C 2001/INF/21


Thirty-first Session

Rome, 2-13 November 2001


Information Note

Table of Contents


1. In 1993 FAO was designated Task Manager for the implementation of Agenda 21, Chapter 13 (Managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development). In that role it is responsible for coordinating, facilitating and animating UN agencies' efforts to implement measures and recommendations prescribed in this chapter on implementation of sustainable mountain development. Since then, it has been carrying out these responsibilities through a variety of means, both internal and external, which are described below.

2. In 1998, the UN General Assembly took an additional important step in recognizing the importance of sustainable mountain development by declaring 2002 the International Year of Mountains (IYM) and invited FAO to be the lead agency in the UN system responsible for preparing the observance of this year.

3. Under the overall goal of ensuring sustainable development of mountain regions and the well-being of their populations, the International Year of Mountains should serve, inter alia:

4. These objectives will need to be achieved through a variety of means, including: generation and exchange of information; awareness raising and sensitisation; education, training and extension; documentation of best practices based on successful field case studies; and promotion of mountain-specific policy formulation and legislation. Efforts will have to be made at both international and national levels and the IYM will only be considered a success if there is significant follow-up at the different levels.


5. The implementation of Chapter 13, the related reporting and the preparations for the observance of the IYM constitute a compact body of activities in the FAO programme. A number of organizational arrangements have been effected. These include the following:

6. FAO has also strengthened the programme on mountains and watershed management with new programme initiatives. The staff dedicated to sustainable mountain development has been strengthened through establishment of an additional temporary professional post in watershed management and recruitment of a senior consultant to ensure that, in spite of the time and resources absorbed in IYM preparation and observance, FAO's technical programme in watershed management is maintained at a high level of activity, including both field and normative aspects. This strength will be sustained through the establishment of a new Regular Programme professional post in the Forestry Department in Sustainable Mountain Development in the 2002-2003 biennium.

7. A number of initiatives have been taken to start the preparation for the IYM, including dissemination of information, enlisting country support and guidance, conceptualisation of the IYM programme, search for funding, and holding coordination meetings at international level.

Enlisting country support and guidance

8. In March 2001, the member countries of the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO) "noted with satisfaction that, in many countries, national committees had been established for the IYM, and encouraged FAO to continue to support these national initiatives." Since that time, an increasing number of countries have taken steps to establish a national committee or similar institutional mechanism to prepare for the IYM observance. According to the IYM country participation report compiled in September 2001, 24 countries have established a National Committee responsible for the preparatory activities and celebration of the IYM; 11 countries are in the process of establishing a National Committee, and 53 countries have established a focal point for the IYM. Six countries have so far requested and received support to assist with IYM preparations. Contributions to the multi-donor trust fund would allow support, including modest seed funding, to at least 50 countries.

9. Communication tools to support and guide national participation, including information and promotional packages, have been developed and disseminated to a wide variety of partners, including IYM national committees. The IYM coordination unit at FAO has launched the official IYM logo and made it available for public use, while the dedicated IYM web site (www.mountains2002.org) has undergone further development and is currently available in English, French and Spanish. Cooperation is being sought through bilateral arrangements to expand the language coverage.

10. As one of the most important objectives of the IYM will be to raise awareness on mountain issues, the IYM coordination unit has prepared a communications plan. The plan defines the overall strategy and approach to raising awareness, promoting and mobilizing action on the IYM. It indicates key audiences, main messages, means and opportunities to inform through a comprehensive public awareness campaign.

Outcome of Regional Forestry Commissions regarding the IYM

11. The latest meetings of the Regional Forestry Commissions held in 2000 all included an agenda item on the IYM, based on a Secretariat Note that had been prepared for each meeting. In general, the Commissions noted the relevance of the International Year of Mountains and the importance of mountain ecosystems in each region. They noted that the programmes and activities of the IYM should be long-term, action-oriented, process-driven and focused primarily at sub-regional and country level.

