Mountain partners take stock of poor performance and pledge to do better

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Earth Journalism Network, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A day before the High Level segment of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development began in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, a pavilion built by the Peruvian government hosted the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership on Tuesday where mountain countries highlighted their plea to save the source of life on earth.

All participating mountain countries including Bhutan voiced out their desperation over the failure to attract stronger commitments.

The Mountain Partnership is a United Nations voluntary alliance of partners that prioritizes to protect and conserve mountain environment all over the world. It also works to improve the lives of mountain people. It aspires to table, raise, and address all challenges facing mountain ecosystems and aims to stimulate solutions. It focuses on tapping all mountain resources, knowledge, information and expertise facilitate that all mountain countries gain from it. It has 131 members including 50 countries, 19 intergovernmental organizations and 113 major groups like CSO, NGO and the private sector.

However, the Mountain Partnership appears to have lost its momentum in the past few years. Since 2002, it has not held any global meeting. In a strongly worded speech, the Assistant Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Mr Manuel Bessler, said that “eight years of silence is not acceptable.”

The Third Global Meeting was held in a modest Mountain Pavilion built by the Peru Government and supported by SDC along the sidelines of the Rio+20 Summit. It had about 50 participants.Mr Manuel Bessler said the Partnership has seen “a lack of vision” and added that “there is an urgent need for improvement” to take the Mountain Partnership to the next level given that not even one third of the 193 members were present for the Meeting.

Just before Bhutan’s agriculture and forest minister, Dr Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, gave his speech, a slideshow presentation concluded with a quote from the Romantic William Blake: “When men meet mountains, great things happen.”

Lyonpo began his speech by tweaking the quote. He said “When men meet mountains (referring to the Mountain Partnership) nothing seems to be happening. So we might say ‘when mountains meet men, great things happen’”.

Adorned in his woven gho, Lyonpo said something had definitely gone wrong. “Why are we still talking about the need to have a stronger partnership?” He emphatically stressed, “We had ten years of talking. Now, it is time to work.”

He emphasized that the Mountain Partnership needs a strong leadership and more sense of ownership from the mountain countries and its members.

The state Environment Secretary of Rio De Janeiro, Mr Carlos Minc, supported the Moutain partnership wholeheartedly. Nepal’s Ambassador to the Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations in New York, MrGyan Chandra Acharya committed his country’s support to all mountain issues and said it will be a priority for Nepal to do so in all kinds of negotiations at regional and global level. He said mountains should be an integral part of sustainable development goals.

During the Meeting, a video message by world renowned mountain, former politician and writer, Reinhold Messner, who is the first ambassador of Mountain Partnership, was also launched.

All speakers and participants agreed that the Mountain Partnership has not had a history to be proud of but it ended in an optimistic note with everyone agreeing that more needs to be done to save mountains that covers 24% of the earth’s surface and supports 120mn people directly