ICIMOD at the Arctic Frontiers: Can the Arctic Council model work for the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region?


Like the Arctic, the Hindu Kush Himalayan region is facing warming temperatures twice the global average which are bringing profound climatic and environmental changes with national, regional, and global repercussions. It is also a region rich in natural resources, the most important being water, which ensures food production for 1.9 billion people living in Asia. Like the Arctic, the Hindu Kush Himalayan region is made up of eight nation states – Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Unlike the Arctic, where the Arctic Council has existed for 20 years, the Hindu Kush Himalayan region has no existing formal, governmental forum bringing the eight Hindu Kush Himalayan states together, promoting sustainable development and environmental protection in the region. It’s clear that the Hindu Kush Himalayan countries could benefit from a similar body to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among Hindu Kush Himalayan states, indigenous peoples, mountain communities and other inhabitants on these common issues, but the roadmap for getting there is unclear.

Having recognized the regions’ shared interests, ICIMOD organized two side events at the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø in January 2017 to better understand and explore the potential for strengthened collaboration between institutions in the HKH and Arctic. These events brought together researchers, policy makers, universities, and community representatives from the Arctic and HKH for a science-policy dialogue on regional and inter-regional collaboration. A number of areas ripe for collaboration were highlighted, including cooperation amongst pastoralists, cryosphere researchers, and on applying standardised monitoring and assessment approaches to the Himalayan region.

This side event takes these discussions forward by focusing specifically on the government to government dimensions of cooperation. Organized jointly by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and GRID-Arendal, this event will seek to answer if the Arctic Council model could work for the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. It will explore what lessons could be learnt from the history of Arctic cooperation, if the Arctic Council model could be politically feasible in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, how such a model could be initiated, and how the Arctic states could work with the Hindu Kush Himalayan states towards developing a possible “Hindu Kush Himalayan Science-Policy Forum or Council”.