UN recognizes multi-country effort to preserve mountain ecosystems in Europe and Africa with special award
- Initiatives in Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, Serbia and Uganda honoured as World Restoration Flagships
- Efforts now eligible to receive United Nations support, funding, or technical expertise.
- Work comes with mountain ecosystems under threat from climate crisis, development
Montreal, 13 December 2022 – The United Nations has recognized a collaborative initiative to protect mountain landscapes in Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, Serbia and Uganda as one of 10 pioneering efforts to revive the natural world.
The UN designated the work, which is helping to safeguard a range of imperilled species, including mountain gorillas and snow leopards, as one of its inaugural World Restoration Flagships. These initiatives, which are eligible to receive UN support, funding, or technical expertise, showcase how environmental advocates are mending damaged ecosystems across the planet. Human activity has significantly altered three-quarters of the Earth’s land and two-thirds of its marine environment, pushing 1 million species towards extinction.
The announcement came as leaders gathered in Montreal, Canada for the UN Biodiversity Conference, where governments from around the world will agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade. Talks are expected to include a potential global target for ecosystem restoration.
Mountain ecosystems are unique, harbouring a diversity of animals and habitats. But mountains are also extremely vulnerable – exposed to climate change, weather events and pressures from overgrazing.
By teaming up and sharing their lessons, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Uganda and Rwanda have succeeded in reviving their mountain landscapes. For example, representatives from the Virunga region (Uganda and Rwanda) and Kyrgyz counterparts have exchanged experiences with addressing human-wildlife conflicts.
Uganda and Rwanda have protected the mountain habitats of endangered mountain gorillas, working closely with local communities. That work has helped gorilla numbers double in the last 30 years, and supported a vibrant tourism industry, which has created economic opportunities for local communities.
In Kyrgyzstan, human wildlife conflict is being reduced by adopting more sustainable ranging practices and training communities in wildlife monitoring. The vulnerable snow leopard is now slowly coming back, with four adults recorded and two cubs born each year in 2020 and 2021.
In Serbia, two nature parks – Kucaj–Beljanica and Stara Planina – preserve valuable mountain ecosystems. There are plans to upgrade these to national parks and launch programmes to restore forests and pastures, securing the habitats of animals like the European ground squirrel, whose numbers are decreasing.
Beksultan Ibraimov, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, Ecology, and Technical supervision of the Kyrgyz Republic said: "The time has come for a common decision to recognize that mountain ecosystems, with all available water, mineral and biological resources and of course the ambassadors of high mountain snow peaks – snow leopards - are extremely sensitive to climate change and, at the same time, are of paramount importance for the present and the future of humanity.”
UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said: “Mountains are fragile ecosystems where even small changes in climate or tree cover can have devastating effects. As mountain ecosystems and the benefits of their critical services to nature and humanity often stretch across borders, honouring this work in Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, Serbia and Uganda as part of the inaugural group of World Restoration Flagships should serve as inspiration from what countries can accomplish when they work together to protect these awe-inspiring places.”
Qu Dongyu, Director General of the FAO, said: “FAO, together with UNEP, as co-lead of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, is pleased to award the 10 most ambitious, visionary and promising ecosystem restoration initiatives as 2022 World Restoration Flagships. Inspired by these flagships, we can learn to restore our ecosystems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.”
Countries have already promised to restore 1 billion hectares – an area larger than China – as part of their commitments to the Paris climate agreement, the Aichi targets for biodiversity, the Land Degradation Neutrality targets and the Bonn Challenge. However, little is known about the progress or quality of this restoration. Progress of all 10 World Restoration Flagships will be transparently monitored through the Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring, the UN Decade’s platform for keeping track of global restoration efforts.
The United Nations General Assembly has declared the years 2021 through 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the UN Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, together with the support of partners, it is designed to prevent, halt, and reverse the loss and degradation of ecosystems worldwide. It aims at reviving billions of hectares, covering terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems. A global call to action, the UN Decade draws together political support, scientific research, and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration.
About the multi-country flagship on ecosystem restoration in mountain regions
About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
For more information, please contact:
Moses Osani, Media Officer, UN Environment Programme
For media interviews with officials from Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Uganda or Rwanda please reach out to:
- COP15 on-site media focal point - Matthias Jurek
- Serbia - Klaudia Kuras
- Rwanda and Uganda - Johannes Refisch
- Kyrgyzstan - Azamat Isakov