The Carpathian mountain range is rich in both wildlife and culture. It is Central and South Eastern Europe’s greatest reserve of untouched forest, serving as a refuge for brown bears, wolves, bison, lynx, eagles and some 200 unique plants found nowhere else in the world. It also provides some of the continent’s cleanest streams and supplies of drinking water.
The mountain range – the largest one in Europe besides the Alps - is shared by seven countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic and Ukraine) and constitutes a living environment for millions of people.
What are the main environmental concerns for the mountains?
Yet, the Carpathians are also subject to a variety of threats and adverse impacts from land abandonment, habitat conversion and fragmentation, deforestation, climate change, large scale migration on the one hand, and from industrialization, pollution and over-exploitation of natural resources on the other.
What have been the steps UNEP has taken to tackle the issues in the region?
In 2001, UNEP was requested by the Government of Ukraine to service a regional cooperation process aiming at the protection and sustainable development of this major transboundary mountain range. The first significant step took place with the formation of the Alpine-Carpathian Partnership, launched during the International Year of the Mountain (2002) and supported by the Presidency of the Alpine Convention, which was then held by Italy. At the Fifth Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" (Kyiv, May 2003), the seven Carpathian countries adopted and signed the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians.
The Carpathian Convention, which entered into force in August 2006, addresses the threats facing the region’s people and natural resources. It enshrines a common vision, integrates developmental and environmental goals, provides objectives for action and constitutes the strategic framework for transnational cooperation to address these transnational challenges. The Convention is, at present, the only multi-level governance mechanism covering the whole Carpathian area that allows for cross-sector integration and broad stakeholder participation.
Hosted by UNEP Vienna, the Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention (ISCC) opened on 15 July 2004. The ISCC acts as the main reference and service point for the Parties to the Carpathian Convention. It supports the work of the different thematic working groups, assists in negotiating and developing related protocols as well as relevant projects. It is responsible for the coordination of the Programme of Work of the Convention for the period 2009-2011, which was adopted at the Second Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Carpathian Convention (COP2), held in Bucharest, Romania, on 17-19 June 2008.
The Secretariat is now working on the finalisation of a draft Protocol on Sustainable Forest Management, a draft Protocol on Sustainable Tourism, as well as the entry into force of the Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan, and Reference to the ISCC and the Carpathian Convention in the EU Strategy for the Danube Region and Action Plan adopted by the EC in December 2010.