Mountains matter, especially if you’re young, UN declares

WMO/Vladimir Nolic Spomen park Kadinjaca, Serbia, during a storm.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Covering around 27 per cent of the earth’s land surface, mountains play a critical role in moving the world’s towards sustainable economic growth. With the future in mind, the theme for this year’s international day celebrating the world’s peaks and summits on Wednesday, is Mountains matter for Youth.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), mountains not only provide sustenance and well-being to 1.1 billion mountain people around the world but also indirectly benefit billions more living downstream. And they provide freshwater, energy and food – resources that will grow increasingly scarce over the coming decades.

This year, the spotlight shines on the importance of protecting ecosystems around the world’s summits, for future generations.

It is an occasion to educate children about the role that mountains play in supporting billions up and downstream – providing freshwater, clean energy, food and recreation.

Making education, training, employment, and access to technology readily available, can ensure a brighter future for young communities on mountainsides everywhere.

Lack of opportunities

As access to opportunities for youth living in mountains can be scarce, the day offers the chance to demand improvements in order to prevent the drift away to lowland areas, in search of a better life and employment.

Did you know?

  • Potatoes, maize, tomatoes, sorghum, apples and barley crops originate in mountains.
  • More than half of humanity relies on mountain freshwater for everyday life
  • Family farming is the backbone of mountain economies
  • Some 53 per cent of rural mountain populations in developing countries are vulnerable to food insecurity
  • Mountains play a key role in providing renewable energy through hydropower, solar power, wind power and biogas.

Without investment, agricultural land is abandoned and degraded, while cultural values and ancient traditions are forgotten.

Education and training, market access, diverse employment opportunities and good public services can ensure a brighter future for young mountain dwellers.

Call to action

To harness the day, FAO suggests that young people raise mountain awareness by organizing youth forums, student debates, photo and art competitions, hikes and events targeted to specific age groups.

And of course, everyone who cares about mountain life, is invited to join the conversation by sharing stories of living as a young mountain dweller, or posting a photo of a favourite vista, using the #MountainsMatter hashtag.

It has been observed every year to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build alliances that will bring positive change to mountain peoples and environments around the world.

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