Summary report, 23–26 October 2018

World Mountain Forum (WMF) 2018


The fourth World Mountain Forum (WMF 2018) took place from 23-26 October 2018, in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz Republic. Approximately 300 participants attended the meeting, which addressed the overarching theme, ‘Mountains in a Changing World: Strengthening Partnerships and Pathways Towards a Thriving Mountain Future.’ WMF 2018 was co-organized by the University of Central Asia (UCA) and the government of the Kyrgyz Republic, under the auspices of the Sustainable Mountain Development for Global Change Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

With the overall objective of advancing the sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda, discussions over the three days were organized around plenary sessions, parallel thematic tracks, poster presentations and featured focus events. The thematic discussions on the first two days addressed three overarching topics: current trends and dynamics; pathways towards a sustainable mountain future; and partnerships and alliances to advance SMD. On the final day, participants reviewed and consolidated messages for inclusion in the conference outcome document titled ‘A Call for Mountains,’ and convened in sessions exploring innovative partnerships and best practices in mobilization and financing for SMD.

The Forum was preceded by the Youth Mountain Forum, held on 22 October 2018, that brought together students and young professionals interested in climate change and SMD to serve as Youth Ambassadors during WMF 2018.

A Brief History of Sustainable Mountain Development

UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) And Rio+20: The first major international decision to address the issue of mountains and mountain regions was at UNCED, also known as the Earth Summit, held in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Chapter 13 of the main UNCED outcome, Agenda 21, is dedicated to mountains and recognizes the important ecological, economic and social functions of, and services provided by, mountain regions and makes a number of recommendations, including: promoting erosion control; promoting alternative livelihoods; developing early-warning systems and disaster-response teams for hazardous areas; and building expertise on mountain ecosystems.

In June 2012, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and adopted the outcome document, ‘The Future We Want,’ which includes specific references to mountains. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 addresses the need to “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.” The first target under SDG 15 explicitly mentions mountains among the ecosystems to be conserved, restored and sustainably used in line with international agreements.

The Mountain Partnership: The Mountain Partnership was founded by the Governments of Italy and Switzerland, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and launched in 2002 at the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The first Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership, held in Merano, Italy from 5-6 October 2003, identified common needs, priorities and concerns among mountain countries, and explored key issues related to the structure, membership and governance of the Partnership.

The second Global Meeting took place in Cusco, Peru, from 28-29 October 2004. It reviewed progress and charted the future course of the Mountain Partnership and its dynamic core, the “Partnership Initiatives.” Participants endorsed the governance of the Partnership set out in the Partnership’s Organization Membership and Governance document and affirmed their collective commitment to the goals of SMD.

The third Global Meeting convened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Tuesday, 19 June 2012, on the sidelines of the Rio+20 Summit, and shared lessons and best practices from joint action over the past ten years; and considered future cooperative efforts of the Mountain Partnership on a synergistic, inclusive, and committed foundation.

The fourth Global Meeting took place in Erzurum, Turkey from 17-19 October 2013. Participants addressed: the new Mountain Partnership Strategy and Governance; mountains in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the Mountain Forum knowledge platform for SMD; regional coordination mechanisms; and selection of the Steering Committee.

The fifth Global Meeting convened in Rome, Italy, from 11-13 December 2017, on the 15th anniversary of the Mountain Partnership. Discussions highlighted challenges to be addressed in the Partnership’s Framework for Action, including: the relationship between mountains and climate change, disaster risk management, food and water provisioning, mountain goods and services, mountain communities and migration, and links to the 2030 Agenda.

African Mountains Regional Forum: The first African Mountains Regional Forum (AMRF), convened in Arusha, Tanzania, from 22-24 October 2014. The Forum addressed the theme, ‘Towards a Shared Mountain Agenda for Africa,’ with participants sharing lessons learned in meeting diverse conservation and development challenges in African mountain regions. The meeting adopted the Arusha Outcomes, aimed at identifying strategic actions and partnerships that can contribute towards a regional framework on SMD and formally established the AMRF, which was subsequently endorsed by the Africa Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), as a Platform for Knowledge, Information Exchange and Policy Dialogue on a Mountain Agenda for Africa.

AMRF 2018 took place from 12-14 September 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, under the theme, ‘Mountains and Sustainable Development Agenda.’ The meeting adopted the Kigali Outcomes, which, inter alia, called on all governments of African mountain countries to join the Mountain Partnership, and recommended the development of a guide on innovative solutions for SMD currently being piloted by different stakeholders. Members adopted the new constitution of the AMRF and established its secretariat at the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) Network under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Uganda.

World Mountain Forum (WMF): The first WMF took place under the overall framework of the Mountain Partnership, during the Lucerne World Mountain Conference, held from 11-12 October 2011 in Lucerne, Switzerland. Delegates adopted a plan of action to secure renewed political commitment for SMD.

The second WMF took place from 22-24 May 2014 in Cusco, Peru. The Forum showcased available local, regional and global experiences in mountain development, and identified opportunities and challenges for global SMD, with a focus on water and food security, sustainable investment, and climate change adaptation.

The third WMF convened from 17-20 October 2016 in Mbale, Uganda, under the theme, ‘Mountains for our Future,’ and was preceded by the Special Africa Mountains Event that highlighted key issues affecting mountain ecosystems and communities in Africa. The Forum adopted the Mbale Call for Scaling Up Action, themed, ‘Don’t leave the mountains behind,’ aimed at galvanizing work on the ground and guiding mountain-related interventions in relevant international policy processes, including the Paris Agreement and mountain-related targets under the SDGs.

Report of the Meeting

Opening of The Forum: On Tuesday morning, Syed Sohail Hussain Naqvi, UCA, welcomed delegates to the Forum, stressing that mountains area core research focus for the university, not only in generating new knowledge but also in how knowledge influences the lives of mountain people. 

