Legally binding instruments

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.

▪ Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), 17 June 1994

  • 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”.

→ State parties & notifications

▪ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 5 June 1992

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.

→ State parties

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 :

COP 7 Decision VII/27

COP 10 Decision X/30

▪ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 9 May 1992

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”.

→ State parties

No explicit reference to mountain areas

→ International Plan Protection Convention, 6 December 1957

→ Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage ("World Heritage Convention"), 16 November 1973

→ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 3 March 1973

→ Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, 11 December 1997

→ Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), 23 June 1979

→ 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


→ Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (“Aarhus Convention”), 25 June 1998