The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2022 the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development. Despite the progress in promoting the sustainable development of mountain regions and the conservation of mountain ecosystems, the prevalence of poverty, food insecurity, social exclusion, environmental degradation and exposure to the risk of disasters is still growing. Therefore this proclamation aims to increase awareness of the importance of sustainable mountain development and the conservation and sustainable use of mountain ecosystems.
Cooperation between mountain regions
Mountain regions often extend across national borders, thus making cooperation between neighbouring countries especially important for their sustainable development. Currently, there are 2 sub-regional treaty-based regimes for the protection and sustainable development of a mountain region worldwide – the Alpine and the Carpathian conventions.
In the nineties, the Alpine Convention was the first international treaty considering a transnational mountain area in its geographical entirety and it has inspired the creation of a similar instrument for the Carpathians. Thus in 2002, the previous international mountains year representatives of the Alpine Convention decided to share their experience with other mountain regions, in particular with the Carpathians. It was the start of cooperation between Europe’s two most important mountain regions. Now both conventions cover almost the whole area of the mountain ranges.
The Alpine Convention
The Alpine Convention is an international treaty for the protection and sustainable development of the Alps. It was signed by the eight Alpine countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Monaco and the European Union and came into force in 1995. The convention is a legal instrument that aims at safeguarding the sensitive Alpine ecosystems, the regional cultural identities, heritage and traditions in the Alps for the upcoming generations.
Specific measures to realise the objectives of the Alpine Convention are laid down in the associated Protocols and address ten thematic areas:
- Spatial planning and sustainable development
- Mountain farming
- Nature protection and landscape conservation
- Mountain forests
- Soil conservation
- Solution of litigations
- Adherence of the Principality of Monaco to the Alpine Convention.
The Carpathian Convention is a subregional treaty to promote the sustainable development and the protection of the Carpathian region. It entered into force in January 2006 and it was signed by seven Carpathian States: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Ukraine. The Convention aims to achieve the goal of sustainable mountain development and protection through comprehensive policy and cooperation. It is also directed at the improvement of the quality of life, the strengthening of local economies and communities, and the conservation of natural values and cultural heritage.
In order to achieve this goal the Convention states specific obligations, that are contained in following thematic protocols:
- Sustainable Forest Management
- Sustainable Tourism
- Sustainable Transport
- Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development
Large carnivore management
The Alps and the Carpathians are two of the most extensive mountain ranges in Europe, that are known for their biodiversity. The Resolution adopted by the General Assembly stresses the fact that mountain countries constitute unique types of ecosystems, providing habitat for unique species of flora and fauna. Thus Europe is home to four species of large carnivore – the brown bear, the wolf, the wolverine and the Eurasian lynx. Conservation of these species represents a lot of challenges in current crowded and modified landscapes. Sharing tight living space with large carnivores requires a strategy based on man and nature coexisting rather than being separated.
Platform Large Carnivores, Wild Ungulates and Society of the Alpine Convention
The Alpine Mountain system is home to more than 30,000 animal and 13,000 plant species. Large carnivores (wolf, bear and lynx) and wild ungulates (ibex, chamois, red deer, etc.) are an important part of the Alpine ecosystem, that can conflict with human activities such as stock raising, forestry and hunting. Sustainable mountain development requires balancing and harmonizing the various interests. Platform Large Carnivores, Wild Ungulates and Society (WISO) of the Alpine Convention was set up in 2009 with the aim to find solutions on managing these relationships. Its main goal is providing that large carnivores and wild ungulates are preserved in balance with their habitat, other wildlife and human interests. Conflicts with humans should be addressed and negative impacts counterbalanced. In order to do that the following subgoals are also stated:
- Promotion of dialogue between wildlife, habitat and society;
- Development and conservation of native wildlife populations in harmony with their habitat and human interests;
- Conservation and improvement of wildlife habitats;
- Integrative sustainable use of wildlife;
- Transboundary cooperation.
Large Carnivores and Connectivity Action Plan of the Carpathian Convention
The Carpathian Mountains represent one of Europe’s last great wilderness areas, known for its biodiversity, old-growth forest and the biggest large carnivore population in Europe. In order to preserve this biodiversity, the parties to the Carpathian Convention adopted the International Action Plan on the Conservation of Large Carnivores and Ensuring Ecological Connectivity. The aim of this plan is to maintain the long-term viability of large carnivores in the Carpathians while ensuring their conservation status in the individual countries via transparent national processes, crossborder cooperation and a transdisciplinary approach. The following strategic objectives are as follows:
- Standardization of monitoring procedures of large carnivores in the Carpathians;
- Prevention of habitat fragmentation and maintenance of ecological connectivity in the Carpathians;
- Improvement of coexistence of humans with large carnivores;
- Improvement of law enforcement with respect to the illegal killing of large carnivores;
- Improvement of communication and cooperation between all relevant stakeholders;
- Strengthening of institutional capacity-building;
- Decreasing of impacts of climate change on large carnivores and their habitats.