“Mountains are our origins and mountains are our solutions,” declared Wu Zhimin, Director of the Forestry Division for FAO, at the beginning of the closing ceremonies of the UN International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development in his role as moderator. This idea carried on throughout the entire conversation from forestry, to conservation, to genetics. Dongyu Qu, Director-General of FAO, noted that mountains are big, hosting human beings: “They are not small and thus they do not host the individual, but instead the ecosystem of humans. They host the biomes, the microbiomes, and all of us – which proves the critical need for them.”
Activities during the past year (April 2022-2023) engaged United Nations agencies, mountain stakeholders, and other partners to collectively define a roadmap for the protection of mountain ecosystems while building the resilience of mountain peoples. In reflecting on these accomplishments, Dongyu Qu said that this year opened a window for us to focus on mountains, and how mountains should be centered in conversation. Mountains are critical for sustainable futures and mountains must remain centered in the conversations around sustainable development and meeting UN SDGs. He furthered that while the year may be over, our work is not. We must secure our mountains every day. H.E. Tim Kranzlein, Deputy Permanent Representative of Switzerland to FAO, agreed, stating that this event is a moment for us to look back, but to look forward at the same time.
Maria Ubach, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Andorra, emphasized unity, stating that “alliance is the only way to face the challenges of climate change.” This year has created an opportunity to undertake joint action across borders to increase awareness for the conservation and sustainable use of mountains. She noted that Andorra has embraced the idea of cooperation by collaboratively introducing movements to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, asking for the inclusion of mountains in the agenda. This idea was received well and was presented to the committee for further action to be taken in COP29.
Zoritsa Urosevic, Executive Director of the World Tourism Organization, emphasized the importance of tourism on mountain economies. Representatives from mountain countries highlighted its contribution to the development of mountain economies and the resilience of mountain communities. It was stated that mountain tourism accounts for 16% of all tourism, but there are gaps in the activities of this tourism which need to be further developed.
Mountain voices from around the world joined the conversation by video, including:
- Women artisans/designers from Kyrgyzstan and their fashion business which had designs presented at Milan fashion week.
- Mountain Women of the World Network – a cooperation network establishing collective leadership of mountain women and their shared knowledge and experience.
Musicians from Kyrgyzstan and Peru performed melodies to inspire our path towards sustainable mountains for the people and the planet.
FAO Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo, closed the ceremony by giving individual thanks to the representatives present as well as the larger community today and all of the contributions made this year. She celebrated the differences in culture, heritage, and community that have come together this year to elevate the voices of the mountains, the products of the mountains, and the ecosystems of the mountains. Looking ahead, she asks everyone to think of how we can move beyond words and into actions that can secure sustainable futures by activating policy and investments in mountains around the world.