Item 7 (b) of the Provisional Agenda


Santa Fe de Bogota, Colombia, 4-8 September 2000


Secretariat Note

Table of Contents


1.    Chapter 13 is the section of UNCED Agenda 21 which addresses the sustainable development of mountains. These are considered fragile ecosystems and necessitate special efforts for a better knowledge of the resources they contain and sustained action for the development and conservation of mountain resources and communities. The main objectives of Chapter 13 aim at i) raising awareness of the importance of and improving understanding of sustainable mountain development issues at global, regional and national level; ii) protecting natural resources and developing technical and institutional arrangements for natural disaster reduction; iii) strengthening a global information network and database, for organizations, governments and individuals concerned with mountain issues; iv) strengthening country capacity to improve planning, implementation and monitoring of sustainable mountain development programmes and activities; and v) combating poverty.

2.    In 1993 FAO was designated Task Manager for the implementation of Chapter 13. In that role it is responsible for coordinating, steering and animating UN agencies' efforts to implement measures and recommendations prescribed in this chapter. Since then, it has been carrying out this responsibility through a variety of means, both internal and external, which are described below.

3.    In 1998, the UN General Assembly took an additional important step in recognizing the importance of sustainable mountain development by declaring 2002 the International Year of Mountains and invited FAO to be the lead agency in the UN system responsible for preparing the observance of this year.


4.    The idea to propose sustainable mountain development as a theme for an international year was first proposed by the president of the Kyrgyz Republic at the international conference "Mountain Research - Challenges for the 21st Century", convened in Bishkek in 1996. It was subsequently officially presented to the UN Secretary-General and after receiving strong support in ECOSOC, the resolution proclaiming an International Year of Mountains (IYM) to be celebrated in 2002 passed without vote in the UN General Assembly in November 1998. FAO was invited to act as Lead Agency for the year, a role which was approved by the FAO Council in November 1998.

5.    Under the overall goal of ensuring sustainable development of mountain regions and the well being of their populations, the International Year of Mountains should serve, inter alia:

6.    These objectives will need to be achieved through a variety of means, including: generation and exchange of information; awareness raising and sensitization; education, training and extension; documentation of best practices based on successful field case studies; and promotion of mountain-specific policy formulation and legislation. Efforts will have to be made at both international and national levels and the IYM will be only considered a success if there is significant follow-up at the different levels.


7.    The implementation of Chapter 13, the related reporting and the preparations of the observance of the IYM constitute a compact body of activities in the FAO programme. A number of organizational arrangements have been effected which are recalled below.

Reactivating the Inter-Agency Group on Mountains

8.    During 1999, FAO convened the fifth and sixth sessions of the ad hoc Inter-Agency Group on Mountains, thus restarting the collaborative mechanism on Chapter 13 implementation. This group, which has provided support and guidance to the task manager in the implementation of Chapter 13, will continue this role in the preparation and observance of the IYM. These meetings brought together leading international agencies and organizations involved in mountain development and conservation and laid the groundwork for coordinating further action and preparing the observance of the IYM.

Promoting networking on mountain issues

9.    Networks of governmental and non-governmental institutions and individuals have become over time an essential tool in the implementation of Chapter 13. The Mountain Forum network was established in 1995 at the global level and has since constituted decentralized nodes in all regions. The network's Latin American node is hosted at the International Potato Center in Peru.

Improving FAO organizational readiness

10.    The implementation of Chapter 13 has helped further promote integration and interdepartmental cohesion within FAO in the development of activities relating to the conservation and development of mountain resources. To further promote this interdepartmental cooperation and integration, an interdepartmental working group on mountains has been reactivated. This group has started gathering information on relevant activities and contributing to the preparation of the IYM at the conceptual phase and will contribute actively to the operational phase when the moment arrives.

11.    Regional and Sub-regional offices of FAO are expected to participate in and expand the scope of these activities. Focal points will have to be designated to animate cross-sectoral regional initiatives to prepare and implement the IYM. FAO country representatives will be provided with information on issues on mountain resources development and conservation and on approaches to observe the IYM.

