International Mountain Day 2023, History, Theme & Significance

International Mountain Day 2023

The International Mountain Day is observed annually on December 11th to raise global awareness about the importance of mountains and the need to conserve and sustainably manage these vital ecosystems.

International Mountain Day 2023 Theme

The theme for this year’s International Mountain Day is “Restoring mountain ecosystems,” aligning with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030. Co-led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and the UN Environment Programme, this Decade aims to garner political support, scientific research, and financial resources to scale up restoration efforts and prevent further degradation of mountain ecosystems.

Importance of Mountains

Mountains cover approximately 27% of the Earth’s land surface and host about half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Serving as water towers, mountains supply freshwater to an estimated half of humanity. These diverse ecosystems are home to an extraordinary range of plants, animals, and culturally diverse communities with unique languages and traditions. From climate regulation and water provisioning to soil maintenance and conservation, mountains play a crucial role in our lives and livelihoods.

Recent Developments

However, mountains are facing challenges from climate change and unsustainable development, posing risks to both people and the planet. Climate change threatens water flow, and rising temperatures force adaptation or migration for mountain species and communities. Clearing forests for farming, settlements, or infrastructure on steep slopes leads to soil erosion and habitat loss. Erosion and pollution harm downstream water quality. The IPCC warns that up to 84% of endemic mountain species are at risk of extinction.

Challenges & Concerns

The recent biodiversity agreement of the 2022 United Nations Biodiversity Conference, pledging to protect 30% of the Earth’s lands and waters by 2030, provides momentum to revive and protect mountain landscapes. The UN General Assembly has also proclaimed 2023–2027 as “Five Years of Action for the Development of Mountain Regions,” focusing on attracting assistance and investments, developing green economies, fostering cooperation among mountainous countries, and advancing science and education in sustainable mountain development.

International Mountain Day 2023 calls for increased awareness of the relevance of mountain ecosystems and advocates for nature-based solutions, best practices, and investments to build resilience, reduce vulnerability, and enhance mountains’ ability to adapt to daily threats and extreme climatic events.

History of International Mountain Day

The history of International Mountain Day can be traced back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At this landmark conference, Chapter 13 of Agenda 21, titled “Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development,” recognized the critical role of mountains in sustainable development and called for their conservation and management.

In response to this call, the UNGA proclaimed December 11th as International Mountain Day in 2002, starting in 2003. This decision aimed to raise global awareness about the importance of mountains and the need to promote sustainable mountain development.

Since its inception, International Mountain Day has served as a platform to highlight the diverse contributions of mountains to the planet and its inhabitants. It has also provided a forum for discussing and implementing sustainable mountain development strategies.

Significance of International Mountain Day

International Mountain Day serves as a crucial reminder of the immense value of mountains and the urgent need to protect these vital ecosystems. It highlights the interconnectedness of mountain health and human well-being, underscoring the responsibility we have to future generations to preserve this essential asset.

Call to Action

International Mountain Day 2023 calls for collective action to protect and manage mountain resources sustainably. It encourages individuals, communities, governments, and organizations to adopt practices that promote mountain health, such as:

  • Reducing deforestation and land degradation: Implement sustainable land management practices to prevent deforestation, erosion, and soil degradation in mountain regions.
  • Protecting water resources: Conserve and protect mountain water sources, ensuring equitable access to clean water for all.
  • Promoting sustainable agriculture: Support sustainable agricultural practices in mountain regions that minimize environmental impact and conserve biodiversity.
  • Preserving cultural heritage: Safeguarding the cultural heritage and traditional knowledge of mountain communities, which are essential for sustainable mountain management.
  • Investing in mountain research and education: Increase investment in mountain research and education to improve our understanding of these ecosystems and promote sustainable practices.

By working together, we can protect mountain ecosystems, ensure their vital services, and safeguard the livelihoods of mountain communities for generations to come. Let us strive to create a world where mountains are valued, respected, and managed sustainably for the benefit of all.


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