Abdykalyk Rustamov, Director of the State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry, Kyrgyz Republic, chaired the session, highlighting the Kyrgyz Republic’s place at the heart of Central Asia and its role in supplying water to the region downstream.

Murat Mukambetov, Deputy Head, Government Administration, Kyrgyz Republic, highlighted the role of the Kyrgyz Republic in efforts to promote SMD in the region. He emphasized the need to develop more mountain-focused mechanisms and institutions.

Mary Goretti Kitutu Kimono, Minister of Water Resources, Uganda, highlighted ways in which mountains contribute to energy security, poverty alleviation, and higher quality yields for food security. She noted, however, that population pressure and climate change threaten African mountain environments.

Juan Angulo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chile, spoke to efforts in the Andean region to promote SMD, highlighting the importance of multi-sector consultation during policy development, as was the case with the development of Chile’s national SMD policy.

Mohammad Rafi Qazizada, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, Afghanistan, noted that over a 25-year period, his country lost 394 square kilometers of its total glacier areas, while landslides associated with snowmelt have become increasingly common. He stressed the role of capacity building, strengthening resilience of mountain communities, and ensuring the delivery of ecosystem services as crucial to bridge technical and local environmental knowledge for SMD.

Danielle Meuwly Monteleone, Deputy Head, Mission of Switzerland to the Kyrgyz Republic, highlighted the common role that mountains play in shaping the identities in both Switzerland and the Kyrgyz Republic. She also called upon governments and the private sector to unlock sustainable investments in mountain regions.

Alidovar Sodatsairov, Youth Delegate, presented the outcomes of the Youth Mountain Forum, highlighting main challenges and possible solutions for mountain development, including the need for stakeholders to exchange information on mountain regions to co-develop solutions; the need to ensure indigenous and traditional knowledge are incorporated in global development programs on mountains, and the importance of targeting vulnerable groups to the effects of climate change, especially in relation to their age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Opening Plenary Sessions

Expert Panel: Mountains in a Changing World: This plenary session took place on Tuesday, 23 October, and was moderated by Carolina Adler, Mountain Research Initiative (MRI). Four keynote speakers introduced each of the themes to be addressed at WMF 2018.

Philippus Wester, International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), introduced the ‘Climate Change Affecting Water and Energy in Mountain Areas’ thematic track and presented the results of an assessment of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region. Explaining that the study was driven by concern about gaps in the 2007 and 2015 global assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), he highlighted, among key findings: projected losses of at least 30% of glacier mass under a 1.5 degree warming scenario; a doubling of flood magnitude by the end of the century; and the need for sustainable solutions to benefit the 80% of the population that lack access to clean energy.

Musonda Mumba, UNEP, introduced the thematic track on ‘Poverty, Food Systems and Agrobiodiversity.’ She presented a video on the ‘Vanishing Treasures’ initiative sponsored by the Government of Luxembourg that targets ecosystems that are home to three iconic species; the mountain gorilla, Bengal tiger, and snow leopard. She explained that the project seeks to understand the adaptive capacity of these species and ecosystems with local community participation to reduce human-wildlife conflicts that threaten their survival.

Yuka Makino, Coordinator, Mountain Partnership Secretariat, introduced the ‘Resilience and Transformation in Mountain Communities and Ecosystems’ thematic track. She stressed the need for targeted investments; sustainable production and diversification of food systems; strengthening skills and value chains, and further development of a resource mobilization strategy, including through the Mountain Facility.

Matt Reed, Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) introduced the thematic track on ‘Investing in Mountains – Securing the Future.’ He shared the Foundation’s experience in investing in mountain regions. He emphasized the need to make long-term investments and extend time horizons for success. Reed also called for an investment focus on critical infrastructure, such as irrigation and roads, that would help underpin broader development efforts. He proposed prioritizing initiatives around education, job creation and institutional development, and noted the value of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)’s work with local and regional partners.

In the ensuing discussion, participants highlighted a number of success factors in SMD projects, including: promoting interdisciplinary thinking on mountain assessment; tackling trade-offs between conservation efforts and ensuring food security; harnessing the social and ecosystem resilience of mountain communities; carrying out due diligence before projects are implemented; tailoring early warning systems for mountains; and expanding market access for mountain communities.

Special Event to Commemorate World Snow Leopard Day: Moderated by Chyngyz Kochorov, Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Secretariat, this session took place on Tuesday morning and focused on the establishment of a management plan for the Central Tian Shan Landscape in the Kyrgyz Republic. Abdykalyk Rustamov highlighted the cultural symbol of the snow leopard in Central Asia. Mambetaliev Kumar, State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry, Kyrgyz Republic, discussed implementation of the 2013 Bishkek Declaration, in which 12 countries established a cooperative mechanism to develop a snow leopard conservation action plan. Yash Veer Bhatnagar, GSLEP Secretariat, noted that protected areas are insufficient for successful snow leopard conservation, as he noted snow leopards require “extremely large areas” often beyond administrative and national boundaries.

Thomas Tennhard, Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), Germany, discussed projects to establish a biosphere reserve and an anti-poaching unit for snow leopards in the Kyrgyz Republic. He then presented the first NABU Snow Leopard Award to Roza Isakovna Otunbayeva, former president of the Kyrgyz Republic. Otunbayeva thanked NABU and stressed the charismatic importance of the snow leopard as reflected in Kyrgyz culture and literature.

Introduction and Launch of the SMD Assessment Issue Brief: On Wednesday morning, Susanne Wymann von Dach, Center for Development and Environment, University of Bern, introduced the report ‘Leaving no one in mountains behind: Localizing the SDGs for resilience of mountain people and ecosystems.’ She highlighted how mountain-specific development assessments can localize and help determine means of implementation for SDGs in mountain regions.

