FAO's contribution to World Summit on Sustainable Development FAO
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World Summit on Sustainable Development, South Africa 2002

Mountains are fragile ecosystems and are globally important as water towers of the earth, repositories of rich biological diversity, target areas for recreation, and as a hub of cultural integrity and heritage. Occupying about one-fifth of the world's land surface area, mountains provide a direct life-support base for about one-tenth of humankind as well as goods and services to more than half the world's population. The wise and respectful use of the fragile resources in the highland areas represents one of the greatest challenges for sustainable mountain development.

FAO has a long history and tradition of involvement in sustainable mountain development and watershed management. The current programme places emphasis on human development activities in addition to technical concerns such as soil and water conservation. The participation of local people in planning and implementing upland conservation and development activities is viewed as essential to a sustainable development approach.

The Task Manager Role of FAO

In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) agreed on a global action programme on sustainable development, called Agenda 21. In this framework, FAO's Forestry Department was assigned the role of Task Manager of Chapter 13 of Agenda 21, "Managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development." As Task Manager, FAO works closely with other international organizations and governments to help implement Chapter 13 and strengthen partnerships in the process. FAO also works closely with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), coordinating with them in organising meetings and in developing communication and information sharing.

One of the primary responsibilities of Task Managers is reporting on implementation of Agenda 21. This is generally carried out through task manager reports, which are working documents that subsequently become reports of the UN Secretary-General to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). FAO has made the reporting process for Chapter 13 a collaborative effort by involving a number of other UN agencies, as well as non-governmental organisations, in the drafting and review of reports.

More recently and in compliment to the Task Manager role, FAO has been designated Lead Agency in coordinating and facilitating the preparations for the observance of the International Year of Mountains (IYM) in 2002.


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