Strengthening activities in the watershed management and sustainable mountain development programme

12.    The preparation of the Programme of Work and Budget 2000-2001 has provided a new opportunity to strengthen the programme on mountains and watershed management. The new programme includes several clusters which will promote substantive activities in increasing awareness and information flow, facilitating and improving networking and partnership and enhancing capacity at national level to plan and implement sustainable mountain development and watershed management programmes and activities.

13.    This will be developed in close collaboration with regional and sub-regional offices, including sharing of resources, support of shared activities in partnership, etc. The identification of the major outside partners and collaborators in mountain-related activities and the promotion of a process to share responsibility including with NGOs will of course accompany this.


14.    A number of initiatives have been taken to start the preparation for the IYM, including dissemination of information, enlisting country support and guidance, conceptualisation of the IYM programme and consolidation of funding.

Enlisting country support and guidance

15.    In a drive to fully inform and enlist the support of those governments particularly interested in mountain issues, FAO held in Rome, on 9 July 1999, a briefing meeting and discussion on the mountain agenda and on the IYM for Permanent Representatives to FAO. The outcome of the discussion emphasized the need to ensure that IYM implementation provides direct benefits to people and not only be limited to external and event-related celebrations. The special role of NGOs, and the importance of gender issues and of developing information and educational material was also stressed. The call was renewed to interested countries to support the process and provide necessary supplementary resources for a successful preparation and observance.

16.    By June 2000, more elements to support and guide national participation will be available, including: i) information material; ii) an IYM coordination unit at FAO; iii) an IYM logo; and iv) a dedicated IYM web site.

Concept for and means to prepare and observe the International Year of Mountains

17.    To fully inform the preparatory process and provide a clear framework for the observance of the IYM, a concept paper and an assessment of needs and the formulation of a multi-donor trust fund were effected. This was also in response to the request by the 115th session of the FAO Council which recommended countries, in particular donor countries, to provide support and extra-budgetary resources to FAO.

Concept paper

18.    The IYM concept paper has been formulated based on review and input from the ad hoc Inter-agency Group on Mountains. It aims to provide general guidelines and a framework for preparations for the IYM for all institutions and individuals involved in mountain-related issues.

19.    Synthesis of the concept paper will be prepared and incorporated in the information packages that will support countries' preparations and observance of the IYM.

Resources needed to implement the International Year of Mountains

20.    The 115th session of the Council recommended that FAO look into the needs for funding and to report to it in one of its upcoming sessions. The discussions and exchange of views developed on the subject, in particular the advice gathered from the consultations organized in-house and with partners in the Mountain Forum and in the ad hoc Inter-agency Group on Mountains, suggest an observance with the following characteristics:

21.    The means needed for the observance of the IYM are aimed to support the following major clusters:

22.    Resources needed to cover all these activities and measures have been estimated at approximately US$ 5 million, all of which need to be mobilized through extra-budgetary sources. Fund raising strategy will include bilateral and multilateral sources, as well as contributions from non-traditional sources such as private foundations and corporations. However, immediate contributions essential for the effective start-up of core activities, especially related to promotion and coordination of the IYM, will depend primarily on bilateral sources.


Mountain resources in the Region

23.    The mountain areas of Latin America and the Caribbean occupy a substantial proportion of the Region and include significant segments of the population, including indigenous and cultural groups whose stability depends on the rational management of natural resources. The conservation of these areas has an impact on the quality of local, national and global environments and, in many cases, on the socio-economic conditions of the inhabitants of medium- and lower-watershed areas. The way these areas are used is therefore of priority concern to countries of the Region. The mountain areas also include some of the most fragile ecosystems of the Region, requiring special treatment and operational coordination and linkage between the relevant national authorities, civil society and the local communities.

24.    The production potential of the mountain areas is huge in terms of energy, forestry, water catchment and control, and genetic resources, and also in terms of sustainable agricultural production using appropriate technologies. Some mountain areas also have high touristic and recreational potential and therefore a high natural potential that needs to be sustainably developed, with land-use planning, appropriate technologies and a participatory social framework. Coincidentally, the year 2002 has also been declared the International Year of Ecotourism.

