Dubai, UAE, 8 October 2021 – The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), the Government of Italy and the Mountain Partnership Secretariat co-organised a day-long event at Expo 2020 Dubai as an urgent call to action for sustainable and climate-resilient mountain development – highlighting best practices that include integrating disaster risk reduction measures into town planning and networking between and for mountain communities.
Featuring Mariastella Gelmini, Minister of Regional Affairs and Autonomies, Italy; Massimo Baggi, Ambassador of Switzerland to the UAE and Bahrain; Yodgor Doyorovich Fayzov, Governor of Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), Tajikistan; Khalid Khurshid, Chief Minister, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan; and Dr. Qu Dongyu, FAO Director General, the one of its kind event brought together mountain practitioners, policymakers, scientists, the private sector, youth activists and grassroots actors to spotlight innovative work to tackle climate change across the Andes, Hindu Kush, Alps and Pamirs.
Home to over one billion people and rich in biodiversity and natural resources critical to all of humanity including water, renewable energy and timber, mountains matter. However, with their temperatures rising three times faster than global averages, climate change is threatening mountain ecosystems, livelihoods and cultures around the world. Speakers at the event shared ideas and experiences on how to empower mountain communities to meet these challenges, including solutions around sustainable agriculture, youth participation, private sector partnerships for livelihoods, resilient mountain planning and sustainable tourism. Cases studies from the Himalayas, Alps, Apennines, Andes and Pamirs showcased local initiatives driving positive change.
The Aga Khan Development Network has been working to scale sustainable mountain development across the Hindu Kush, Himalayas, Karakoram and Pamir Mountain ranges in South and Central Asia for decades. Onno Ruhl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), said: “Mountain communities are already living a climate emergency, facing the threat of melting glaciers, extreme weather and increased disaster risk. Yet they are often left out of policymaking and planning. AKAH is working with more than 2,000 mountain communities empowering them with data, world-class planning and best practices in disaster risk reduction and safe, sustainable construction to build a better future.”
Yodgor Doyorovich Fayzov, Governor of GBAO, Tajikistan spoke of the importance of such collaboration in building the capacity of communities and local government to build resilience. The Governor emphasised the power of rural mountain planning as a driver for safe, sustainable development. “The Khorog Urban Resilience Programme integrates disaster risk reduction measures into town planning, engaging communities and government together in data-driven decision-making and spatial design to address climate change and hazard mitigation, advancing a long-term, common vision for the future of our city. Resources and technical collaboration with our international partners including the AKDN, UN-Habitat and the Government of Switzerland are critical to enable us to accelerate adaptation efforts at the scale the climate emergency demands.”
Reflecting on the criticality of such long-term partnerships to foster and scale innovative solutions, Massimo Baggi, Ambassador of Switzerland to the UAE and Bahrain said: “The Swiss Government is very happy to have joined forces with the Aga Khan Development Network for a long-established cooperation dedicated to improving the quality of life for people living in mountain settlements in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan.”
Khalid Khurshid, Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, highlighted both the urgency for action and the opportunity presented by Expo 2020 Dubai and COP26. Noting that although mountain people such as the communities of Gilgit-Baltistan contribute faintly to climate change, they bear the brunt of its impact and are already engaged in ambitious efforts to combat it such as the Prime Minister of Pakistan’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Programme. Minister Khurshid urged action and collaboration to amplify such efforts: “I hope that we will be able to form a platform for the mountain communities and addressing the needs especially for the mountain communities… We need to give access to the products of mountain communities in international markets where they can present their fruits, meat, or whatever they have, so that they can have a dependable revenue and won’t be using the resources, forests, or whatever the natural habitat we have. An interlinking platform where we can learn from each other’s experiences and share the local wisdom to get more adaptive methods and to combat new challenges.”
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Founded and guided by His Highness the Aga Khan, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of private international development agencies that works to improve the quality of life and to create opportunity for people around the world. Its approach to development spans a range of cultural, social, economic and environmental endeavours. The mandates of its agencies include education and health, agriculture and food security, micro-finance, human habitat, crisis response and disaster reduction, protection of the environment, art, music, architecture, urban planning and conservation, and cultural heritage and preservation. A principal focus for the AKDN is the enhancement of a pluralist civil society as an underwriter of human progress. Recognising interdependence, upholding the dignity of life and valuing partnership, the AKDN seeks to promote peace and stability, nurture innovation and create an enabling environment that allows all, regardless of their differences, to realise their full potential.
The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) works to ensure that people live in safe, sustainable and resilient habitats with the opportunity to thrive, whether in a remote mountain village, a town, or a densely populated urban centre. It works with communities to help them prepare for and respond to natural disasters and the effects of climate change. AKAH also works to expand access to services and opportunity for people to improve their life. AKAH helps communities prepare for the worst; provides immediate relief after disaster strikes; and helps build back better – and greener – while planning for a better future. Established in 2015, 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.
Running from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022 and coinciding with the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, Expo 2020 Dubai will bring the world together, fostering an open, global dialogue that looks to the future and addresses some of the most pressing issues facing our world today. The Programme for People and Planet will run across the entire six months of Expo 2020, anchored by 10 Theme Weeks and 18 International Days, each of which explore key issues of global significance. Through the Theme Weeks, participants will investigate solutions to critical global challenges, ranging from mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss and making human habitats more sustainable, to bridging the digital divide and ensuring equal access to education and health care. Millions of visitors from across the globe will be invited to join the making of a new world, learning how we can ensure a future that is fair and inclusive for all, and creating a global movement that will leave a lasting legacy of positive change.