The International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions (IPSDMR) was initiated by the Government of Switzerland, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the Government of Italy, and the Mountain Forum (MF) during the International Year of Mountains 2002 (IYM2002). The concept of the IPSDMR originally took shape during sessions of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and was finalized—with the publication of a basic concept document—at the 4th session of the Preparatory Committee in Bali, Indonesia, in June 2002. The Partnership was officially adopted as a “Type 2 Outcome” at the WSSD in Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August 2002–4 September 2002. Activities so far in 2003 have included several meetings in Switzerland, an e-consultation moderated by the MF, and a side event at the meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-11) in New York. These activities culminated in the First Global Meeting of Members of the Mountain Partnership, held in Merano, Italy, 5 October 2003–6 October 2003.
To date, more than 75 countries, intergovernmental organizations, and major groups have joined the IPSDMR. The Partnership is committed to mountain-specific goals of the WSSD, with the aims of sharing knowledge and experience and promoting cooperation among its members. The First Global Meeting took place at the invitation of the Italian Government and featured participants from every part of the world. The Meeting commenced with a dinner in Verona on 4 October, followed by 2 days of plenary sessions and debate in Merano. Key opening statements and remarks were delivered on the first day by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Italian Minister of Regional Affairs, the Deputy Director-General of FAO, and the Deputy Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). This was followed by remarks by speakers from mountain organizations, which terminated the first day's plenary session. Several representatives of governments and nongovernmental organizations participated in the debate session following the plenary session, to complete the first day's work.
Exploring the structure and themes of the IPSDMR
The plenary session on the second day opened with a keynote address by Gabriel Campbell, Director-General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and Chairperson of the MF. Gabriel Campbell enumerated the key questions facing the new Partnership, including practices and procedures, structure, equality of treatment among partners, and assurance of adequate attention to the poor in mountain regions. He then summarized the results of the e-conference held in April 2003 to gather input from Partnership members. One important theme in this respect was the possibility of establishing goals similar to the UN Millennium Goals (cutting poverty in mountain areas by one half, providing payment for environmental services in mountains, ensuring greater upstream–downstream equity, etc.). This presentation was followed by speakers representing, among others, the Government of Peru, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Consortium for the Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion (CONDESAN), and the Mountain Environment Protection Society of Iran. In addition, Afghan Environment Minister Ahmad Nuristani made a plea for development work in his war-torn country. This cross-section of organizations and points of view inspired numerous interventions from the floor, which were delivered in the follow-up debate session.
The final plenary session consisted of a Chairman's summary given by Gabriel Campbell, a brief debate, and a final Adoption of Conference Conclusions. In his Chairman's summary, Gabriel Campbell proposed that the Partnership should consider the following themes as truly appropriate for its attention:
Payment for services in mountain regions.
He raised the question of whether targets per se are desirable, and he pointed out that building on the wealth of available skills in the Partnership, addressing poverty, promoting North–South exchange to deliver benefits to and communicate with local people, fostering research for development, and monitoring and propagating success stories were all activities that would support WSSD goals.
The Conference Conclusions adopted at the end of the conference reaffirmed commitment to the Partnership on the part of the members present. Members agreed to promote the Partnership's innovative, transparent, flexible, participatory, and dynamic character and to
pursue the objective of fostering actions at all levels to protect mountain environments and support mountain livelihoods through the integration of the environmental, economic and social components of sustainable mountain development.
Participants mandated the existing open-ended Task Force established to prepare the Merano meeting to work toward complete establishment of the Partnership, and to report to the members by the next meeting of the CSD. The Task Force will define criteria for membership, examine the issue of future governance of the Partnership, and define ways to allow the Partnership to help promote joint initiatives based on Paragraph 42 of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
Future tasks and Mountain Research and Development's commitment
The First Global Meeting confirmed and officially established the Partnership. Much work will have to be done in the coming year, before the Second Global Meeting envisioned for 2004. Mountain Research and Development (MRD), represented at the First Global Meeting by its managing editor, expects to be an active member of the Partnership. Discussions during the meeting with members and potential members of the MRD network proved very fruitful. Potential directions for further collaboration between MRD and MF, as well as MRD's relations with members of the International Mountain Society (IMS), were explored. The value of MRD as a mountain journal within the MF network and beyond was clearly reaffirmed in informal discussions. Hence, one important outcome of the First Global Meeting for the MRD editorial team was reinforcement of its own optimism about the future of the journal and the Partnership.