Reflecting on experience in the Kyrgyz Republic, Christian Hergarten, UCA, identified ineffective enforcement, incoherent policies and laws, and limited economic and employment opportunities as core obstacles for achieving SMD. He also noted that a rapid expert assessment can only be a first step and that broader consultations will be needed as part of national assessment processes.

Philippus Wester, ICIMOD, emphasized the importance of making SDGs more logically organized and targeted for mountain regions. He presented a framework of nine SDG-consistent priorities for mountains and peoples of the HKH and outlined ICIMOD’s plans to work with HKH countries to monitor progress towards achieving them.

Eric Nanchen, Foundation for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions (FDDM), spoke on the added value of assessing the interactions between the SDG targets, particularly when adopting a systemic global approach to achieving the SDGs. He noted that assessing the results of SDG interactions can be a challenge, and offered an example on SDG 4 (Education) to describe SDG interactions.

Sam Kanyamibwa, ARCOS NETWORK, used Uganda’s national mountain development strategy to highlight the value of involving different sectors and stakeholders. He noted how participation of multiple government ministries and civil society has led to the strategy being mainstreamed into the country’s development plan and included in the national budget.

Katya Pérez Viera, Consorcio para el desarrollo de la ecorregión andina (CONDESAN), Ecuador, presented an atlas of SMD in Ecuador, emphasizing data availability, proxy data, and spatial assessment of SDGs across Ecuadorian regions. She noted that the presentation of the atlas will be adapted to the needs of different policy makers at the local and national scales through “actionable knowledge.”

In the ensuing discussion, participants considered how mountains can be linked to other targets under the SDGs, the importance of addressing mining, how mountains can be factored into natural capital accounting, and the need for qualitative assessments of traditional resilience strategies.

Parallel Thematic Tracks

On Tuesday and Wednesday, participants met in three consecutive parallel sessions addressing the four thematic tracks of WMF 2018: Climate Change Affecting Water and Energy in Mountain Areas; Poverty, Food Systems and Agrobiodiversity; Resilience and Transformation in Mountain Communities and Ecosystems; and Investing in Mountains – Securing the Future.

The first set of discussions on Tuesday afternoon highlighted current trends and dynamics under each theme, with a focus on challenges and opportunities for SMD. On Wednesday morning, participants discussed pathways and objectives to achieve SMD goals across multiple scales and collectively achieve a new vision for global SMD. The final session on Wednesday afternoon highlighted examples of partnerships and alliances for engaging all stakeholders from multiple disciplines to help achieve sustainable results for mountain communities and ecosystems.

Each session opened with several “flash talks” highlighting some big picture issues and trends, as well as case studies of project experiences and lessons learned. Thereafter participants explored specific questions and provide recommendations for advancing SMD under each theme. 

Climate Change Affecting Water and Energy in Mountain Areas: This parallel track was co-organized by ICIMOD and the University of Zurich.

Current trends and dynamics: Azamat Osmonov, Central-Asian Institute for Applied Geosciences (CAIAG), presented the impact of climate change on water resources and glaciers of the Kyrgyz Republic, highlighting that the area of glaciers in the country has decreased by 17.6% since 1970. Taylor Marlow, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, presented results of a bathymetric assessment of glacial lake outburst flooding (GLOF) in Tajikistan, highlighting the threat posed by GLOF and how such assessments can inform locally-led responses. Marcus Nuesser, Heidelberg University, Germany, discussed irrigation practices in the northwestern Himalaya, charting their evolution and future challenges under the impact of climate change. He explained that ice reservoirs can be a site-specific technique to deal with seasonal water shortages and for supporting irrigated agriculture.

In the ensuing discussion, participants considered how climate change affects water flow and availability. Among other issues, participants noted that: in addition to glaciers, other mountain water sources such as páramos in the Andes, must be considered; there is a lack of information on precipitation changes in many mountain regions; communities need support to understand the concept of “peak water”; and that water demand must be considered in addition to supply when addressing seasonal water shortages. Discussing how environment-based adaptation solutions can also mitigate climate change impacts in mountain areas, participants shared views on afforestation as a dual adaptation-mitigation strategy, the need to factor in local workforces into climate strategies, and socio-economic incentives for adaptation measures.

Pathways: Paul Schattan, University of Innsbruck, highlighted the challenge of modelling climate impacts in vulnerable regions, which often have sparse ground observation networks. He noted that despite some data gaps, uncertainty in hydrological monitoring can be reduced by combining remote sensing and in situ data collection. Such improvements, he suggested, could inform better flood early warning systems and hydroelectric power planning.

Francisco Cuesta Camacho, CONDESAN, stated that despite glacier area losses of 20-50% in the tropical Andes since 1970, our understanding of the cryosphere, ecosystems, and landscape changes in the region is limited. He raised the possibility of glacier-fed peatlands converting to sources rather than sinks of carbon, noting peatlands lack a protection framework under the UNFCCC.

In the ensuing discussion, participants emphasized the need for development projects to work more closely with mountain communities. Participants also highlighted the importance of making education more mountain-relevant to empower young people and reduce migration out of mountain communities; and enhancing data sharing among mountain communities and researchers, including through the development of a global convention on mountains.

Partnerships: Jakub Polansky, University College London, outlined the effects of electrification on gender equality in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. He highlighted that women in electrified villages are more literate, complete more schooling, and are more likely to deliver children under supervision. Aliya Imbraimova, CAMP Alatoo, presented work to advance environmental education and citizen science in the Kyrgyz Republic. Noting this work is beneficial both for the communities who participate and the researchers who are able to use data generated by it. She discussed manuals that CAMP Alatoo has created to help local communities that lack access to laboratories to conduct simple and practical experiments to monitor water quality.

Philippus Wester, ICIMOD, highlighted lessons about what contributes to the success or failure of partnerships. He suggested the defining feature of effective partnerships is their continuing individual diversity and combined strength. Wester also shared five factors that can destroy partnerships: anxiety about difference, power imbalances, hidden agendas, competitiveness, and uncertainty.

