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Observance of International Mountain Day, December 11 2007
Thursday, 20 December 2007

December 11-th is observed by international community as International Mountain Day. This initiative was supported by the resolution 553/24 of 10 November 1998, of the UN General Assembly and celebrated each year since 2003.

Within the framework of the International Mountain Day, and recognizing the 5th anniversary of the Bishkek Global Summit, Bishkek, capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, hosted the international conference “Bishkek+5: Problems and Perspectives of Sustainable Development of Mountainous Countries.

Among the organizers of the conference were the President’s Administration of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, the National Center of Development of Mountainous Regions, the Academy of Science and leading universities of the Kyrgyz Republic.

At the opening of the conference, Mr. Ryskulov, Head of International department of President’s Administration of the Kyrgyz Republic conveyed the complimentary address of Mr. Kurmanbek Bakiev, President of the Kyrgyz Republic to participants of the conference. Other speakers at the conference were Mr. Nur uulu Dos Bol, Vice Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, Mr. Aidaraliev, special representative of President of the Kyrgyz Republic on sustainable development issues; Mr. Neal Walker UN Resident Coordinator; Mr. Markus Muller, Head of OSCE office in the Kyrgyz Republic; Mr. Malitikov, President of International Organization “Znanie”; Ms. Boldjurova, Minister of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic a.i.; Ms. Jorobekova, President of National Academy of Science a.i.; Mr. Macelli, representative of Central Asian Mountain Programme (CAMP) and North-South programme. Mr. Neal Walker, UN Resident Coordinator addressed conference participant with the following speech:

“Dear ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to offer my sincere congratulations to all participants on today’s celebration of International Mountain Day. The fragility of mountain ecosystems and the vulnerability of people living in mountainous regions were first highlighted by the United Nations in 1992, during the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Kyrgyzstan was an important player in the ensuing process that led to the definition of 2002 as the International Year of Mountains. Subsequently, the UN General Assembly designated this day, December 11th, since 2003, as International Mountains Day.

Why does the United Nations recognize the importance of mountains? Mountain areas cover 26% of the world’s land surface and provide critical resources for all people, including freshwater for more than half the world’s population and critical reserves of biodiversity, food, forests and minerals. Yet, mountains are surprisingly fragile ecosystems and the people that live in mountain areas also face major challenges. Half of the world’s mountain inhabitants suffer food shortages and malnutrition. Policy decisions that affect the mountains are generally taken in faraway cities with little consideration of their impact. High altitude, steep slopes and extreme landscapes complicate the living environment, and the challenge of addressing the problems.

The situation in Kyrgyzstan mirrors in many ways the problems at the global level. Poverty in Kyrgyzstan is concentrated in the mountainous regions of the country. Women and children are particularly hard hit in these areas, not only by income poverty but by the lack of educational and health services so vital to their well-being. Landslides, avalanches and floods are a regular occurrence in Kyrgyzstan with massive impact on vulnerable populations that are increasingly impoverished by these disasters. The exploitation of the mineral wealth of the mountains here in Kyrgyzstan has led to serious environmental contamination: uranium tailings and mercury spills providing two clear examples that have major repercussions for the people living in mountainous areas.

Dear colleagues of today’s meeting: these are not merely global statistics, these are the facts of daily life for so many people in mountainous areas of the world and here in Kyrgyzstan too. The mountains of the world are rich in natural resources such as minerals and water, constituting a potentially powerful force for National Development. They are also culturally rich; they provide unique space for physical and spiritual recreation. These aspects are well recognized in Kyrgyzstan’s history and even in current events. The recent celebration in Issyk-Kul Region of the Kyrgyz Horse and Kyrgyz attributes on horseback is an excellent example. But please accept my apologies, even though at the outset I offered my congratulations for today’s celebration of mountain culture, it is not that simple: there is too much work to be done on behalf of the people who live in the mountain regions of the world, including Kyrgyzstan.

This year, around the world, the theme of the International Mountain Day celebration is facing the challenge of climate change in Mountain Areas. The perception that climate change is a problem only for wealthy countries is wrong: Central Asia is likely to suffer severe consequences from climate change and much can be done right now, here in Kyrgyzstan, to mitigate the impact and adapt to new realities. Promising recent actions include:

  • The construction of energy-saving buildings;
  • Strengthening of sustainable land use practices in mountainous regions;
  • The development of emission-free energy production, such as medium-size or micro-hydropower, as promoted in Kyrgyzstan, China, India and Nepal.

