Friday, 25 July 2014

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Aint no mountain high enough

Farmers in a mountainous area of Sapa, Viet Nam. Photo: UN Photo/Kibae ParkThe challenges faced by mountain people have been and are, well, mountainous. The theme of this year's International Mountain Day is exactly these challenges.

On International Mountain Day 2012 we are "Celebrating Mountain Life". But with climate change, the lives of the mountain people are becoming less and less of a festive matter.

Mountains cover approximately one-quarter of the world's surface and are home to one in ten of its people. These people are among the world's poorest and most disadvantaged. They frequently face political, social and economic marginalization and lack access to such basic services as health and education. Moreover, current global challenges such as climate change, economic developments and population growth exacerbate the hardships they face.

Over the generations, mountain people have learned how to live with the threat of natural hazards and have developed well-adapted and risk-resilient land-use systems. However, there is growing evidence that many mountain regions have become increasingly disaster-prone over the past few decades.

Mountains are characterized by massive global diversity – from tropical rain forests to permanent ice and snow, from climates with more than 12 m of annual precipitation to high ‑ altitude deserts, and from sea level to almost 9 000 m in altitude. They are the water towers of the world – providing freshwater to at least half of the world's people. However, mountains are also high-risk environments; avalanches, landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and glacial lake outburst floods threaten life in mountain regions and surrounding areas. Mountains play an important role in influencing global and regional climates and weather conditions.

The International Year of Mountains ten years ago led to the adoption of resolution 57/245, in which the General Assembly designated 11 December as International Mountain Day. Since then, mountains have gained an increasingly high (pun intended) profile on agendas at all levels.


Written by, UNRIC Nordic Desk

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