The Carpathians are a mountain region shared by Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, and Ukraine. The Carpathian Mountain region constitutes one of the largest mountain ranges in Europe, shared between seven countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, and Ukraine.
It is of great ecological and natural importance, due to the exceptional levels of biodiversity, vast areas covered with virgin and semi-natural forests providing habitats for a variety of wildlife including large carnivores. At the same time, the Carpathians are characterized by social diversity with local communities maintaining rich cultural heritage and traditional approaches to land management, integrated with the local nature.
However, the region faces socio-economic development challenges, as well as increasing adverse consequences of climate change, resulting in intensifying pressures on the natural environment and on the preservation of biological and cultural diversity. To address these challenges, countries sharing the Carpathian region decided to join forces under an umbrella of international treaty – Carpathian Convention – with a vision to cooperate on environmental protection, improving the quality of life and strengthening the local economies and communities with consideration of well-being of current and future generations.
Together with the Alps, the Carpathians are the only mountain region that has an intergovernmental treaty focused specifically on the mountain region.
The Carpathian Convention was signed in 2004, a process strongly supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which continues to host the Convention’s Secretariat at its Vienna office. The Convention follows the same pattern as the Alpine Convention, with a framework convention accompanied by thematic protocols (to date, protocols for biodiversity, forestry, tourism, and transport have been signed).
Many activities in support of the objectives of the Carpathian convention are funded under an INTERREG programme as well as numerous European research projects. A regional network of scientists called Science for the Carpathians (S4C), established with the support of the Mountain Research Initiative, maintains a close relationship with the Convention Secretariat.
Key governance dimensions
The Carpathian Convention’s scope of application is defined by Article 1.1 of the Framework Convention, which states that the “Convention applies to the Carpathian region [, …] giving the Parties the possibility (Article 1.2) to “extend the application of [the] Convention and its Protocols to additional parts of its national territory by making a declaration to the Depository, provided that this is necessary to implement the provisions of the Convention.”
In pursuit of the COP4 Decisions, an interactive map was created presenting information received from each Party on the administrative units within which each Party currently implement the Carpathian Convention and its Protocols.
The Alpine and Carpathian Conventions are the two only existing intergovernmental treaties specifically addressing mountains. The Carpathian Convention was adopted and signed by the seven Parties in May 2003 in Kyiv, Ukraine, and entered into force in January 2006. The provisions of the Convention address substantive obligations by the Parties that are grouped in thematic articles reflecting socio-ecological challenges which the Carpathian countries agreed to jointly address through this intergovernmental agreement. The Convention provides a framework for cooperation and multi-sectoral policy coordination, a platform for joint strategies for sustainable development, and a forum for dialogue between all stakeholders involved – from the local community and various NGO’s up to the regional and national Governments, Institutions of the European Union and the United Nations. The Convention follows a framework-protocol model, a well-known approach in international environmental cooperation also seen in the case of biodiversity and climate change.
The Parties to the Convention established an Implementation Committee. The governance structure of the Convention includes its main decision-making body – the Conference of the Parties (COP) – which gathers every three years giving a political direction for the implementation, and the Implementation Committee (CCIC) that meets once a year to provide guidance for the Convention activities as well as to monitor the compliance with the provisions of the Convention and Protocols. As in the case of other international treaties, compliance and enforcement mechanisms rely on cooperation rather than sanction; however, the Convention has also been used by a range of non-state actors to remind central governments of their commitments.
Science for the Carpathians (S4C) was created in 2008 to provide the scientific knowledge foundation for decision-making within the Convention. This open network of researchers aims at strengthening regional research collaboration, developing a research strategy and defining research priorities for the Carpathian region. Since identifying the main research priorities in its Research Agenda for 2010-2015, the S4C focused on integrating social and ecological challenges in several key areas. The S4C network has remained open to emerging topics, guided by the International Sustainable Development Agenda, as well as stronger integration of inter- and transdisciplinary approaches. Currently, S4C is finalizing an updated Research Agenda 2020-2030, in order to better respond to the regional and global challenges and support policy makers and practitioners to do so.
