International Mountain Day: FAO Mountain Partnership and UNDP GEF Small Grants Program combine efforts to promote mountain products


The Mountain Partnership/FAO and UNDP’s Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme launched a joint program to promote mountain products with the aim of improving the lives of mountain peoples and conserve mountain environments in the context of climate change. The program was announced during the celebration of International Mountain Day 2018, event co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Andorra, Austria, Canada and Kyrgyzstan together with FAO and UNDP.

“Mountain products are often of high quality but produced in low volumes, and consumers can’t always distinguish them from other products in the marketplace”, said Giorgio Grussu, Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Products initiative.

“In order to address this issue, the Mountain Partnership has developed a voluntary labelling scheme that promotes access to markets for small mountain producers, enabling them to obtain a fair price for their products, and helping customers make more informed purchases”, he added.

Yoko Watanabe, Global Manager of the GEF Small Grants Programme at UNDP, explained that the joint program will build on existig work from the two partners and said that the Small Grants Programme is already active in 24 countries with more than 30 projects in critical mountain ecosystems. 

Climate change

International Mountain Day 2018 focused on the theme, “Tackling Climate Change and Building Resilience for Mountain and Rural Communities.” The event sought to address the negative impact of climate change on fragile and vulnerable mountain ecosystems and the challenges and opportunities for mountain community development in the context of the 2030 Agenda.

Opening the event, Ambassador Mirgul Moldoisaeva, Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic, noted that sustainable mountain development is an integral part of achieving sustainable development as a whole. She also shared some of the most notable Kyrgyz initiatives to support mountain development, including a presidential decree to declare the year of development of Kyrgyzstan regions and to promote the development of remote, mountainous areas.

Also delivering opening remarks, Ambassador Jan Kickert, Permanent Representative of Austria, recalled that mountain people are among those most affected by climate change, the worrying signs of which include rapid, accelerating retreat of glaciers. He also stressed the importance of building resilience and considered it a responsibility to help developing mountainous countries.

Joan J.López, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Principality of Andorra, reiterated the threats mountains are facing due to climate change and resulting in the loss of biodiversity. He stressed the importance of joint efforts to address mountain issues.

Moderating the event, Carla Mucavi, Director of the FAO Liaison Office to the United Nations emphasized the impact of climate change on mountain communities. “One in every three mountain people in developing countries faces food insecurity. Climate change worsens this situation, often leaving mountain families with no alternative other than migration,” said Carla Mucavi, Director of the FAO Liaison Office to the United Nations, in her role as the moderator.

The event also featured a panel discussion to discuss key findings from recent research on climate change and to exchange good practices in the implementation of national, regional and international programs aimed at conserving mountain ecosystems and assisting mountain communities.

Benjamin Orlove, Professor at Columbia University, informed of suggested actions to respond effectively to climate change in mountain communities, including coordination between developed and developing countries; linking ecosystem, water, food security and livelihoods in mountains in climate change contexts.

Andrew Jensen and Samuel Elzinga, student representatives from Utah Valley University, introduced the Utah International Mountain Forum, a student advocacy body working to involve youth on the sustainable mountain development agenda.

Ambassador Louise Blais, Permanent Representative of Canada, closed the meeting by stressing the need to respect the critical role of mountains and the alarming pace at which they are being affected by climate change and other factors. She also noted the importance of collaboration rather than reinventing the wheel.

The increasing attention to the importance of mountains led the UN General Assembly to declare 2002 the UN International Year of Mountains. Later, the General Assembly designated 11 December, from 2003 onwards, as “International Mountain Day”. The global theme of this year’s International Mountain Day was “Mountains Matter.”

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News and photo by FAO Liason Office in New York

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