The discussion focused on principles of successful and inclusive cross-sectoral partnerships for climate change adaptation. Among other issues, participants stressed the importance of: developing clear goals; taking a programmatic approach to achieve the longer time horizons necessary for building trust; establishing a common language and a defined distribution of responsibility; and navigating tensions and tradeoffs in the development of hydroelectric power in mountain regions. Participants suggested finding a “partnership broker” trusted by all stakeholders as a practical way forward to establish partnerships.

Wrap up: During the closing plenary on Thursday morning, Nadine Salzmann, University of Fribourg, summarized current trends and dynamics, including challenges posed by changing water supply due to changing precipitation and shrinking glaciers, peak water, and increasing water demands. She called for urgent climate action, noting the significant difference between global warming of 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius, and reiterated that a focus on adaptation is also required.

On pathways, she outlined calls from participants to pursue a global convention on mountains, as well as enhanced sharing of data and best practices, and improving mountain education on all levels.

Regarding partnerships, she reiterated that strong and sustainable partnerships take time to develop and depend upon trust, openness, and transparency.

Poverty, Food Systems and Agrobiodiversity: This parallel track was co-organized by ICIMOD and AKF.

Current trends and dynamics: Horacio Augstburger, Center for Development and Environment, University of Bern, discussed new approaches to assess which food systems provide the most ecosystem services, based on land cover assessments in three different food systems in Kenya and Bolivia. Juan Pablo Pineda Huamanñahui, International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) Organics International, outlined issues surrounding conservation of agrobiodiversity in the Andes of Peru, using lessons from practical experience with local mountain communities. Murodbek Laljebaev, UCA, provided insights into the integrated food and energy system in Khatlon Province, Tajikistan, where biomass is used for energy in heating and cooking but also as important grazing material for livestock.

In the discussion, participants noted the connection between poverty, food systems and agrobiodiversity, particularly in light of modern drivers of change such as globalization and climate change. They also highlighted the paradox of persistent poverty and food insecurity in mountain areas despite being biodiversity hotspots.

Pathways: Michael Vogel, NABU, presented comparisons between pasture management systems in Berchtesgaden in Germany, and Chon Kemin in the Kyrgyz Republic. Sarafruz Zamonova, Chemonics Tajikistan, shared her experiences working on women’s participation in economic activities to decrease poverty and contribute to the development of food systems. Stellah Mukhovi, University of Nairobi, discussed insights on the buffer capacity of food systems in the Mount Kenya region of Kenya.

The ensuing discussions addressed the need to: eradicate poverty and achieve food security; achieve a balance in the trade-off between ecosystem conservation and agricultural production; understand what ecosystem services are, and how they might be measured. Participants also identified the possibility of government taxation and compensation as a means for rebalancing the costs of preserving vital mountain ecosystem services.

Partnerships: Anshuman Das, Welthungerhilfe India, presented experiences in integrated farming systems from Nepal through an agro-ecological approach for smallholder farms in achieving food and nutritional security. Sonigitu Ekpe, Ministry of International Development Cooperation, Nigeria, highlighted knowledge application of nutritional science and open data for agrobiodiversity within two mountain communities in Cameroon and Nigeria.

 Participants discussed promising partnerships and alliances at local and national levels to achieve the goals of poverty eradication, food and nutrition security, and agrobiodiversity in mountain ecosystems. They also discussed: the role and scope of governments in addressing these issues; possible partnerships that could be forged with the private sector to improve the sustainability of food systems; and the role of non-governmental organizations in addressing poverty, food systems and agrobiodiversity issues.

Wrap up: In plenary on Thursday morning, Abid Hussain, ICIMOD, outlined key messages. On trends, he highlighted the rise of biodiversity loss in mountain regions, as well as increased incidence of climate-induced hazards and outmigration of men in search of work due to market- and climate-driven changes to agricultural practices.

On pathways, he noted that diversification in agriculture and support to non-agricultural income opportunities such as tourism and handicrafts can add flexibility to mountain livelihoods and help reduce food insecurity and poverty. He further noted the urgent need for providing financial and climate services to reduce risks, improve stability and maintain diversity in production.

Regarding partnerships, he highlighted the need for effective coordination across related government sectors and non-governmental stakeholders to successfully implement a holistic framework for food security, poverty reduction and agrobiodiversity. He underscored the role of regional cooperation in coping with climate-induced risks in mountain agriculture, enhancing food trade and sharing best practices.

Resilience And Transformation In Mountain Communities And Ecosystems: This parallel track was co-organized by CONDESAN, MRI and the Center for Development and Environment, University of Bern.

Current trends and dynamics: Shahnova Kurbanalieva, IFOAM-Organics International, discussed promising ways to improve long-term nutrition strategies through agriculture, including through promoting home gardens, post-harvest handling and processing, promoting local food and healthy diets, and raising consumer awareness. She emphasized the need for taking a cross-sectoral approach in policy-making in order to speak with “one voice on nutrition.”

Sebastian Kußmann, Wageningen University, discussed seed systems and plant genetic diversity in the mountain region of Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan. He stressed that farmers use complex inter- and intra-species mixtures to increase resilience in their cropping systems and noted that when new varieties are introduced, a complexity of individual cropping systems has to be considered to improve the adaptability of food production under changing climatic conditions.

Muhammad Zafar Khan, Karakorum International University, described the history of conservation strategies in northern Pakistan. He noted that people historically lived “in harmony with nature,” through customary laws and practices, but after top-down managerial approaches for conservation were introduced and failed, community-based conservation strategies have become increasingly implemented in the region. He highlighted benefits of community-based conservation, including, increasing wildlife populations, improved governance of natural resources, and improved decision-making.

