MOUNTAIN ECOSYSTEMS FUNDAMENTAL TO LIFE BUT
NEW YORK, 29 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Global Mountain Summit, delivered by Johannes van Ginkel, Rector, United Nations University in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, today:
It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to the Global Mountain Summit, the culminating global event of this International Year of Mountains. It is fitting that this meeting takes place in the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, a country which is itself largely mountainous and which initiated the idea of this International Year.
Like the oceans and rainforests, mountains are fundamental to life on Earth. 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.
Mountains also host more biodiversity than any other part of our planet -- more even than lowland rainforests. Mountain landscapes harbour much of the world’s remaining biological heritage, including many species of plants and animals found nowhere else, as well as the original varieties of many of our major crops.
Yet mountain ecosystems are extremely fragile. Every day, climate change, pollution, exploitative mining and logging, and unsound agricultural practices take a heavy toll.
The challenges facing the world’s mountain ranges and mountain communities are as big as mountains themselves. The way forward is to break those challenges down into smaller pieces and smaller issues, and for each of us to contribute what we have and what we do best.
At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to working towards a world in which sustaining development and eliminating poverty would have the highest priority. The eight "Millennium Development Goals" relate closely to the work you are doing this week, particularly the goals to ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.
Improvements in watershed management, sustainable use of mountain resources, and other aspects of environmental stewardship in mountain areas will require a variety of local and regional cooperative programmes between private and public stakeholder associations, policy makers, development financiers and the mountain communities themselves, upstream and downstream. An important step in that direction was taken at the World Summit on Sustainable Development with the launch, by a number of countries, United Nations agencies and international organizations, of the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions.
This Summit in Bishkek offers an opportunity to deepen this partnership, to improve the lives of people who depend on mountain resources and ecosystems, and to agree on concrete actions that will have an impact well beyond the International Year of Mountains. Everyone has a stake in ensuring that the world's mountain regions continue to provide their riches for many generations to come. This is a challenge the world's peoples can and must scale together. I wish you all success in your deliberations.