Mountain Agenda, University of Bern, Switzerland
Submission to the Rio 2012 Secretariat
for the Compilation Document
Theme: Sustainable Mountain Development with a focus on green economy and institutions
by Thomas Kohler, Associate Director, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland
This submission is organized as follows:
-numbering of paras refers to the guidance note
-paras pertaining to 3a), 1 and 2 refer to Sustainable Development in general.
-All other paragraphs refer to Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions.
pertaining to 3a: Expectations for the outcome of Rio 2012
1. We expect bold decisions, resulting in quantifiable outcomes, which are the result of specific action based on a short catalogue of common principles of Sustainable Development (SD). The outcomes of action must be monitorable in 5 year intervals.
2. While based on common principles, SD takes place in concrete contexts. We mention 3 such contexts, which we expect to be addressed specifically in the outcome documents, and which could help structure these documents: (1) sectoral issues such as those presented for example in the UNEP report on Green Economy; (2) the largely different circumstances of industrialised countries, countries in transition, and developing countries; and (3) the specific constellations of regional contexts, which strongly limit global blueprints for achieving SD.
3. Specifically, we expect that the mountain regions of the world will be addressed as a key regional context. Without sustainable development in mountains, sustainable development at the global level cannot be achieved:
With about 25% of land surface of the earth and 12% of global population,
? Mountains provide freshwater to over half of humankind, including megacities and conurbations on all continents; drylands of the world depend to over 80% on freshwater from mountains. Global Sustainable Development is a fallacy without a safe supply of water from mountain regions.
? Mountains harbour over 50% of all biodiversity hotspots of the world. As centres agro-biodiversity, they harbour the genetic pool of key global food crops such as wheat, maize, and potatoes. A world striving for higher food security must not lose this capital.
? Mountains are important for recreation and tourism in an increasingly urbanised world. Tourism is among the fastest growing industries at a global level, and mountains have a significant share in this growth on all continents. The Alps as the second most important tourism region in the world after the Mediterranean Basin lead the way. They show the crucial role of tourism for local employment and income generation without sidelining environmental concerns.
? however, mountains are hazard-prone environments. They are more exposed to risks than other environments. Poverty rates in mountain regions are significantly higher than on global average. Property rights are often not assured, especially in common property regimes and for indigenous communities. Both are widespread in mountain regions. These problems must be tackled more rigorously than in the past.
Pertaining to 3.b - d. Implementation, actors, mechanisms
- Green economy roadmap: Mountains have a high potential for greening the economy at all levels, which should be reflected on the outcome documents. Keyword include green energy, especially hydropower; biodiversity and agrobiodiversity (see below), and hazard prevention.
- Sustainable development goals: within a global frame of SD principles, specific goals and monitorable indicators need to be defined for mountain areas as a specific context for SD. Efforts to this end have been made by Andean countries already. They deserve support.
- Views on implementation: Actor inclusiveness: In mountain regions, the 3 pillars of SD are strongly interconnected. Therefore, concepts for SD transcend sectoral approaches while based on sound sectoral knowhow of key stakeholders including authorities, local communities, external development agencies, research institutions, and the private sector. Appropriate forms such as local and regional bodies must be established for negotiating sustainable development outcomes for mountain regions. Donor and funding agencies, bilateral and international, as well as governments need to help establish and fund such bodies. Actor ownership: Regional and country ownership of SD processes and visions are key. Lessons how to achieve this can be learnt from the Poverty Reduction Strategy process.
- Specific cooperation mechanisms: The World Mountain Forum, a novel initiative based on public-private partnership, has a potential to channel substantial expertise and funds into mountain development, and to create new linkage between mountain and lowland populations. The Forum could be officially launched at the Rio 2012 Conference.
Pertaining to 4.a. Objectives of the conference
- Gaps. Watershed management. Following Chapter 13 of Agenda 21 from the Rio 1992 Earth Summit, important inroads have been made in watershed management, with a focus on mountain areas and highland-lowland contexts. Approaches have become more participatory and transsectoral. However, important gaps remain relating to area coverage. Given the world?s need for freshwater, efforts in watershed management in mountain regions must be stepped up in the coming decade. FAO with its global watershed programme should lead the way in sharing experience with actors engaged in this domain.
