STATEMENT BY DR. HENNING KARCHER, UNDP RESIDENT REPRESENTATIVE AT THE NEPAL GEF COUNTRY DIALOGUE WORKSHOP OPENING SESSION HOTEL HIMALAYA

06 Mar 2002

STATEMENT BY DR. HENNING KARCHER, UNDP RESIDENT REPRESENTATIVE AT THE NEPAL GEF COUNTRY DIALOGUE WORKSHOP OPENING SESSION HOTEL HIMALAYA, MARCH 6, 2002

Honorable Minister for Population and Environment, Mr. P.L. Singh, Chairperson, Dr. Bimal Prasad Koirala, Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Mr Todd Johnson, Senior Thematic Specialist, World Bank, Mr Ton Boon von Ochssee, Country Relations Manager, GEF Secretariat, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to be here with all of you this morning at the inaugural session of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Country Dialogue Workshop for Nepal. I would like to extend my appreciation to the honourable Minister for having joined us at this important occasion.

For more than a decade, scientific research has produced evidence that the planet’s fundamental life support systems are being threatened and adversely affected by human activities. Degradation of ecosystems has led to the loss of species. This in turn poses threats to the supply of food, water, medicines and other essential life support services to mankind.

Global warming as a result of green house gas emissions has caused a rise in sea levels, retreat of glaciers and increased rates of desertification. Water pollution threatens the water quality of water and agricultural productivity. Increasing amounts of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere are weakening the stratospheric shield that protects the Earth from solar radiation.

Nepal cannot remain unaffected by these developments. It is home to a rich and diverse stock of biological resources that represent a sizable portion of the world’s unique habitats and a multitude of species that are of global importance. Nepal is also one of the poorest countries of the world. At this very moment while we are gathered for this important event, natural resources are used in an unsustainable manner and the degradation of land continues. This in turn leads to a loss of biodiversity. In addition, air and water pollution has emerged as a major environmental issue, particularly, but not only, in the urban areas.

Nepal has played a strong role in the global arena in all of the above issues. The country is firmly committed to tackling the problems of biodiversity conservation, land degradation and climate change. This is amply demonstrated by the number of environment related international conventions and treaties the country has signed. Nepal’s formidable commitment to biodiversity conservation is also demonstrated by the fact that nearly 20% of the land area has been set aside as a protected area, either as a national parks or bufferzones, conservation areas, wildlife reserves or hunting reserves. Yet, in the prevailing social and economic context it is not possible for Nepal alone to conserve and manage its biological resources sustainably and arrest the accelerating rate of environment degradation.

The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is a global funding window that is jointly managed by the World Bank, UNEP and UNDP. GEF was established in 1991 to forge international cooperation and finance actions to address critical threats to the global environment. It is the designated financing mechanism for the Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on Climate Change and Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The GEF provides grants and concessional funds to cover incremental costs when a development project pursues global environmental objectives. Currently GEF has five Focal Areas: Biological Diversity, Climate Change, International Waters and Ozone Layer Depletion. Land Degradation is a crosscutting area as it relates to the other four areas.

GEF’s role as an international financial mechanism means that it provides partial funding for programs and projects in eligible countries that strive towards the goals stated in each convention. By having signed the conventions, Nepal has become eligible for receiving GEF support. As one of the implementing agencies of the GEF, UNDP supports programmes and projects that build the human and institutional capacity needed for developing policies, using technologies and managing resources that are crucial to preserving the global environment.

Nepal signed the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1994. Since then the country, has been developing policies and legislation and implementing programs to catalyze conservation and the sustainable use of biological diversity. UNDP and GEF have supported the Ministry of Forestry and Soil Conservation, the National Focal Point for the CBD convention, in preparing the Nepal Biodiversity Strategy and Implementation Plan, and in related capacity building activities. The first GEF funded project, Biodiversity Conservation in Nepal, developed and tested a model for integrated conservation approach in the Makalu Barun National Park. The experiences captured during this pilot project form a model that the Department for National Park and Wildlife Conservation has used for replication in other mountain parks. Another landmark programme is the UNDP supported Park & People Programme that serves as an example of innovative community based biodiversity conservation programmes. It has proven that it is possible to mitigate conflict between the park and the people for the sustainable conservation of biodiversity in Nepal.

Through the GEF Small Grants Program, several local NGOs have been involved in biodiversity conservation and mitigation of the impact of climate change in several remote and poor parts of Nepal. Currently two new projects are being developed under the GEF Project Development Facility (GEF PDF-B). The first one is a landscape level biodiversity conservation project that would be implemented in the Western Terai and North Eastern Himalayas and the second one aims for conserving globally threatened wetland ecosystems in Nepal. Both are in line with the government’s new policy of conserving biodiversity at a much larger scale than traditional isolated protected area systems.

The Ministry of Finance as the Operational Focal Point has assumed a very active coordinating role. Representatives from the Ministry and from Nepal’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York have attended recent meetings of the GEF Secretariat. This indicates strong partnership and commitment from the Government.

The Ministry of Population and Environment has taken the lead for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and has started several initiatives under the Enabling Activity window. The GEF focus under Climate Change is on the removal of barriers to energy conservation and efficiency and reduction of Green House Gases associated with energy consumption or production. The Ministry of Population and Environment is presently engaged in preparing the National Communication related to UNFCCC with the help of UNEP/GEF. Several initiatives related to climate change have started in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology.

There can be no doubt that in the future there will be increasing opportunities for GEF support under these conventions for implementing sustainable development projects in Nepal. The necessary foundation has already been laid. Once the Nepal Biodiversity Strategy is approved and becomes effective many institutions present here now will enter into a longterm partnerships with the GEF.

UNDP Nepal’s Country Cooperation Framework includes biodiversity conservation and sustainable development as priority areas for UNDP cooperation over the next five years, 2002-2006. UNDP feels honored and is proud to be associated with and being a partner of His Majesty’s Government in this important area. I am convinced that this workshop will help to further strengthen the already very solid working relationship between Nepal and GEF.

I wish you all productive and stimulating discussions.

Thank you.