Covering around 22 percent of the earth’s land surface, mountains play a critical role in moving the world towards sustainable economic growth. They not only provide sustenance and wellbeing to 915 million mountain people around the world, representing 13 percent of global population, but indirectly benefit billions more living downstream.
In particular, mountains provide freshwater, energy and food – resources that will be increasingly scarce in coming decades. However, mountains also have a high incidence of poverty and are extremely vulnerable to climate change, deforestation, land degradation and natural disasters. In fact, 1 out of 3 mountain people in developing countries is vulnerable to food insecurity and faces poverty and isolation.
The challenge is to identify new and sustainable opportunities that can bring benefits to both highland and lowland communities and help to eradicate poverty without contributing to the degradation of fragile mountain ecosystems.
This year, the celebration of this Day aims to highlight Mountain Products. Mountain peoples, who are largely family farmers, base their livelihoods on highly diversified activities. Over generations they have developed unique, resilient and sustainable production systems adapted to their local environments which favour the production of niche and mountain-specific products and services.
Worldwide demand for quality, high-value and traditional foods and crafts produced in mountain areas, such as coffee, cheese, herbs and spices, as well as handicrafts and medicines is on the rise. Small-scale mountain agriculture cannot compete with the volumes of lowland production, but it has the potential to tap into niche markets – such as organic, fair trade, or high-end quality – and fetch premium prices.
Commitment and will to advance this cause were strengthened during the International Year of Mountains in 2002, and mountains have gained an increasingly high profile on agendas at all levels.
The Year also led to the adoption of resolution 57/245, in which the General Assembly designated 11 December as International Mountain Day, and encouraged the international community to organize events at all levels on that day to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development.
As of 2003, it has been observed every year to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build alliances that will bring positive change to mountain peoples and environments around the world. See more: http://www.un.org/en/events/mountainday/