12. Important issues raised included the degradation of mountain ecosystems, especially forests and biodiversity, the lack of planning and integrated management, and the lack of special policies for mountain areas and their implementation. The importance of highland-lowland interaction was noted, as was the importance of mountains for water and food security, as well as in economic, ecological and cultural terms. Some Commissions also stressed that it was in mountain areas that the environmental benefits of forests were most manifest, and the need therefore that FAO and countries make efforts to enhance these benefits.

13. The Regional Forestry Commissions made several recommendations to FAO regarding preparations for the IYM. Among these, it was recommended that FAO compile and analyse the information generated over the years in order to identify the main problems and determine the best way to address them; that FAO pay greater attention to management at the watershed scale, focusing on the restoration of degraded watersheds and the maintenance and protection of existing watersheds; that FAO address issues related to watershed management in an integrated fashion, across all sectors of the Organization.

14. In response to the request made by the Regional Forestry Commissions to compile and analyse the information generated over the years and identify the main problems in an integrated fashion, across all sectors of the Organization, the IYM coordination unit with support of all members of the IDWG on mountains has engaged in an analysis of mountain related development projects across sectors and organizations. The analysis aims at identifying case studies in order to illustrate advantages and constraints, failures and successes in mountain related development projects and to identify lessons learned and better practices aimed at sustainable mountain development projects. The results of this analysis are expected to be available in late 2001.

Concept and resource needs

15. The IYM concept paper, issued in 2000 to fully inform on the preparatory process and provide a clear framework for the observance of the IYM has been widely distributed to Governments, partner organizations, NGOs and others. The Concept paper aims at providing general guidelines and a framework for preparations for the IYM for all institutions and individuals involved in mountain-related issues.

16. In response to FAO's invitation for COFO member countries to consider the development of the concept and the need for resources, the Committee "Recognized the importance of mountain regions and the people who live there, and acknowledged the significant opportunity presented by the observance of the International Year of Mountains (IYM) to raise greater awareness and action on mountain issues. It recognized the rights of mountain people to development opportunities, and the importance of greater empowerment and improved livelihoods of mountain dwellers. The importance of mountains to non-mountainous countries was highlighted, in particular with respect to their role in supplying fresh water to lowland areas."

17. Additionally, "The Committee endorsed the recommendations of the regional forestry commissions related to IYM..." and "...recognized the need for increased extra-budgetary support to assist with the IYM observance, in particular through the multi-donor trust fund that FAO had established to promote and implement activities related to the IYM. It stressed the need for follow-up action well beyond 2002 to achieve full impact of the opportunities presented by the IYM."

18. Significant Regular Programme resources rearrangements, largely regarding staff time, have been made to support preparations for IYM so far. Extra-budgetary resources are required to support the following major clusters for the observance of the IYM:

19. An assessment of needs and the formulation of a multi-donor trust fund have been developed. This was also in response to the request by the 115th session of the FAO Council which recommended countries, in particular donor countries, to provide support, including extra-budgetary resources, for this effort.

20. Resources needed to cover the major activity clusters for the observance of IYM have been estimated at a cost of US$ 6 million, all of which need to be mobilized through extra-budgetary sources. A comprehensive fund raising and resource mobilization strategy has been formulated within FAO and with the assistance of the Inter-agency Group on Mountains, which addressed this issue at a dedicated IYM meeting, held from 13-15 November 2000 in Geneva. The fund-raising strategy includes not only bilateral and multilateral sources, but aims to mobilize significant financial resources from non-traditional sources such as private foundations and corporations. However, contributions essential for the effective start-up and implementation of core activities, especially related to promotion and coordination of the IYM by FAO, will depend primarily on bilateral sources. In the period leading up to September 2001, approximately US$1,000,000 had been contributed by donor countries (Italy, Switzerland and Austria) to the IYM multi-donor trust fund.

21. The issue of funding was addressed in the report of the UN Secretary-General to the 55th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in October 2000, which deals with the status of preparations for the IYM. The report reiterated the need for additional mobilization of funds for a successful observance, emphasizing the importance of innovative approaches that include private sector and philanthropic sources. The importance of mobilizing adequate funding was also stressed in a draft UNGA resolution that was prepared during the UNGA 55th session, which again encourages support for the IYM, including voluntary financial contributions, from a wide variety of actors.

