Twenty-Sixth FAO Regional Conference for the Near East

Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 9 - 13 March 2002

The International Year of Mountains, 2002

Table of Contents


1. In 1998, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2002 the International Year of Mountains (IYM) and invited FAO to be the lead agency to prepare and coordinate observance of the Year. Under the overall goal of ensuring the well-being of mountain populations by promoting sustainable development of mountain regions, IYM objectives are to:

2. The last objective has become increasingly relevant in the world today, given the large number of armed conflicts affecting mountain areas and the devastating impact this has had on already poor and marginalized populations. Peace and stability are an absolute prerequisite to development and prosperity and underlie all other objectives of the Year.


3. FAO has already taken a number of measures to fulfill its role as the lead agency to prepare and coordinate observance of 1 Year (2002). An IYM coordination unit has been established in the Forestry Department at FAO headquarters. Additional staff have been recruited, mainly through extra-budgetary resources, to cover the various responsibilities related to this work. In addition, a temporary professional post in watershed management has been established and a senior consultant was recruited to ensure that the time and resources absorbed in IYM preparation and observance, at a high level of activity, and FAO technical programme in watershed management do not affect the ability of maintaining, including both field and normative aspects. This strength will be sustained through the establishment of a new Regular Programme professional post in the Forestry Department in Sustainable Mountain Development in the 2002-2003 biennium.

4. An IYM Focus Group of Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York has been established to provide support and guidance to the IYM observance. The group has been closely involved in preparations for the official launch ceremony held in December 2001 at UN headquarters. The IYM Focus Group includes representatives from Austria, Bhutan, Bolivia, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lesotho, Peru, Slovenia and Switzerland.


5. Communication tools to support and guide national participation, including information and promotional packages, have been developed and are being disseminated to a wide variety of partners, including IYM national committees. The IYM coordination unit at FAO has launched the official IYM logo and made it available for public use, while the dedicated IYM web site ( has undergone further development and is currently available in English, French and Spanish. Cooperation is being sought through bilateral arrangements to expand language coverage. An official slogan for the IYM, "We are all mountain people", is also now available to the public. In addition, practical information materials have been developed and disseminated to countries to assist in mobilizing and organizing at national level. This includes information "toolkits" meant to assist countries in forming national committees and plan IYM activities.

6. As one of the most important objectives of the IYM will be to raise awareness on mountain issues, the IYM coordination unit has prepared its communications plan. The plan defines the overall strategy and approach to raising awareness, promoting and mobilizing action on the IYM. It indicates key audiences, main messages, means and opportunities to inform through a comprehensive public awareness campaign. It is being made available to a wide variety of potential users, including all national committees.


7. The main focus of attention and support for IYM observance is at country level. Although many global and regional mountain events are planned for 2002, awareness raising and mobilizing interested stakeholders at national level are viewed as the key to long term success of the IYM, particularly in terms of ensuring sustained action toward development and conservation in mountain regions. By November 2001, 40 countries had established or were in the process of establishing a National Committee responsible for the preparatory activities and celebration of the IYM; 53 countries had established a focal point for the IYM; and in the Near East region, Kyrgyzstan and Yemen had established a national committee and focal point, respectively. Through extra-budgetary resources, FAO was able to provide modest financial support (US$5,000) to each interested country to assist with national observance efforts.

8. National Committees have the potential to play an important role in many countries, not only in terms of the IYM observance in 2002, but well beyond that. In some countries, these committees provide an institutional setting that would allow, for the first time, different interest groups and stakeholders involved in mountain issues to come together and consider discussing these issues in a coherent and integrated manner. Given the broad-based membership of most national committees, a variety of perspectives from government, NGO, private sector and other interest groups are being brought to bear in determining how to move forward in implementing sustainable mountain development. These committees can play a key role in developing long term national strategies and programmes for mountain areas, and this has already taken place in some countries.


9. Significant rearrangements of Regular Programme resources, largely regarding staff time, have been made to support preparations for IYM so far. Extra-budgetary resources are required to support the work being carried out directly by the IYM coordination unit in providing the necessary assistance for the preparation of the IYM at national, regional and global levels. Resources are also needed to support the observance being organized within countries, through direct support to National Committees, and to assist countries in the formulation of national strategies and programmes for their mountain areas. To this end a comprehensive fund-raising and resource mobilization strategy has been formulated within FAO and a multi-donor trust fund has been set up to raise the approximately US$ 6 million needed to carry out the activities defined in the IYM project proposal. In the period leading up to October 2001, approximately US$1,000,000 had been contributed by donor countries (Italy, Switzerland and Austria) to the trust fund.


10. FAO, as lead agency, convened a meeting in July 2001 with representatives of the major global events currently scheduled for the IYM. The meeting, hosted by the Swiss Government, was held to establish closer collaboration among the major events to ensure a well coordinated and coherent overall approach to the IYM. The aim was to ensure that each of the major global processes and events has the opportunity and is encouraged to build on the results of the other processes that precede it, and that all the results are fully considered and duly recognized at the final IYM Conference. Furthermore, relevant global IYM meetings include:


11. In view of the coinciding observance in 2002 of the International Year of Mountains and the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE) (website: sustainable/IYE-Main-Menu.htm), member countries of the Committee on Forestry, who met in March 2001, urged FAO to collaborate with organizers of the IYE to ensure that both Years are fully synchronized. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) and UNEP are co-lead agencies for the IYE. Since a large portion of tourist activities occurs in mountain areas, simultaneous observance of both international years in 2002 provides an important opportunity to jointly build awareness and new synergies. A World Summit on Ecotourism will be held in Quebec, Canada, in May 2002.


12. Today, co-operation between FAO and countries of the Region is expected to gain some renewal in the implementation of Chapter 13 of Agenda 21 and the observance of the International Year of Mountains. Morocco and Tunisia have already developed mountain focused programmes. Yemen has a nation-wide project on watershed management and forestry has a strong potential for supporting and enlarging the country's initiatives to implement Chapter 13 and observe the International Year of Mountains.

13. FAO envisages developing a process that focuses on Near East Mountains. A networking process will be encouraged and supported to increase regional awareness of the mountain ecosystems in the Region, and develop cooperation for the conservation, management and development of mountain resources. This should help to build a philosophy and willingness to exchange information on technologies, approaches and experiences in tackling resources conservation and development in mountain systems in the Region.


1 Further details on these events are available on the IYM web site (