The University of Central Asia recently announced the establishment of the University’s first research centre, the Mountain Societies Research Centre (MSRC).The official announcement was made by UCA Director General Dr Bohdan Krawchenko during the opening of an International Symposium on Pastoralism in Central Asia: Status, Challenges and Opportunities in Mountain Areas, co-hosted by UCA and the National Centre of Competence in Research North-South (NCCR North-South) from 13 – 18 June, 2011 in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.
The MSRC is dedicated to supporting and enhancing the resilience and quality of life of mountain societies through sound research on sustainable mountain development and management of their physical, social, economic and cultural assets. The MSRC will generate and disseminate relevant knowledge through sound research; build Central Asian capacity to conduct research relevant to mountain societies; inform the policy and practice of sustainable mountain development through evidence-based research; and serve as a knowledge hub in Central Asia for scholars, development practitioners and policymakers. The MSRC incorporates the experience, expertise, priorities and ideas of stakeholders and partners to ensure the optimal relevance, quality and impact of the Centre’s activities.
There are a large number of people living in mountain areas in Central Asia who are custodians of vast natural resources, but live under difficult conditions and are economically and socially vulnerable. The MSRC aims to work with regional and international experts to conduct research that informs policy, development projects and civil society to impact and improve the standards of living for mountain communities. In the process, MSRC will encourage and strengthen research capacity by young Central Asians through competitive research fellowships, in areas such as economic development, natural resource management, food security, natural hazards, energy, health and cultural heritage. “It is fitting that the MSRC was launched at the Pastoralism Symposium as the outcomes of this event will make significant contributions to our knowledge on addressing persistent issues related to pasture management at high elevations,” said Dr Nasreen Dhanani, Director of Research at UCA.
Several MSRC initiatives were highlighted at the Symposium. The keynote presentation by Dr. Carol Kerven of the Odessa Centre (UK) was based on a review paper commissioned by the MSRC to inform research priorities on mountain agro-pastoralism in Central Asia to address knowledge gaps and inform policy and practice. The session was moderated by MSRC Senior Research Scientist Dr. Chad Dear, one of the contributors to the review paper. UCA Research Fellows Dr. Inam-ur-Rahim and Dr. Daniel Maselli presented the Herders’ Manual, a joint MSRC/NCCR North-South publication, which blends traditional and scientific knowledge to provide simple, effective tools for improving both animal and pasture productivity in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.
In addition to hosting the international Symposium, MSRC recently co-hosted the World Overview and Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) Share Fair on Sharing Sustainable Land Management Knowledge to Respond to Global and Local Issues, and the 15th Annual WOCAT Workshop and Steering Meeting, from 21-27 June, 2011 in the Kyrgyz Republic. The MSRC also serves as host of the regional hubs of Mountain Partnership/Mountain Forum and the NCCR North-South, and is an institutional member of the International Mountain Society (IMS). MSRC serves on the editorial board of the IMS quarterly journal, Mountain Research and Development (MRD), and is facilitating a special issue of MRD on Central Asian Mountain Societies in Transition to be published in 2012.
Looking forward, the MSRC is serving as the focal point for a Central Asian regional assessment of progress related to the 1992 Earth Summit goals specific to mountain areas. The regional assessment will be added to a global assessment and presented at a global conference in Switzerland in October 2011, and the final product will be used to influence delegates to the upcoming Rio+20 Summit in June 2012.
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