The term ‘Mountain Agenda’ refers to the global initiative for bringing mountains into the forefront of the world’s environment agenda. Three mountain related documents were produced for the ‘Rio Summit’, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992: a status report on the mountains of the world, an appeal document, and a mountain manifesto. The mountain agenda became the core of ‘chapter 13’ of UNCED Agenda 21, in which for the first time mountain areas received global recognition as an important and unique environment. At that time, mountains were seen as a fragile ecosystem urgently needing interventions for sustainable development. The mountain specificities were spelt out as being fragile, remote, marginal, and multifunctional. The next big advance in bringing mountain issues to the forefront was through the UN General Assembly’s declaration of 2002 as the ‘International Year of Mountains’. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) at Johannesburg in 2002 provided a further opportunity for world leaders to adopt concrete steps and identify quantifiable targets for implementing Agenda 21 and resulted in the launch of the ‘Mountain Partnership’, a voluntary alliance of partners dedicated to improving the lives of mountain people and protecting mountain environments around the world. Many research initiatives and other activities followed, including the Global Mountain Summit in Bishkek 2002 and a milestone publication ‘The State of Knowledge Overview of Global Change and Mountain Regions’ in 2005.
However, there is still a lack of awareness of the Mountain Agenda and the need to develop specific policies and activities for mountain areas. Responding to the world’s main development challenges, the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ were set to promote structural policies dealing with poverty reduction, education, maternal health, gender equality, combating child mortality, and environmental security. However, these global instruments have not in practice influenced the implementation of national strategies that are mountain specific, therefore mountain regions in many parts of the world still lag behind in the development processes.
The Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region, a home of rich biodiversity and cultural resources, serves as a strategic example of mountain development. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), together with its eight regional member countries and global partners, identifies closely with the priorities of ‘Agenda 21’; many chapters of the Agenda deal with the issues that are in the forefront of ICIMOD concerns for the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. ICIMOD has contributed to this mountain agenda by highlighting mountain specificities, mountain agriculture, and mountain systems. ICIMOD also contributed the Asia High Summit in 2002, in partnership with the Italian International Year of Mountains (IYM) committee and FAO, and also contributed to the 2002 ‘Thimphu Declaration’ with the Royal Government of Bhutan. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005 contains a report with a contribution from ICIMOD on Mountain Systems (Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Current State and Trends). Reflecting on the Mountain Agenda, ICIMOD has provided a discussion on water, climate change, biodiversity, Indigenous people, indigenous knowledge, and mainstreaming gender.