New Opportunities For Sustainable Development Of Mountain Regions


A gathering of 150 policy makers,  scientists,  and development experts from the world’s mountain regions have endorsed the Kathmandu Declaration on Green Economy and Sustainable Mountain Development,hoping  to ensure the place of mountain systems, in particular in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, in current global discussions on the environment, economy, and sustainable development.

The declaration was the outcome of the three-day International Conference on Green Economy and Sustainable Mountain Development jointly organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Kathmandu from 5 to 7 September.  The conference included participation not only from the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, but also from Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe. Right Honourable President of the Republic of Nepal, Dr Ram Baran Yadav, inaugurated the three-day conference. Dr RK Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), delivered the keynote speech.

‘Green economy’ refers to promotion of a low-carbon economy in the framework of sustainable development. Mountainous developing countries already have low-carbon economies, but they also have an extremely high incidence of poverty. The challenge in mountain regions is to keep these economies low carbon while promoting their sustainable development.

The representatives of science, government, civil society, and the private sector who were gathered in Kathmandu pooled their understanding about how the green economy framework can be harnessed to improve the lives of mountain people and the conservation of mountain ecosystems. They concurred that mountains are global natural assets  and support about half of the global population by providing fresh water, energy, floral and fauna biodiversity, food, and other ecosystem goods and services, as well as cultural diversity and traditional knowledge. Economic growth and sustainability in lowlands depend highly on the mountain ecosystem services, directly or indirectly. It is in the common interest of national, regional, and global communities to conserve and develop mountain ecosystem services.

Key recommendations in the declaration included the recognition of benefits deriving from mountains; incorporation of the value of ecosystems services in national development planning and decision making; the establishment of global, regional, national,  and local mechanisms to compensate and reward mountain communities for the services they provide; the establishment of favorable conditions for improving markets for mountain ecosystem goods and services; inclusion of equity concerns in green economy in mountains; and  access to resources and property rights for mountain women, indigenous communities, and marginalized groups.
A clear message that came from the conference is that mountains are critical for addressing global environmental challenges and promoting green economy and sustainable development.  Participants were of the view that a green economy is an important concept for mountainous developing countries; it has the potential for creating new investments and generating new jobs if mountain-specific approaches are taken to tap the emerging opportunities.