Note to Correspondents

Note No. 5704
10 December 2001


NEW YORK, 7 December (UN Headquarters) -- An event to launch the International Year of Mountains (IYM 2002) will be held on Tuesday, 11 December, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Conference Room 2. The event is co-sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Year of Mountains Focus Group, in cooperation with the Department of Public Information (DPI).

Adolf Ogi, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace and former President, Swiss Confederation, will make welcoming remarks. Murari Raj Sharma, Acting President, fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly, and Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, will make opening remarks; Mr. Desai will deliver a message from the Secretary-General.

Jacques Diouf, Director-General, FAO, will deliver a keynote address. This will be followed by brief statements from Kurmanbek Bakiev, Prime Minister, Kyrgyz Republic; Alan Wagner, Ambassador of Peru to the United States and former Peruvian Minister for Foreign Affairs; Antonio Gagliardi, Under-Secretary-General of State for Regional Affairs, Prime Minister’s Office, Italy; Josef Plank, Secretary for Agriculture, Niederösterreich, on behalf of the Minister for Environment, Austria; and Louis Besson, Member of Parliament for and Mayor of Chambéry, and Member, IYM National Committee, France.

A roundtable discussion moderated by Mr. Desai will focus on "Sustainability in mountain development". Roundtable participants are: Jim Enote, Leader, Zuni Nation; Yolanda Kakabadse, former Minister for Environment, Ecuador, and President, International Union for the Conservation of Nature; and Uma Lele, Senior Adviser, World Bank.

The programme will begin with a screening of "Mountain Diary", a documentary of the Overland truck expedition, which has travelled the world since 1995 with the aim of promoting knowledge of different cultures. Several segments of the trip have been documented and broadcast by RAI Italian television. Following the screening, the meeting will be called to order by the sounding of an Alpenhorn, a traditional mountain instrument.

There will also be two musical interludes by Austrian composer and trumpet soloist Franz Hackl. Raised in the tradition of Austrian folk music in the Tirol, Mackl received a classical education at the Music Conservatory in Vienna and studied jazz at the Manhattan School of Music. Accompanied by a group of musicians, Hackl will be performing "Tirol, Tirol, Tirol" and "Polka Fast", based on musical themes from traditional folk music and polka music from the Strauss dynasty.

Jacques Diouf, Director-General, FAO, will meet with the press at 12:45 in Room 226.

Mountains have always served as vast reserves of valuable resources -– such as water, energy and biological diversity – as well as key centres of culture and recreation. However, the rapid pace of globalization, urbanization and mass tourism are threatening mountain communities and the resources they depend on. Worldwide, mountain areas face increasing marginalization, economic decline and environmental degradation.

The General Assembly designated 2002 as the International Year of Mountains (IYM) in order to increase international awareness of the global importance of mountain ecosystems. The FAO is the lead agency for the Year, in collaboration with other United Nations Offices and agencies, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The IYM is one step in a long-term process which began with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Earth Summit produced Agenda 21, a global blueprint for sustainable development into the twenty-first century, of which Chapter 13, "Managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development", placed mountains on an equal footing with climate change, tropical deforestation and desertification as a key issue in the global debate on environment and development. The IYM provides a unique opportunity to reinforce the implementation of Chapter 13 and to move mountain issues higher on the global agenda.

For further information, please contact Tim Aldington (FAO), (212) 963-6036. For media accreditation, please call (212) 963-6934. For United Nations television coverage, please call (212) 963-7650.

* *** *