Mountain session, SDG 15 Expert Group Meeting


The role of mountains as key providers of goods and services essential for global sustainable development was discussed during a dedicated session of the Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 on Life on Land in New York on 15 May 2018. 

Andrew Taber, former Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee and Executive Director of The Mountain Institute, moderated the session and reviewed key facts about mountains in the context of SDG 15. 

“Mountains are a source of water, energy, biodiversity, agricultural products, livelihoods and other goods and services vital to a large proportion of the world’s population, national economies and global sustainability,” said Taber. “Yet mountains are highly vulnerable ecosystems to climate change and natural disasters”.  

Although a large portion of the world’s mountain peoples are food insecure and mountains are still often forgotten in national and international priorities, action is being taken to improve the situation in mountain areas. 

Taber highlighted how, at local level, several mountain-dedicated organizations are demonstrating that high-value mountain products and services including medicinal plants, animal fibers and ecotourism show prospects for building prosperity in remote communities in ways that also promote environmental stewardship of mountain ecosystems and their services. 

At national levels, an increasing number of countries have established mountain committees to promote social and economic inclusion and to improve the management of natural resources. “These multi-stakeholder bodies are proving instrumental for planning, developing fair polices and laws and implementing climate-smart sustainable development,” said Taber. 

Taber credited the Mountain Partnership – a United Nations voluntary alliance dedicated to improving the lives of mountain peoples and protecting mountain environments – as the key actor promoting sustainable mountain development globally. He said, “Through its global reach and multi-stakeholder nature it is advancing the mountain agenda at multiple levels.” In particular, he recalled the Framework for Action in which members committed to integrate strategies for sustainable mountain development and ecosystem conservation in their policies and programmes by 2030. The Mountain Partnership is encouraging Member States to collect disaggregated scientific data on mountain areas and to integrate SDG indicator 15.4.2, the Mountain Green Cover Index, in the global indicator framework for the SDGs and their targets.

Taber then introduced the first speaker, Ruth Turia, Director of the Forest Policy and Planning National Forest Service of the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority. Turia discussed the National Forest Inventory (NFI) that the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority is undertaking and how the Mountain Partnership Secretariat is supporting a component of the NFI that is systematically assessing the biodiversity present in Papua New Guinea’s forests. 

The second speaker, Hanta Rabetaliana, President of the World Mountain People Association in Madagascar, mentioned the need for policies intervention to build synergies across sectors. “This nexus approach can provide an enhanced practical framework for addressing challenges of water, energy and food security and is about balancing different resource sectors and interests,” she said.

Comments from the members of the panel and experts stressed the environmental, socioeconomic and political diversity of mountain regions, emphasizing that locally tailored solutions are needed that are integrated, interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder in nature. 

“Protected area strategies alone will not be adequate to secure the vital environmental services that mountains provide; mountain biodiversity should be safeguarded, but it is important to safeguard all mountains, as they are sources of freshwater in an increasingly stressed world. Landscape and watershed approaches will be required, hence the need to fully involve mountain communities as well as the private sector,” said Taber. He underlined how mountains communities must be at the heart of decision-making processes in mountains when it comes to moving forward on SDG 15 as well as other SDGs and under the objectives of other multilateral environmental agreements. 

Finally, experts called for the disaggregation of mountains in analyses of trends and priorities in sustainable development. Without this, mountain communities and environments are at risk of continued marginalization on national, regional and global agendas.

The session on mountains was part of the two-day meeting “Sustainable Development Goal 15: Progress and Prospects”, organized by the Division for Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which also included sessions on forests, biodiversity, wildlife, land and soils. The discussions from the EGM will help inform the 2018 High-Level Political Forum, assist in planning its sessions, and serve to influence collaborations and programmes of work going forward from 2018. 

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Photo: FAO/Carlos Moises Granado Fernandez


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