A total of 47 participants including conservation experts, community leaders, rights activists, journalists and government officials were present in this gathering. The program had two major objectives: to discuss future directions and actions of ICCA-Network Nepal and to introduce and exercise the ICCA Resilience and Security Tool prepared by ICCA Consortium. The program was jointly organized by ForestAction Nepal and ICCA Network Nepal with the support of ICCA Consortium through its programme financed by The Christensen Fund).On Day 1, the meeting had two components. During the first, six experts presented diverse views on ICCAs. Dr. Udaya Raj Sharma, conservation scientists and ex secretary presented,-“Reflecting the History of Conservation in Nepal: Challenges and Opportunities for ICCAs”. Dr. Maheshwor Dhakal, ecologist at the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation presented, -“Biodiversity and Indigenous and Local Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) in Nepal”. Mr. Shiv Raj Bhatta, a WWF official presented, “Locating Conservation Areas in Nepal within Global Conservation Discourses”. Similarly Mr. Bhola Khatiwada a CSO activist presented, “Struggle and Resistance in Gaurisankar Conservation Area”, Mr. Ghanashyam Pandey, a community rights activists presented, “ICCAs and Community Forest in Nepal”, and Mr. Somat Ghimire, an activist and political analyst presented, “Conservation Areas in Constitution Making Process: Where are ICCAs?” . In the second component of the program, the ICCA members discussed on the progress of the ICCA-Network Nepal. This was led by Tenjing Tashi Sherpa, the chair of the Network, and followed by a discussion led by Dipendra Rai, a lawyer to finalize the constitution of the Network. The conservation activities of ICCA participants were also shared and discussed.
The second day program focused on the introduction, discussion and exercise on ICCA Resilience and Security Tool. The program was started with the introduction of general concept of ICCA, its international context, historical events and legal instruments and some national legal instruments for ICCAs to contextualize the needs of the tool as “self-assessment”. Then the 30 questions included in ICCA Resilience and Security Tool were discussed among the participants. The participants tried to exemplify the question relating with their own ICCA/conservation activities. During the discussion, all participants were keen to listen and raise counter questions against one another and the same questions were used to assess the ICCA in Khumbu area of Solukhumbu district and discussed upon the logics and justification of “self-assessment value” by representatives from Khumbu region.
The third day program started with the sharing of self-assessment value by 15 ICCA participants and discussions upon the individual “self-assessment” values. The self assessment value was ranked from 68 to 129 and index value from 0.6 to 0.9. The exercise was followed by planning of ICCA-Network. The participants discussed the major ICCA activities for 2012. Six major activities were identified: (a) organize community discussion/meetings about ICCA Resilience and Security Tool; (b) organizing local dialogues for the recognition and expansion of ICCAs; (c) ICCA federation building/registering; (d) influence/engagements in constitution building process for ICCAs through alliance with other community actors/organizations; (e) identifications and documentations of new ICCAs and their good practice; and (f) ICCA lobby with stakeholders (policy makers, journalists, CSOs, etc). Finally, the proposed project activities under UNDP-GEF/SGP support were shared among the participants.
The three days gathering created a platform for the ICCA representatives to discuss the strength and weakness of their conservation activities with various community experts, rights activists and government delegates which also paved a way for increased recognition of ICCAs in Nepal. It was agreed that ICCA are important for the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity. It was also agreed that the existing conservation laws, acts and policies are not yet supportive to the recognition of ICCAs in Nepal. The introduction and discussion of ICCA Resilience and Security Tool was new and interesting for the ICCA representatives. All participants showed their enthusiasm in using and exercising the tool. However, the use of this tool is still challenging in Nepal due as many of the terms, phrases and language are difficult to comprehend for community people, which still needs to be translated into simple local language and contextualize into the existing ICCA practices in Nepal.
During the closing session, participants openly shared that they found the gathering very useful. The leaders became more energetic, organized and enthusiastic in planning and implementing further actions, basically for achieving their legal status as a “National Federation”. They also felt the need for more local interaction to create awareness at local level and also demanded more occasions for frequent policy dialogues, lobby and networking for enabling national policy environment at the national level. Overall, the gathering helped reinforced the ICCA debate by bringing issues and concerns of people closely associated with ICCAs, revitalize their group strengths and indentified priority actions.
Full report of the National Gathering prepared by Jailab Rai of Forest Action Nepal