8 December 2006

Kiev to host Ministerial Conference on Carpathian Convention, 11-13 December

EU joins effort to promote "Carpathian Space"

VIENNA, 8 December (UN Information Service) -- The seven member governments of the Carpathian Convention will meet in Kiev, Ukraine, 11-13 December, for a three-day conference on protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the mountainous areas of Central and Eastern Europe.

Ministers of Environment will attend a high-level session on the final day to adopt an action programme setting out their priorities for achieving greater environmental, social and economic well-being for the Carpathian region.

"Rich in wildlife and culture, the Carpathians are a world treasure. Working through the Convention, the region's governments and stakeholders can build a future where the natural environment can thrive side by side with a modern and dynamic economy," said Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which provides the Convention's interim secretariat.

The Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians, which entered into force on 4 January of this year, seeks to strengthen regional cooperation, sustainable development and environmental protection in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

The Convention joins together four EU member states, one acceding country and two EU neighbours, thus providing a unique framework for European cooperation.

To advance this cooperation on environment and sustainable development, the European Commission and its partners are investing 4.5 million euros to promote the concept of a "Carpathian Space". The aim is to provide a common strategic vision for the countries and peoples of this historically marginalized European mountain region.

In their capacity as members of the Alpine Convention - which as the world's first regional mountain convention served as a model - Austria, Italy, Liechtenstein and Switzerland actively supported the Carpathian Convention's development.

     Known formally as the First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Carpathian Convention (COP1), the Kiev conference will consider new initiatives on sustainable energy, tourism, transport, agriculture, rural development, forestry, conservation, landscape diversity, river-basin management, cultural heritage and traditional knowledge. It will also adopt a work programme and the rules and procedures needed for managing the Convention effectively.

Over 50 non-governmental observer organizations are expected to participate in the Conference; they will organize the "Carpathian celebrations" as a cultural event on the final day. Because the Convention emphasizes public participation, these organizations and other local stakeholders were widely consulted in the run-up to the conference.

Spread over some 200,000 square kilometers (an area 10 per cent larger than the Alps), the mountainous Carpathian region contains vast tracts of forest. It is home to wolves, lynx, bison, chamois, imperial eagles and other rare and threatened species, as well as 481 plant species unique to this region.

Many small, rural communities of various ethnicities and nationalities have also adapted successfully to the mountain environment over the centuries. Altogether, some 16 or 18 million persons call these mountains home.

Key threats to the Carpathians include growing unemployment and poverty, which have worsened since the transition from Communism began some 15 years ago. The result has been an increase in abandoned land, as well as unsustainable development patterns, over-exploitation of natural resources, pollution, deforestation, excessive hunting and habitat fragmentation.

Note to journalists: The conference is being held at the Club of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (ground floor) 9, Instytutska str. 01008 Kiev, Ukraine.

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For further information, contact:

Michael Williams
Conference Press Officer
Mobile: +41-79-409-1528
Email: michael.williams@unep.ch


Nick Nuttall
UNEP Spokesperson
Tel: +254-2-62-3084
Mobile: +254-733-632755
Email: nick.nuttall@unep.org


Elisabeth Waechter
Tel: +254-207-62-3088

Web site: www.carpathianconvention.org