The ensuing discussions addressed: the resilience of socio-ecological systems in a given mountain context under uncertain change; the most critical stressors that impact the capacity to cope with disturbances; and success factors that have resulted in improved resilience. Participants noted the need to: develop indicators to assess resilience; integrate modern and traditional approaches to conservation; ensure that community engagement is included in resilience strategies; pay attention to local conditions for resilience; and provide education on resilience to future generations.

Pathways: Lira Sagynbekova, UCA, presented on building resilience to climate change and socio-economic shocks in remote mountain areas of the Kyrgyz Republic. She presented a study in which household surveys in three regions of the country identified coping and adaptation strategies of local populations. Among these strategies, she highlighted the diversification of crops, cultivation of fodder crops, and introducing income-generating activities such as bee-keeping. She stressed that the lack of financial capital, high interest rates for private loans, and insufficient social support make it difficult to undertake appropriate adaptation strategies for poor households.

Jeremias Gasper Mowo, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), addressed information access for rural transformation based on the African Highlands Initiative in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Madagascar. He stressed that availability and access to accurate information by smallholder farmers is crucial for enhancing resilience and preventing exploitation by intermediaries. He also noted farmers’ preference for provision of information through mobile phones, as opposed to other communication channels.

In the ensuing discussions, participants identified policy strategies and robust interventions that effectively contribute to building resilience of mountain socio-ecological systems. Among opportunities, they identified the potential to empower local communities through peer-to-peer learning platforms. They also discussed challenges for building resilience, including the lack of trust between experts and local communities and limited access to technology and social welfare support.

Partnerships: Andrei Dörre, Free University of Berlin, discussed shifting “foodscapes” in the context of social transition and ecological change. He stressed the materiality of food, in terms of its diversity and composition; the spatiality of food, in terms of scale and territory; and the sociality of food, in terms of power relations of actors and decision-making practices.

Guillermo Ospina, Social Comparative Studies Group, Colombia, described the prohibition of agriculture and “cultural extermination” of agricultural communities in the Colombian high mountains. He described how the combination of guerilla warfare and the country’s current Páramo Law has worked to reduce the autonomy of mountain-dwelling communities, particularly by obliging farmers to transition from agriculture to eco-tourism and the “green economy.” Felix Kwabena Donkor, University of South Africa, outlined activities to overcome obstacles in the effective co-management of common property resources between traditional and state institutions for more effective natural resource governance.

During discussions, participants highlighted how mountain communities can be empowered to be active agents of change to negotiate resilient and sustainable solutions; the key attributes, structures and services that partnerships could provide in mountain regions; and how partnerships address critical stressors that impact the capacity of mountain communities to cope with disturbances. On empowering communities, participants identified, inter alia, the potential for rights advocacy in creating appropriate conditions for empowerment; establishing partnerships to politically mobilize local communities to enhance their voice in mountain development; and non-verbal communication through emotional outreach rather than strictly rational approaches.

On key attributes of partnerships, participants discussed, inter alia, power relations between actors, ways to avoid “elite capture” by more vocal individuals, and the impact of eco-tourism and green economy approaches as externally-imposed development strategies. On addressing critical stressors that impact coping strategies, participants highlighted: the multi-scalar aspects of partnerships; the need to monitor how partnerships evolve over time; paying attention to interests of stakeholders. One speaker also noted the need to identify non-financial gains for all stakeholders in partnerships.

Wrap up: During the closing plenary on Thursday morning, María Argüello, CONDESAN, summarizd key messages.

On current trends and dynamics, she reported that while progress has been made in understanding the complexity of socio-ecological resilience in mountain communities, there is a greater need to integrate diverse knowledge systems to enhance resilience. She also noted that mountain conditions offer opportunities for innovation and sustainable transformation based upon local diversity in land-use practices.

On pathways, she stated that increasing connectivity is insufficient to overcome the remoteness of mountain communities, and that there is a need to innovate communication strategies in a context-specific way to strengthen local ownership, foster learning, and enable rapid response to shocks.

On building partnerships and alliances, she reported that partnerships and alliances do not yet adequately account for the diversity within and among their members and stakeholders, compromising the empowering potential of partnerships, and that stronger partnerships require inclusive and negotiated goal setting that values the diverse interests and needs of communities.

Investing In Mountains – Securing the Future: This parallel track was co-organized by FDDM and ARCOS Network.

Current trends and dynamics: Mike Bowles, AKF, opened the session with an overview of current trends and dynamics in impact investing and sustainable finance. He observed that environmental and social governance (ESG) investing has become “mainstream,” with research by McKinsey identifying over USD 10 trillion in commitments based on positive screening and proactive approaches by investors, including large pension funds. He emphasized, however, that there are currently no dedicated funds for SMD and advised mountain stakeholders to focus their efforts on: “priming the pump” by preparing a pipeline of investment-ready projects that can attract new funding; gathering compelling data and improving awareness of investment opportunities; and advocating for a conducive environment for green investors and businesses.

Three speakers then presented diverse perspectives on sustainable land management in mountain areas. Niels Thevs (ICRAF) presented a project to promote afforestation and reforestation of walnut forests in the Kyrgyz Republic. Nursultan Karabaev, Kyrgyz National University, introduced a project aiming to influence the level of investment on the development of agro-economies in mountain regions. Farrukh Nazarmavloev, World Overview on Soil and Water Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT), highlighted a project from Tajikistan that explored how to integrate best practices from the global WOCAT database with project-based SDG monitoring tools.

In the ensuing discussions, focusing on the question of “why investors should care” about the specific case studies presented, participants noted the need for compelling data, for example on the contribution of potential projects to climate change mitigation. They highlighted opportunities, notably blended models, such as the Moringa Trust and the Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility, which help to “de-risk” investments, and the growing awareness of reputational risk among companies sourcing from local communities and vulnerable ecosystems.

The discussions further highlighted the need to: approach challenges and opportunities as being “two sides of the same coin”; enhance access to information and capacity building for mountain communities to fully benefit from SMD; and set up governance structures that build sustainable businesses from the bottom up.