The UN System in Kyrgyzstan and UNDP in particular, is proud to partner with the Government and with Civil Society to address this challenge. Our work is part of our ongoing grant aid to the country for the implementation of the National Development Strategy that was launched by President Bakiev in May of this year. We have a series of important projects in these areas and I would be pleased to share details on this separately.

Only last week we have learned that the Second Committee of the United Nations General Assembly has unanimously supported the initiative of President Bakiev to hold the second Mountain Summit in Kyrgyzstan in October of 2009. The draft resolution, to be considered for approval at the 62nd session of the General Assembly, was co-authored by 64 member states of the United Nations. As most of you will know, Kyrgyzstan hosted the first Global Mountain Summit, with the participation of the UN Secretary General, in 2002. So I am pleased to congratulate the country, but I must also note that it is highly unusual for a single country to host such an important event twice in a row. This means extra responsibility on Kyrgyzstan to show leadership, to reach out to other mountainous countries, and to demonstrate results on the ground with regard to its own achievements in mountainous areas. Personally, I will be here into 2010: I look forward to partnering with all of you towards achieving those results.”

Additional information on the projects

UNDP Kyrgyzstan helps the Government and civil society to meet the above challenges through variety programmes in line with CDS and Kyrgyzstan’s obligations under international environmental conventions:

  1. The Second National Communication of Kyrgyzstan is a continuation of the activities undertaken within the preparation of the Initial National Communication (INC) and Technology Needs Assessment (TNA). The project enables Kyrgyzstan to implement its obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and prepare its Second National Communication to the Conference of the Parties (CoP). The SNC will include the results of the INC follow-up studies as well as the new studies outputs. The main components of the project are: (a) an inventory of greenhouse gases for 2001-2004 and re-estimation for time series 1990-2000; (b) an update of analysis of potential measures to abate the increase in greenhouse gas emissions in Kyrgyzstan; (c) an assessment of potential impacts of climate change in a selected area of Kyrgyzstan and adaptation measures; (d) preparation of the Second National Communication of Kyrgyzstan and submission to the CoP. The project will strengthen technical and institutional capacity to assist Kyrgyzstan mainstream climate change concerns into sectoral and national development priorities and meet its Convention obligations. In addition, the project is expected to enhance stakeholders’ and public knowledge in climate change related issues, strengthen an information exchange between the relevant stakeholders including governmental, non-governmental, academic, public and private sectors.
  2. Pipe line project “Kyrgyzstan – Improving Energy Efficiency in Buildings and Heat and Hot Water Suuply”. The project’s objectives are to: (a) modify and put into law codes and standards promoting greater energy efficiency in new and existing buildings; (b) support the construction of selected government financed buildings as a demonstration of how new buildings can meet the new national energy performance standards (this will also count as an important source of project co-financing) (c) build the capabilities of building inspectorate to enforce this new legislation, (d) enable the government to devote necessary resources to building codes and standards enforcement; (e) and build the ability of architects, engineers, construction firms and building material supplies to be able to design, construct and commission buildings to meet energy performance requirements of the revised buildings codes and standards.
  3. “Kyrgyzstan: Capacity Building for Clean development Mechanism”. An analysis of legislative and normative basis for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) will be conducted. The recommendations on its adaptation were developed for the CDM projects implementation. Two pilot projects on CDM are proposed and implemented.
  4. UNDP “Promotion of Micro-hydro Power Units (MHPUs) for sustainable development of mountainous communities” project: Conducted marketing researches, aimed at revelation of necessity and possible production and using of renewable sources of energy (RSE) in Kyrgyzstan. Outcomes showed that the most acceptable are MHPUs, biogas plants, and helio-plants especially in regions which are difficult in access, located far and which do not have possibility for connecting to power lines and gas pipe lines.
  5. The UNDP Project “Community Based Rangeland Management in Temir village” funded by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and UNDP was very successfully completed in November 2007. Based on this experience UNDP is going to open new GEF project on improving pasture management in Suusamyr area.

The mentioned projects and initiatives are being as grants to the Government and civil society in Kyrgyzstan to tackle environmental challenges which Kyrgyzstan as mountainous country meets on its why towards achieving better life and development.