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8 June 2000
UNU LAUNCHES PROJECT ON SUSTAINABLE MOUNTAIN DEVELOPMENT
Mountainous areas are more than simply "water towers" for freshwater resources. They are complex systems, encompassing a broad range of variable climates and heterogeneous habitats worldwide, and often sustaining unique fauna and flora. Yet mountains are among the world's most vulnerable bio-geographical areas, with fragile ecosystems susceptible to land degradation and critical biodiversity loss. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Operational Strategy, for example, identifies mountains as one of the priority ecosystems where biodiversity needs to be conserved. Mountain areas are also suffering from the loss of indigenous cultures and traditions. Underscoring the international community's increasing recognition of the importance of mountain issues, in November 1998 the United Nations General Assembly designated 2002 as the International Year of Mountains.
UNU, in partnership with the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Berne, Switzerland, and with the general support of the Japanese Government, is developing a comprehensive programme on sustainable mountain development. The aim is to contribute to improved understanding of the status of the world's varied mountain systems in relation to global change, the pressures these areas are exposed to (including the consequences for human, natural and economic resources), and the responses created by different social groups and mountain societies. Identifying the potentials and dynamics of social systems embedded in specific economic environments, and innovative solutions, will make it possible to mitigate many mountain problems.
The project will enable local research institutions to enhance their competence and capacities by partnering with other institutions. This will be achieved by strengthening their position vis-à-vis national and international research communities and network agendas, introducing up-to-date methodologies to address mountain issues, and developing strategic and applied research to help institutions find sustainable solutions within their local context. UNU will function as a coordination and information centre for these mountain research activities.
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