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1 November 2003 CDE's Integrative Approach to Research and Development in Mountain Regions
Hans Hurni, Andreas Kläy, Thomas Kohler, Urs Wiesmann
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The Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) is a university institution that conducts resource- and people-oriented research and development activities in Switzerland and abroad. It is part of the Institute of Geography at the University of Berne and is the lead institution for the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North–South.


CDE's mission is to contribute to sustainable development in countries of the North, South, and East through research partnerships, education and training, development of concepts and tools, sensitization, and policy advice. Our focus is on management of natural resources, integrated regional development, and interventions that mitigate syndromes of global change. CDE places special emphasis on highland–lowland interactions and on high potential–low potential and center–periphery relationships.

Fields of activity

CDE programs and mandates have a long-term perspective and are sustainability-oriented. They combine research and knowledge generation with outreach and application in a broad range of activities, depending on the type and nature of our partnerships.

Mountain-related activities during the International Year of Mountains

During the International Year of Mountains (IYM2002), CDE stepped up its research and development activities in mountain regions. In particular, this took the form of backstopping for various IYM activities launched by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which played a key role in promoting sustainable mountain development in Switzerland and at the international level. Mountain-related activities in 2002 included:


  • Participation in the Bishkek Global Mountain Summit (BGMS) and several preparatory events. This included involvement in the formulation and negotiation of the BGMS platform statement, participation in the preparatory Mountain Forum electronic conference, and conducting several BGMS workshops (eg, on the role of energy, transport, and access in mountain development and on gender mainstreaming in mountain development).

Policy support

  • Preparation with SDC of the official Swiss position paper on sustainable development in mountain regions presented by the Swiss government at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

  • Support for the development of Switzerland's proposal for an International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions, launched at the Johannesburg WSSD by the Swiss government.

  • Collaboration with FAO and other partners in preparing the implementation of the International Mountain Partnership.

  • Involvement in preparing a management and protection plan for the first World Natural Heritage Site in the European Alps (Jungfrau–Aletsch–Bietschhorn region in the Swiss Alps).

  • Coordination of the United Nations University's Global Mountain Partnership Programme (UNU-GMPP).


  • Preparation of the proceedings of the 4-day Interlaken World Mountain Symposium 2001 on Community Development between Subsidy, Subsidiarity and Sustainability (CD-ROM and summary brochure).

  • Preparation of a status report on SDC's experience in mountain development in the past 25 years (Mountains and People).

  • Production of a status report by the Mountain Agenda and SDC on Sustainable Development in Mountain Areas: The Need for Adequate Policies and Instruments, prepared for and presented at the WSSD in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Projects and Programs

  • Increased support for Mountain Research and Development (MRD) editorial and promotional activities, including representation at key mountain conferences.

  • Research on highland–lowland interactions and mitigation of syndromes of global change within the framework of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North–South.

  • Central Asia Mountain Partnership (CAMP): implementation of a partnership approach that promotes ownership of projects, local self-governance at the village level as a foundation for sustainable development, integrative capacity building, multi-stakeholder policy dialog, and networking activities through the Dom Gor (house of mountains).

  • Several Eastern and Southern Africa Partnership Programme (ESAPP) projects with a focus on natural resource management and regional development in mountain regions in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, and Tanzania.

  • Public–private partnership initiatives such as the Sustainable Land Management Programme in the Eritrean Highlands, funded by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (soil and water conservation).

  • Implementation of the Pamir Strategy Project (PSP). This activity is described briefly below to illustrate the type of integrative approach developed by CDE.

The Pamir Strategy Project

The Tajik Pamirs are currently undergoing a profound transformation that affects society, the economy, and the natural environment. Promoting sustainable development in such a remote high mountain area is a major political, economic, social, and ecological challenge. As the most important step toward success, strategic elements and development priorities must be agreed on and supported by all stakeholder groups.

In cooperation with major NGOs and INGOs as well as local authorities, the PSP focused on preparation of a development strategy for the Tajik Pamir Mountains. Activities included collection of field data on the status and dynamics of various sectors and information from participatory studies conducted at village level. A Geographic Information System (GIS) was also prepared to bring the various components together.

On the basis of this knowledge, a strategic vision for the region was negotiated with all stakeholder groups during a Workshop for Sustainable Development of the Tajik Pamirs, held in Khorog in October 2002. Nearly 80 participants from 5 stakeholder groups exchanged and assessed knowledge about 6 strategic sectors and highlighted problems and opportunities for sustainable development (see Figure above). Finally, strategic elements for the region's development were elaborated, on the basis of the stakeholder groups' visions.

Joint appraisal of these elements enabled the stakeholder groups to agree on the importance and urgency of the selected development priorities. Besides the GIS-based multistakeholder appraisal of future development goals, the PSP also provided a conceptual and methodological approach to sustainable development that can be applied in other mountain areas.

A synthesis report focusing on the studies, workshop, and methodology applied is now available at CDE (and online at Follow-up activities based on the outcomes of the project are being planned.



The CDE approach

CDE uses disciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches and methods. Linking analysis and synthesis and combining high-end and low-end methods—such as GIS-based geoprocessing and participatory field-based approaches—are typical of our programs. CDE supports the principles of subsidiarity, empowerment, and partnership, while acknowledging the importance of research, planning, and decision-making at regional, national, and international levels.

Hans Hurni, Andreas Kläy, Thomas Kohler, and Urs Wiesmann "CDE's Integrative Approach to Research and Development in Mountain Regions," Mountain Research and Development 23(4), 378-379, (1 November 2003).[0378:CIATRA]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 November 2003

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