Assessment of Sustainable Mountain Development
in brief

The MRI is developing an approach for assessing sustainable mountain development using the Sustainable Development Goals framework. 

Such assessments can help contextualize and highlight the specific needs and challenges for mountain communities and ecosystems in addressing sustainable mountain development. They can also inform policy and decision-making at the global, national, and subnational level.

This work is part of the Sustainable Mountain Development for Global Change (SMD4GC) programme, and is being undertaken in collaboration with the University of Bern's Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

latest news SMD

Issue Brief Leaving no one in mountains behind
In this Issue Brief, the MRI and the Center for Development and Environment (CDE) present initial steps towards localization of the 2030 Agenda to mountain areas. 

The Issue Brief highlights common development priorities in mountains, such as sustainable resource use, climate action, and strengthening people’s livelihoods and resilience. But it also reveals significant differences based on mountains’ diversity.

DOWNLOAD NOW | Wymann von Dach, S., Bracher, C., Peralvo, M., Perez, K., Adler, C., and a group of contributing authors. 2018. 'Leaving No One in Mountains Behind: Localizing the SDGs for Resilience of Mountain People and Ecosystems.' Issue Brief on Sustainable Mountain Development. Bern, Switzerland: Centre for Development and Environment and Mountain Research Initiative, with Bern Open Publishing (BOP).


An evidence-informed preliminary assessment of a SDG indicator subset tailored to a SMD context was performed in a desktop study from September to December 2017. Data availability and possibilities to disaggregate SDG indicator data to meaningful spatial contexts for SMD were assessed.

The preliminary report was published as a working paper in collaboration with CDE, and is available to view and download:

DOWNLOAD NOW | Bracher C, Wymann von Dach S, Adler C. 2018. Challenges and Opportunities in Assessing Sustainable Mountain Development Using the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A Report Compiled by the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), in Collaboration with the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE). CDE Working Paper 3. Bern, Switzerland: Centre for Development and Environment (CDE).

In a joint effort with CDE, a survey among experts from five mountain regions from around the world was conducted in April 2018. The most critical development issues in the respective mountain areas and SDG targets that offer high leverage potential to address them were identified. In May, expert workshops were then conducted to find a consolidated agreement on the targets with highest priority for SMD. A subsequent workshop identified SDG targets that are particularly important for improving the climate resilience of mountain communities. These efforts were conducted with local partner organizations in Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Switzerland, Uganda, and the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region. The SDG target subsets identified were applied to case studies using data accessible within the SDG framework and Geographic Information Systems. The results of this project were made commonly accessible with the publication of the Issue Brief 'Leaving No One in Mountains Behind: Localizing the SDGs for Resilience of Mountain People and Ecosystems' in October 2018.


October 2018 | The MRI and CDE presented 'Leaving No One in Mountains Behind: Localizing the SDGs for Resilience of Mountain People and Ecosystems' alongside their partners at an event held during the World Mountain Forum 2018 in Bishkek, Kyrgystan. During the event, methodological approaches, opportunities, and challenges in using the SDG framework to assess SMD at subnational scales, including case studies, were presented by the MRI coordination office team and their partners. 

Spring/Summer 2018 | The MRI and CDE held a number of workshops with local experts in selected countries (Tropical Andes, East Africa, Hindu Kush Himalaya, Central Asia, Switzerland) in order to review the initial indicator subset identified through the survey.


All sub-projects for assessing SMD using the SDG framework are carried out in the context of the Swiss Development Cooperation's 'Promoting Sustainable Mountain Development for Global Change' (SMD4GC) program. The MRI is a subcontracted partner of the University of Bern’s Centre for Development and Environment, one of the main SMD4GC partners.

In the SMD4GC program, mountain regions are recognized as key contexts for sustainable development due to their provision of critical and indispensable goods and services. However, existing challenges for mountain socio-ecological systems (i.e., incidence of poverty or impacts of climate change) are projected to be exacerbated with the ever-accelerating pace of global change. The SMD4GC program therefore aims to contribute to SMD in the context of uncertain changes in climatic, environmental, and socio-economic conditions, focusing on poverty and risk reduction.

In light of this, monitoring and assessing the status of SMD indicators is of particular importance. Assessments can help contextualize and highlight the specific needs of and challenges for mountain communities and ecosystems in addressing SMD. Moreover, they can help inform policy and decision-making at the global, national, and subnational level in terms of steering SMD efforts for the benefit of people living in the highlands and adjacent lowlands.

To observe the progress achieved in mountain regions, one activity line tasked to the MRI was to develop an approach to assess SMD. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were deemed appropriate to provide both a meaningful international political framework and standardized indicators that could be tailored to the assessment of SMD.

In 2017, the MRI conducted a survey with members of the mountain research community interested or working in sustainable development matters in order to identify an initial subset of SDG indicators considered relevant for monitoring and reporting on SMD. Following this, with selected SMD4GC partners, the MRI performed a pilot desktop study to identify experiences and data accessibility for countries in the SMD4GC regions to report on data availability and accessibility for this subset of indicators. Key conclusions of the pilot include:
  • Disaggregating the SDG framework to sub-national units of space and applying target and indicator subsets are two emerging considerations relevant for reporting on SMD.
  • Capacities to spatially disaggregate existing SDG indicator data are relatively low and underdeveloped within the pilot countries.
Based on the findings of the pilot studies, the MRI and CDE conducted comprehensive surveys to identify SDG targets considered of highest priority to address critical development issues by scientists, development experts, and government representatives. Based on the outcome of the surveys, available data was gathered and an appropriate methodology was developed to assess indicator statuses on sub-national units of space using Geographic Information Systems. Particular emphasis was given to interactions between the individual SDG targets and their implications for strengthening the resilience of mountain socio-ecological systems. All working steps were carried out in cooperation with local partner organizations. The results of this project were made available as an Issue Brief – 'Leaving No One in Mountains Behind: Localizing the SDGs for Resilience of Mountain People and Ecosystems' – in October 2018.


Sessions and Roundtables at Perth III - Mountains of our Future Earth conference in Perth, Scotland.
  • Multiple roundtables on assessment of SMD 
Side event at the World Mountain Forum in Mbale, Uganda.
  • Assessing Sustainable Mountain Development (a review of assessment efforts to date; discussion about how to move forward)
Session at the Mountain Futures conference in Kunming, China. 
  • Assessment of Sustainable Mountain Development (existing and proposed assessments; how to ensure salience, credibility and legitimacy)
Issue Brief Launch at World Mountain Forum 2018 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.