The attire and accents of the two-dozen delegates participating in meetings at the Banff Centre last month may have been diverse, but their conversations focused on a single topic mountains.
For four days the Banff Centers Mountain Culture division hosted the 10 th annual board meetings and node manager meetings of Mountain Forum, a global community of membership-driven networks which facilitate information sharing among organizations involved in mountain communities at regional and local levels, and which promote sustainable development of mountain areas around the world.
With a global secretariat based in Kathmandu, the MF network includes five regional nodes African Mountain Forum, Asia-Pacific Mountain Network, European Mountain Forum, InfoAndina in Latin America, and the North American Mountain Forum, hosted by the Banff Centres Mountain Culture all of which are autonomous organizations that function independently and are hosted by partner institutions.
Participants included node managers from Uganda, Peru, Nepal and Romania, members from the Mountain Forum Secretariat based in Kathmandu, MF board members and observers from Ethiopia, Ghana, Scotland, Washington D.C., Switzerland, Italy as well as the Banff Centres Associate Director of Mountain Culture, Leslie Taylor.
"We are all part of a global mountain community a lot of us dont realize exists," said Amy Krause, node manager for North American Mountain Forum. "The people involved in Mountain Forum represent nations and organizations that recognize that mountains are important, not just to the people who live there, but to everybody. Mountains are the worlds watertowers, storehouses of cultural diversity and biodiversity, home to forests and minerals, and are spiritually significant to billions of people worldwide."
Originally from Delhi not one of Indias mountainous regions and now working in Kathmandu, MF information services program officer Prashant Sharma said mountains are ingrained in the social consciousness of all Indians.
"Mountains are very deeply ingrained for us, culturally," Sharma said. "Weve always gone to the mountains for inspiration and to seek understanding of lifes mysteries."
With its core funding donated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and additional funding provided by the nodes host organizations and other foundations, including the Mountain Partnership Secretariat of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, MF provides six distinct services that are free and available to anyone.
These include a searchable membership database, 12 distinct moderated discussion lists, an online library, mountain calendar, publications and e-conference services.
Some of the issues most frequently discussed by Mountain Forum members include water quality, conservation and climate change, many of which are cross-current to mountain regions on opposite sides of the globe.
Every year, Mountain Forum is contracted to conduct online conferences on topics such as these for mountain organizations around the world. Having e-conferences that are moderated by mountain experts is a valuable service, said Ana Maria Ponce, MF executive secretary.