One Voice for the Mountains


On December 11 - International Mountain Day - delegates gathered at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference, COP20, in Lima, Peru, for a side event that brought attention to the role of mountains as the water towers of the world in a changing climate. Speakers at the “Mountains and Water - from understanding to action” event focused on the challenges and opportunities for conservation, water management and sustainable development in mountain ecosystems worldwide.

The Mountain Partnership gathering featured speakers from several mountainous nations and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and The Mountain Institute.

The Mountain Institute’s Executive Director, Andrew Taber, who moderated the event, set the stage by pointing out that mountains are of global importance to everyone. “Mountains and mountain peoples are threatened by unprecedented climate and global changes – they need the full support of lowlanders to secure a sustainable future that will benefit us all,” he said.

Dorji Choden, Bhutan’s Minister for Works and Human Settlement, welcomed the audience of about 200 people and honed in on mountains as a food, energy and water nexus. ‘Mountains are literally the fountainhead for freshwater, genetic repositories for important food crops, habitats for a fantastic range of biodiversity’ and ‘have a high potential for carbon free hydro-power,’ she noted.

‘Mountains are connectors’ and ‘play a key role for the sustainable future of our planet,’ said Doris Leuthard, Switzerland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, who spoke about Switzerland’s instrumental role in prioritizing mountain issues in the global agenda starting with the World Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.

Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO),  proposed climate smart agriculture as a way to ensure sustainable rural development and improve resilience. “Facing climate change offers an opportunity to make mountain agriculture more sustainable and to promote new ways of reducing poverty and hunger,” said Semedo, who also expressed FAO's appreciation to host the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.

“There is not sufficient attention to the problem of sustainable development in highland countries, especially small countries without access to the sea,” said Bahtiyar Abdiev, Kyrgyzstan’s State-Secretary of the State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry, referring to the fragile ecosystems that are ‘quite vulnerable’ to climate change in his Central Asian mountainous state.

Flavia Manaaba Nabugere, State Minister for Environment of Uganda, observed that governments need to look at the opportunities that sustainable mountain development offers. “We need to invest more in transport, communications and roads to ensure the access to markets for goods from the mountains. We also need to ensure that the world community looks at education for the mountain populations, particularly for girls, and we should be proactive and not wait for disasters to decide what to do in mountain situations,” Nabugere said.

Silvia Révora of the Ministry of Environment, Argentina, which is the Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee, highlighted Argentina’s early leadership on mountain issues and expressed strong support for the work of The Mountain Partnership. “The Mountain Partnership, through coordinated action by its members and with the support of its Secretariat at FAO, has managed to position sustainable development in mountain regions in different international fora. The Partnership has become the principal tool as we consider specific, cooperative projects that improve the situation in mountain regions and people. The Partnership is an excellent catalyst and mobilizer for collaboration,” she concluded.

Taber, in his closing remarks, expressed hope that the efforts to unite mountain countries and actors will continue as the Post-2015 development agenda is defined. He called for the creation of ‘one voice for the mountains’ to have mountain ecosystems and communities adequately reflected in the Hyogo Framework of Action II in Sendai next March, at COP21 in Paris, as well as embedded in the sustainable development goals.

The side event in Lima saw the screening of a new video, “Why Mountains Matter for Climate Change” and launch of a new publication, ”Mountains and Climate Change: A global concern”. Participants raised several points and posed questions, further outlining the progress made in climate change adaptation, mitigation and monitoring in mountain environments worldwide and calling for nations to join forces and to share solutions and resources globally.

The side event was requested and organized by the governments of Bhutan, Guinea, Kyrgyzstan, Peru and Switzerland together with the Consortium for Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The Mountain Institute and the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.

By Jesse Bruschini of The Mountain Institute

Photos: FAO/Thomas Hofer

Bhutan speaking points

Switzerland speaking points

TMI speaking points

FAO speaking points

Event programme

Photo gallery

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Lima COP20/CMP10

FAO Forestry


ISTOÉ Dinheiro



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