Jörg Balsiger is Associate Professor at the Department of Geography and Environment and the Institute of Environmental Sciences of the University of Geneva, where he is also the Director of the Institute for Environmental Governance and Territorial Development. He previously held a Swiss National Science Professorship as well as senior researcher and lecturer positions at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, and the European University Institute in Florence. Between obtaining a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California at Berkeley and a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C., he worked during several years in international development, providing expertise in forest policy and administration, donor coordination, and capacity building to nongovernmental organizations, international organizations, national ministries and the private sector in the Central and Southern Africa, East and Southeast Asia. Jörg Balsiger’s research is located at the intersection of international relations, political geography, and organizational sociology, with a special focus on regional environmental and sustainable development politics and policy in transboundary mountain regions. He currently coordinates several research projects in these domains, from the local to the global level. He has been involved in institutional capacity building in regional sustainable mountain development, particularly in the Caucasus, and plays an active role in national and international mountain initiatives. He currently serves as Co-chair of the Mountain Research Initiative.
International mountain science and the 2030 Agenda
For more than 15 years, the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) has promoted global change research in mountain regions across borders and disciplines through connection, communication, and collaboration – with a view to supporting pathways towards sustainable mountain development. MRI provides information and services to more than 10,000 people involved in mountain research, management, governmental and non-governmental institutions, and the private sector: it seeks to position mountain matters at the interface between science, policy, and practice. Since 2015, the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have become a global blueprint to address global challenges and achieve a “better and more sustainable future for all” – but what does this mean for mountain science?
Using illustrations from MRI activities and recent scientific developments, I suggest three key implications. First, the 2030 Agenda’s integrated and indivisible character directly relates to the need to reinforce scientific efforts to transcend established boundaries, not only between disciplines but also between highlands and lowlands, between territory and function, and between the meanings of science of, in, and for mountains. Second, the 2030 Agenda’s call to localize the SDGs, including through regional and subregional frameworks, highlights the important question of scale and thus the scalar positioning of mountain science and scientific organizing. Third, the 2030 Agenda’s transformative ambition should serve to reflect on the role of science in society and societal transformation. I close with some observations relating to the Carpathians.