Explicit reference to mountain areas
Mountainous areas are not often considered by legally binding international treaties. No international treaty is dedicated to these areas and only three general instruments mention them, which is why other legal texts relevant to them are collected here.
- This Convention does not refer to mountainous areas in general as the other two but only mentions the Transcaucasus region in its Preamble: “Expressing concern over the impact of desertification and drought on affected countries in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus”.
The CBD is a “sister” treaty of the UNFCCC as it was adopted during the same Summit in 1992. It is another major international instrument for the promotion of sustainable development and the protection of the environment, especially biodiversity. Given how rich the biodiversity in mountainous areas is, it is no surprise that they are mentioned in article 20§7:
“Consideration shall also be given to the special situation of developing countries, including those that are most environmentally vulnerable, such as (…) mountainous areas”.
However, this article does not define any obligations for the Member States as it only asks them to “consider” special situations.
The Conference of the Parties (COP), the governing body of the CBD, adopted two important and very detailed decisions that plan a programme of work on mountain biological diversity :
This Convention, adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, aims at stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. It is considered as a fundamental environmental instrument, all the more so as it has near-universal membership. Mountains are not the subject of a specific article, but are mentioned in the Preamble:
“Recognizing further that (…) developing countries with fragile mountainous ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”.
No explicit reference to mountain areas
→ International Plan Protection Convention, 6 December 1957
→ Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, 11 December 1997
→ Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, 13 November 1979
→ Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, 22 March 1985
→ Montreal Protocol on Substance that Deplete the Ozone Layer, 16 September 1987
States have been more inclined to adopt instruments that are not legally binding. Some consider these instruments as less relevant since they cannot be used before an international judge. However, they are nonetheless very important as they represent the political will of states at a given moment and can be a marker of customary international law (which would then be binding).
- UN General Assembly Resolutions
The UNGA has adopted several important resolutions on mountains. It created the International Year of Mountains and, since 2003, has adopted a resolution on sustainable development in mountain regions every two years. Even though these resolutions have no legal force, they actively contribute to directing attention to the subject.
→ A/RES/53/24, 10 November 1998 – International Year of Mountains, 2002
→ A/RES/55/189, 20 December 2000 – Status of Preparation for the International Year of Mountains, 2002
→ A/RES/57/245, 20 December 2002 – International Year of Mountains, 2002
→ A/RES/58/216, 23 December 2003 – Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions
→ A/RES/60/198, 22 December 2005 – Sustainable Mountain Development
→ A/RES/62/196, 19 December 2007 – Sustainable Mountain Development
→ A/RES/64/205, 21 December 2009 – Sustainable Mountain Development
→ A/RES/66/205, 22 December 2011 – Sustainable Mountain Development
- UN ECOSOC Resolutions
The UN Economic and Social Council adopted two resolutions to acknowledge the Proclamation of an International Year of Mountains, decided by the UNGA. Indeed, the ECOSOC is competent to deal with matters like sustainable development which are relevant for this particular event.
→ Resolution 1997/45, 22 July 1997
→ Resolution 1998/30, 29 July 1998
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was held in Rio in June 2012, 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit. The outcome document, though not legally binding, addresses numerous worldwide issues. §210 to 212 specifically deals with mountain areas:
“We encourage States to adopt a long-term vision and holistic approaches, including through incorporating mountain-specific policies into national sustainable development strategies, which could include, inter alia, poverty reduction plans and programmes for mountain areas, particularly in developing countries. In this regard, we call for international support for sustainable mountain development in developing countries”.
Adopted by States in Porto Allegre, this declaration only contains a short reference to mountain regions in Article 26:
“We recognize the need to ensure fishing, forest, mountain and other unique communities' rights and their access to fishing, forest and mountain areas and other unique environments within the framework of sustainable management of natural resources”.
This plan contains concrete measures for the implementation of Agenda 21 and other instruments as UN millenium goals. Paragraph 42 describes the action that should to be taken in mountain areas, for example implementing programmes to address deforestation, erosion, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, disru ption of water flows and retreat of glaciers.
This declaration was adopted following the Second International Meeting of Mountain Ecosystems ("Mountain Ecosystems World Meeting Mountains Towards 2020: Water, Life and Production”) by 16 States. It calls on governments of countries with mountainous regions to take concerted action to support, in particular, sustainable use and management of water resources, promotion of biological and cultural diversity and development of production processes in mountain ecosystems.
On the occasion of the "International Workshop on Mountain Ecosystems: A Vision of the Future", 18 States adopted a common declaration on sustainable development in mountain ecosystems in which they recommand to support the UN initiative of the International Year of Mountains, to deepen awareness and responsibility on the matter and to evaluate the advances made in the implementation of Chapter 13 (Agenda 21) to identify new opportunities to act.
Agenda 21 is a plan of action concerning sustainable development adopted in 1992. Its particularity is that even though it is an international instrument, it was mainly meant to be implemented on a local level (regions, cities, etc.) with a public participation.
It contains 40 chapters, one of which (Chapter 13) is entitled "Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development". Its two main goals are to generate and strengthen knowledge about the ecology and sustainable development of mountain ecosystems and to promote watershed development and alternative livelihood opportunities.
