendered a presentation on ‘Migration and Development in the Himalayan Region’ and stressed that migration has been and will be an integral part of the development; it has reduced global poverty and surged industrial innovation. Mona also highlighted, “Migration policies should be people centric as it is about people.” On a similar note on policies, he marked that 48% of global mobility is women driven, hence migration policies should ensure safety and promote gender sensitivity.
Philippus Wester, Regional Programme Manager at ICIMOD, delivered the third and final presentation of the summit on major findings from the recently released Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) Assessment report. The report highlighted that if the attempt on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2100 fails, the current emissions would lead to an increment of temperature by five degrees. Thus greater recognition of mountain areas and the HKH region in global climate efforts is required.
Speakers in Session II delved upon the interconnectedness of disaster and displacement in the Himalayan region by highlighting key agendas, and interventions. Best practices and bilateral agreements related to migration primarily induced by the climate change, were discussed. Speakers elaborated on planned migration as a climate change adaptation strategy to enhance regional development. Likewise, migration was noted to be a multifaceted issue with no direct solution. Hence, a holistic approach to address various aspects of migration like conservation of resources, culture and human aspect must be considered.
Range of challenges and issues – from disasters to lack of data to deprivation of basic welfare services were discussed in Session III entitled ‘Overcoming Himalayan Challenges’. Speakers introduced their work and discussed the setbacks they have faced to keep it in continuum. The major challenges of the region as introduced by the speakers were bureaucracy, lack of data/research, lack of capital and lack of aligned interest of countries in the region. The major bearers of this challenges as per the speakers were the people of Himalayan region. Hence, change of mindset regarding collaboration and social responsibility was emphasized to be imperative.
Session IV explored the initiatives and approaches commenced by various regional think tanks to communicate ideas and seek solutions toward building synergy and collaboration in the region among which were the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement, and the SAARC collaboration. Speakers mentioned that for any regional initiative to function, there needs to be a strong sense of alignment of interests among countries. A different set of matrix, understanding and approach is required when it comes to the Himalayan region as it has a complex political economy that underlies the initiatives.
Kul Chandra Gautam, Advisory Board Member, Nepal Economic Forum emphasized the need of a circular economy given the finite resources we possess in his closing remarks. Peter Budd, His Excellency Ambassador of Australia to Nepal and Roland Schäfer, His Excellency Ambassador of Germany to Nepal shared upon how the respective embassies see the future of Himalayan region amidst the current context of climate change, migration and innovation. Mahendra Lama in his closing remarks stated that Himalayan products have gained innovative versatility of their uses. Besides, these products have comparative advantage, are community driven and there is a set of new generation entrepreneurs keenly interested in leading the venture forward.