UN highlights need to include mountains in global development agenda

Mountain countries and organizations urged the UN on 8 January 2014 in New York, USA, to include mountains in the Post-2015 development agenda as they are ‘vital to sustainable development’. Speaking at a side event of the UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), diplomats from Argentina, Italy, Kyrgyzstan and Peru, four UN Member States who are also members of the Mountain Partnership, outlined the need for global attention to mountains.

s-breit1The four countries co-hosted the event called, “Building resilience to climate change in mountain areas,” along with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The meeting took place on the day the OWG began discussing climate change during the seventh of its eight sessions.

“While pursuing robust mitigation measures, we will therefore have to adapt to the conditions already created by climate change,” said Ambassador Inigo Lambertini of the Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN. “This means using all the technological means at our disposal – and inventing new ones – to increase the resilience of mountain regions and nurture the aspirations of mountain people.”

Encouraging the inclusion of mountains in the SDGs, which are to succeed the Millennium Development Goals, Ambassador Augusto Thornberry of Peru noted “the declining health of mountain ecosystems as an early-warning indicator of global sustainability.” In reference to the sustainability of mountain ecosystems, Thornberry recalled their economic and social importance to local communities, whose challenges are exacerbated by climate change.

“The only way to address climate change is to strengthen global cooperation,” Ambassador Talaibek Kydyrov of Kyrgyzstan, told the gathering of about 50 people at UN headquarters, adding that consideration must be given to mountains in the Post-2015 development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular.

“We must cherish the social, economic and cultural value of mountains,” said Ambassador Mateo Estremé of Argentina, who emphasized that nearly everyone depends on mountains for water, goods or services.

Also highlighting the importance of mountains to livelihoods, keynote speaker Dr Iván Ramírez, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at the New School of Liberal Arts in New York, showcased the ‘cascade of goods and services’ mountains provide. He warned that “climate change will exacerbate existing environmental and social vulnerabilities in mountain areas. A changing climate will affect those goods and services that highland and lowland communities rely upon and compounds existing challenges to sustainable development.” On the other hand, he said, mountain communities know how to cope with harsh environments and climate variability. Accordingly, “mountain communities offer solutions for climate change adaptation and the creation of climate change resilience.”

Presenting a policy brief called, “Why mountains matter for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction –  a call for action on the SDGs,” UNEP’s Matthias Jurek called mountains ‘early warning indicators’ of climate change. Underscoring the existence of a vast body of knowledge and data on climate change in mountain regions, he invited the participants to make maximum use of this information as well as the policy brief that includes proposed targets and indicators to bring mountain issues into the SDG process.

Thomas Hofer, Coordinator of the MPS, who chaired the meeting, explained that the side event was part of the Mountain Partnership’s efforts to advocate sustainable mountain development.

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