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  • AKAH technical experts and Community Emergency Response Team personnel tracking glacial melt at Shishper Glacier in Hunza, Pakistan. AKAH Pakistan is currently monitoring 25 glaciers and 20 lakes across Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral.
COP26: Aga Khan Agency for Habitat and World Habitat showcase how mountain communities are adapting to the climate emergency

Glasgow, Scotland, 5 November 2021 –The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) and World Habitat are organising an event at COP26 to showcase how mountain communities are adapting to live safely and thrive on the frontlines of the climate emergency.  Part of the official Green Zone Programme, the event on Monday 8 November 2021 will focus on how AKAH is working with nearly 800 communities in northern Pakistan to combine indigenous knowledge with technology to advance locally-led adaptation and build resilience.

At the global climate summit, AKAH – 2020 World Habitat Awards Gold Winner – and World Habitat seek to bring the experience and perspective of communities that are already living the climate emergency into the conversation.  In the Himalayas, Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Pamir mountains, temperatures are rising three times faster than global averages. These areas face an increasing threat of melting glaciers, extreme weather, floods and other natural hazards that have caused catastrophic damage in recent years.

Facilitated by World Habitat, this event will feature a documentary film portraying the stories of affected communities, followed by a panel discussion featuring:

  • Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat and Final Judge of the World Habitat Awards;
  • Malik Amin Aslam, Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Climate Change, Pakistan; and
  • Khalid Khurshid, Chief Minister of Government of Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan
  • Onno Ruhl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat; and
  • Louise Winterburn, Deputy Chief Executive, World Habitat.

The panel will discuss how we can support and scale effective, community-driven responses to the worsening climate crisis – highlighting AKAH’s work in Pakistan to harness local knowledge, alongside technology, to create effective solutions that respond to the climate emergency, enabling people to build safer homes and communities.


Flood mitigation walls in Yasin - Gilgit Baltistan. A gabion wall built by local communities using local materials and with technical assistance provided by AKAH,P.

Malik Amin Aslam, Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Climate Change, Pakistan said “Although Pakistan’s contributions to global GHG emissions are less than 1%, it is one of the countries bearing the worst impact of climate change, with increased frequency and intensity of natural 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. 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 are contributing to these efforts for ensuring a greener Pakistan.”

Onno Ruhl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, said: “There are nearly one billion people living in mountain areas across the world. This event will be a vital opportunity to learn from others who work and live in mountain regions, and to also share our own knowledge and experiences. These communities are the custodians of natural resources critical to our planet, including the water towers upon which a quarter of humanity relies. Conserving and improving mountain habitats and ecosystems are key drivers in the fight against climate change. It is crucial that we empower these communities to build a better future.  We have to adapt to the climate and we must do so in a way that tangibly improves peoples’ homes, lives, and habitat.  We can avoid catastrophic consequences for people – but only if we act…and act now.”

Through the event AKAH and World Habitat wish to use the platform of COP 26 to share knowledge and experience on effective solutions that draw on international best practices and decades of on-ground experience working with communities to build resilience, transform lives and protect nature.  The goal of the event is to amplify and accelerate collaborative actions for climate change adaptation across the world, particularly for highly vulnerable mountain areas.

“Mountains are the source of water for the planet, if the environment or the ecosystem is destroyed or disturbed in the mountains, the rivers will dry up. Imagine what kind of world that will be. Protecting mountain ecosystems is important not just for mountain communities; it is for the world,” said Khalid Khurshid, Chief Minister of Government of Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan. Minister Khurshid added “In Pakistan we are scaling up solutions, like the Prime Minister’s 1 billion tree tsunami project, which we are working together with AKAH to implement in Gilgit-Baltistan.  Tree plantation is not only one big source to retain the temperature, and reduce climate change’s affects but also an effective approach to mitigating natural disaster risk when informed by sound risk assessment and careful planning.  We need to build a global community of mountain communities to come together and share local solutions, learn from each other’s experiences and promote innovation.”

AKAH works with communities to assess the hazards, risks and vulnerabilities they face and then to develop inclusive, participatory disaster management and habitat development plans.  AKAH has adapted and expanded this approach across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, India and Syria to almost 2,500 settlements (home to nearly three million people); working with nearly 40,000 active emergency response volunteers (nearly 40% of whom are women) to assess, plan for and respond to risks; and improving and protecting critical infrastructure and buildings that serve hundreds of thousands people with essential services.

Louise Winterburn, Deputy Chief Executive at World Habitat, said: “Many of the world’s poorest communities are on the front-line of the climate emergency and either have to live in unbearable conditions – or leave. What the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat has achieved in Pakistan – through using the very latest technology in harmony with indigenous knowledge – is remarkable. And this has meant many thousands of people can remain in their communities, while adapting to the immediate consequences of the climate emergency.

“This solution is one that could be adopted in similar places across the world, benefiting millions of people. Our aim is to make that happen, starting with this event at COP26.”

The event will take place at 2pm on Monday 8 November 2021.  In person attendance is already fully booked however this event will be live-streamed through the COP26 YouTube Channel on this link.


Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Immit - Gilgit Baltistan. One of the many local teams developed by AKAH,P across the region.

For more information please contact: 

Trushna Torche at

For more information about World Habitat and its review of the COP26 event

For more information about the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat

Watch this 8-minute film: “Rekindling hope”