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UN Mountain Partnership in Science Magazine: Now is the time to accelerate mountain policies, strategies and actions


Annie Webb


Sep 19, 2019


Sep 19, 2019



Science Magazine recently released a special issue on mountains exploring the latest research related to climate change, biodiversity, mountain peoples and alpine rivers. The Canadian Mountain Network is a proud member of the United Nations (UN) Mountain Partnership and the Partnership’s Coordinator Yuka Makino is the lead author of one article in the issue. The Mountain Partnership is a UN voluntary alliance dedicated to improving the lives of mountain peoples and protecting mountain environments around the world. It facilitates the exchange of knowledge, experience, and expertise among members, which comprise 60 governments, 16 intergovernmental organizations, 294 major groups.

Makino’s article explores the many national, regional, and international efforts to raise awareness and develop scientific evidence on the opportunities and challenges facing mountain ecosystems and peoples. However, much improvement is needed to translate these efforts into effective policies, strategies and actions at the national and local level.

Mountains are unique but highly vulnerable ecosystems that provide a wealth of ecosystem services such as water, food, biodiversity and energy to communities living in or near mountains, as well as those located far downstream. Today, we not only face challenges related to development and land and resource use, but there is the additional urgent threat of climate change.

There have been numerous international commitments to promote the sustainable development of mountains, including the integration of mountain regions into the work of the UN. Each of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is relevant to mountain ecosystems, particularly those concerning disaster risk reduction and climate change. Indeed, three SDG targets specifically mention mountains and related ecosystem services that are essential for sustainable development.

However, few governments have translated these global commitments into national policies and local priorities and actions, particularly in the context of mountain systems. For example, mountains are not referenced in Canada’s recently released draft SDG strategy or the Government of Canada’s sustainable development strategy.

Key resources to improve the translation of high-level aspirations into action include the organizations, partnerships, alliances, and programs at global, regional, and national levels working to promote a common understanding of mountain-related issues to enhance the global exchange of knowledge and experiences.

Additionally, regional governments that have common mountain ranges have joined forces and agreed upon sustainable management of mountain ecosystems. For example, the Alpine Convention and the Carpathian Convention both involve several countries working together to share experiences and ensure sustainable development and protection of these mountain systems.

Now that the foundation has been laid in terms of regional and global collaboration on mountains, there is an urgent need to translate global strategies into national and local policies and practices.  Raising awareness about the relevance of mountain ecosystems to our everyday lives is also fundamental to ensuring future policy and actions increase the protection and resilience of mountain ecosystems.

To learn more, check out Science Magazine’s special issue on mountains.

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