The Rio Summit of 1992 has devoted a chapter of the AGENDA 21 to the mountains and the year 2002 has been declared by the UN as the International Year of Mountains. Both facts provide an appropriate framework and provide the opportune moment for these reflections on the Argentine Republic and the relationship with its mountainous areas.
A HISTORICAL AND GEOPOLITICAL VISION
The Argentine Republic has developed, unfortunately, with its back to its most important mountains. The marginalization of this important portion of the territory coincides with a unitary and centralist conception of development, contrary to the interests of the country and society, whether it is settled or linked to the mountain regions as the rest as a whole.
There were few governments that were interested in the backbone of our country. In fact, the national route N ° 40, which links La Quiaca (north end) with Lake Argentino (southern end) of more than 3,000 km of extension, is mostly unpaved, is difficult traffic in most of its route, and therefore around its trace, the induced development is scarce.
We must trace centuries ago, in the creation of the Virreinato del Río de la Plata, the geopolitical background of this model. The change of establishment of the political authority of that time was the result of a modification in the geo-economic design for the region, replacing the metalliferous scheme mainly linked to Peru and the Pacific, by the agricultural sector linked to the Atlantic.
This model was deepened after the Independence under the British commercial hegemony, with the railway line (later reinforced by the road), concentrating in the port of Buenos Aires and in its dominant society the economic epicenter of the country.
This model also included, what has been demanding centuries to be recovered, the cancellation of the possibility of a subcontinental integration. (Either the ABC of the early twentieth century or the MERCOSUR of our times)
Perhaps because of its recurrent crisis state that hides the forest behind a tree conjugated with this pattern of development, with its back to the Andes mountain range, facing the ocean facing the Atlantic and through it to Europe, the conception of space Argentine -at least attentive to his concrete results- forgot his mountains.
This condition, besides marginalizing an important portion of territory and population, relegated the Andean condition of Argentina, or at least of the NOA region of our country. This implies the loss of important cultural segments, as well as development possibilities with a certain autonomy with respect to the prevailing global model.
The fleeting insertion of Argentina in the Andean Pact, marked a possibility, unfortunately abandoned during the Military Process of ’76, preventing the location of the Argentine Republic in its well-deserved place, Andean-Atlantic articulator. It is that role, the one of natural link between the subcontinental region of the pacific and that of the Atlantic, which our country must recover.
The Argentine Republic was not actively participating in the AIM despite having signed the Rio Protocol of 1992 and its important geopolitical and social interests in the mountains. Just a few months ago, happily, the National Government has appointed a Foreign Ministry official as liaison for the 2002 AIM, and the National Provisional Committee for the Year of the Mountains has been created and the Argentine Provinces are invited to join the AIM Committee . This opened the possibility for the realization of various events in this year 2002 in very diverse areas, both institutional and geographical.
THE AIM (1) 2002, OR THE APPEARANCE OF THE OPPORTUNITY MOMENT
The United Nations has proclaimed 2002 as the International Year of Mountains (AIM) with the purpose of raising awareness about the planetary importance of mountain systems. FAO has been assigned the role of lead agency for AIM, in collaboration with governments, NGOs and other United Nations agencies.
The International Year of Mountains represents an important step in the long-term process initiated at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The main outcome of that Conference was a global program of action on environment and development: the Program 21
The inclusion of Chapter 13, entitled: “Sustainable Development of Mountains” in the Program, gave the mountains an importance similar to that of other fundamental issues in the global debate on the environment and development, which are: climate change, biodiversity, deforestation and desertification.
In the years following the Rio Summit, a series of dynamic processes and activities related to mountain issues have been launched. Regional intergovernmental consultations on sustainable mountain development have been held in all regions of the world.
The International Year of Mountains provides a unique opportunity to strengthen the implementation of Chapter 13 and promote mountain issues, so that they are among the global priorities.
As proposed by the World Committee: “More than a period of isolated events, the International Year of Mountains should serve as a catalyst for a concrete, continuous and long-term action that far exceeds the year 2002.”
The central notion to understand is that the mountainous regions occupy a very significant place in the human habitat. In fact about one billion people live in them.
Probably a lot of the future of the planet and the sustainability of the living conditions in it have a relationship with the mountains and with the achievement of a sustainable development in them.
