Item 10 of the Provisional Agenda


Rome, Italy, 12-16 March 2001


Information Note


1. In 1993 FAO was designated Task Manager for the implementation of Chapter 13 (Managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development). In that role it is responsible for coordinating, steering and animating UN agencies' efforts to implement measures and recommendations prescribed in this chapter on implementation of sustainable mountain development. Since then, it has been carrying out this responsibility through a variety of means, both internal and external, which are described below.

2. In 1998, the UN General Assembly took an additional important step in recognizing the importance of sustainable mountain development by declaring 2002 the International Year of Mountains (IYM) and invited FAO to be the lead agency in the UN system responsible for preparing the observance of this year.

3. Under the overall goal of ensuring sustainable development of mountain regions and the well being of their populations, the International Year of Mountains should serve, inter alia:

4. These objectives will need to be achieved through a variety of means, including: generation and exchange of information; awareness raising and sensitization; education, training and extension; documentation of best practices based on successful field case studies; and promotion of mountain-specific policy formulation and legislation. Efforts will have to be made at both international and national levels and the IYM will be only considered a success if there is significant follow-up at the different levels.


5. The implementation of Chapter 13, the related reporting and the preparations of the observance of the IYM constitute a compact body of activities in the FAO programme. A number of organizational arrangements have been effected. These include the following:

6. FAO has strengthened the programme on mountains and watershed management with new programme initiatives and by recruiting a senior watershed management consultant whose main role is ensure that FAO's technical programme in watershed management is revitalised and maintained at a high level of activity, including both field and normative aspects, at the same time that the Organization is carrying out its lead agency role for the IYM.


7. A number of initiatives have been taken to start the preparation for the IYM, including dissemination of information, enlisting country support and guidance, conceptualisation of the IYM programme and consolidation of funding.

Enlisting country support and guidance

8. In a drive to fully inform and enlist the support of those governments particularly interested in mountain issues, FAO held in Rome, on 9 July 1999, a briefing meeting and discussion on the mountain agenda and on the IYM for Permanent Representatives to FAO. The outcome of the discussion emphasized the need to ensure that IYM implementation provides direct benefits to people, recognize the special role of NGOs, and the importance of gender issues.

9. By December 2000, more elements to support and guide national participation will be available, including information and promotional packages. The IYM coordination unit at FAO has already been established and begun preparing the IYM, despite a lack of adequate resources. It is expected to be fully operational by early 2001. The official IYM logo has already been released and made available for public use and a dedicated IYM web site has also been established (

Outcome of Regional Forestry Commissions regarding the IYM

10. The recently held meetings of the regional forestry commissions all included an agenda item on the IYM based on a secretariat note that had been prepared for each meeting. In general, the commissions noted the relevance of the International Year of Mountains and the importance of mountain ecosystems in each region. They noted that the programmes and activities of the IYM should be long-term, action-oriented, process-driven and focussed primarily at country level.

11. Important issues raised included the degradation of mountain ecosystems, especially forests and biodiversity, the lack of planning and integrated management, and the lack of special policies for mountain areas and their implementation. The importance of highland lowland interaction was noted, as was the importance of mountains for water and food security, as well as in economic, ecological and cultural terms. Some commissions also stressed that it was in mountain areas that the environmental benefits of forests were most manifest, and the need therefore that FAO and countries make efforts to enhance these benefits.

12. The Regional Forestry Commissions made several recommendations to FAO regarding preparations for the IYM. Among these, it was recommended that FAO compile and analyse the information that has been generated over the years in order to identify the main problems and determine the best way to address them; that FAO pay greater attention to management at the watershed scale, focusing on the restoration of degraded watersheds and the maintenance and protection of existing watersheds; that FAO address issues related to watershed management in an integrated fashion, across all sectors of the Organization. FAO was requested to make available information and promotional materials for the International Year of Mountains to member countries early to allow countries to prepare adequately for activities at the national level.

Concept and resource needs

13. Member countries have supported FAO's efforts in sustainable mountain development and, through the recent sessions of the Regional Forestry Commissions, FAO's lead agency role in preparing for observance of IYM. COFO member countries are invited to consider the development of the concept and the need for resources, described in the following section.

14. To fully inform the preparatory process and provide a clear framework for the observance of the IYM, a concept paper has been formulated. It aims to provide general guidelines and a framework for preparations for the IYM for all institutions and individuals involved in mountain-related issues. In addition, an assessment of needs and the formulation of a multi-donor trust fund were developed. This was also in response to the request by the 115th session of the FAO Council which recommended countries, in particular donor countries, to provide support, including extra-budgetary resources, for this effort.

15. The 115th session of the Council recommended that FAO look into the needs for funding and to report to it in one of its upcoming sessions. The discussions and exchange of views developed on the subject, including the advice gathered from the consultations organized in-house and with a number of external partners, in particular through the ad hoc Inter-agency Group on Mountains, suggest an observance with a multi-faceted approach that deals with a variety of issues at national, regional and global levels. However, the greatest emphasis is being placed on action at the national level, which is expected to have the most effective long term impact on sustainable mountain development.

16. Significant Regular Programme resources, largely staff time, have been devoted to preparations for IYM so far. Extra-budgetary resources are required to support the following major clusters for the observance of the IYM:

17. Resources needed to cover all these activities and measures have been estimated at a minimum cost of US$ 5 million, all of which need to be mobilized through extra-budgetary sources. A comprehensive fund raising and resource mobilisation strategy is being formulated within FAO and with the assistance of the Inter-agency Group on Mountains, which recently addressed this issue at its most recent meeting, held from 13-15 November in Geneva. The fund raising strategy will include not only bilateral and multilateral sources, but will aim to mobilize significant financial resources from non-traditional sources such as private foundations and corporations. However, immediate contributions essential for the effective start-up of core activities, especially related to promotion and coordination of the IYM, will depend primarily on bilateral sources.

18. The issue of funding was addressed in the report of the UN Secretary-General to the 55th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in October 2000, wich deals with the status of preparations for the IYM. The report reiterated the need for additional mobilisation of funds for a successful observance, emphasising the importance of innovative approaches that include private sector and philanthropic sources. The importance of mobilising adequate funding was also stressed in a draft UNGA resolution that was prepared during the UNGA 55th session, which again encourages support for the IYM, including voluntary financial contributions, from a wide variety of actors.