ICMC- 2002

The International Conference of Mountain Children
May 18 - May 23 2002; Dehradun, Uttaranchal, India


The International Conference of Mountain Children (ICMC) was much more than simply a meeting of children from mountainous regions: It was the first step in a revolution that means to change how the world works with and perceives children and mountain communities. Though millions of development aid money spent in the world is earmarked for children's issues, rarely are the children themselves consulted on what they need or want. Even worse, despite vast funds being pumped into children's welfare, many children still lack adequate nutrition, medical care, education, and, saddest of all, a childhood, for they spend their young lives struggling to survive. (According to the UNICEF, some 600 million children still live in poverty.) This is particularly true for the children of mountain communities, which continue to languish on the fringes of the world's consciousness, even as the mountains they live in are exploited for their natural resources.

The ICMC was inspired in part by two concurrent global events: the Global Movement for Children, headed by Nelson Mandela, and the UN designation of 2002 as the International Year of the Mountains. The conference itself served a dual purpose:

  • To bring together children from remote mountain areas (who wouldn't normally have an opportunity for such interaction) to discuss their problems and work together to find solutions; and
  • To provide a permanent platform for such interaction through the creation of the Mountain Children's Forum.

The ICMC was a success. The path leading up to it was fraught with problems and frustrations. Now that the conference is over, we can look back and try to learn from past mistakes and use the challenges we now face to help us evolve our methods. As we have always said, the real work begins after the ICMC is over.

The ICMC took place from 18th-21st May 2002 in Uttaranchal, India, the newest mountain state in the world. The conference was funded by Plan International, and hosted by the ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) at their IMD campus in Dehra Dun. It was made possible by an unprecedented collaboration of more than a dozen NGOs and was organized by RACHNA, a non-government organization based in Dehra Dun that works for the promotion of comprehensive and people-based strategies for socio-economic advancement of the Himalayan areas.

A total of 72 young people attended the ICMC as official delegates. They represented mountainous regions across India as well as Nepal and the Tibetan community in India. Between them, they spoke more than a dozen different languages. As there was no single common language, the conference was conducted in a mix of Hindi and English with the adult facilitators acting as translators. The children also came from diverse backgrounds ranging from remote tribal villages to affluent private schools. There were 44 boys and 28 girls. They ranged in age from 14-18. For many of the children, this was their first trip away from their villages and the first time they had met people from outside their own communities.

The original vision of the ICMC had children from mountainous regions all over the world coming together in India for the conference. We hoped to make use of the Plan International's vast global network of programs and organization to help coordinate and bring the children to India. But in the end, Nepal was the only Plan program country outside India to send delegates to the ICMC. Realities of the post-September 11th world, tensions between India and Pakistan, which made people hesitant to travel to the region, along with insufficient funding to cover international travel expenses forced us to scale the conference down to a regional level. Nonetheless, the children that participated represented such diversity in background and experience, that the ICMC was a unique experience for all of them.

Since children were not just the focus of the conference but also the future stewards of the MCF, we attempted to keep the ICMC flexible enough that the children could direct discussions and activities, while maintaining just enough structure to keep things moving forward and compensate for the lack of time. When they arrived, the children knew little about the purpose of the conference or about the other delegates. By the end of the five days, they had not only set up a structure and rules for the Mountain Children's Forum, but also planned and carried out the function to mark the launch of the MCF and the end of the conference, an event that included nearly 400 people.

Cyril Raphael

The ICMC owes its existence to the vision of Cyril Raphael, who first came up with the idea of using the convergence of the International Year of the Mountains and the Global Movement for Children to create a special place on global stage for the children of the mountains. He has been guardian of the vision, ensuring that the true purpose of the ICMC is not lost within the details of planning the conference.

ICMC team RACHNA/SBMA, Janaadhar and SPECS

  • Aditi P. Kaur, Saji Kumar, Khila Bisht, Smita Patel, Sunil Kainthola, B.M Sharma, Pradeep Anthwal, Jayprakash Panwar ‘JP’, Gurjeet, Mohan, Sanjeeta, Ranju, Vinod, Pappu,
  • SBMA support for the event Gyan Singh Rawat, Manoj Bhatt, H.S Pankholi, Neetu Prasad, Rakesh Bisht, D.S Rawat, Usha, Rekha, Sant lal, Gajendra Nautiyal, Pradeep Dimri, CM Thapliyal, Meera,

...On the afternoon of the 17th, fourteen children arrived from the northeast. As they piled into the cafeteria, hungry and exhausted from their long journey, a young boy from Uttaranchal approached me, pointed at the newcomers and asked in careful English, "What country are they from?" "India," I said, laughing a little. "No," he said, frustrated that I didn't seem to understand him, "W hat country are they from?" "India," I replied again. This went on for a few minutes until I told the boy to ask one of the northeast children himself. He returned from the exchange with a puzzled look on his face and leaned to me to confide in a hushed voice, "I think they're from one of those countries next to India!"- Kirsten, an American volunteer for ICMC

Kirsten from the US who volunteered for the ICMCFriends and supporters Shalini, Ranu, Vijay Shahi, Subhash Rawat, Sreedhar and his wonderful family, Manish Gurung,

..................... and many, many others put their shoulders to the wheel and made the dream a reality.

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