As global ‘water towers’, mountains are central to industries that depend on reliable freshwater provision, including hydropower and irrigated agriculture, both in the mountains themselves and to downstream communities far outside their frontiers. Mountain landscapes also contain biodiversity hotspots including endangered species found nowhere else other than within their walls. This biodiversity forms the basis of many of the ecosystem services that support, regulate and provide for human industry and economies, including the origin of many of the world’s major food crops and a significant proportion of global forestry resources. Despite increasing recognition of the importance of these vital mountain functions by the international community, corresponding investments required to sustain these services are still lacking. Mountain communities are stewards of significant environmental services and resources. However, up until now, reinvestment in upstream mountain resource bases from downstream beneficiaries of these services and goods has been markedly absent. This has led in many cases to a depletion of mountain resources over time, and many mountain communities caring for the resources and services have been marginalized as a result.