Islamabad, Pakistan, 8 June 2021 - The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), the Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan, World Habitat Awards and the United Nations Habitat Programme (UN-Habitat), co-organised an international seminar on Ecosystem Restoration for Quality of Life. With Malik Amin Aslam, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, as chief guest, the seminar was attended by representatives from Government, the United Nations, INGOs, agencies and partners of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), donor agencies, academia, media and community organisations. The virtual seminar, held on 8 June 2021, was part of a series of official events celebrating World Environment Day (WED).
Recognising Pakistan’s global leadership in advancing ecosystem conservation and protection, it was selected to host this year’s WED together with the United Nations Environment Programme. This year’s WED theme was restoring the earth’s damaged ecosystems, to go from exploiting nature to healing it. WED also launched the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems around the world, for the benefit of people and nature.
In his message, honorable chief guest Malik Amin Aslam, shared that “Although our contribution to global GHG emissions is less than 1%, Pakistan’s people, biodiversity and economy are severely impacted by climate change, with more frequent disasters. We are working to counteract these trends through ambitious initiatives such as the honorable Prime Minister’s Clean Green Pakistan Programme, the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme to restore the ecosystem and electric vehicle policies. The Government is also working on developing the first-ever green building codes for the country. I am glad to see development institutions like the Aga Khan Development Network and UN-Habitat contributing to these efforts for a greener Pakistan”.
During the seminar, speakers from UN-Habitat, the Aga Khan University, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme and the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat shared their experiences in ecosystem restoration and improving quality of life for communities living in mountainous areas, coastal belts and urban centres of Pakistan and globally.
In his opening remarks, Rafael Tuts, Director of the Programme Division at UN-Habitat, said that “We have been exploiting and destroying our planet’s ecosystems, and the pandemic has also shown how disastrous the consequences of ecosystem loss can be. We urgently need to reverse our unsustainable lifestyles and how we design, plan and manage cities. UN-Habitat in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change carried out a study on ‛Policy Guidelines for Development of Green Building Code’, based on which green building guidelines were developed for the Prime Minister’s five million Naya Pakistan Housing programme. The adoption of green building guidelines will ensure GHG emission reduction, resource efficiency in consumption of building materials, water and energy use and will result in greening the building construction in Pakistan”.
Mountain ecosystems are particularly rich in terms of biodiversity, culture and critical natural resources such as water. Onno Ruhl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, explained that “mountains and mountain communities are on the frontlines of climate change, facing the threat of melting glaciers, unpredictable weather and flash floods. AKAH is working to restore these fragile ecosystems and build resilient habitats for these communities to thrive. We combine data, community engagement and world-class planning to help communities understand and adapt to the risks they face to plan for a better future. To prevent further degradation and rebuild natural capital AKAH promotes nature-based solutions for disaster risk reduction and sustainable infrastructure and service delivery.”
David Ireland, Chief Executive of World Habitat, said: “What makes AKAH’s work exceptional is that it’s not just responding to the effects of the climate emergency but is being proactive in protecting people from its effects - through using technology and the knowledge of the communities themselves. It provides communities with the knowledge of where and how to live in safety in a changing world. This has to be the best way for communities vulnerable to disasters and the effects of climate change to protect themselves. The potential for this approach to be adapted and used in similar areas in Pakistan and elsewhere is absolutely huge.”
Environmental stewardship has long been a core strategic priority for the AKDN cutting across the work of all its agencies across Asia and Africa. Hafiz Sherali, President of the Aga Khan Council for Pakistan, explained that “In many of the areas where [the] AKDN works, climate change compounds the risk of natural disasters resulting in the loss of lives and livelihoods. The AKDN is committed to protecting and restoring ecosystems while improving the quality of lives of the millions of people we serve. We take a holistic approach to mitigate disaster risk and proactively protect the environment.”
Nawab Ali Khan, CEO of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat in Pakistan said, “AKAH is honored to celebrate World Environment Day with the Government of Pakistan, vulnerable communities and our national and international partners. Decades of experience has guided us that only by working together can we hope to overcome the environmental challenges we face in Pakistan and globally.” He further added, “We are proud to partner with the Government on its ambitious efforts to plant 50 million trees in Gilgit-Baltistan, build sustainable water and sanitation systems, and develop nation-wide green building guidelines.”
By sharing practical examples, celebrating successes and calling attention to the challenges, the seminar aimed to initiate a dialogue to put the world on track for a sustainable future.
For more details:
Mehar Aftab Salma
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat
The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat works to ensure that the places people live are as safe as possible from the effects of climate change and natural disasters while also helping them to be prepared to cope with and respond to disasters that do strike. Beyond safety, AKAH aims to ensure people have access to services and opportunities to improve their quality of life. Established in 2016, AKAH combines several agencies and programmes of the AKDN that had been working on housing, habitat and disaster preparedness and relief since the 1990s in South and Central Asia, including Focus Humanitarian Assistance, the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, and the Disaster Risk Management Initiative.
UN-Habitat The UN-Habitat’s vision of “a better quality of life for all in an urbanising world” is bold and ambitious. UN-Habitat works with partners to build inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities. UN-Habitat promotes urbanisation as a positive transformative force for people and communities, reducing inequality, discrimination and poverty. UN-Habitat works in over 90 countries to promote transformative change in cities and human settlements through knowledge, policy advice, technical assistance and collaborative action. UN-Habitat’s new strategic plan 2020-2023 adopts a more strategic and integrated approach to solving the challenges and opportunities of twenty-first century cities and other human settlements. Our mission embodies the four main roles of the organisation, which can be summarised as: think, do, share and partner.
The World Habitat Awards is an international charity dedicated to finding, supporting, sharing and celebrating projects related to housing that can have an “overwhelmingly positive impact on individuals, families and communities”. It posits that housing is a basic right. Its World Habitat Awards – organised in partnership with UN-Habitat – “recognise and highlight innovative, outstanding and sometimes revolutionary housing ideas, projects and programmes from across the world”.