CL 123/INF/15


Hundred and Twenty-Third Session

Rome, 28 October – 2 November 2002


Table of Contents


1. The United Nations General Assembly, at its fifty-third session, adopted resolution 53/24 in which it proclaimed 2002 the International Year of Mountains. The resolution invited FAO to serve as the lead agency for the Year and encouraged Governments, the United Nations system and all other actors to take advantage of the Year to increase awareness of the importance of sustainable mountain development. In accordance with recommendations of the FAO Council, and in order to effectively implement this role, FAO called upon donor countries and others to contribute to a trust fund for this purpose and established an International Year of Mountains Coordination Unit in the Forestry Department.

2. The General Assembly’s decision to observe an international year dedicated to mountains has provided a unique opportunity to consolidate and capitalize on the many efforts carried out to date to protect and sustainably develop mountain regions, and in particular to focus observance of the Year on long-term action that would improve the quality of life in mountain communities and protect fragile mountain environments. Concerted action is needed to build and strengthen the *beyond 2002. Thus, the Year is intended to be far more than just a series of events and activities. It is, rather, a springboard for launching and reinforcing long-term mountain development and conservation efforts.


3. Following the United Nations General Assembly resolution declaring the International Year of Mountains, and in accordance with Economic and Social Council guidelines for the observance of international years, FAO 's Director-General encouraged countries to establish multi-stakeholder national committees to plan and implement national observance of the Year. National response to the International Year of Mountains has been tremendous. As of August 2002, 71 national committees for observing the International Year of Mountains were established or are being established. These include 20 in Africa, 13 in Asia and the Pacific, 16 in Europe, 13 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 6 in the Near East and North Africa and 2 in North America. Many include representatives of mountain people, grassroots’ organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society institutions, the private sector, United Nations agencies, national government agencies and decentralized authorities. In some countries, the national committee for the International Year of Mountains is the first national mechanism for sustainable development of mountains and the first opportunity to implement a holistic approach to mountains. National committees are being encouraged to continue operating beyond 2002 to help develop and implement sustainable development strategies, policies and laws designed to respond to the specific needs, priorities and conditions of the mountain areas of respective countries. To do so, many national committees require significant support in the areas of communications, capacity building, information, strategic planning, policy development, expert consultation and financial resources.



4. The International Year of Mountains is being intensely observed around the world at many national and international events, through a large number of initiatives and by a great diversity of institutions and individuals. These diversified initiatives will lead to more effective partnerships and plans for long-term collaborative action to achieve the objectives of chapter 13 of Agenda 21. An International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions was presented as a Type 2 Outcome at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), 26 August to 4 September 2002, Johannesburg, South Africa. The purpose of the Partnership, which was initiated by the Swiss Government, FAO and UNEP, is to enable more effective implementation of chapter 13. It will build on the Inter-Agency Group on Mountains, which has been the main institutional mechanism to advise on the implementation of chapter 13 as well as on the planning and implementation of the Year. The Partnership is conceived as a mechanism for improving, strengthening and promoting greater cooperation between major groups, donors, implementing agencies, non-governmental organizations, private sector, mountain communities, scientists, field practitioners and other stakeholders. It will be guided by clearly agreed goals, its operations will be based on commitments made by partners and implementation will be supported through better linkages between institutions and improved monitoring systems.


5. Many organizations are implementing global communications initiatives to raise awareness of mountain issues and solutions to mountain problems. These efforts are bringing mountains to global public attention for the first time and feeding an emerging wave of public awareness of mountains and a global commitment to projects and programmes that will help to bring lasting change to mountain areas.

6. FAO, through its International Year of Mountains Coordination Unit, is helping to fuel the movement to protect mountain ecosystems and improve the well-being of mountain people by implementing a global communications plan for the Year developed in collaboration with members of the Inter-Agency Group on Mountains. The purpose of the plan is to facilitate a successful International Year of Mountains by translating communications strategies into actions, setting priorities, integrating and coordinating the communication efforts of other International Year of Mountains observers.