Pathways: Shams Uddin, Hashoo Foundation, Pakistan, presented a green economy project that links the provision of basic services, such as food security, education and health care, with entrepreneurship development, especially for youth. Arstanbek Sagyntai, Roza Otunbayeva Foundation, discussed a project to develop a network of pre-schools for children living in difficult mountain environments in seven regions of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Almaz Edilbaev, AKF, presented on the AKDN’s ‘Accelerate Prosperity’ initiative. He said the project aims to support disadvantaged groups, especially women and youth, in Tajikistan, Afghanistan and the Kyrgyz Republic to develop sustainable businesses by providing three modalities of support to startups: business modelling and coaching; mentoring to reach investment readiness; and acceleration through post-financing.

In the ensuing discussions, participants highlighted the importance tracking the performance of such projects through indicators on investment and the number of jobs created, and ensuring an enabling environment, for example by offering tax breaks to investors. Some speakers recalled the poor investment record in some extractive sectors that has left communities worse off. On the risk of exploitation of local communities by unscrupulous investors, one participant stressed the need to recognize that “we are dealing with a wicked problem with no easy solution,” with others emphasizing principles of transparency, accountability and participation as the best responses to such threats.

Citing Switzerland’s experience in developing and branding high-quality niche products from specific mountain regions, participants noted the importance of “shortening” the value chain through clustering and decentralization of services and investing in value addition close to the source.

Partnerships: Alexander Dunets, Altai State University, presented a case study of sustainable tourism in the Altai mountains, highlighting “bad” examples of mass tourism projects that have destroyed the ecosystem in parts of the region, and “good” small-scale agro-tourism projects that are rooted in local culture and livelihoods. Abhinandan Dhakal, Shoten Group, presented on his agribusiness startup, Earthier, that is building a network of small-scale contract farmers in Sikkim, India, to grow climate-resilient crops adapted to Himalayan conditions. Describing his philosophy as “pitching the mountain to the plains,” he explained how his company aims to contribute to six SDGs through: working with 600 of the “poorest” farmers; producing pure Himalayan products with no artificial sweeteners or other additives; adding value through local processing and ensuring decent working conditions for the predominantly female workers; and exploring the use of clean energy sources.

On how to sustain his brand, Dhakal explained that his products are aimed at niche customers who are prepared to pay a premium for sustainably-sourced products rooted in Himalayan culture. In response to a question on how he is utilizing partnerships to grow his brand, Dhakal explained that he has obtained start-up funding from a development bank, built links with leaders in the source communities, and collaborates with ICIMOD as a knowledge partner.

In the ensuing discussions, participants highlighted the need for investors to: involve expert advisors who understand the sector; retain value at the local level; train communities in how to improve services; and use community representatives as “brand ambassadors.”

In discussing transboundary cooperation experiences that can help bring together upstream and downstream interests, participants called for careful monitoring of the impact of proposed investments, such as large infrastructure projects, on fragile mountain ecosystems. While recognizing the “espace locale” approach as offering a model for transboundary cooperation, they highlighted the need to break barriers such as visa restrictions and ensure that all communities are brought on board.

Wrap up: During the plenary session on Thursday morning, Sam Kanyamibwa, ARCOS Network, highlighted key messages from the discussions.

On trends, he observed the “good news” that there is money available for projects that contribute to sustainability outcomes, “but getting this money is not so easy.”  He emphasized the need to focus on readiness, which includes developing an enabling environment and identifying sustainable products with a clear market niche.

On pathways, he highlighted the need to invest in people and influence decision-making, including through: education and awareness to change mindsets around SMD; governance structures and benefit-sharing mechanisms; strengthening the involvement of youth; and strengthening the business positioning and commercial leverage of SMD initiatives.

On partnerships, he emphasized the need to link stakeholders at different levels, including governments, investors, think tanks, entrepreneurs and brokers, as well as the role of trust in building long-term and transformative partnerships.

Featured Focus Events

On Tuesday and Wednesday, eight ‘Featured Focus Events’ took place, providing a platform for participants to exchange information and experiences on various SMD initiatives.

The sessions focused on the following topics: ‘Vanishing Treasures’ project (UNEP and GSLEP); A Sustainable Systems Approach to Resilient and Productive Landscapes (ICRAF, World Food Programme and FAO); Disaster Risk Reduction - Experiences from the Indian Himalaya (Helvetas and the UN Development Programme);  Best Practices in Improving Resource Efficiency in Kyrgyzstan (WOCAT and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification); Partnerships and Alliances for Mountain Ecosystem-based Adaptation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, GIZ); Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme (SDC); and Drivers of Change to Improve Nutrition in Mountain Agro-ecosystems (BIO-Service, Bio-KG and IFOAM Organics International).

Final Plenary Sessions

Reporting Back From the Four Thematic Parallel Sessions: On Thursday morning, facilitators of the four thematic tracks highlighted key messages from the discussions. The messages are highlighted under the respective thematic reports above.

Consolidating and Advancing the Conference Outcome Document: In a session facilitated by Carolina Adler, MRI, WMF 2018 participants reviewed the draft outcome document, ‘A Call for Mountains.’ The session was organized around nine roundtable discussions, each focusing on a specific set of actors (‘global’, ‘regional’ or ‘national’) to be targeted under the three main sections of the outcome document (‘policy’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘action on the ground’).

Policy: At the global level, participants proposed prioritizing the mainstreaming of climate adaptation and mitigation, creating a specific mountain development fund, and working to build a coalition that advocates for mountains on the global level similar to the Small Island Developing States.

On regional-level recommendations, participants suggesting including references to strengthening regional policies on protected areas, regional research centers, and payment for ecosystem services. They also suggested emphasizing the value of convening stakeholders at the regional level.