- Council Of Europe
Committee of Ministers
▪ Guiding principles for sustainable spatial development of the European Continent
▪ Principles of a strategy for tourism development in mountain regions
▪ Ecological Charter for mountain regions in Europe
▪ Endangered Alpine regions
▪ Economic and social problems of mountain regions
Parliamentary Assembly (PACE)
▪ Sustainable development of mountain regions
▪ Introduction of a quality label for food products derived from hill farming
▪ Quality label for mountain resorts in Europe
▪ Draft European Charter of mountain regions
▪ Transalpine traffic
▪ European regional planning and the role and function of Alpine regions
▪ European functions of the Alpine regions
▪ Farming in moutain areas
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRA)
▪ Sustainable development of mountain regions and the experience of the Carpathians mountains
▪ Challenges and opportunities for peripheral and sparsely populated regions
▪ International Year of Mountains - a new political projet for Europe's mountains: turning disinherited mountain areas into a ressource
▪ Cooperation of the Alpine regions
▪ Rural and agricultural regions and mountain regions
Standing Committee of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats
▪ Guidance for Parties on biodiversity and climate change in mountain regions
▪ Conservation of natural areas outside protected areas proper
Council of Europe
▪ International Conference "Sustainable development of the Carpathians and other European mountain regions"
▪ Conference "Sustainable development of mountain regions, European transit policy and the challenge of globalisation"
This Charter doesn't mention mountain areas in a specific binding disposition but explains in Paragraph 1 how the whole text is relevant to them :
“Fresh water constitues only 2.7% of the Earth's overall water mass, and to a large extent it is in a frozen state in the polar caps and the snow cover of high mountains”.
▪ 3rd European Conference of Mountain Regions
▪ Altai Initiative
This initiative gathers four countries of the Altai mountain range : China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia. This area has outstanding ecological, cultural and resource values that include a wealth of water and recreational resources and rich biodiversity that need protecting through an interstate regional cooperation.
This declaration was adopted on the initiative of the Altai Republic (Russian Federation). The four States sharing the Altai mountain areas acknowledge their common responsibility to protect and develop this region. They decide that there must be a coordinated regional policy for protection and sustainable development. Thus, an intergovernmental Altai Mountain Areas Convention on Sustainable Development has to be adopted. This declaration is not legally bindind but is the first step toward more cooperation.
▪ Himalayan Initiative
This region is given different names but generally includes parts of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, India and Pakistan. It is characterised by its exceptional geographical conditions (very remote areas and high-altitude environments) and very rich cultural heritage. Contrary to other regional initiatives, the Himalayan Initiative isn't as developed. For the moment, only two instruments were drafted on very specific matters. This can maybe be explained by the fact that these States haven't the same economic possibilities to invest in such partnerships as others regions.
On the occasion of an Asia Regional Meeting in Beijing within the framework of the Ramsar Convention was presented this partnership agreement. Its goal is to promote dialogue and cooperation between a range of stakeholders (States, site management agencies, development agencies, private sector, NGOs, etc.) to
achieve cconservation and wise use of the high altitude wetlands in the Himalaya-Hindu Kush-Pamir-Alay region.As for now this legal text hasn't been adopted and is still in draft form.
► Access and Benefit Sharing Framework Agreement for the Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Countries (draft), February 2010
This Agreement, also still in draft form, aims at protecting biological diversity in the Himalayan region within the framework of the CBD (see in "international - general" section) . It aims at ensuring fair access and benefit sharing (ABS) and a stable supply of biological resources. It should among other things allow member States to gather and share information on biological diversity.
▪ Andean Initiative
This common initiative aims at consolidating institutional capacities in order to promote the development of sustainable activities in the Andean moutain range. It allows Andean States (Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela), supported by their National Committees, to coordonate their action. Are also included in this Initiative representatives of the civil society and international organisations.
This declaration was adopted at the end of the 1st subregional meeting of the Andean Initiative during which States presented actions plans and exchanged experience in the field of sustainable development. This document contains concrete priorities and common actions for the future. External financing will be provided by donors as international organisations (for example the FAO). This declaration is seen as the central document of the Andean Initiative.
▪ Caucasus Initiative
The States of the Caucasus region are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia and Turkey. The goal of this initiative is to consider Caucasus as a global region that needs special protection of its unique biodiversity and cultural heritage. Together, States can consider their various problems and implement common sustainable solutions.
► Resolution of the 1st Meeting on Development of a Legal Instrument for the Protection of the Caucasian Mountain Ecosystems, Yerevan, 27 June 2001
On the initiative of Armenia, this meeting led to a resolution recognising that a legal instrument ("Caucasus Convention") has to be adopted by the States to support the Caucasus Initiative.
► Outcomes of the Workshop on Sharing the Experience: Capacity Building on Legal Instrument for the Protection and Sustainable Development of Mountain Regions in the Caucasus, 15 December 2005
This workshop took place at the initiative of Italy and UNEP. Armenia was unable to attend because of technical reasons. States express their political will to cooperate further and in particular to adopt a legal regional instrument (as first discussed in Yerevan). However, the document doesn't mention any date or concrete details on the drafting of this legal text.
► Vaduz Ministerial Statement, 16 November 2007
This document is the outcome of a conference hold in Vaduz at Liechtenstein and UNEP's invitation to discuss a regional cooperation in the Caucasus region. It invites parties to develop further their partnership on environmental protection and sustainable development. As the previous documents, it is still a political declaration that doesn't contain concrete measures.
▪ Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians (Carpathian Convention)
The Carpathian Convention provides the framework for cooperation and multi-sectoral policy coordination, a platform for joint strategies for sustainable development, and a forum for dialogue between all stakeholders involved
→ State parties
Convention on the Protection of the Alps (Alpine Convention)
The Alpine Convention is an international treaty between the Alpine countries aimed at promoting sustainable development in the Alpine area and at protecting the interests of the people living in the region. It embraces environmental, social, economic and cultural dimensions.
The Convention is a framework that sets out the basic principles of all the activities of the Alpine Convention and contains general measures for the sustainable development in the Alpine region. It entered into force on March 1995.
Specific measures implementing the principles laid down in the framework Convention are contained in the Protocols to the Alpine Convention, which set out concrete steps to be taken for the protection and sustainable development of the Alps.
In addition to protocols, two Ministerial non-binding declarations on specific topics have also been adopted.