National Stakeholders’ Dialogue on Upcoming 18th SAARC Summit: Nepal’s perspectives on Climate Change, Agriculture, Food Security and Disaster Risk Reduction
South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), in collaboration with Oxfam in Nepal, organized a National Stakeholder’s Dialogue on "Upcoming 18th SAARC Summit: Nepal’s perspectives on climate change, agriculture, food security and disaster risk reduction" on 16 October 2014 in Kathmandu. The major objective of the dialogue was to identify and discuss issues important for Nepal in areas of climate change, agriculture, food security and disaster risk reduction. The dialogue was attended by sixty five participants representing the government, civil society organizations, private sector, academia, and the media.
The program started with an opening session where Ms. Noreen Khalid, Interim Country Director, Oxfam in Nepal, highlighted the need to move forward with good collaboration between civil society organizations and the government of Nepal in mitigating and adapting to climate change effects and disasters. Mr. Nirmal Kafle, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acknowledged the vulnerability of South Asia to climate change and stressed the need for collaborative efforts, especially in terms of financial cooperation and knowledge sharing. Dr. Govinda Nepal, Member, National Planning Commission, further stressed the need for the 18th SAARC Summit to convert prior commitments into reality. Concluding the inaugural session, Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, stated that these issues should be tackled by formulating policy measures through national and regional initiatives by taking vulnerable and poor people into account.
The remaining part of the programme was divided into three thematic sessions, namely on climate change, agriculture and food security and disasters. In the first thematic session on climate change, Mr. Ajay Mani Dixit, Executive Director, Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), started the discussion by highlighting the need for South Asian countries to strive to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. Identifying Nepal’s vulnerability to climate change, Dr. Smriti Dahal, Senior Programme Officer, SAWTEE, gave a presentation on climate change issues in Nepal and the different initiatives taken by SAARC to address climate change. Dr. Madhav Karki, South Asia Chair, International Unit for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), suggested taking a regional initiative to address the major climate change issues in the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC). However, Mr. Arjan Dixit, Regional Climate Change Coordinator Asia, CARE International, presented his doubts on SAARC for taking a common position on climate change in global platforms stating that individual countries will have different interests.
The participants highlighted the need for more research involving universities and academia along with an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism and a single window policy for information and knowledge sharing.
The second thematic session on agriculture and food security started out with a presentation by Dr. Krishna P. Pant, Fellow, South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics (SANDEE), where he talked about the role of SAARC in the region to attain food security. Addressing the issues of declining agriculture sector in the country, Ms. Yamuna Ghale, Senior Programme Officer, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, stated that agriculture and food security should also be analyzed from a political perspective and that the priority should be given to women and small farmers while making policies. Mr. Jagat Deuja, Executive Director, Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC), mentioned that the land management agendas should not be ignored since the majority of people in South Asia are landless and are dependent on agriculture for subsistence. Mr. Pradip Maharjan, Chief Executive Officer, Agro Enterprise Centre, further mentioned that there are still more challenges that needs to be addressed in the context of mutual collaboration and recognition within SAARC.
The participants also pointed out the importance of involving youth/students in the agriculture sector and acknowledged the need to devise farmers based programmes related with family farming, commercial or sustainable farming. It was also suggested that issues related with food price volatility and export driven agriculture should also be taken forward in the upcoming SAARC summit.
In the last thematic session on disaster risk reduction, Dr Meen B. Poudyal Chhetri, President, Nepal Center for Disaster Management, recommended the establishment of a SAARC regional information center. Mr. Surya Narayan Shrestha, Deputy Executive Director, National Society for Earthquake Technology Nepal (NSET), suggested to learn from each other to strengthen public-private-partnerships. Moreover, Mr. Bimal Gadal, Programme Manager, Oxfam in Nepal, underscored that disaster risk reduction should incorporate prevention, preparedness and mitigation within a broad context of development.
The participants recommended that the donors, government and aid agencies needed to invest in the area of cost-effective disaster preparedness and research rather than only focusing on disaster response.
Hiramani Ghimire, Executive Director, SAWTEE, concluded the dialogue by saying that climate change, agriculture and food security and disaster risk reduction are interrelated, so comprehensive efforts are needed to address the problem. He also stated that the prior commitments made in these areas should first be implemented rather than enlarging the list of new commitments.
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