The world’s mountain ranges, so vital to sustaining life, face unprecedented challenges which must be met by a concerted international response, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.
“More than half of humanity depends on mountains for safe water to grow food, to produce electricity, to sustain industries and, most importantly, to drink,” Mr. Annan said in a message to the Global Mountain Summit, held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. “Mountains also host more biodiversity than any other part of our planet – more even than lowland rainforests.”
Despite their important ecological contributions, fragile mountain ecosystems are in danger, he warned. “Every day, climate change, pollution, exploitative mining and logging, and unsound agricultural practices take a heavy toll.”
Urging a step-by-step approach to meeting these challenges, the Secretary-General called for joint efforts involving private and public stakeholder associations, policy makers, development financiers and mountain communities themselves. The International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions, which was launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development earlier this year, marked “an important step in that direction,” he said.
Urging participants to deepen the Partnership, he pointed out that all people have a stake in ensuring the health of the planet’s mountain regions. “This is a challenge the world’s peoples can and must scale together,” he said in the message, which was delivered by Johannes van Ginkel, the Rector of the UN University.