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In collaboration with the government of Peru, the SDC of Switzerland is operating from 13-24 June a Mountain Pavilion, the aim of which is to call attention to the key role mountains play in development. The Pavilion, which will host a number of events, was officially opened on 20 June 2012 by the President of Peru Ollanta Humala. Switzerland will be represented in the Pavilion by the SDC, the Canton of Valais, the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions (FDDM), the Valais municipality of Bagnes, the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) and the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).
The SDC has been committed to the development of mountain regions since the 1992 Rio Conference on Sustainable Development, and helped launch an international partnership of these regions. The SDC has set itself two main objectives for the Rio+20 Conference. Firstly, it would like in particular the following to be stressed in the official outcome document in Paragraph 94 concerning sustainable mountain development:
Secondly, the SDC expects like-minded conference participants to commit to a global agenda for sustainable mountain development. This would notably include the following: mountain specific strategies at the national and international levels; cross-border cooperation between mountain ecosystems and lowland regions that benefit from mountain services; fair compensation for the goods and services provided by mountain ecosystems; strategies that support the green economy and innovation in the mountain regions; and finally regional centres of excellence tailored to the needs of mountain regions.
Mountain regions are home to 20 per cent of the world’s population; 60 to 80 per cent of the world fresh water reserves originate in these regions, and 17 of the 34 “biodiversity hotspots” are to be found in mountain regions. The effects of climate change are disproportionately severe in these regions and have consequences that extend far beyond them. Switzerland is also affected by developments in mountains. In addition, due to its own experiences and high credibility, it can contribute much to dealing with challenges and the search for solutions. The SDC is carrying out many projects in mountain regions.
Switzerland was a key player at the first Rio Conference in the 1992, and helped to insert a mountain chapter in Agenda 21. In the mid-1990s Switzerland founded the “Mountain Forum” international network. And at the Earth Summit of 2002 in Johannesburg Switzerland launched the “Mountain Partnership Initiative”, in which today 50 states and more than 150 organisations participate. The key function of mountain regions and their inhabitants is increasingly being recognised, notably in the case of the UN biodiversity, climate change and desertification conventions.