Mountain Worker Initiative: An Update

Membership, Mountain Worker Initiative, Mountaineering, UIAA

In February, the UIAA launched the Mountain Worker Initiative (MWI), guided by its Mountaineering Commission, to promote ethical trekking and mountaineering practices worldwide with a focus on the lives of mountain workers. The idea to form this initiative is inspired by the agency behind The Porter: The Untold Story at Everest. In March, a dedicated webinar was held to kick-off this new project. Details on the background of the initiative and its mission are provided below.

Throughout the past seven months, meetings have taken place between the founders of the MWI project, the UIAA, national UIAA member associations and stakeholders. The Initiative will seek to answer the following three main questions:

  • Are mountain workers getting a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work?
  • Are adequate working and living conditions in place?
  • Do organisers provide insurance or are adequate compensation arrangements for mountain workers?

A general outline of principle questions and checklists has been produced in the document UIAA Mountain Worker Initiative. The Initiative aims to begin efforts in Nepal in collaboration with the Nepal Mountaineering Association and others. The idea being that a set of national-specific guidelines for Nepal can be created using this framework as a guide.  Efforts in Nepal are intended to begin in January and regular updates will follow.

The UIAA offers a set of relevant questions to all UIAA members as the Initiative’s goal is to improve mountain worker welfare worldwide. The UIAA is committed to working with national governments and stakeholders to develop the project further.

If you are interested in aiding the process in your country, please contact the MWI group. At a UIAA Office level the project is being led by Nathaniel Menninger.

Further details about the project can be found here. This page also offers the option to support mountain workers through a fundraising link. All funds will directly support the MWI’s efforts to help create a system that will improve the lives of mountain workers. Complete transparency is offered and regular updates will follow.


The UIAA has always acknowledged that the inhabitants of mountain areas all over the world have made a decisive contribution to the development of mountaineering and mountain tourism. This has been the case from the initial development of mountain sports in Europe and North America right through to the current situation in Asia, Oceania, Africa and Central and South America. On the other hand, adventurers, climbers, mountaineers and travellers have generated income and have contributed to improved living conditions in mountain areas ever since.

Unfortunately, and too often, mountain workers are not treated fairly when it comes to remuneration, safety and living/hygiene standards, although their role is an essential part of climbing, mountaineering and mountain tourism. Furthermore, they have enormous responsibility towards their clients, the environment, their own and their client’s safety.

Consequently, the UIAA has initiated a process in an effort to improve fair treatment of mountain workers on a global level. With this in mind, the UIAA is proposing and promoting a set of principles, questions and checklists for climbers, mountaineers, member associations and the mountain tourism industry.

The basic idea is to encourage self-responsibility at all levels and to help national and regional authorities and stakeholders develop a set of norms to ensure and improve ethical and fair treatment of mountain workers globally.

    • To create awareness for authorities, travellers, climbers and mountaineers, clubs, member federations and the mountain tourism industry of problems related to local support workers’ fair treatment, compensation and workplace health and safety.
    • To offer guidance through a general framework of principles, questions and checklists around which individuals, organisers and authorities can assure themselves that good ethical principles are applied for local support workers. That they are treated fairly and equitably and are able to make a decent living for themselves and their families.
    • To motivate all parties to continuously monitor and improve the mountain workers’ situation in all parts of the world.
    • To regularly communicate on best practice and progress on UIAA communication platforms, through UIAA’s member federations and through international media.

Mountain Worker Initiative website page
General outline of principle questions and checklists