The S4C closely cooperates with the Carpathian Convention bodies, based on the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2012, with overall aim to strengthen the links between research, policy and practice in the Carpathians. This cooperation is exercised e.g. with organization of the Forum Carpaticum – an international scientific conference of the S4C – helping to identify knowledge gaps and co-create knowledge for addressing regional challenges, and new thematic priorities of the Convention.
Civil society participation
In the Carpathian Convention, civil society organisations (CSOs), with activities related to the Convention, can participate as observers in meetings and deliberations of the Convention and its subsidiary bodies, such as the Thematic Working Groups. In addition, the Carpathian Convention has entered a series of “official partnerships” with various CSOs by means of memorandums of understanding.
The WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme is established.
Creation of the Carpathian Ecoregion Initiative, a platform of NGOs and scientific institutions, at the initiative of the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF).
Publication of “Status of the Carpathians” (WWF & Carpathian Ecoregion Initiative).
The “Summit on Environment and Sustainable Development in the Carpathian and Danube Region” is organized in Bucharest, Romania.
Ukraine proposes the idea of a Carpathian Convention based on the Alpine model and requests assistance from UNEP.
The Ministers of the Environment of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovak Republic and Ukraine sign the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians.
The Protocol on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological and Landscape Diversity opens for signature.
Publication of the Carpathian List of Endangered Species.
The Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention (SCC) opens in the Vienna office of UNEP.
UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe launches the Carpathian Environment Outlook in Budapest.
The Carpathian Wetland Initiative (CWI) is created in Brezovica, Slovakia, to implement the Ramsar Convention in the seven countries of the Carpathian mountain region.
The Carpathian Network of Protected Areas (CNPA) is created as a means of implementing the Carpathian Convention.
At the First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Carpathian Convention, held from 11–13 December in Kyiv, Ukraine, a Memorandum of Cooperation is signed between the Ramsar and Carpathian Convention.
The Second Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Carpathian Convention (COP 2) is held in Bucharest, Romania, from 17–19 June.
Science for the Carpathians (S4C) organizes its first workshop in Krakow, Poland.
Publication of VASICA (Vision and Strategies in the Carpathian Area), an output of the Central, Adriatic, Danubian and South-Eastern European Space (CADSES) Cooperation Programme.
The Carpathian Convention’s Implementation Committee organizes its first formal meeting.
S4C organizes the 1st Forum Carpaticum dedicated to the “Integration of nature and society towards sustainability” in Kraków, Poland, at the Jagiellonian University.
The Third Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Carpathian Convention (COP 3) is held in in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, from 25–27 May.
In the context of COP 3, the Protocols on Sustainable Forest Management, on Sustainable Tourism to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians open for signature.
Participants at the 2nd Forum Carpaticum, held in Stará Lesná, Slovakia, discuss the data-knowledge-action circle in the overarching and overlapping themes of Abiotic Environment, biodiversity and ecosystems, and Human Dimensions.
The Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Carpathian Convention (COP 4) is held in Mikulov, Czech Republic, from 23-26 September.
In the context of COP 4, the Protocol on Sustainable Transport to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians opens for signature.
The 3rd Forum Carpaticum is held in Lviv, Ukraine, under the theme “Local Responses to Global Challenges”.
S4C organizes the 4th Forum Carpaticum with the theme “Future of the Carpathians: Smart, Sustainable, Inclusive” in Bucharest, Romania.
The Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Carpathian Convention (COP 4) is held in Lillafured, Hungary, from 10–12 October.
In the context of COP 5, the Protocol on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians opens for signature.
The 5th Forum Carpaticum is organised in Eger, Hungary.
The Sixth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Carpathian Convention (COP 6) is held online on 25 November.
Originally planned to be organized in Brno, Czech Republic, the 6th Forum Carpaticum is held online.
- Carpathian Convention (-> link)
- Carpathian Network of Protected Areas (-> link)
- Carpathian Environment Outlook (-> link)
The Carpathians in Mountains Connect videos
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