- Gaps. Generating and strengthening knowledge. Chapter 13 also stressed the need for improving the knowledge on mountain regions. Progress has been made since 1992, but important gaps remain relating to patterns of climate change and their impact on water resources and hazards; and relating to the effects of economic globalisation on mountain populations and land management.
- New challenges and opportunities: Sustainable development in mountain areas faces a series of new challenges. These are climate change; the effects of globalisation including labour migration, irresponsible exploitation of resources such as minerals, timber, and water for large scale hydropower, and loss of cultural identity due to the dominance of western urban values, transmitted to the most remote mountain places by mass media, standardised formal education, and tourism. The challenge is not to prevent these processes from happening, but to turn them into opportunities via appropriate national polity frames.
Pertaining to 4.b. Green economy for poverty alleviation and SD
- Green energy: There is a huge untapped potential in mountain areas for hydropower development especially in developing countries, which presents an opportunity for green energy supply in support of a greener economy beyond mountain areas. Small hydropower in mountain areas has been particularly successful in providing affordable energy, creating local jobs, increasing wellbeing and reducing poverty, while very substantially reducing carbon loads without disrupting effects on local ecosystems. Efforts should be targeted to double small hydropower generation within the next 5-7 years especially in mountain regions of developing countries. GEF with UNIDO and ICSHP are called upon to take the lead to achieve this target.
- Large hydropower development has a huge potential to green the global economy much beyond mountain areas. Sadly, experience shows that it can only be promoted if global environmental and social standards such as those established by the World Commission on Dams are fully met, especially relating to fair compensation of mountain communities.
- Other investment in greening the energy sector in mountains should be promoted depending on local conditions. This refers to solar power, wind power, and energy from biogas. More efficient stoves are a cheap, low-tech, accepted and easily upscalable option for reducing carbon emissions by half, reducing women?s drudgery, creating a healthier homes, and saving wood and dung, the most important sources of energy in the mountain areas of developing countries.
- Payment for Environmental Services (PES): important as they may be as incentives, more must be learnt from experience made. The compensation must be large enough to generate interest upstream for service provision ? a challenge in densely populated mountain regions with many providers. Other unsolved issues concern the exclusion of poor land users, landless poor, valuation of services, and monitoring the effects of PES on quality and quantity of the services they are expected to provide.
- Mountain farming is green owing to low external inputs. Due to topography, it is small-scale, family based, labour-intensive, and multifunctional. It supports agrobiodiversity, hazard prevention and creates amenity by providing diversified landscapes. These are all traits that pertain to a green economy. Support for mountain farming should thus be stepped up. Finding markets for quality mountain products is a proven way of increasing mountain farm incomes and create value chains that benefit mountains and lowland areas. Such programmes need more support in future.
Pertaining to 4.c. Institutional framework
- Local institutions are crucial for SD and for resource management in mountain areas; no one individual will manage alone in these demanding and harsh environments. In order to ensure sustainable resource use in mountain areas, local institutions need to be acknowledged and strengthened. Local property rights need to be clear and secure, especially relating to common property regimes and to indigenous communities ? both are widespread in mountain areas.
- Capacity development including research and outreach is important in order to address the specific challenges for sustainable development as they are presented by mountain environments. Local experience is particularly important; care must be taken to include community knowledge as well as globalised knowledge provided by outside experts. Capacity development should include local-on-the job, vocational, to technical and academic levels.
- Regional centres of competence in training, research and outreach have shown their value for sustainable mountain development and for advocating the case of mountains in national, regional and global arenas. Support for regional centres of competence in mountains, whether established or in the making, must be increased. As a rule, donor programmes should invest a minimum of 20% of the project funds into such institutions. However, the establishment and maintenance of such a centre is a long-term task. Core funding has to come from non-time bound funding bodies such as governments or foundations.