The third session of the FAO European Forestry Commission held on September 1st, 1950, examined issues related to soil rehabilitation and conservation through the rational use of water resources within basins. During this meeting the Working Party on Torrent Control, Protection from Avalanches and Watershed Management was established and the following year FAO was asked to provide support to this new Working Party.

The first session of the working party was held in Nancy, in 1952. Since then, sessions have been held biannually with a total 25 sessions conducted to date. Members of the Working Party are officially designated by their respective governments. In view of the fact that it was often forest services who had institutional responsibility for these issues in mountainous areas at the national level, the name of the Working Party from 1970 onwards has been “The Working Party on the Management of Mountain Watersheds (WP-MMW)”.

For more than five decades the core concerns of the Working Party have progressively evolved. Initially, priorities focused on torrent control and protection against avalanches (1950-1960). This gradually changed to more socio-economic and agricultural aspects (1960-1970), then to environmental issues (1970-1978) and then to global development priorities with exchanges beyond European countries (1978-2000). Today the Working Party contains 33 European member countries and a representative of the European Community. The Working Party is chaired on a rotational basis by a member country and FAO hosts the Secretariat.

Review of the Working Party

In order to give the Working Party a new profile and to address strategic issues, a major review of its mandate and modus operandi was initiated in March 2011. The review recommended to establish thematic Working Groups under the Working Party to be able to more specifically respond to the diverging needs and priorities within the European region.

Each Working Group should have a leading country, detailed terms of reference, a work plan, clear outputs and expected results, and a defined budget to accomplish its set tasks. Every leading country would be a member of the Steering Committee which would receive a stronger mandate. Working Groups would be responsible for the fundraising for their activities and could be in place for a limited duration, until the task is accomplished, or operate over a longer period of time. Two Working Groups are already strongly advocated by several member countries: forests and water, and disaster risk management in mountains.

In this new institutional structure, the services and responsibilities of the Secretariat of the Working Party would obviously increase. In particular, its role would be to coordinate the activities between the Working Groups and to support the work of the Steering Committee. The review further recommended to enhance the collaboration and to intensify the exchange of experiences and lessons learnt with countries from the Mediterranean region and Central Asia as well with other relevant institutional mechanisms such as for example FOREST EUROPE, the UNECE Water Convention, INTERPRAEVENT, etc.


last updated:  Thursday, September 4, 2014