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|For millennia, mountains have served as vast reserves of valuable resources, as well as key centres of culture and recreation|
Mountains come in all shapes and sizes. Found on every continent, from the equator to the polar regions, they rise to different altitudes, in a great variety of climates and particular combinations of ecosystems. For millennia, mountains have served as vast reserves of valuable resources - such as water, energy and biological diversity - as well as key centres of culture and recreation. Today, however, the rapid pace of globalization, urbanization and mass tourism are threatening mountain communities and the resources they depend on. Worldwide, mountain areas face increasing marginalization, economic decline and environmental degradation.
The United Nations has proclaimed 2002 as the International Year of Mountains (IYM) to increase international awareness of the global importance of mountain ecosystems. It assigned the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the role of lead agency in collaboration with governments, NGOs and other UN organizations.
|See full text of Agenda 21, Chapter 13 on the web site of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development|
The International year of Mountains represents an important step in the long-term process initiated by the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero. The major outcome of this Conference was Agenda 21, a global blueprint for sustainable development into the 21st century. Agenda 21's Chapter 13 "Managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development", placed mountains on an equal footing with climate change, tropical deforestation and desertification as a key issue in the global debate on environment and development.
In the years following Rio, a number of dynamic processes and activities related to mountain issues have been initiated. Regional inter-governmental consultations on sustainable mountain development have taken place for most regions of the world. The global Mountain Forum was founded in 1995 as a network of networks to provide mutual support, information sharing and advocacy for mountain peoples and environments. Many research programmes and projects have started in mountain areas.
The International Year of Mountains provides a unique opportunity to reinforce the implementation of Chapter 13 and to move mountain issues higher on the global agenda. Rather than a period of isolated events, it should serve as a springboard and catalyst for long-term, sustained and concrete action that will extend far beyond 2002.
Under the overall goal of ensuring the well-being of mountain populations by promoting sustainable development of mountain regions, IYM objectives are to:
|IYM observance should be action oriented. The IYM will be successful if there is considerable follow-up at the different levels which reaches far beyond 2002|
Objectives are to be achieved through: information generation and exchange; awareness raising and sensitization; education, training and extension; documentation of best practices and formulation of recommendations based on successful field case studies; and promotion of mountain-specific policy formulation and legislation.
|In the preparation and observance of the IYM, a cooperative and interactive approach is essential|
Many institutions and individuals are engaged worldwide in promoting sustainable mountain development. IYM provides an invaluable opportunity to involve a broad variety of stakeholders and to build a strong, cooperative and interactive approach, with tasks being within a common framework. The diagram below illustrates the IYM institutional framework, and provides an overview of the main sectors involved in mountain-related issues and in the preparations for the International Year.
|IYM 2002: Institutional structure|
A global network of agencies has already been active for several years in Chapter 13 implementation, and will play a key role in IYM preparations and observance. It consists of:
|See our Mountain guide for a detailed list of IYM partners|
Other important actors and organizational structures will also play important roles. National Committees - involving key governmental and non-governmental institutions - will be created to lead observance of IYM at the country level. National Governments and decentralized authorities are major players in sustainable mountain development, and will help implement focused national level activities for IYM.
Non-governmental organizations, which generally enjoy strong ties with local communities in mountain areas, will be instrumental in promoting implementation and translation of local sustainable development strategies. Also crucial is strong collaboration with research institutions, which have made major contributions to awareness raising on the global importance of mountain resources. Given its crucial impact in mountain areas, private sector participation in IYM implementation is highly desirable.
Mountain people and communities are the primary target groups of all activities carried out under Chapter 13 and the IYM. The voice of mountain communities will be important in ensuring they obtain optimal benefits from efforts to improve their livelihood systems in the IYM and beyond.
Finally, individuals and institutions from Civil Society in mountain and lowland areas will be encouraged to contribute to the successful implementation of the IYM and its follow-up.
|The projected results of a successful IYM will be manifold, appearing at various levels|
The International Year of Mountains should provide an opportunity to initiate processes that ultimately advance the development of mountain communities. The activities to be initiated should enhance all aspects of mountain development and apply participatory approaches involving various stakeholders. Accordingly, the expected results of a successful IYM are manyfold and will appear at various levels.