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 Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention (SCC), opened on 15 July 2004. The SCC 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 2015-2017 which has been adopted at the fourth Conference of the Parties, held in Mikulov, Czech Republic on 23-26 September 2014.
To the present date the following Protocols have been adopted:
- Protocol on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological and Landscape Diversity to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians;
- Protocol on Sustainable Forest Management to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians;
- Protocol on Sustainable Tourism to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians;
- Protocol on Sustainable Transport to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians.