Kyrgyzstan hosts World Mountain Forum


BISHKEK (TCA) — The University of Central Asia (UCA) and the Government of Kyrgyzstan co-organized the fourth World Mountain Forum (WMF 2018), with support from the Government of Switzerland and the Aga Khan Foundation United Kingdom, from October 23-26 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. It brought together 300 participants from the global community across complementary sectors and different types of agencies including community members, civil society, academic, and government institutions, to share experiences and best practices, and develop integrated solutions to existing challenges of sustainable development in mountain regions.

Almost one billion people live in mountain areas, accounting for 13% of the world’s population. Mountainous regions are particularly sensitive to the effects of global and climate change, jeopardising many of the critical goods and services they provide – an area that covers 22 percent of the world’s land surface, and provides 60 to 80 percent of the Earth’s fresh water.

Welcoming the participants, Prof. Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi, Rector of UCA, highlighted the commitment of the University of Central Asia in the development of mountain communities, and urged the Forum to partner with the University to research issues critical to mountain communities and create proposals for improving their quality of life.

“Climate change and other global changes are real and are distinctly affecting mountain societies, as well as downstream populations. Often times solutions may best be found in a fusion of traditional and modern perspectives, approaches and technologies, which can fruitfully be applied to emerging challenges,” said Dr. Marc Foggin, Associate Director of UCA’s Mountain Societies Research Institute. “Across all of our forum discussions, more than any other message, there was an emphatic call for broader and stronger partnerships.”

Plenary sessions, presentations, and side-events at the conference addressed the overarching theme of ‘Mountains in a Changing World: Strengthening Partnerships and Pathways Towards a Thriving Mountain Future’. Speakers discussed topics such as current trends and dynamics; pathways towards a sustainable mountain future; and partnerships and alliances to advance Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD).

“Countries should ensure that their laws and their activities in the mountain areas conform with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example, most of our water comes from mountain areas, which are forested and have rich soils. These ecosystems should be protected and utilised in a manner such that these resources not only provide for the current generation, but generations to come,” said Dr. Gorreti Kitutu, Minister of State for Environment of Uganda.

The Forum was preceded by the Youth Mountain Forum (YMF), held on October 22, co-organized by UCA and UNICEF (Kyrgyzstan), that brought together students and young professionals from 14 countries, interested in climate change and SMD to serve as Youth Ambassadors during the main World Mountain Forum 2018. “The main challenges and possible solutions for mountain development include the need for stakeholders to exchange information on mountain regions to co-develop solutions; the need to ensure that indigenous and traditional knowledge are incorporated in global development programmes on mountains, and the importance of targeting vulnerable groups to the effects of climate change,” said Alidovar Sodatsairov, an undergraduate student from the University of Central Asia, and Youth Delegate, who presented the outcomes of the YMF.

One of the conclusions of WMF was the need to highlight that the wellbeing of people who live in the geography of mountains is critical to downstream societies, yet their voices are not sufficiently heard. The overall discussion on SDGs focuses on lowlands and urban centres, and there is hardly any mention of the importance of mountains, which are the providers of critical resources such as water.

As a side event to WMF 2018, UCA organised a MountainEXPO, with support from the United Nations Development Programme country office in Kyrgyzstan, which provided an opportunity for different institutions and non-governmental organisations to showcase their best practices and products in a “knowledge fair” format. It also included an exhibit of the Aga Khan Development Network projects in Central Asia.

The next World Mountain Forum is expected to convene in 2020 to continue discussions on local, regional, and global experiences in achieving the goals of Sustainable Mountain Development.

Sergey Kwan