The Carpathian Ecoregion Initiative is a unique international partnership achieving conservation of nature in the globally important Carpathian mountains while, at the same time, supporting local economy and culture for the lasting benefit of people living in the heart of Europe. Facilitated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), more than 50 organisations from seven countries are working together to make this vision reality.
For the first time, a partnership of NGOs, scientific and academic institutions and governmental representatives from the region are working with local people to address the interdependent needs of people and wildlife. Launched in 1999, the Initiative has both a top-down and a bottom-up approach.
Vision and Action: A long-term "Carpathian Vision" aims to secure a positive future for the region over the next 50 years. It is a vision that will conserve, and work in harmony with, the region's natural environment—the only way to secure real long-term benefits for local people. The top 30 areas of high biodiversity value, as well as a plan for building up the existing protected areas network, have been agreed. Work is now focussed on a detailed action plan.
Developing the "Carpathian economy"
Collectively, a myriad of sustainable development micro-projects provide a strong impetus for economic development: from small-scale organic agriculture enterprises to eco-bed-and-breakfast schemes; from projects to reinvigorate local sheep markets to the revival of festivals, these local initiatives are also the best hope for preserving the region's social fabric and rich heritage. The Carpathian Ecoregion Initiative is actively promoting them as models to the rest of the world.
In the beautiful, rolling patchwork landscape straddling the Czech-Slovak border—the White Carpathians—a coalition of local leaders, civic groups, state officials, farmers, businesses and donors are working together to restore the symbiosis between people and nature by nurturing small-scale sustainable development projects.
Within a small, isolated area on the Polish-Slovak-Ukrainian border—the East Carpathians—nature and history bind the three neighbours together, providing a basis for co-operation. Sustainable development is rejuvenating the region, opening-up new opportunities for its people.
Large carnivores and more
Deep within the Romanian mountains, the Carpathian Large Carnivore Project in Piatra Craiului is proving people can live in close proximity to brown bears, wolves and lynx and benefit financially from conserving them.
With EU accession around the corner, the ideal is to steer the region's development down a sustainable path. A high-level Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development in the Danube-Carpathian region (April 29-30) will seek commitments from countries and international donors.
As kingdoms and political systems have changed and crumbled, the people of the Carpathians have survived into the 21st century through their sense of community and co-operation. The Carpathian Ecoregion Initiative is calling for co-operation across Europe to sustain the Carpathian nature and way of life in the centuries to come. For more information about the Carpathian Ecoregion Initiative, see: www.carpathians.org, or contact the Coordinator, Sissi Samec
Suzie Holt, 23 April 2001
Suzie Holt works with WWF in Vienna as communications coordinator for the Carpathian Ecoregion Initiative.
Photo courtesy of Karin Steinbrueck.
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