The next steps

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Friday, December 6, 2013

FINALLY, the International Conference on Addressing Poverty and Vulnerability in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, Forging Regional Partnerships to Enable Transformative Change held in Kathmandu, Nepal has ended. The participants are packing up and going home to their respective countries.

The conference was to be sure, very educational. I treat the privilege of attending this as a scholarship, where government ministers, renowned scientists, the private sector, practitioners of sustainable mountain development, and South Asia media took part.

While the focus of attention is on the Hindu-Kush Mountain Range and the Himalayas, the Pamir Mountains in Afganistan – and from my perspective, Mts. Silay and Mandalagan, Kanlaon, and other mountains of the country.

At first blush, our tropical country is seemingly so different from the temperate countries of the world. Taking out the names of South Asia countries, we might be talking of our mountains in the province.

Here are some choice quotes, excerpted from the daily conference briefs.
From Javid Ahmed Qaem of Afghanistan: “Social infrastructures like roads and health care are crucial. So is community-based natural resource management and empowerment of women.”

From Manfred Hoebig, GIZ India: “We must rethink our relationship with the private sector, and focus on the business case if we want real upscaling. We must promote entrepreneurship and better inclusiveness through redistribution of taxpayers’ money.”

And the audience response: “Mountains often fail to get the attention they deserve, and some national policies don’t even mention the mountains.”

Among civil society organizations, the current menu on the sustainable development agenda is the promotion of social entrepreneurship. Even the Philippine Congress has the House Bill 6085 or the Magna Carta of Social Enterprises.

On the other hand, the sustainable mountain development agenda, as explained in the conference, talks of a “holistic approach that integrates ecology with economy as well as equity and social justice.”

The mountain green economy meets social enterprises.

The conference made a pitch for human rights approach to development. It talked of developing new business models “where the private sector makes profit and also contributes to inclusive growth.” In fact, Hemant Dabodi of the Federation of Nepali Chambers of Commerce and Industry admitted that he’s in the business for his ROI, but in the process of ensuring his supply chain, developed community-based poultry that also enriched mountain communities.

How about value chain, a concern of the Organik Na Negros Producers and Retailers Association (Onopra)? Said session chair Dr. Margaret Catley-Carlson: “The value chain approach to development projects provide the opportunity to make both vertical horizontal impacts.” Carlson provided an example of upscaling and providing linkages to farmers and communities with better information and markets.

I was in fact treated as a “celebrity” because of Typhoon Yolanda. “Oh, you’re a Filipino. How are things there now?”

The exciting thing about the conference is that while it has its gloom and doom stories, it has its boom and glow optimism. Despite climate change, there are case studies from the HKH that could lead us the way to adapt to vulnerabilities and mitigating poverty in mountain areas.*


Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on December 06, 2013.


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