Also important aspects ranging from tourism, through food and culture are part of this problem.
Our country – although somewhat late – has become aware of the opportunity and has created an Organizing Committee in the field of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is coordinating several scientific, technical and dissemination activities related to this topic. Although the Argentine calendar is smaller than that of other countries that also have an important presence of mountain regions like ours, the existence of it is a good indicator.
In this sense, the Province of Salta is making important efforts to contribute to the preparation of a Mountain Agenda based on the accomplishment of several events, among them the “Encounter in the Mountains” that takes place in September of this year.
The consideration given to the mountains in a possible National Strategic Plan for the next period of government in the coming years, will be determinant of the continuation of these efforts, today isolated although willful, and of possibility of recovering the mountains, protect its biodiversity, and promote its sustainable development, guaranteeing the safeguarding of the culture of its inhabitants, offering the Nation a new space for integration.
THE ARGENTINE AGENDA OF THE MOUNTAINS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Our country should try – despite the current crisis – to build an Agenda for the Mountains this year, taking advantage of the energy offered by the AIM, and before the imminent presidential renewal that provides the space for the formulation of a new agenda that contains the most important aspects of the necessary – if not inevitable – national recovery plan that the future government will have to face.
In this sense I intend to at least outline the most important issues that – without prejudice to others – should not ignore this agenda.
We can distinguish, initially, two types of considerations.
Some of geopolitical nature and others of own level of the mountainous regions and its relation with the plain.
Creation of an Andean Corridor, as an axis for the articulation of projects and undertakings in the mountain areas.
Recovery of the Andean Area for the provinces of the NOA Region.
Reinsertion of Argentina and the NOA region, or even better of the Norte Grande, as articulator – linker between MERCOSUR and the Andean countries.
To reinforce the Andean territory as a meeting point with Chile, and from that to improve the possibilities of Chile’s inclusion in MERCOSUR and the opening of the Asia-Pacific space for the Norte Grande in particular and Argentina in general
SPECIFIC ISSUES OF THE ANDEAN CORRIDOR
We will have to face some topics specific to the Andean corridor in this and the next years. The very dynamics of the discussion and the concretion effort will be incorporated into a pretended ARGENTINE AGENDA OF THE MOUNTAINS, which we must build from now on. We will make at this level some considerations on the following topics:
Aspects such as the need for public policies, aspects of production and biodiversity, infrastructure, cultural and other related to tourism should be analyzed, discussed and formulated for implementation.
The establishment of policies and institutions at the national level that
meet the specific needs of mountain regions
contributes decisively to the main objective of the International Year of Mountains 2002: the implementation of sustainable mountain development.
Argentina should make a careful analysis of the options that other countries such as France, Georgia, Japan, Nepal, among others have taken to evaluate and thus decide, attentive to the low level of maturation of the mountain problem in our country, the convenience or not to create institutions, but without any doubt he will have to formulate policies – specific or sectoral – that include the problem of mountains.
Then there are these two very different categories. On the one hand, those specially created in order to meet the particular needs of mountain regions, and on the other, those related to one or other sector of economic development and / or protection of the environment related to mountains and that serve as political and institutional framework more or less adequate in this regard.
In terms of Production Aspects and Biodiversity, production schemes based on the unrestricted improvement of productivity are showing their failure, especially due to the dependence on inputs – now aggravated by the value of our currency – and also due to the damage to biodiversity and the conservation of native genetic material.
Our country, which still has a low level of agricultural development in mountain areas, especially in high mountain areas, is in time to review and rethink with the eyes of the 21st century, the development models that will be implemented in these regions.
In this sense, the experience of neighboring countries such as Bolivia and Peru will be very useful. Its deep Andean character, the permanence of its traditions and culture as well as the high level of studies in this field will allow Argentina to avoid a burdensome road in this regard. CONDESAN (2) develops in this sense an invaluable task in the region.
The Consortium for the Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion (CONDESAN) is a diverse and dynamic group of partners from the public and private sectors, which under a common approach and a synergy of efforts, capacities and resources, carry out and facilitate concerted research actions , training, development and policy initiatives that contribute to sustainable socioeconomic progress, in order to contribute to the equity and welfare of the population in the Andean ecoregion ”
“In those countries (the Andean countries), the traditional agriculture of the Andes, the agro ecosystem is conceived in an integral (holistic) way, as a result of processes of interaction of components such as technology, linked to the economy, ecology, organization social and culture, factors considered, not as isolated phenomena, but rather, as interactions in a diversified production system that uses local productive resources to a greater degree.
