Ahead of the 2011 UIAA General Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal (October 5-8), the UIAA President, Mike Mortimer, spells out the reason for holding the event in the Himalayan nation and the challenges facing the world’s international mountaineering body.
Nepal: How important is it to hold this year’s GA in Nepal? What kind of message will holding the event in the home of some of the world’s biggest and most iconic mountains send to the international mountaineering community?
Mike Mortimer: It has been 30 years since we held our last meeting in Kathmandu. At that time we created the Kathmandu Declaration – a declaration presenting the best practices in the mountain environment and culture. We are extremely pleased to be able to come back to Nepal, during the Nepalese Year of Tourism, to reaffirm our commitment to the declaration. All of our clubs, both large and small welcome the opportunity to hold our annual meeting in the country that is home of some of the world’s highest mountains.
The UIAA Executive Board hopes the meeting will end with the approval of a strategic plan for the next few years. You already have an idea of what some of the focus areas will be. How may this change the scope of the UIAA’s mission?
M.M.: The clearest message that we received from a member survey earlier this year was that many of our member federations like the extra services that the UIAA, as a global organization, can provide. However these extra services, such as the Training Standards, will only be provided on a cost recovery basis. Both our Training standards and new environmental protection labels will be available to a broader base of non-voting members from mountain safety training and trekking organizations. In the past the UIAA tended to be a conduit of information between our federations. Now our members are asking for more services and they are prepared to pay for these services.
The budget deficit has been a big issue. How confident are you that this can be resolved, and if you are confident, for what reasons?
M.M.: Since July of 2011 we have been in emergency mode. We have reduced our expenses wherever possible but not at the expense of the services we provide. We have revised our budget for a break-even position this year. For us the key will be to attract more like-minded groups as members. This is where are services such as the Training Standards will really come into line, encouraging new members to take advantage of our services.
I am confident that the financial picture for the UIAA will continue to improve. We are a lot smarter than we were two years ago. We are working closely with the staff to ensure that our expenses are in line with our budgets and that these budgets are in line with our revenue capability.