The UIAA – International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation – held its annual General Assembly from 22-23 October. For the second year running the event was held online. A total of 128 delegates from over 71 member associations representing 56 countries attended.

The 2021 General Assembly marked a year since Peter Muir (Alpine Club of Canada) became the federation’s 14th President. Muir, head of a seven-strong Executive Board (EB), assessed the progress made over the past twelve months:

“As I wrote in my annual President’s message, I believe that the UIAA is based on sound principles and a common passion. Over the last year, the Executive Board has been assessing where we are at and what issues we have in order to establish a baseline to measure our progress over the next three years. These assessments are always work in progress. During the General Assembly we will address some common themes. These are – communication, our aim is to be smoother across our various levels and structures and introduce new ways of approaching meetings; an increased focus on the Strategic Plan in particular its goals. It is a very ambitious Plan, so the focus is on narrowing down key goals, and focusing on two-three priority tasks per Commission; assigning responsibilities and clearly defining who is carrying out tasks and ensuring a good pace in our activities while guided by our Articles of Association to take the time required when needed.”


The main election activity was confined to representatives of the Management Committee:

Management Committee newly-elected

Juan Jesús Ibáñez Martín, FEDME (Spain), Largest Continental Representative
Paul Carstensen, MCSA (South Africa), Continental Representative – Africa
Willy Montenegro, FEACH (Chile), Continental Representative – Central & South America

Paul Carstensen succeeds Greg Moseley whose term with the Management Committee came to an end. Greg Moseley’s work with the UIAA is the focus of a recent volunteer series article. The UIAA congratulates all new MC members on their elections and thanks Greg Moseley for his support.

Management Committee re-elected

Stuart Gray, NZAC (New Zealand), Continental Representative – Oceania

Pierre Humblet re-elected as Court President. All existing Court members re-elected – Franz Stämpfli, Marco del Zotto and Denis Poncelin.

In terms of membership, the UIAA continues to represent 90 member associations in 67 countries.

Guests at the GA included representatives from the UIAA’s international observer members – the International Slackline Association, the International Skyrunning Federation and the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations – The Petzl Foundation and former UIAA President Frits Vrijlandt.

Executive Board Working Groups

One of the first accomplishments of the current EB was the creation of a number of Working Groups (WGs) to guide the UIAA in the following areas: Commissions, External Relations, Internal Relations, Governance, Finance & Audit and Communication. Below is a brief overview of their findings to date:

Commissions WG: This Working Group has met with all Commission Presidents and attended several Commission meetings. On the basis of these meetings, it has produced a report making a number of recommendations to the Management Committee.

These include:

  • The need to improve communication and strengthen the two-way relationship between the Executive Board, Management Committee and Commissions
  • Consider granting independent Commission status to the Access WG
  • Consider granting independent Commission status to the Training WG
  • Proposing that the Legal Experts WG has an independent status outside of the Mountaineering Commission in order to support the UIAA as a whole more closely

Its next steps include consultation with Commissions, developing a menu of activities, defining specific task list descriptions for each Commission and presenting findings for MC approval.

External Relations WG: This WG has identified and evaluated the UIAA’s 50+ external relationships and is in the process of determining which ones are a priority and further developing partnerships in adventure tourism/travel, sustainability and other multinational federations.

Internal Relations WG: Work is underway with Continental Representatives (CRs) to create a task description for CRs and to work at CR level to strengthen relationships with existing and future members on each continent, with the goal of further developing the UIAA’s continental structures.

Governance WG: Is in a process of assessment. Its role is to be a watchguard for governance and ensure that the UIAA is properly equipped to deal with any issues and implement any changes where required.

Finance WG: Activities have focused on closing out the 2020 accounting year, the implementation of a new accounting software as well as developing the forecast for 2021 and budget for 2022. This active group has also set budget planning guidelines to standardise the budgeting process of Commissions as well as developing more defined Standard Operating Procedures.

Communication WG: Is primarily focused on the distribution of information to members and the wider climbing community. Plans include the further development of communication channels, upgrades to the UIAA website, enhancements to the UIAA Annual Report, supporting Commissions in developing their own publications and scoping potential new information products to offer UIAA members.

