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Livelihoods of millions of mountain people at risk, UN-backed conference warns

Livelihoods of millions of mountain people at risk, UN-backed conference warns

Delegates to an international conference on mountains organized with the support of the United Nations today called for more attention to the plight of millions of people living in high-altitude areas, who often are exposed to poverty, hunger, social and political marginalization and conflicts.

Some 200 representatives of mountain people, governments, international organizations and civil society groups from about 50 countries adopted the so-called Adelboden Declaration at the conclusion of the International Conference on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Mountain Regions held in Switzerland.

The Conference was organized by the Swiss Federal Office of Agriculture in close collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which estimates that about 770 million people, or 12 per cent of the world’s population, live in mountain areas.

The Declaration recognizes that globalization has often had negative effects on mountain areas and calls for the removal of market distortions. Mountain people should also have better access to markets and financial services and should receive fair compensation for environmental and other goods and services.

According to the Declaration, mountain regions require special attention because they are geographically isolated and face difficult climatic conditions and fragile ecosystems, making production, marketing and development more difficult.

The Conference also noted the key role of agriculture for the development of mountain areas and called for more economic diversification.

In order to improve the living conditions of people in mountain areas, the rights of local communities, indigenous and tribal people, and vulnerable groups should be recognized, based on their knowledge, natural resources and technologies, property and access to land.

People in mountain areas should have access to food, clean water and basic services such as education, health, sanitation, housing and energy, according to the Declaration, which also urges respect for the legal status and rights of women.

The results of the Conference will be presented at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September, and the Bishkek Global Mountain Summit in Kyrgyzstan scheduled for October.