“Talk about economy and ecology in the Andes means taking into account that the technical, productive, social, cultural and symbolic are valued interrelated by communities and families “(Rist,1992).
We are then invited by Argentines, then but not late to build a modern vision, based on more comprehensive parameters of reality as a whole, which elucidates the opposite: “maximum profitability of the technology hand with high manipulation and elimination of modes and procedures traditional “vs. “Appropriate technology, based on the knowledge that for millennia allowed to sustain these regions and that combines the analysis of energy flows through the production process as well as time-space variables that globalized technology despises, more for ignorance and economic efficiency than for overcoming scientific.
Finally, in the Aspects of Infrastructure, finding a sustainable approach for the infrastructure aspects of the mountain, both in the pre-Andean areas and the high mountains should be part of this agenda.
As in the agro-livestock aspects it is possible to formulate new models based on the experience of other countries, in this case issues such as accessibility, energy and communications should be analyzed not only in the light of Andean experiences, but also in Europe. and especially those of Central Asia.
Argentina, and more specifically the Province of Jujuy – for the case of energy – has made some successful incursions. The creation of an outsourcing, exclusively for the dispersed and non-interconnected localities, has meant one of the few privatizations that have considered particular situations in areas of low density such as the Puna Argentina.
In the case of accessibility, the dilemma between accessibility and conservation must be solved – through appropriate technologies and proportions. On the other hand, the aspect of accessibility, although it implies the possibility of the arrival of petroleum fuels.
In replacement of firewood, the high costs of these fuels and the associated pollution should be put in the balance. Probably energies such as solar, biomass and wind, accompanied by the development of biodiesel may help to moderate the need for access to obtain fuel.
The aspects of tourism that we will outline below are also combined in the formulation of an adequate infrastructural policy in the face of tourism activity.
In transport, the intern must be clearly differentiated, which, inevitably and as a product of subcontinental integration and the opening to the Pacific, crosses the Andean cordon with technologies and volumes difficult to revise, that of access to mountain areas.
In this case, non-traditional alternatives can be delineated, ranging from the sophisticated cable lane, hanging bridges to animal transport, so traditionally integrated into the local culture.
In any case it will be necessary to review the whole flow of benefits and contributions between the communities of the plain – which have dominated the last centuries the relationship – with the mountain communities so that looking for a balance both find a sustainable satisfaction regarding their needs current and future.
Although it may be insufficient, the mere staging of these debates and analyzes will be in itself a substantial contribution to the agenda and through it to the development of the country and the possibilities of future generations.
Finally, in the cultural aspects, our country, due to its extensive and cultural development so diverse, must necessarily seek a synthesis different from that of the almost exclusively Andean countries, from which emanates a strong cultural current, with great content telluric and high value with other currents of thought of our country from other regions and in many cases influenced when kneaded for centuries through integration to other cultures, many of them extracontinental.
(1) AIM 2002: International Year of the Mountains or IYM (international Year of Mountains)
(2) CONDESAN (Consortium for the Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion – Regional Forum of the Mountain Forum in Latin America-). Whoever wishes to develop these aspects will find in them an invaluable support as well as an enormous source of elaborated information. (www.condesan.org)
USED PUBLICATIONS AND SOME QUOTES COME FROM:
SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION AND CONSERVATION OF AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY IN TRADITIONAL SYSTEMS: Analysis of the Ecological Productive Rationality of High Mountain by Tito Villarroel Coca
MOUNTAIN INFRASTRUCTURE: ACCESS, COMMUNICATIONS AND ENERGY, by Thomas Kohler, Hans Humi, Urs Wiesmann and Andreas Klay
NATIONAL POLICIES AND INSTITUTIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOUNTAINS “by Douglas McGuire
(*) Architect Raul Kalinsky is the Coordinator of the Academic Committee of the ENCUENTRO EN LAS MONTAÑAS – SALTA – ARGENTINA 19 to 21 SET 2002 and Representative of the Province of Salta before the Argentine Committee for the International Year of Mountains