East Africa has some of the continent’s most prominent mountains, including Mount Kilimanjaro, the Rwenzori Mountains, Virunga Mountains, Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon, as well as highland regions such as the Ethiopian Highlands and the Eastern Arc Mountains.

Mountain range governance is distributed across different regional and subregional institutions non dedicated exclusively to mountain, including the East African Community EAC (Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa with 19 partner states, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development with eight member states.

The EAC has adopted a number of instruments relevant for its mountain regions, especially the 2006 Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources Management, the EAC Climate Change Policy 2010, and the Transboundary Ecosystem Management Act of 2010. Since 2014, the Africa Regional Mountains Forum has constituted a focal point for scientists and practitioners. The Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network) has been a key actor in mobilizing attention to and action on sustainable mountain development in East Africa.

Key governance dimensions

Policy integration

Many of the subjects addressed through sustainable mountain development in East Africa are fundamentally cross-sectoral. Two examples raised in the videos are tourism and agriculture. Accordingly, a number of governance institutions are striving to identify and capitalize on potential synergies, while seeking to anticipate and overcome tensions.

Policy integration is pursued through a number of initiatives of East African Community (EAC), including the East African Climate Change Policy, the East African Protocol on Environment Resources, and the East African Transboundary Act.

Civil society participation

Among civil society organizations in East African mountain range governance, the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network) has been the most active. ARCOS is a regional organization, registered as a charity in the UK and as an international NGO in Rwanda and Uganda. ARCOS has established partnerships with governments to support sustainable mountain development efforts and has been a key organizer of the Africa Regional Mountains Forum. As a network, ARCOS Network members are mostly specialized groups and alliances working in conservation and development; its members include local to international organizations as well as individuals.

Time line


Adoption of the African Mountains and Highlands Declaration in Gaborone, Botswana.


The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community enters into force, creating the East African Community (EAC) as a new regional organization.


The EAC Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources Management is signed by the Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in April. Uganda and Kenya ratify the Protocol 2010 and 2011, respectively.


The EAC Common Market Protocol enters into force, following ratification by all the five EAC Partner States.

Adoption of the East African Community Transboundary Ecosystem Management Act.


The Africa Mountain Partnership Meeting is held in Kigali, Rwanda, to continue building an African agenda and a strong Mountain Partnership constituency on the sustainable development of mountain ecosystems while also contributing to climate change and water discussions.


The first Africa Regional Mountains Forum (ARMF) is organized in Arusha, Tanzania, by ARCOS Network in collaboration with the Africa Mountain Partnership Champions Committee, EAC, United Nations Environment Programme, Austrian Development Cooperation and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.


The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment welcomes the ARMF-2014 resolutions during its February session in Cairo; the ARMF is recognized as a forum of knowledge, information exchange and policy dialogue.


ARCOS Network, in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Environment and other partners, organize the second Africa Regional Mountains Forum (ARMF-2018). The conference is held in Kigali, Rwanda, under the theme “African Mountains and Sustainable Development Agenda”.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo joins the East African Community as its 7th Partner State.

Additional Resources

  • East African Community (-> link)
  • EAC Climate Change Policy Framework (-> link)
  • EAC Protocol on Environment and Natural Resource Management (-> link)
  • Mountain Adaptation Outlook Series: Sustainable Mountain Development in East Africa in a Changing Climate (-> link)

East Africa in the Mountains Connect videos

  • #3 Policy integration (-> link)
  • #4 Civil society participation (-> link)

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