Mountains – Key to a Sustainable Future

Today marks International Mountain Day 2013 – an opportunity to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build partnerships that will bring positive change to the world’s mountains and highlands. The theme for International Mountain Day this year is ‘Mountains – Key to a Sustainable Future‘.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo: Koen Muurling via Flickr.

 

Mountains cover around 27 percent of the earth’s land surface, and play a critical role in moving the world towards sustainable economic growth. Mountains also provide sustenance and wellbeing to 720 million mountain people around the world, but indirectly benefit billions more living downstream. In addition, mountains provide crucial ecosystems goods and services like freshwater, energy and food – resources that will be increasingly scarce in coming decades.

Mountains are crucial to life. Whether we live at sea level or the highest elevations, we are connected to mountains and affected by them in more ways than we can imagine. Mountains provide most of the world’s freshwater, harbour a rich variety of plants and animals, and are home to one in ten people. Yet, each day, environmental degradation, the consequences of climate change, exploitative mining, armed conflict, poverty and hunger threaten the extraordinary web of life that the mountains support.

‘Mountains – Key to a Sustainable Future’ as the theme for IMD this year, aims to celebrate how mountains are crucial in moving the world towards sustainable economic growth in the context of poverty eradication, and on drawing attention to their generally sustainable and low-emission production models. It also aims to underline how the goods and services deriving from mountain regions are essential for sustainable development.

According to a new FAO publication, Mountain Farming is Family Farming, launched today to mark the UN’s International Mountain Day, around 40 percent of mountain populations in developing and transition countries – International Mountain Day 2013about 300 million people – are food insecure, with half of them suffering from chronic hunger. Securing land tenure, providing access to resources for mountain family farms, and improving basic infrastructure in mountain regions are among the key solutions to improving the livelihoods and food security of mountain and lowland communities, FAO said today.

“The report comes out at a time when the post-2015 development agenda is being discussed,” said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, FAO Assistant Director-General for Forests. “We need to ensure that issues related to sustainable mountain development are adequately reflected in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda. Raising the profile of mountain farmers and supporting them through an enabling policy environment will benefit both mountain people as well as populations living in lowlands who benefit from their products and services.”

To respond to the global challenges and threats, holistic, participatory and integrated approaches that address all aspects of sustainability are required. The specific needs and inter-linkages of different aspects of sustainable mountain development, such as water, biodiversity, tourism and infrastructure, must be taken into account.  To achieve sustainable mountain development, it is essential that all concerned stakeholders are involved and that awareness is raised about mountain ecosystems, their fragility and prevalent problems, and about ways of addressing them.

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