MOUNTAINEERS AND CONSERVATIONISTS JOIN FORCES TO CALL FOR PEACE AND CO-OPERATION IN THE WORLD'S MOUNTAINS

MONTAGNARDS ET DÉFENSEURS DE L'ENVIRONNEMENT JOIGNENT LEURS FORCES POUR APPELER A LA PAIX ET LA COOPÉRATION DANS LES MONTAGNES DU MONDE

Gland, Switzerland, 26 August 2002 (IUCN/UIAA): IUCN - The World Conservation Union and UIAA, the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, are joining efforts to promote the conservation of the world's mountains. Together they will further transboundary co-operation for sustainable development and peace.

As a first step, a group of mountaineers from India, Pakistan and Britain have come to Switzerland to promote this goal and highlight the need for action. From the 24 - 30 August the team is meeting key figures and climbing a number of peaks in the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region, recently designated by UNESCO as a natural World Heritage site.

Amongst the group is quadruple amputee, Jamie Andrew from Scotland, who lost both hands and feet to severe frostbite in a climbing accident in the Alps three winters ago. He is joining climbers from India and Pakistan to highlight the importance of protecting mountains, as well as to promote the concept of 'peace zones' in mountain ecosystems. Such zones aim to help resolve conflicts while promoting international and regional cooperation.

The mountaineers from India and Pakistan want to use this opportunity to highlight the need to protect key areas in the Karakoram Mountains which continue to be affected by armed conflicts. Harish Kapadia from India is a member of IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Mountain Theme which has been informally exploring the feasibility of designating the Siachen Glacier as a peace zone, a first step to reducing tension and conflict in Kashmir.

Mr Kapadia, recently returning from an expedition over the Karakoram Pass and down the Siachen Glacier, said "The Mountains of the Karakoram are one of the great wonders of the world with some of the highest peaks such as K2 and the longest glaciers outside of the Polar Regions. I truly hope that one day the Siachen Glacier will be designated as a peace zone and its natural values protected for the enjoyment of present and future generations."

The world's mountains are an irreplaceable asset of humanity. Mountain ecosystems generate from 60% to 90% of the planet's freshwater, are home to one tenth of the world's population, are hotspots of biological richness and provide us invaluable information on climate change. They also have deep cultural and spiritual significance. Today, however, steep terrain and mountain climate, in combination with severe land use pressure, cause mountain ecosystems to rank among the most endangered landscapes worldwide.

Achim Steiner, Director General of IUCN said, "With more than half of humanity depending on mountains to provide the water it needs to drink, grow food, generate electricity and sustain economic development, we would be undermining our very basis for livelihood if we did not pay attention to the sustainable management of mountain ecosystems. 'Parks for Peace', transboundary protected areas and international conventions, such as the World Heritage Convention, are influential approaches to safeguarding mountains. We are very happy that this initiative is taking place in the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn, an outstanding area that recently received World Heritage status."

The Swiss World Heritage site includes the famous summits of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch and the latter is one of the targets for IUCN-UIAA group of mountaineers. President of the UIAA Ian McNaught-Davis said, "To climb a mountain you need to be determined, and we are determined that mountains should be free to enjoy now and in the future. Mountains are not just places for adventure and friendship, they also provide vital water reserves and unique natural habitats and I am looking forward to working with IUCN to make sure that mountains are protected and enjoyed."

The mountaineering team is being co-ordinated by the UIAA's Sports and Development Director Roger Payne who noted that, "The group is very experienced and I am certain will enjoy getting acclimatised on some lower peaks before heading to the Aletsch region. We want to demonstrate that with goodwill and determination you can reach a summit and achieve important goals."

The team started its week-long programme of walks and climbs in Leysin on Saturday 24 August and will be inviting key figures in Switzerland to join them. Daily reports on the team's progress will be placed on the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas website (http://wcpa.iucn.org) and the UIAA website (http://www.uiaa.ch/).

For more information contact:

Georgina Peard, IUCN World Heritage Assistant Tel: ++ 41 22 999 0158 E-mail

Roger Payne, UIAA Sports and Development Officer Tel: +41 24 494 1440 / +41 79 574 74 09 Email

Note to Editors:

IUCN - The World Conservation Union - was created in 1948. It is the world's largest conservation - related organization, bringing together 72 States, 107 government agencies, 750 NGOs and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 141 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. IUCN has helped over 75 countries to prepare and implement national conservation strategies within the framework of global conventions that is has participated in drafting. IUCN is a multicultural, multilingual organization with 1000 staff located in 42 countries and contributes to the implementation of a wide-range of activities linking local action with global initiatives. Its headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland.

UIAA - The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation - was formed in 1932 and has 86 member associations. These associations collectively promote the interests of and represent over 2.4 million members of national mountaineering associations.

The UIAA:

* Has expertise in the practise of all mountain sports and youth activities.
* Links responsible access with protection of the environment.
* Is the responsible body for international competitions.
* Gives guidance on ethics, good practice and safety.
* Conducts research into mountain medicine.
* Sets manufacturing standards for safety equipment.

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