Strategic Plan

The 2021-2024 UIAA Strategic Plan (SP) was approved at last year’s GA. UIAA General Secretary Lode Beckers presented an update twelve months on.

The overarching focus of the SP is the question of providing the right benefits to members and ensuring the UIAA is clear on identifying what those benefits are.

This will be guided by the SP’s three key objectives:

A recent survey was conducted among EB/MC members to help define priorities and eliminate any confusion on objectives.

From the survey’s findings, the areas of consensus was:

  • The SP’s objectives are adequately defined
  • There is a need for the EB/MC provide clearer guidance to Commissions
  • Mountain safety is a core responsibility of the UIAA
  • Offering guidance on global access is a key task of the UIAA
  • The UIAA has a role in advocating on behalf of its members
  • Unit member status should be considered for competition sports

Lowest consensus:

  • Definition of SP values could be improved
  • The role of the UIAA in organising competition sports

The UIAA SP remains an ongoing process and further updates will be communicated over the coming months.

Panel Discussions

On the first day of the GA, a number of panel discussions were held to tackle subjects close to the UIAA’s Strategic Plan and membership.

These included:

Panel 1: Sustainability, Sport & Safety Panel on Climate Change discussing:

  • The role of UIAA advocacy on the international stage
  • UIAA Strategic Plan synergy with the UN framework on climate change
  • Annual UIAA Carbon Footprint Reports: method, results, tools and recommendations
  • Examples from member federations: how to tackle climate change, how to measure, limit, offset impact?
  • Impact of climate change on climbing and mountaineering practices, notably in the fields of access, safety, equipment, routes and mountain medicine

Panel 2: Safety & Sport Panel on Commission Projects and Covid-19 Committee Activities:

Panel 3: Sustainability & Sport Panel on Commission Projects:

  • 2020-2021 UIAA Mountain Protection Award: A reveal of the 24 candidates, an explanation of the Award evaluation process and presentation of the Award ceremony to be held as a webinar, in conjunction with the project’s main partner Bally, on Friday 3 December, 1400 – 1530.
  • UIAA Mountain Worker Initiative: A project launched by the UIAA this year to support mountain workers, an update on its progress and the release of dedicated guidelines. Further details will be published on the UIAA website shortly.
  • UIAA Alpine Handbook new editions: An overview of the work underway on a new English edition, how members can order copies and on the continued translations.
  • Youth Innovation Panel: An overview of the UIAA’s future projects in the field of youth development .
  • UIAA Access Database: Details on the progress of the launch of a UIAA Access Database. This initiative follows the successful launch of the new UIAA Training database earlier this year. Members are invited to register for accreditations and create their own accounts.

The panel discussions can be viewed as part of a YouTube replay GA of the here.

Day 1: 2021 UIAA General Assembly

Day 2: 2021 UIAA General Assembly

A more in-depth review of each panel discussion will be produced in the coming weeks and feature as part of the 2021 UIAA Annual Report.

Upcoming General Assemblies

The 2022 UIAA General Assembly is scheduled to be held on Saturday 29 October in Banff, Canada and hosted by the Alpine Club of Canada. Trabzon, Turkey (Turkish Mountaineering Federation) is set to host the GA in 2023 and Malta (Malta Climbing Club) in 2024.

Upcoming Mountain Network Series events

The UIAA will host its third Mountain Network Series event of 2021 on Wednesday 17 November. The topic will be ‘Mountain Women’ and the webinar built around content from Herstory, a series of short films about the lives of different female climbers. Full details here.

The fourth and final UIAA Mountain Network Series event of 2021 will take place on Friday 3 December (1400-1530 CET) in the form of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award prizegiving.

Video Content

During the General Assembly, a number of videos were played. Members can access embed codes from the links below.

Bally Peak Outlook Series

UIAA & Mountain Water

UIAA Mountain Protection Award Promo (2021)

Sustainable Summits Promo 2021

International Skyrunning Federation: World Championships