Tackling poverty in a rapidly changing world: Experts recommend a collective response to common ecosystem risks
South Asia faces the challenge of tackling persistent poverty at a time of rapid and large-scale changes in social, environmental, and economic conditions. A fairer, more equitable approach to governing environmental resources will be critical to ending poverty in the region. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the UK’s Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme, in close partnership with national governments, have pursued practical ways to achieve wellbeing for the poorest and environmental sustainability through research and knowledge programmes in South Asia.
All of us rely on the natural environment for our survival and billions of people still rely principally on the environment for their livelihoods and other aspects of wellbeing. The dependence of the world’s poorest people on the environment and their contribution to its stewardship are often ‘hidden’ in public debates and decision-making processes.
Together with Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Environment, the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Implementation Centre, ICIMOD and ESPA conducted a Regional Symposium on Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation in Kathmandu from 13–14 March 2018. The event brought together 80 researchers from South Asia and around the globe to discuss effective approaches to ecosystem services governance for poverty alleviation.
Secretary of Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Environment, Yubak Dhoj GC, commended the platform provided by the symposium as a “collective response to the common threat to ecosystems – the forests, wetlands, and agriculture areas.” He stated that policy interventions, institutional support, and research are key to shaping effective ecosystem services.
ICIMOD’s Director of Strategic Cooperation Basanta Shrestha said, “We need to be able to understand current challenges to ecosystems in order to work towards effective and innovative solutions on the ground, many of which are transboundary in nature. We also need to bring research findings and knowledge into action, and upscale them as development efforts.”
ESPA’s Director Kate Schreckenberg said: “We need better social and ecological assessments of decision-making over natural resources, to paint a clear picture of who benefits and who bears the costs of environmental decisions. Trade-offs and any potential human costs must be understood and explicitly addressed through open, just, and democratic processes. The ESPA approach is not easy but it is exciting and offers promise for the future.”
The symposium focused on interlinkages among ecosystems, poverty, and wellbeing; governance, policy, and institutions; complexity and social change; valuation of ecosystem services; rewarding environmental stewardship; and achieving development impact through research. Participants also identified key insights and practical tools for managing the complex interactions between changing ecosystems and human migration.
In closing, ESPA Director Kate Schreckenberg said, “If we are going to overcome poverty and environmental degradation and enable everyone in society to lead productive, fulfilling lives, we need to move beyond a sectoral focus and look at the bigger natural and social picture. ESPA encourages recognition of different people’s rights and values and how they access the environment to achieve their wellbeing.”
In the wake of the tragic loss of lives in the US Bangla Airways incident at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International airport on 12 March 2018, organizers dedicated the two-day event in honour of the individuals who lost their lives. Two of the deceased were employed at the National Planning Commission of Bangladesh, and on their way to participate in this symposium.
ICIMOD is a regional knowledge development and learning centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan – based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Globalization and climate change have an increasing influence on the stability of fragile mountain ecosystems and the livelihoods of mountain people. ICIMOD aims to assist mountain people to understand these changes, adapt to them, and make the most of new opportunities, while addressing upstream and downstream issues. ICIMOD supports regional transboundary programmes through partnerships with regional partner institutions, facilitates the exchange of experiences, and serves as a regional knowledge hub. We strengthen networking among regional and global centres of excellence. Overall, we are working to develop economically and environmentally-sound mountain ecosystems to improve the living standards of mountain populations and to sustain vital ecosystem services for the billions of people living downstream – now and in the future.
At the same time, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has been working with partners across the Hindu Kush Himalayan region and beyond to develop programmes and share knowledge to enable sustainable and resilient mountain development for improved and equitable livelihoods.
ESPA is a global interdisciplinary research programme that aims to give decision-makers and natural resource users the evidence they need to address the challenges of sustainable ecosystem management and poverty reduction. ESPA is supported by the UK Government’s Natural Environment Research Council, Department for International Development and the Economic and Social Research Council. ESPA’s key objectives are:
- To create a strong research and evidence base on the connections among ecosystem services, their dynamics and management, human use and pathways to sustainable poverty reduction;
- To develop innovative, interdisciplinary research and methodologies, delivering tools and approaches that enable decision-makers to simulate and predict socio-ecological responses to complex social and economic trends;
- To engage and communicate effectively with policy makers, practitioners and decision makers so that ESPA’s research is well understood and used;
- To enhance the capacity of researchers in the global South to conduct, lead, use and communicate high quality ESPA-type interdisciplinary research, including through effective international research partnerships.
In the past nine years, the GBP 43.9 million ESPA programme involved 922 researchers in generating world class evidence; half of the researchers came from developing countries. Access more than 1,200 publications and explore ESPA’s research results and key lessons learned on our website and Twitter @Espadirectorate
For additional information, please contact:
Sushil Pandey, Media Unit, ICIMOD
Email: sushil.pandey [at] icimod.org;
Laxmi Dutt Bhatta, Senior Ecosystems Specialist, ICIMOD
Email: laxmi.Bhatta [at] icimod.org
Mairi Dupar, Communications Specialist, ESPA
Email: communication [at] espa.ac.uk