Strengthening bilateral cooperation between Australia and Hindu Kush Himalaya countries

On 17 April, Australia and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen bilateral water cooperation between Australia and countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

The MoU was signed at the ICIMOD headquarters in Kathmandu, Nepal, between ICIMOD (represented by ICIMOD Director General Dr David Molden), the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (represented by the Australian Ambassador to Nepal Mr Pete Budd), and the Australian Water Partnership (represented by AWP Advisory Committee Chair Mr Bob McMullan).

ICIMOD is a regional intergovernmental knowledge development and learning centre serving the eight regional member countries of the HKH. It was established in 1983 and aims to assist mountain people to understand and adapt to changes brought about by globalisation and climate change within a fragile mountain ecosystem. ICIMOD works to develop an economically and environmentally sound mountain ecosystem to improve the living standards of mountain populations and to sustain vital ecosystem services for the billions of people living downstream.

“ICIMOD has been privileged to have a long-standing partnership with Australia, working on the management of water, energy, food, and environment to benefit people of the Hindu Kush Himalaya and downstream,” said Dr Molden.

“The HKH mountains are the source of 10 major river basins, most of them transboundary, with nearly 2 billion inhabitants – clearly an important resource for prosperity and peace. Yet looking ahead we have to face many mountain challenges: poverty and inequality, food security, climate change and disasters. Australia has an incredible depth of water knowledge and experience, and this MOU will help ICIMOD tap into expertise to address these challenges for the benefit of mountains and people.”

Through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Australian Government supports sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction based on the effective, equitable and safe management of water resources. This cooperation aligns to existing activities funded by DFAT, such as the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) to which ICIMOD is a partner.

The Australian Water Partnership (AWP) is an Australian international development cooperation initiative of DFAT established in 2015 and managed by eWater Ltd. The AWP is working to enhance sustainable water management primarily in the Indo-Pacific region and thus has an overlapping geographical focus with ICIMOD. The AWP is able to respond to the water-related challenges in the HKH, drawing on its partnership base of 200 Australian public and private organisations and sole traders, many of which with extensive experience in managing water in the context of scarcity, over-allocation and climate change.

“I am delighted that ICIMOD has become our fifth international partner as they bring an impressive history of successful and innovative programs influencing not only mountain regions but many millions of people living in the great basins of Asia,” said AWP CEO Prof Nick Schofield.

“AWP will add to an already strong Australian engagement by opening up further opportunities to access expertise across the Australian water sector.”

Areas of collaboration will include enhancing integrated river basin management and regional cooperation through improved water resource management, planning, allocation and governance; generating and sharing knowledge and innovative tools and practices; mitigation and adaption interventions related to the impacts of climate change; and increased gender equality and social inclusion in water management.

Specific activities in these areas will be discussed and determined collaboratively between DFAT, AWP and ICIMOD throughout the year, with the MoU to initially last for three years. Cooperation under the MoU will support developing partnerships between the Australian water sector and national and regional water organisations, helping to strengthen institutional capacity to implement sustainable water management in the HKH as well as provide valuable experience for Australian organisations.

Photo: Australian Ambassador to Nepal Mr Pete Budd (front-right) and ICIMOD Director General Dr David Molden (front-left) signing the MoU in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 17 April 2019. In the back row (L-R) are Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha – Regional Programme Manager, River Basins and Cryosphere, ICIMOD; Ms Kanchan Shrestha – Programme Coordinator, Koshi Basin Initiative, ICIMOD; Mr Derek Taylor – Head of Development Cooperation, Australian Embassy in Nepal; Ms Emma Stone – Senior Program Manager, South Asia Branch, DFAT; and Mr Santosh Pathak – Partnership Officer, ICIMOD (credit: ICIMOD).

Photo: Australian Ambassador to Nepal Mr Pete Budd (front-right) and ICIMOD Director General Dr David Molden (front-left) signing the MoU in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 17 April 2019. In the back row (L-R) are Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha – Regional Programme Manager, River Basins and Cryosphere, ICIMOD; Ms Kanchan Shrestha – Programme Coordinator, Koshi Basin Initiative, ICIMOD; Mr Derek Taylor – Head of Development Cooperation, Australian Embassy in Nepal; Ms Emma Stone – Senior Program Manager, South Asia Branch, DFAT; and Mr Santosh Pathak – Partnership Officer, ICIMOD (credit: ICIMOD).

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