This year’s Mountain Protection (MP) commission meeting took place in Baku, Azerbaijan following a formal and welcome invitation from Commission member and FAIREX representative Hussain Bagirov. The meeting took place at the new campus facilities of the Mountain Culture and Landscape Research Institute, Western Caspian University, whose staff provided exceptional state-of-the-art support for online connection to those members and UIAA Office staff who could not attend the session in person. Six delegates were present in Baku with another three joining online.
The meeting opened with welcome remarks from MP Commission President Carolina Adler, who also chaired the meeting, recalling the minutes of the previous meeting held in 2018 in the UK. Proceedings then followed with a report from Hélène Denis, UIAA Executive Board link, updating the Commission on discussions and decisions taken at the Management Committee (MC) meeting held a week earlier in Malta. This included confirmation of Vice President role for Michael Maunsell (Mountaineering Ireland, MI) and new full member Ganesh Gurung from the Nepal Mountaineering Association, NMA. Taking a proactive approach, the Commission then spent some time discussing the upcoming tasks and goals set out by the UIAA strategy working group, in order to provide their input ahead of the next MC and GA meetings.
Professor Husain Bagirov, MP Commission delegate and host to the meeting, presented on the state of mountain tourism and recreation in Azerbaijan, highlighting some of the key challenges regarding increasing tourism development in the country, while maintaining and aspiring towards environmental and cultural values that align with broader sustainable development. Carolina Adler highlighted the importance of regional cooperation and exchange on the topic, for which the perspectives of the mountaineering community also need to be heard. It was suggested that the upcoming Caucasus Mountain Forum 2019 would be an opportunity to participate in these regional dialogues and contribute to the Regional Research Agenda that also include tourism as a key area of interest and focus for the Caucasus.
The UIAA Office, represented by Carol Kahoun, reported on UIAA projects related to sustainability. Among other matters, this included an environmental footprint calculation and sustainability guidelines for events, which are currently being prepared and will be shared with the Commission for their feedback and endorsement. Confirmation of the UIAA signing of the UNFCCC’s Sports for Climate Action Framework was communicated, with Carolina Adler suggesting the idea of proposing a “mountain” working group in collaboration with other federations and organisations that have also signed up to this UNFCCC initiative. The Commission expressed interest and willingness to contribute to all Office projects with their expertise and advice.
Next on the agenda was the financial report 2018/19 and budget 2020. Changes were suggested and voted on, in order to comply with the new timelines for Commissions to send in their projects and request budgets to the UIAA Office and Treasurer by mid-June. Budget was allocated to develop a workshop to continue work on updating the existing UIAA Environmental Objectives and Guidelines (2002), in collaboration with IFMGA and UN Environment, and concurrently discuss the future of the UIAA Respect the Mountains movement. The workshop will be a key opportunity to continue work that started at the Sustainable Summits Conference held in Chamonix 2018, where a number of key recommendations were made at the workshop hosted by the Mountain Research Initiative on sustainable mountaineering. The workshop programme will also incorporate the results of the survey carried out jointly by the UIAA MP Commission and the IFMGA Environment Commission in 2018, in which UIAA and IFMGA member federations and associations contributed with their inputs on sustainable practices and guidelines used to promote mountaineering in their respective countries – thank you to all of those who responded and participated in this work! The final report will be shared soon in due course.
The Commission also exchanged ideas and strategies on planned participation at upcoming conferences such as the International Mountains Conference in Innsbruck, Austria (September 2019) and the Sustainable Summits Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal (June 2020), as well as advocacy activities such as at the submission statement made by Carolina Adler on behalf of the UIAA to the United Nations Secretary General call for inputs to the 2019 report on progress made on Sustainable Mountain Development, and the UNFCCC CoP 25 in Chile (December 2019). Finally, progress on the 2019 Mountain Protection Award was discussed, with delegates agreeing to continue encouraging project submissions by federations and organisations to submit their applications before 16 June 2019. Furthermore, ideas for collaboration with other UIAA Commissions were considered, with prospects for a UIAA green label for outdoor gear equipment under consideration, which would require financial resourcing and partnerships with marketing, as well as scientific and engineering communities that apply lifecycle assessments. In 2019, opportunities for project proposal preparation and submissions for funding will also be pursued.
The meeting concluded with special thanks to the hosts for their invitation and excellent accommodation of the meeting. A proposal for next year’s meeting was received from The Netherlands, following a kind invitation from Joop Spijker (NKBV). A decision was taken to accept the invitation from NKBV on a provisory basis to consider the upcoming UIAA MC’s proposal regarding the next spring meeting location, however confirmation for the MP Commission meeting is expected no later than European summer of 2019.