International Mountain Day celebrated in Vatican City


The day-long conference "The message of the mountains", anchored in the words of the Laudato Sì, took place in the Vatican City on 12 December 2022 in celebration of International Mountain Day. It was hosted by the Department of Culture and Education of the Holy See, together with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, in collaboration with Giovane Montagna, the Italian Alpine Club and Guide Don Bosco 6000 – Peru. In the beautiful setting of Casina Pio IV, the conference featured a variety of mountain actors, including the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu; Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassadors; mountaineers; climatologists; sustainable development experts; tourism operators; volunteers and sports enthusiasts.

Mountain voices

Opening the high-level segment, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said that we need to double our efforts in mountains to see real changes. Considering the urgency of the environmental and climate crisis in mountainous regions and within the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development 2022, delegates considered how to build greater cooperation and networks across different countries, communities and cultures.

In line with this year's International Mountain Day theme "Women move mountains", different voices focused on the role of women in mountains to build climate resilience, exploring solutions to reduce vulnerability and increase the ability of communities to adapt.

Nikki Santos, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute's Center for Native American Youth and Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassador, outlined the importance of human ancestry and resilience, stating, "Our connection to the mountains is directly tied to our culture and community's well-being. They are our selah – our grandfathers – they watch over us, they protect us. However, I am fearful of climate change's impact on my selah."

Nikki Santos also quoted Chief Seattle and highlighted, "We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." This philosophy was an overarching theme throughout the day.

The cultural and spiritual significance of mountains

Mountains are the highest peaks of the natural landscape and are shrouded in sacred and divine meaning for many communities. Traditionally, mountains have been revered as places of spiritual attainment: from Mount Kailash to Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, all have gained special status as natural landmarks of devotion.

Edwin Bernbaum, Senior Fellow at the Instituto de Montaña and Co-Chair of the IUCN Group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas, said, "There is a power and mystery to mountains and what they can awaken within us. Throughout the world, people of traditional religious cultures have looked to mountains as symbols of their highest spiritual goals."

We must work together as a collective and respect mountain areas

Stories of previous ascents to some of the world's highest mountains were shared as personal accounts of speakers' experiences climbing remote peaks, including Italian mountaineer and writer Nives Meroi, who shared reflections of her past experiences throughout her climbing career. She said, "We knew the mountains would take care of us."

Taking this moment of reflection forward and looking at both the challenges and opportunities ahead, Thomas Hofer, Senior Forestry Officer at FAO, emphasized the importance of scaling-up best practices and the innovative solutions the United Nations Decade of Ecosystems Restoration brings to protect mountain forests and ecosystems. The session moderated by Rosalaura Romeo, Coordinator a.i of the Mountain Partnership, considered the progress made over the last 20 years toward sustainable mountain development and the importance of 2022 being declared as the second-ever International Year dedicated to mountains.

This event was the first to take place on mountains in the Vatican City with speakers from North America, Central and South Asia, Europe and South America.

Read the press release
Watch the event recording
View the Flickr gallery

Photo: ©Dicastery for Culture and Education

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