From the future we want to the future we choose: highlights of the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership at Rio+20


Mountain Partnership @ Rio+20


Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) Over 70 representatives of governments, IGOs and NGOs sat together as equals at the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership held on 19 June 2012, in the spirit of the type 2 initiative that was established 10 years ago in Johannesburg by the United Nations. Participants in the meeting filled up the auditorium of the Mountain Pavilion, set up at the Athletes’ Park in Rio de Janeiro.


Held eight years after the Second Global Meeting in Cusco (Peru) in 2004, some members found the moment historic, in light of the momentum generated by the sustainable development talks at Rio+20 on the future we want. “Three paragraphs on mountains now form part of the outcome document,* and that is largely our collective achievement as members of this Partnership,” said Ambassador Acharya of Nepal’s Mission to the United Nations in his keynote speech.


Lasting about three hours, the meeting included a video message by Reinhold Messner, first ambassador of the Mountain Partnership. Synergy, holistic cooperation and collaborative implementation were among the recurring keywords of the meeting. “The Heads of State here at Rio speak about the weather, climate, water and biodiversity. Which points to a single thing: mountains,” affirmed Carlos Minc, State Environment Secretary of Rio de Janeiro and former Minister of Environment of Brazil. “This means specific policies for creating national parks and responsible ecotourism. The government of Brazil adheres to the ideals of the Mountain Partnership and wishes to become a member.”


Minister Ferrarese from Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, referred to a meeting to be held on 22 June at the Mountain Pavilion, in which Small Island States would be meeting the Mountain Partnership. “The future Italy wants for the Mountain Partnership is to see it evolving and becoming more and more comprehensive, not only in terms of those stakeholders that currently are featured in the membership but also of those that fit in the vision”, he said.


The meeting opened with an acknowledgement of the good spirit and achievements of the Partnership. “This explains why the Mountain Partnership is one of the few type 2 arrangements still surviving after Johannesburg,” said Manuel Bessler, Assistant Director General, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Further to the evaluation commissioned by SDC on the work of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, he suggested areas for improvement. In particular, Mr Bessler recommended that the Mountain Partnership Secretariat should provide “a guiding light” for the people living in, and loving, the mountains.  “For the future we want to happen, I propose heading towards a renewed global mountain agenda,” said Mr Bessler, “with clear and measurable targets, responsibilities and deliverables.”


The second part of the meeting, moderated by Marco Onida, Secretary General of the Alpine Convention, presented testimonials on the work carried out by members during the first ten years of the Partnership. “Through this Partnership we are making our voice much more strongly heard,” said Mr Onida, inviting views and comments from the floor.


Lyempo Pema Gyamtsho, Bhutan’s Minister of Agriculture and Forests, observed: “I myself was able to work for the Mountain Partnership – both for the Secretariat and as ICIMOD staff member. And I think it’s when mountains meet men that great things occur. Post Rio, we really need to set up a committee to look at mountain issues together.” Minister Gyamtsho went on to add that after the first meeting on Mountain women was held In Bhutan ten years ago, a Bhutan+10 meeting would be held in October 2012, addressing the crucial role women play in sustainable mountain development. “Thus, it’s when mountains meet women that great things occur,” he concluded. 


Advisor to Kyrgyzstan’s Minister of Environment Protection and Forestry Ismail Dairov praised the “Strategic Initiative on Climate Change and Mountain Regions” and the series of workshops organized in Latin America, Central Asia and Africa at the end of 2011with support of the World Bank. “An international meeting on climate change for members from all regions could be held in Bishkek before the next UNFCCC meeting in Doha,” was Mr Dairov’s proposal to members.


Another member of the Mountain Partnership, the non-governmental organization Crescente Fertil, recognized that the Third Global Meeting marked an especially happy day. “Our organization has been working on sustainable mountain development since 2002,” said Luis Felipe Cesar, Deputy Director General of Crescente Fertil. “This year, we will hold a national meeting on the importance of Brazilian mountains. Mountains may be a small percentage of Brazil’s territory, however they are an important part of Brazil’s life and culture.” Mr Cesar observed that the first national park ever funded in Brazil in 1937 revolved around the charm of mountainous landscapes. Moreover, “the Itatiaia park is between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, and most of the water we drink in this country comes from there,” he reminded members. “Even if this country still lacks a strategic plan for mountains it does have strategic actions for mountains. We hope that through the Mountain Partnership, our government will be able to consolidate policies around mountains – all of our Brazilian mountains”.


The third part of the meeting, moderated by ICIMOD’s Director General David Molden, presented the lessons learned and then moved on from the past, reminding members that a process towards the future of the Mountain Partnership had already begun. “All of us agree that there have been some failings and there has been criticism,” said Mr Molden. “We’d rather concentrate on the way forward and what a perfect timing here at Rio,” he added. “We now have three paragraphs in the outcome document* and that is a great result of this Partnership.”


“The message for the future we want has to be developed with members,” said Olman Serrano, Mountain Partnership Secretariat Coordinator. He explained that “the Mountain Partnership Secretariat has already launched a strategically redesigned web site to fully involve members, making the most of technology to secure their active participation in any strategic discussions”. A log in section now allows members to fully participate, in the language of their preference, in the fine-tuning of four proposed strategic objectives for the new 2013-2017 strategy of the Mountain Partnership.  “Ours is a voluntary alliance of members, hence our strength lies in a light governance structure,” clarified Mr Serrano, “one ensuring a transparent, democratic and participatory consultation with members”. The proposed way to translate this into action would be through the guidance of a Steering Committee representing members. According to Mr Serrano, a lot of constructive comments were received on both the proposed strategic objectives and governance structure. “We are aware that many members were too engrossed in preparing for the Rio+20 summit. Hence, both electronic consultations will remain open to members’ inputs and suggestions for another four weeks,” concluded Mr Serrano. 


After Mr Serrano presented the new process towards the future of the Mountain Partnership, the Decentralized Hubs gave their views, together with Italy and Switzerland as donors and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as host of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat Central Hub and donor.


There was agreement that after ten years, it would be necessary to develop a vision on how the Mountain Partnership would change. “We have to set out our theory of change and decide where there is added value in the group,” said Mario Boccucci, Chief of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, UNEP. “We need to formulate powerful messages and a powerful agenda that we can plug into – a message that is being developed through the members.”


Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director General at FAO’s Forestry Department commented: “Let’s admit that there are lessons to be learned from the past. Looking to the future, FAO stands ready to upscale the future mountain agenda of the Mountain Partnership, through its unmatched global network and direct access to international instruments and fora. So long as we continue talking to each other, there will be scope for the Mountain Partnership,” he concluded.

 *For ease of reference, please find the three mountain paragraphs on page 37

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