One-Day Workshop on

Building a Partnership Between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)

Date: 2 December 2017 

Venue: ICIMOD Kathmandu Nepal

Background

The Hindu Kush Karakoram Pamir Landscape (HKPL) Initiative at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is working to promote transboundary cooperation to support conservation and development in the far western region of the Hindu Kush Himalaya. National partners in Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, including the Aga Khan Development Network’s (AKDN) University of Central Asia (UCA), are working with ICIMOD on the initiative.

The HKPL covers six geographically contiguous protected areas—Wakhan National Park, Afghanistan; Taxkorgan Nature Reserve, China; Broghil National Park, Qurumbar National Park and Khunjerab National Park, Pakistan; and Zorkul Nature Reserve, Tajikistan. The landscape covers 67,506 km2 and lies at the junction of the three highest mountain ranges in the world—the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and the Himalaya. The HKPL is an important biodiversity repository, overlapping with the globally recognized Mountains of Central Asia biodiversity hotspot, providing extensive habitats for flagship/keystone species such as the Marco Polo sheep and snow leopard, and many other wild animals and plants, including medicinal herbs. The vast landscape also comprises important upper river basins nurturing the Amu Darya, Tarim, and Indus rivers, which support fundamental livelihood options and provide significant ecosystem services both locally and downstream. 

Indigenous ethnic groups include the Wakhi, Kyrgyz, Sarakuli, Kho, Burusho, Shinaki, Yashkun, and Pamiri communities that share strong socio-cultural ties and are economically interdependent. These ethnic groups generally share a common religion and, excepting the Kyrgyz, are able to communicate with each other in Wakhi. They all predominantly practice pastoralism or agro-pastoralism. Historically, the HKPL region was a key trade and cultural linkage corridor between China and Europe, a crossroads along the ancient Silk Road. It is rich in cultural heritage and relics. However, the entire population of over one million inhabitants in the landscape lives below the poverty line. 

The transboundary cooperation mechanisms needed to manage and sustain ecosystem services at such a scale are currently insufficient, which warrants enhanced regional cooperation. Moreover, the fragile arid landscape offers limited natural resources for human consumption. Key issues of concern include human-wildlife conflict; unsustainable natural resource management; rangeland degradation; limited development of local niche products; energy shortage; frequent natural disasters; lack of alternative livelihood options; solid waste disposal; unmanaged tourism; and geopolitical issues. These difficulties are further exacerbated by climate change, globalization, and knowledge gaps that impede judicious decision-making, including the fairly limited reach of conservation and development investments, as well as inadequate local and regional institutional skills and capacities. Major challenges that must be addressed in the landscape include appropriately addressing poverty in order to reduce pressures on biodiversity and ecosystems; identifying, building and strengthening resilient livelihoods that do not further fragment habitats or degrade natural resources; and building upstream-downstream linkages that support local community development and promote sustainability, innovation, and resilience.

ICIMOD is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre and assists mountain people to understand the impacts of climate change and globalization on fragile mountain ecosystems and livelihoods, while addressing upstream-downstream issues and supporting regional transboundary programmes through partnership with regional institutions, and facilitating the exchange of experience. 

The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) implements innovative, community driven solutions to development challenges and provides long term solutions to the problems of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and ill health in the poorest parts of Eastern and Western Africa, in the Middle East, and in South and Central Asia; including three of the HKPL target countries, namely Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. 
The University of Central Asia (UCA) aims to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain societies, and help the different peoples of the region to preserve and draw upon their rich cultural traditions and heritages as assets for the future. Working as part of UCA’s Graduate School of Development, the Mountain Societies Research Institute (MSRI) carries out research for development—including natural resource management, sustainable mountain development, and environmental conservation—with the goal to improve the well-being of mountain societies in Central Asia, including HKPL.
The missions and visions of all three organizations are similar, namely to promote the conservation of ecosystems and cultures, alongside sustainable development inclusive of enhancing the resilience of local communities in the landscape. Therefore, there is huge potential for even, enhanced conservation and development in the landscape through closer collaboration of ICIMOD, AKF, UCA, and other stakeholders. 

Objectives

  • To select/confirm priority areas (issues, geographies) for collaborative work. 
  • To develop outline proposals for selected key areas of work in the HKPL.
  • To agree on practical modalities for joint strategic partnership in the region.
  • To share experiences and learning across teams, and plan for on-going exchanges.