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In its para 33, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focuses on the impact that sustainable management of natural resources has on social and economic development and therefore, on the importance of conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas, freshwater resources as well as forests, mountains and drylands and of the protection of biodiversity, ecosystems and wildlife.

Furthermore, the need to “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss” is set as Sustainable Development Goal 15 of the 2030 Agenda.

Target n.1 of SDG 15, in particular, explicitly mentions mountains among the ecosystems to be conserved, restored and sustainably used in line with international agreements.

The outcome document of the Rio + 20 Conference, the Future We Want recognizes, through paragraphs 210-212, both the benefits, derived from mountain regions, as essential for sustainable development and the crucial role played by Mountain ecosystems in providing water resources to a large portion of the world's population. It also acknowledges the importance of mountains as home to indigenous people and local communities.

The Future We Want warns about the vulnerability of fragile mountain ecosystems to the adverse impacts of climate change, deforestation and forest degradation, land use change, land degradation and natural disasters, the marginalisation of its communities. Therefore, it invites States to reinforce cooperative action with effective involvement and sharing of experience of all relevant stakeholders and to adopt a long-term vision and holistic approaches, including through incorporating mountain-specific policies into national sustainable development strategies, which could include, inter alia, poverty reduction plans and programmes for mountain areas, particularly in developing countries.

Prior to Rio+20, Sustainable Mountain Development was discussed at the third session of the Commission on Sustainable Development and the nineteenth Special Session of the General Assembly, held in 1997. The following year, the General Assembly also proclaimed 2002 as the International Year of Mountains, by adopting without a vote, a draft resolution recommended by the Economic and Social Council.

Sustainable Mountain Development is also the subject of Chapter 13 of Agenda 21, which notes that mountains are an important source of water, energy, biological diversity, key resources, such as minerals, forest products and agricultural products, and of recreation. Mountain environments represent major ecosystems which are essential to the survival of the global ecosystem, but they are rapidly changing. Many global mountain areas are experiencing environmental degradation. At the same time, about ten percent of the world's population depends directly on mountain resources, and a much larger percentage draws on mountain resources, including and especially water.

Chapter 13 also includes two programme areas to further elaborate the problem of fragile mountain ecosystems. These are:

  • Generating and strengthening knowledge about the ecology and sustainable development of mountain ecosystems; and
  • Promoting integrated watershed development and alternative livelihood opportunities.
United Nations