The Caucasus Mountain Forum (CMF) is one of SNC-mt's flagship initiatives. The concrete and timely regional context of the Caucasus provides a major motivation for organizing biennial regional forums for different stakeholders working on the Caucasus mountain region. The CMFs serve as an important opportunity for scientists and academics, governmental experts, and practitioners to meet, exchange views on opportunities and challenges, and thereby seek to enhance (sub)-regional dialogue and contribute to the better coordination of sustainable development in the Caucasus region.
The First Caucasus Mountain Forum was held in 2016 in Tbilisi, Georgia, gathering over 150 participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russian Federation, Iran, Turkey, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, Kenya, etc. The Forum was organized within the framework of the SCOPES project «Supporting Sustainable Mountain Development in the Caucasus», with funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the United Nations Environment Programme.
The First CMF was hosted by Tbilisi State University and Ilia State University. It became a successful precedent for and a high platform of the regional dialog and cooperation where different stakeholders were able to share ideas, study results, success stories and seek opportunities for further collaboration.
The Second Caucasus Mountain Forum (CMF) was held in Ankara, Turkey on 30 October - 1 November 2019 gathering about 200 participants from the Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran the Russian Federation, and Turkey, as well as Austria, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, Switzerland, Norway, UK, Slovakia, Slovenia and Estonia. The Forum was organized within the framework of the project “Strengthening the Climate Adaptation Capacities in the South Caucasus” (SCAC), with funding and with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the United Nations Environment Programme and hosted by Ankara University.
On the first day Erkan İbiş, the Rector of Ankara University as well as Werner Thut, the Deputy Regional Director South Caucasus of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation welcomed participants at the opening (see the Programme of the second Caucasus Mountain Forum). Among high-level guests were the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Georgia to Turkey Mr. Giorgi Janjgava.
The introductory presentation at the opening session for the main forum discussions were made by Prof. Dr. Martin Price, UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Mountain Development; Director of the Centre for Mountain Studies, Perth College: University of the Highlands and Islands and Prof. Dr. Joseph Salukvadze, Human Geography Department, Tbilisi State University. He later made a presentation of the Caucasus Regional Research Agenda and invited participants to consider the document, rank priority research topics and provide answers to questions related for further promotion of the document and its potential role in science-policy interface strengthening.
The second Caucasus Mountain Forum covered three plenary thematic sessions: climate change on the first day, management of mountain ecosystem services and sustainable tourism on the second day and number of parallel workshops and thematic sessions as follows:
- At the first day, climate change plenary was led by Prof. Dr. Nuzhet Dalfes, Earth System Science at the Eurasia Institute of Earth Sciences of Istanbul Technical University together with Dr. Olga Solomina, Director of the Institute of Geography of Russian Academy of Science and Matthias Jurek, Programme Management Officer at UN Environment Programme;
- The second day of the second CMF included the plenary sessions about the management of mountain ecosystem services discussed by Martin Price, UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Mountain Development Director, Centre for Mountain Studies of Perth College: University of the Highlands and Islands, Ihor Soloiy, Department for Ecological Economics of Ukrainian National Forestry University and Benedikt Ibele, Team Leader of Environmental Programme South Caucasus (ECOserve) of GIZ and sustainable tourism discussed by Christian Baumgartner (University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons, Vice-President, International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA)) and Natalia Bakhtadze-Engländer (Ilia State University, Advisor of Georgia’s Ecotourism Association);
- Multiple thematic sessions on landscape transformation, tourism footprint, biodiversity, natural disasters, sustainable energy and climate change impacts on biodiversity, sociopolitical dimensions of regional development, ecosystem conservation and ecosystem-based solutions, socio-economic aspects of mountain development, demographic process, education for sustainable development and climate change impacts. The forum also presented workshops, where the participants discussed the role of universities in sustainability transformations in the Caucasus region and the Caucasus spatial data infrastructure as well and natural disasters.
The last day featured a poster session, during which the evaluation committee listened to the presenters and selected three posters for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. The poster winners were awarded certificates and small prizes at the closure session of the Caucasus Mountain Forum the same day.
Moreover, during the closure session feedback on the Caucasus Regional Research Agenda was presented by Prof. Dr. Joseph Salukvadze, Human Geography Department of Tbilisi State University, Prof. Dr. Jörg Balsiger, Director of the Environmental Governance and Territorial Development Hub/Institute (GEDT) of University of Geneva, Chair of Mountain Research Initiative and Nina Shatberashvili, Caucasus Network for Sustainable Development of Mountain Regions (Sustainable Caucasus). Prof. Dr. Mehmet Somuncu, Director of Centre for Environmental Studies, Head of the Department of Geography of Ankara University closed the conference.
The CMF served as an important opportunity for scientists, governmental experts, and practitioners to meet and exchange views on opportunities and challenges, and thereby seek to enhance (sub)-regional dialogue and contribute to the better coordination of sustainable development of the Caucasus region. The Forum's overall goal and long-term objective were to support regional cooperation and joint research among the Caucasus scientists and thereby promote evidence-based decision-making for sustainable development.
As one of SNC-mt's flagship activities, the second CMF benefited from high visibility, including the Report of Secretary-General of UN on Sustainable Mountain Development at the Seventy-fourth session of UN General Assembly.