7. Thanks to the generous contributions of Switzerland, Italy and Austria to the International Year of Mountains trust fund (totalling approximately US$1,000,000), FAO is implementing a significant proportion of the plan, and much has been achieved. The foundation of FAO's communications programme for the Year is the International Year of Mountains Web site at, which serves as an organizing and coordinating tool, a news service on International Year of Mountains activities, and a distribution tool for communications materials including background information for journalists, educators, the public and others interested in mountain issues.

8. The Unit is implementing an intensive global media-relations programme and an outreach programme to help non-governmental organizations, civil society and grassroots organizations around the world communicate about mountain issues to their members and audiences.


9. The International Year of Mountains has already achieved significant results. It has:

  1. Led to the founding, by Permanent Representatives of the United Nations, of the International Year of Mountains Focus Group, which supports and animates observance and follow-up to the Year. The Focus Group includes representatives of Austria, Bhutan, Bolivia, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lesotho, Peru, Slovenia and Switzerland. It is a driving force behind the global movement to protect the world’s mountains and to help create the conditions in which mountain people can achieve their own goals and aspirations;
  2. Increased the accessibility, quantity and quality of information on mountains and mountain people;
  3. Increased public awareness of the importance of mountains to the earth’s fundamental life-sustaining systems, of the fragility of mountain ecosystems, of the consequences of their degradation and of effective approaches to sustainable mountain development;
  4. Stimulated the establishment of 71 national committees and positioned them as mechanisms for developing national strategic plans and policies to achieve sustainable mountain development;
  5. Enhanced understanding of the need for interdisciplinary research and information sharing about mountains and stimulated the development of a comprehensive, global research agenda on mountains that will support decision-making and policy-making;
  6. Increased awareness of the need to safeguard and build on the traditional knowledge of mountain people and to respect indigenous practices, expertise and authorities;
  7. Increased demand by countries for programmes and projects to achieve sustainable mountain development;
  8. Increased donor interest in and support for long-term investment in mountain ecosystems and communities;
  9. Broadened the diversity of organizations and individuals dedicated to sustainable mountain development and stimulated the development of new mountain initiatives and the integration of mountains into normative programmes;
  10. Strengthened implementation of chapter 13 by identifying, through intensive international, regional, national and community dialogue, gaps in knowledge, ways of working and institutions;
  11. Strengthened and expanded the alliance of organizations that are committed to implementing chapter 13 and consolidated the alliance through the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions;
  12. Focussed global commitment to and resources for sustainable mountain development on a widely supported framework for action, expressed in the proposed Bishkek Mountain Platform, to ensure more efficient and effective approaches to achieving the goals of chapter 13.


10. Significant progress has been achieved by the International Year of Mountains, but much remains to be done. The Year has already served as a catalyst for long-term, effective action to implement chapter 13, as intended. The present momentum should be sustained to consolidate and build on results achieved so far. In this regard, the Council may wish to consider the following courses of action that could be taken by Governments.

  1. Support the evolution of national committees and other mechanisms for the Year and assist them with the transition from focussing on observing the Year to developing goals and strategies for sustainable development of mountains;
  2. Support the involvement of International Year of Mountains national committees in observing the International Year of Freshwater 2003 to take advantage of opportunities for synergies;
  3. Support national efforts to develop strategic plans for sustainable development of mountains, enabling policies and laws, programmes and projects;
  4. Support the development and implementation of global, regional and national communications programmes to build on the awareness and momentum for change established by the International Year of Mountains;
  5. Support capacity-building and education programmes to enhance awareness of best practices in sustainable mountain development and the nature of relationships between highland and lowland areas;
  6. Support the efforts of the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions and the implementation of the Bishkek Mountain Platform at the international, regional and national levels, and encourage national organizations to join;
  7. Encourage donor and private-sector investment in sustainable mountain development;
  8. Encourage the UN system to strengthen the coordination of chapter 13 to achieve more effective implementation;
  9. Make international organizations involved in sustainable mountain development aware of country needs and achievements.