Coordination at international level

Inter-agency Group on Mountains

22. The Inter-agency Group on Mountains was originally convened to provide guidance in the implementation of Chapter 13. Since the passing of the resolution declaring the IYM, the Group has served an important role in advising on preparations for the IYM observance. Although the last meeting of the Group was in November 2000 in Geneva, many of its members attended a meeting convened by FAO in Geneva in July 2001 to enhance coordination of global IYM events (see below).

IYM Focus Group

23. There has been before and following the initiative of ECOSOC a strong interest on mountains from a group of countries at the United Nations, led by the Swiss observer and Kyrgyz delegations. To maintain this interest and capture its support, an IYM Focus Group of Permanent Representatives to the UN in New York has been established to provide support and guidance to the IYM observance. The group has held several meetings since its establishment in 2000 and has been closely involved in preparations for the official launch ceremony scheduled for 11 December 2001 at UN headquarters. The IYM Focus Group has expanded its membership to 15 countries and now includes representatives from Austria, Bhutan, Bolivia, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lesotho, Peru, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Previous events

24. Several key IYM events have already taken place in preparation for 2002. Among these are the World Mountain Forum conference held in France in June 2000, which brought together representatives of mountain communities and other participants from around the world to discuss a variety of mountain themes. More recently, in April 2001, Peru organized an international event in Cusco which brought together participants from several countries, including Latin America and other regions. The conference provided the opportunity to discuss several themes related to mountain development and conservation and resulted in the "Cusco Declaration", containing a series of recommendations for continued action in mountain regions. Other important meetings which have already taken place include the Conference on Ecotourism in Mountain Areas organized by Austria in September 2001 and the World Mountain Symposium held in October 2001 in Switzerland, both of which are described below.

Enhanced collaboration among major IYM global events

25. FAO, as lead agency, convened a meeting on 19 July 2001 in Geneva with representatives of the major global events currently scheduled for the IYM. The meeting, hosted by the Swiss Government, was held to establish closer collaboration among the major events to ensure a well coordinated and coherent overall approach to the IYM. The aim was to ensure that each of the major global processes and events had the opportunity and was encouraged to build on the results of the other processes that preceded it, and that all the results were fully considered and duly recognized at the final IYM conference. The need to develop coherence among initiatives and to present certain common IYM messages throughout 2002 was also discussed, while maintaining and recognizing the individual identity of each process. At the Geneva meeting, a small informal group of communications focal points from each major event was established to work toward this objective. Global IYM meetings include:

Bishkek International Advisory Board

26. Preparations for the Bishkek Global Mountain Summit are being carried out under the guidance of an International Advisory Board which has been convened by the Government of Kyrgyzstan. At its first meeting in Geneva in July 2001, the Board discussed the proposed draft programme of the conference and advised on a variety of technical issues related to organizing the summit. The Board is co-chaired by Kygyzstan and FAO. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been designated the international technical secretariat and is working closely with the Government of Kyrgyzstan to organize the conference, scheduled for late October 2002.

Linkage between the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE) and the IYM

27. In view of the coinciding observance in 2002 of the International Year of Mountains and the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE), (website: http://www.world-tourism.org/sustainable/IYE-Main-Menu.htm), member countries of the Committee on Forestry, who met in March 2001, urged FAO to collaborate with organizers of the IYE to ensure that both Years are fully synchronised. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) and UNEP are co-lead agencies for the IYE. Since a large portion of tourist activities occurs in mountain areas, simultaneous observance of both international years in 2002 provides an important opportunity to jointly build awareness and new synergies. Events to take advantage of this coincidence include the "Month of Mountains", a series of events which took place during April and May 2001 in Pakistan as part of that country's contribution to the IYM, and the conference "Ecotourism in Mountain Areas: A Challenge to Sustainable Development", organized by the Government of Austria in September 2001.

Support from the Conference

28. The Conference may wish to fully take note of the information related to the IYM and recognize progress and needs regarding its preparation and implementation. Being the last major FAO event along with the WFS:fyl before 2002, the Conference may also wish to express support and provide guidance and recommendations for the observance of the IYM.