25.    The mountain areas of Latin America have a mega-diversity due to their abundance of ecosystems and their wide range of genera and species of mammals, birds, amphibia, fish and flora. There is also a high degree of endemism in their desert, temperate and tropical climate ecosystems. This rich biodiversity and high endemism give the mountain ecosystems stability and contribute to their scenic beauty. Their functions are essential in maintaining ecological equilibrium, water security and production capacity of medium and lower catchment areas.

Situation of mountains in the Region

26.    The present state of degradation of forests and other natural resources in large expanses of the Region's mountain areas is largely due to the lack of integrated management, which is affecting forest ecosystem sustainability, contaminating waters, eroding productive land and exacerbating the instability of fragile areas vulnerable to extreme climatic events. There are few examples of management with integrated planning and implementation, although recent successful projects are encouraging public and private bodies to become involved and are generating new expectations of participation among diverse governmental, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

27.    The increased exploitation of mountain areas, mainly for extractive purposes, has had a serious impact on, for example, fresh water bodies, watersheds and soils and forests, affecting water regimes and the quality, quantity and availability of water.

28.    Forest biodiversity has been heavily degraded, with the indigenous forests causing the greatest concern of all the fragile mountain ecosystems. The mountain native forest has been increasingly degraded in recent years with a loss not only of forest stands but also of its rich biodiversity. The priorities of urban and industrial development, with all the associated implications, and the extraction of oil, mineral, gold and timber and agro-industrial activity of recent decades have caused the most damage to the mountain areas.

29.    The high elevation forests and catchments are those most exposed to extreme events (floods, drought, landslides). Accumulated pressure from human intervention undermine the stability of geomorphologically active slopes which, in turn, affects the lower-lying areas that suffer the consequences of upland changes. Several countries of the Region have recently suffered disasters from incidents of floods and landslides. These endangered areas can be demarcated and placed under environmental surveillance, with the application of preventive measures and treatments.

30.    The expansion of the agricultural frontier in critical mountain areas indicates a lack of ecological land-use planning, whereby land is used according to its capacity and population pressure on fragile soils is regulated, with the promotion of sustainable forms of use and management.

31.    A high percentage of mountain areas in the Region have formal status as Protected Areas, although certain significant ecosystems are not represented, and population growth, the spread of exogenous animal and plant species, tourism and illicit deforestation within the protected areas and their areas of influence increase the risk of destruction. There is a considerable concern for spontaneous and uncontrolled intervention in many protected mountain wildlands, because of disproportionate utilization and pollution from economic activity within the area or in the area of influence.

32.    There is general recognition of the lack of sustainable and integrated management policies, strategies and plans in the mountain areas, especially in fragile ecosystems. Where such policies do exist, these need to be implemented and their results evaluated to effectively assimilate a large proportion of the causes of past and present degradation of natural resources, and to validate achievements.

Strengthening mountain activities in the Region

33.    Priority needs to be given to protecting the natural resources of mountain watersheds that are in a critical state of conservation and to managing them in an integrated manner, for they impact heavily on environmental stability, human activities and vulnerable low-lying areas.

34.    Sustainable integrated rural development programmes need to be established to counter the increased degradation of renewable productive natural resources, water, soil, vegetation and fauna. To reverse declining yields in cropping and forestry, changes in land use need to be agreed with local communities, thereby reducing conflicts of use. As agreed by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, activities related to the environment and forests need to be organized within the frame of reference of the national forest programmes of individual countries.

35.    The current work proposal for mountain areas is based on the integrated management of natural resources of the watersheds, enabling the physical area and its natural, economic and socio-cultural phenomena to be dealt with in a participatory, systemic and comprehensive manner.

36.    As part of its programme of natural resource management, the FAO Regional Office has prioritized the conservation and development of mountain resources and watershed management and has promoted actions related to policy making and methodological and technical support for the planning, management and sustainable development of mountain areas. The Latin American Technical Cooperation Network on Watershed Management has focused its actions, with FAO support, on the management of mountain micro-catchments.

37.    The objectives are:

38.    The management of mountain areas has traditionally been an important area of concern for the forestry sector in the Region. An important issue for the Latin American and Caribbean Forestry Commission is the role that forestry can play in providing leadership in the planning, co-ordinating and facilitating the programmes and activities for the observance of the IYM in the countries.