On national policy, participants suggested including “development” when referring to research. They further noted the need to streamline several closely-related recommendations that reference the rights of local mountain communities to land and natural resources, and those calling for supportive approaches, such as ecosystem-based adaptation and community-based adaptation.

Knowledge: On the global level, participants suggested the document call for improving relationships among research centers and a specific report analyzing what global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius means for mountains specifically.

At the regional level, participants called for reference to the need for continuity of projects, financing regional centers of excellence, and encouraging learning from local communities, not just scientists.

Inputs for the local level highlighted: the need for historical data in addition to generating new baseline data; ensuring that metadata are also made available; and issues of quality control, especially when data is crowdsourced or decentralized. The need to communicate research findings back to local communities was also highlighted.

Action: Suggestions for global-level actions included proposals to broaden a reference on science to include “knowledge and research”; clarifying that particular attention to climate change is called for, given that a climate goal is also included under the SDGs; and highlighting the role of natural capital accounting in recognizing the value of mountains and the ecosystem services they provide.

At the regional level, participants noted the need for international and national bodies to promote regional cooperation, and the value of linking mountain communities through exchanges of people, experiences, and best practices.

Suggestions for national-level actions included a call for contextual, bottom-up development approaches and diversifying income sources for mountain communities. Participants also considering future generations by calling for investments in health, education, and ensuring ecosystem balance.

In additional suggestions, one speaker called for highlighting cross-cutting themes, while another speaker remarked that “there are no questions raised in the paper,” and challenged the SMD community to be confident about highlighting unresolved issues to spur further inquiry.

Closing the session, Adler informed participants that the input received during the discussion would be incorporated in the outcome document prior to its release on International Mountain Day on 11 December 2018.

Innovative Development Pathways And Partnerships: On Thursday morning, facilitator Eric Nanchen, FDDM, invited three speakers to share diverse perspectives on SMD, describing it as the “surprise” session and giving movie-style titles to express the focus of the three presentations.

“Ice Age: The Return”: Sonam Wangchuk spoke on the Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh initiative in the trans-Himalayan desert of northern India, which has pioneered an alternative education system suited to mountain culture and ecosystem. He discussed achievements of the “ants’ army” of local students who serve as ambassadors within their communities and who have gone on to design and build an alternative “doer’s and maker’s mountain university” that is also managed by students.

Wangchuk explained how these home-grown solutions have opened up opportunities for broader partnerships, including: adoption of the movement’s curriculum by the regional government; successful crowdsourcing of funds for follow-up projects; support from the Indian army for infrastructural projects; and expansion of the iconic “ice stupas” – a local innovation that traps water from freezing glaciers for use during the dry spring season – across the region, enabling local communities to regreen sections of the desert. He outlined his vision of developing ice hotels based on the ice stupa technology to tap growing interest from international tourists and said efforts underway to explore ways to “refreeze” glacier lakes to prevent the rise of flooding and other natural disasters.

 “Open Doors at Fort Knox”: Mike Bowles, AKF, explained that although there is a trend towards investments based upon ESG criteria, a USD 1.5 trillion annual funding shortfall remains for financing the SDGs. He noted that a range of financing structures exist, such as impact investing, blended finance, official development assistance and the GCF, but emphasized that more work is required to promote investment readiness in mountain regions.

“The Super White Kitty Cat”: Yash Veer Bhatnagar, GSLEP, presented on robust science and conservation models in taking a landscape-scale approach in protecting the snow leopard. He emphasized efforts towards transboundary conservation among 12 countries and efforts to address human-wildlife conflicts. He also stressed that with good management plans, there are ample financial resources to protect the snow leopard.

Highlighting Best Practices for Mobilizing People and Resources: This session on Thursday afternoon presented four examples of good practices from regional SMD initiatives.

Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme: Philippus Wester, ICIMOD, discussed follow up of the first HKH Assessment in the region, noting the role played by the 350 researchers involved in the project. He highlighted the next steps as: strengthening regional cooperation and learning from similar initiatives in other regions; compiling and synthesizing HKH knowledge through complementary thematic and sub-regional assessments; and promoting and monitoring SDG-consistent mountain priorities.

Caparthian Convention: Larisa Semernya, UNEP, highlighted achievements of the Convention, which was adopted in Kiev, Ukraine, in 2003 by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic and Ukraine. She identified support from four alpine European countries, including hosting of the Secretariat in a neutral country (Austria), as successful elements that have encouraged knowledge sharing. She further noted how the Convention is contributing to regional cooperation in the broader Caucasus Mountains, as well as forging partnerships with other regional initiatives.

Andean Mountain Initiative: María Argüello, CONDESAN, outlined the history of the initiative, which brings together Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, noting that it emerged from established regional institutions, but was necessitated by the need for a platform dedicated to environmental governance. She noted that the Initiative’s voluntary nature is a key strength, encouraging political dialogue among members, including some who are involved in conflict, in promoting experimentation and flexibility in decision-making processes. She highlighted other best practices as: “one country leading and motivating others”; equitable relations with rotating and legitimized leadership every two years; a transparent decision making protocol; and good communication tools.

Argüello also highlighted challenges faced, including transitioning towards a more formal structure, involving civil society organizations, and linking the initiative with local and global levels.

Interstate Commission for Sustainable Development:  Ismail Dairov, Regional Mountain Center of Central Asia (RMCCA), discussed the work of the Commission, established in 1994 to coordinate regional cooperation between Kazakstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the Kyrgyz Republic. Among key outputs, he highlighted the first State of Environment Assessment for Central Asia and the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Environment for Sustainable Development in Central Asia that was finalized in 2016. He concluded by identifying three key trends and policy issues for the region: mountain countries experiencing more severe impacts of climate change than other parts of the world; decision makers having little awareness of these trends; and the need to develop and implement long-term strategic approaches that leverage both internal and external financial resources.

In the ensuing discussion, participants noted the role of regional platforms in strengthening academic cooperation and science-policy linkages within and across the four regions and globally.

