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Guided tour:
A big challenge - and a great opportunity

• Opportunity
Agenda 21

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.

Chapter 13 of UNCED Agenda 21 focuses on sustainable mountain development, highlighting the urgency of action and outlining two programme areas:

In the light of rapidly growing awareness of the importance of mountain areas and based on an initiative from Kyrgyzstan, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared 2002 the International Year of Mountains (IYM) in November 1998. FAO was assigned the lead agency role, in collaboration with governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other UN organizations, in particular the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Mountains are fragile ecosystems of global importance

Holding the IYM presents both a big challenge and a great opportunity. It should not be considered merely a period of isolated events, but rather as an important step within the long-term process begun at the Earth Summit (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 of raising public awareness and ensuring adequate political, institutional and financial commitment for concrete action towards implementing sustainable mountain development. The process should thus reach well beyond 2002. It should be aimed primarily at helping poor and marginalized people living in mountain areas, drawing attention to their cultural heritage. It should also help to conserve or foster the sustainable use of natural resources found in mountain areas.

To ensure IYM success, action on a number of fronts will be required: information generation and exchange; awareness raising and sensitization; promoting conservation and development of mountain resources for the well-being of mountain communities; planned, coordinated and effective action; commitment and dedication. IYM success will require national government action to support the mountain agenda through appropriate policies.

The year 2002 has also been declared the International Year of Ecotourism. Since a large portion of tourist activities occurs in mountain areas, this coincidence provides an important opportunity to create and benefit from synergies in the observance of both events.

This concept paper aims to provide general guidelines and a framework for all institutions and individuals involved in work concerning mountain-related issues to prepare for the IYM.

Box 1. Resolution text for the International Year of Mountains

Fifty-Third Session

Resolution adopted by the General Assembly

A/RES/53/24. International Year of Mountains, 2002

The General Assembly,
Recalling Economic and Social Council resolution 1998/30 of 29 July 1998,
Recalling also the relevant provisions of Agenda 21 on sustainable mountain development,
Noting the work already undertaken to achieve sustainable mountain development by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and particularly its role as task manager for Chapter 13 of Agenda 21,

1. Proclaims the year 2002 as the International Year of Mountains;
2. Invites the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to serve as the lead agency for the International Year of Mountains, in collaboration with Governments, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and other relevant organizations of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations;
3. Calls upon Governments, national and international organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to make voluntary contributions in accordance with the guidelines of the Economic and Social Council for international years and anniversaries and to lend other forms of support to the International Year of Mountains;
4. Encourages all Governments, the United Nations system and all other actors to take advantage of the International Year of Mountains in order to increase awareness of the importance of sustainable mountain development;
5. Requests the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its fifty-fifth session a report on the state of the preparations for the International Year of Mountains.

54th plenary meeting
10 November 1998