Covering around 27 percent of the earth’s land surface, mountains play a critical role in moving the world towards sustainable economic growth. They not only provide sustenance and well being to 720 million mountain people around the world, but indirectly benefit billions more living downstream.
In particular, mountains provide freshwater, energy and food – resources that will be increasingly scarce in coming decades. However, mountains also have a high incidence of poverty and are extremely vulnerable to climate change, deforestation, land degradation and natural disasters.
The challenge is to identify new and sustainable opportunities that can bring benefits to both highland and lowland communities and help to eradicate poverty without contributing to the degradation of fragile mountain ecosystems.
Commitment and will to advance this cause were strengthened during the International Year of Mountains in 2002, and mountains have gained an increasingly high profile on agendas at all levels.
The Year also led to the adoption of resolution 57/245, in which the General Assembly designated December 11 as International Mountain Day, and encouraged the international community to organize events at all levels on that day to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development.
This article was originally published in the United Nations Website.