Message from the Director General

#MountainYouth #MountainPeople #MountainPride

In today’s age of information overload and sound bites, I frequently reflect back on the fundamentals and focus on key words and phrases. For ICIMOD, the fundamentally important words are “mountain people,” but also important to #mountainpeople are the role of #mountainyouth in imbibing and promoting #mountainpride. August provided us as an institution some good opportunities to highlight the issues of mountain youth, mountain people and mountain pride in part because it holds both the International Youth Day and the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.  

On International Youth Day, I had an incredibly inspiring opportunity to be with around 200 youth from over 30 countries who had gathered in Nepal to be a part of the International Youth Forum on Human Rights and Sustainable Development Goals organized by energetic and passionate youth from the Youth for Human Rights - Nepal. During this celebration, I had the pleasure of introducing the importance of mountain ecosystems and I talked about #mountainpeople who reside in our Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region. Because many of this region’s people are indigenous people, I discussed these two themes and sought to focus on the particular strengths of mountain livelihoods and mountain cultures that should bring a unique sense of pride to #mountainpeople.

An indigenous mountain women from Myanmar
Photo: Alex Treadway/ICIMOD

Even while focusing on the positive, we shouldn’t deny that there are particular challenges in the #HKHmountains like accessing knowledge and information, accessing gainful employment and combatting negative social norms hindering social mobility. There’s also a lot of out-migration from mountain communities – and that too mostly of men – so that women often shoulder heavy responsibilities in sustaining their families within increasingly resource-challenged mountain livelihoods.

Despite the existing challenges that #mountainpeople of this region – especially #mountainyouth – are facing, the time has now come to change the narrative. The energy of young people has to be directed towards action to convert vulnerabilities and challenges to strengths and opportunities. Youth do play significant roles as critical thinkers, change makers, innovators, communicators, heritage bearers, entrepreneurs, skilled workers, and leaders in sustainable and inclusive development worldwide. As active agents of change in local communities, young people play important roles in engaging their own families and grassroots’ communities, and are instrumental in communicating the science of climate change to the wider public.

As part of our effort to create a new generation of transformational leaders committed to #mountainresearch, I also had the opportunity to interact with young people from academia who participated in a two week course run by the Himalayan University Consortium. This course was designed to help early career-researchers from across the region deepen their understanding about and pursue more transdisciplinary approaches to climate science and adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region. There was so much talent, energy and focus among those twenty-two participants from across all eight of our regional member countries, that I am hopeful about these transformational leaders who will enhance the breadth and depth of #mountainresearch. 

Having myself felt so thoroughly inspired by this region’s youth through these recent opportunities, I hope that others – especially policy makers – also have opportunities to listen to and engage with this region’s youth. We can work together to build a community of climate-aware young ambassadors who can network, collaborate, advocate and seek support for the good science and knowledge that are generated in the region.

Youth take part in an interactive networking session at ICIMOD Knowledge Park in Godavari, Nepal
Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya/ICIMOD

While International Youth Day and the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples serve as annual celebrations, they also offer opportunities to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth and the world’s indigenous people. For us at ICIMOD, #MountainYouth #MountainPeople and #MountainPride will continue to be fundamentally important words for us and I would like all youth to think of themselves not just as the future, but also as the present. I call on all youth to engage curiously and openly as citizens of our world, to break existing boundaries to connect, collaborate and commit in our pursuit of mitigating and adapting to impacts of climate and other changes on our mountains.