Global Perspectives: On Thursday afternoon, Yuka Makino, Mountain Partnership Secretariat, introduced the Framework for Action, emphasizing that both SDG 6 (Clean Water) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) explicitly mention mountains and mountain ecosystems. Makino then introduced the panelists and invited them to respond to a series of questions.

Responding to a question on the importance of mountains in their country, Mary Goretti Kitutu Kimono, Minister of Water Resources, Uganda, noted the importance of mountains as the “water towers” of the country and important parts of cultural heritage, food security, and biodiversity. Manfred Kaufmann, SDC, stated that mountains are an iconic feature of Swiss identity and cultural heritage and a significant contribution to the national GDP.

Highlighting examples of how mountain issues are mainstreamed in national policies, Alamgeer Hussain, Department of Agricultural Livestock and Fisheries Government of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, described how SMD policies are coordinated with local communities and NGOs, particularly through the country’s trophy-hunting incentive programme. Mohammad Rafi Qazizada, Director-General, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, Afghanistan, spoke about his government’s ‘citizen charter’ programme, which supports farm-to-market access with a focus on marginalized mountain communities.

On targeted instances of implementation in practice, Ismail Dairov, Executive Director, RMCCA, described a payment for ecosystem services project in the Kyrgyz Republic that links upstream and downstream water users.

Offering some insights on how the issues discussed could be integrated into the global policy agenda, Ivonne Lobos Alva, Stockholm Environment Institute Latin America, offered three suggestions to generate greater support for mountains: using the achievement of the SDGs as “bridges” for SMD; becoming more active in establishing partnerships, platforms and dialogues to raise awareness on mountain issues; and ensuring a “bold and ambitious” outcome document from the Forum.

In the ensuing discussion, participants and panelists identified, inter alia, ways to access financing by supporting the value chain for mountain products, ensuring that development resources are channeled to marginalized and less populated mountain areas, and disaggregating “big data” to be specific to context to ensure leaving no one in the mountains behind.

Closing Of The Forum: On Thursday afternoon, Bohdan Krawchenko, UCA, thanked the Kyrgyz Republic for hosting the Forum and all of the supporting institutions and agencies. He spoke to the role of universities in advancing SMD, emphasizing that Central Asia cannot outsource “granular thinking” about its challenges and needs strong institutions informed by local and regional knowledge.

Manfred Kaufmann, SDC, noted the importance of making the mountain voice heard, and described the spirit of collaboration that defines the WMF with a proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, then go together.”

The voice of youth for SMD was captured with the presentation of postcard drawings made by local children expressing their environmental concerns. Eric Nanchen, FDDM, explained that the drawings will be taken to Switzerland and added to over 120,000 drawings by children from around the world, with the aim of creating a “record breaking” 50-meter square postcard that will be placed on Europe’s largest glacier before being “sent” from the highest post office in Europe to UNFCCC COP 24.

Mairambek Kalybaev, Deputy Head, Department of Agro-Industrial Complex and Ecology, Kyrgyz Republic, reiterated the importance of immediate climate action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius for achieving SMD. He stressed that achieving this will require new ways of collaboration.

Kalybaev officially closed the Forum at 5.47 pm.

Upcoming Events

2018 CVF Virtual Climate Summit: The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) will convene a global political leaders’ summit to build increased support to safeguard those that are most vulnerable to the growing climate change impacts.  date: 22 November 2018  location: virtual  contact: CVF Presidency  phone: +692 625 2233/3445  email: 

International Mountain Day 2018: “#MountainsMatter” is the theme chosen for the 2018 celebration of International Mountain Day. The theme will highlight how mountains matter for youth, water, disaster risk reduction, food, indigenous peoples and biodiversity.  date: 11 December 2018  location: worldwide  contact: FAO  phone: +39-06 57051  email:  www:

Mountains 2018: This event aims to stimulate and disseminate knowledge on mountain-related development issues. The event will focus on practical experiences related to sustainable development in mountain regions and assemble professionals and other stakeholders actively working towards this goal.  dates: 11-15 December 2018  location  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  contact: The Lusophony Mountain Research Network  email:  www:

International Consultative Workshop on Strengthening Regional Cooperation across Transboundary Landscapes and River Basins in the Hindu Kush Himalaya: This workshop will explore possible mechanisms to enhance regional cooperation in the HKH and to discuss priority actions.  dates: 15-16 November 2018  venue: ICIMOD, Kathmandu, Nepal  contact: Rajan Kotru  email:  www:

GLF Bonn 2018: The Global Landscapes Forum Bonn 2018 will review progress towards landscape sustainability targets with contributions from diverse organizations and individuals on how to boost action on the ground and learn from local experiences.  dates: 1-2 December 2019  venue:  Bonn, Germany  contact: Kamal Prawiranegara  email:  www:

UNFCCC COP 24: The Katowice Climate Change Conference is expected to finalize the rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change under the Paris Agreement work programme.  dates: 2-14 December 2018  location: Katowice, Poland  contact: UNFCCC Secretariat phone: +49-228- 815-1000  e-mail:  www:

Seventh Session of the IPBES Plenary (IPBES-7): The seventh session of the plenary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services will consider, inter alia, the report of the Executive Secretary on the implementation of the first work programme for the period 2014-2018; the global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services; review of the Platform at the conclusion of its first work programme; the Platform’s next work programme; and institutional arrangements.  dates: 29 April - 4 May 2019  location: Paris, France  contact: IPBES Secretariat  phone: +49-2888150570  email:  www:

World Mountain Forum 2020: The next World Mountain Forum will convene in 2020 to continue discussions on local, regional, and global experiences of SMD. dates: 2020   location: TBC  contact: Mountain Forum Global Node Office  phone: +51-1-618-9400  email:  www:


Further information


Negotiating blocs
Small Island Developing States
Non-state coalitions