Mountains are home to 15% of the world’s population and host about half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. They provide freshwater for everyday life to half of humanity. Their conservation is a key factor for sustainable development. Unfortunately, mountains are under threat from climate change and overexploitation, while mountain communities face increasing poverty. To address these threats, the UN General Assembly (UNGA), in December 2021, passed a resolution declaring the year 2022 as the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development, 2022. The Government of the Kyrgyz Republic proposed the resolution, which was sponsored by 94 governments.
To launch the International Year, the Mountain Partnership and the Kyrgyz Republic convened an online event under the theme “Mountains Matter: For people and the planet.” The event launch featured a series of statements by high-level representatives from government and organizations, as well as by other stakeholders. Speakers highlighted the International Year as an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of mountains for sustainable development, drawing attention to the ecosystem goods and services that mountain ecosystems provide and the challenges mountain communities face, including in the context of climate change.
Jake Norton, Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassador, climber, photographer, and filmmaker, moderated the event, which opened with a musical performance by the Alpine Marching Band of the Italian Army. Norton called for change at the global level through government commitments and action, by promoting collaboration for a more sustainable and equitable future for mountains and mountain communities.
Roberto Natali, Plenipotentiary Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy, and Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee, highlighted the role of the Mountain Partnership as the only recognized alliance devoted to mountains and mountain communities. He stressed the need to empower mountain communities to overcome challenges related to poverty and climate change, including through research and information exchange, as well as to foster partnerships for urgent action.
Qu Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), drew attention to the importance of mountains for environmental, economic, social, and cultural reasons, and to challenges faced by mountain communities regarding poverty, marginalization, and gender inequality. He called for strategic investment, technology, and innovation in support of sustainable mountain development in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Sadyr Japarov, President, Kyrgyz Republic, via a video message, noted his country’s efforts to promote global interest in sustainable mountain development, including the proposal to the UNGA to declare 2022 as the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development, as well as the initiative for the adoption of a five-year UN action plan for the development of mountain regions.
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, in a statement read by Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, stressed that mountains provide essential ecosystem services and support livelihoods, while mountain communities have been managing their environment sustainably over millennia. Noting challenges, including vulnerability to climate change, and food and water insecurity, he called for placing sustainability and resilience of mountains and their communities at the heart of international processes and investment within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the UNGA and Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Maldives, in a video message, called for increasing global commitments and investments on mountain development, to reverse the current scenario of environmental degradation and community impoverishment.
Maria Ubach Font, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andorra, drew attention to her country’s efforts to promote sustainable mountain development, prioritizing collaboration and the establishment of partnerships.
Tandi Dorji, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan, in a video message, noted the sacred nature of mountains in his country and a record of strong environmental policies. He underscored three priority aspects for sustainable mountain development to be promoted through international cooperation and investment: agriculture, sustainable tourism, and renewable energy generation.
Sam Cheptoris, Minister of Water and the Environment, Uganda, said sustainable mountain development is central to achieving the SDGs and vital for the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in the African continent.
Orlando Jorge Mera, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Dominican Republic, underscored initiatives in his country and the Caribbean region, including on protected areas, and stressed the role of regional spaces for the exchange of experiences.
Dinara Kemelova, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kyrgyz Republic, provided an overview of Kyrgyz proposals to put mountains on the global agenda, including development of a UN programme on conservation of mountain forests, establishment of a mountain development fund, and institutionalization of a group of mountain countries.
Pem Narayan Kandel, Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Environment, Nepal, drew attention to the regional policy dialogue on sustainable mountain solutions, held in Kathmandu in March 2022. Underscoring that climate change impacts are more severe in mountainous regions, he called for building strong coalitions among mountain countries.
Christian Hofer, Director General, Federal Office for Agriculture, Switzerland, in a video message, focused on: vulnerability to climate change, noting that mountain communities can pioneer adaptation solutions; agriculture and mountain food production as examples of sustainable production systems; and mountain cultural traditions to be protected as intangible heritage.
Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado, US, in a video message, drew attention to the sixth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership, to convene in Aspen, Colorado, from 26-29 September 2022. The meeting is being co-hosted by the Mountain Partnership, together with the State of Colorado, the City of Aspen, and the Aspen International Mountain Foundation.
Mountains Matter: Mobilizing Action for Sustainable Mountain Development
Carolina Adler, Executive Director, Mountain Research Initiative, and Lead Author, Working Group II, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, presented on the main results of the recent IPCC report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, and on ways to use this knowledge towards climate resilient development in mountains. She highlighted four key climate-related risks in mountains: loss of lives, harm to people, and damage to infrastructure from hazards such as landslides and floods; adverse impacts to livelihoods and economic sectors from changes in water availability; changes to mountain ecosystems and risks of mountain top species extinction; and intangible losses and harm to people, including loss of cultural values from decline of ice, snow cover, and associated disasters.
In a video message, Yannick Glemarec, Executive Director, Green Climate Fund (GCF), presented on climate funding for mountains, drawing examples from GCF projects in Morocco, Pakistan, and Bhutan.
Yoko Watanabe, Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme Global Manager, UN Development Programme, presented on projects enhancing mountain value chains, focusing on capacity development and training activities for farmers and producer organizations.
Luis Benitez, Vice President for Government Affairs and Global Impact, VF Corporation, presented on the role of the private sector in promoting sustainable and active lifestyles for the benefit of people and the planet.
Dilshodbegim Khusravova, Mountain Partnership Youth Goodwill Ambassador from Tajikistan and a volunteer for the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, drew attention to challenges related to globalization and climate change, and stressed that the empowerment of young people is key for them to become change makers in their communities.
The event concluded with a musical performance by Landry Riba and Elisa Mas from Andorra.
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