Top photo: ©Tirol Werbung/Aichner Bernhard
Being home to more than 13.9 million inhabitants with growing and changing needs, the Alpine region, stretching over 750 miles across eight different countries, faces serious challenges. Urban planning, infrastructural development, energy supply, and modernization all pose risks to the preservation of the natural habitat, the biodiversity, and the ecosystem of the Alps. Ever since the 1950s, sincere efforts have been made by the European Union as well as the Alpine states, Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Italy, and Slovenia to help to protect the Alpine environment on a supranational scale. All these initiatives eventually culminated in the resolution to form The Convention on the Protection of the Alps (short Alpine Convention), which was signed on November 7, 1991 in Salzburg, Austria and entered into force on March 6, 1995.
It is the first convention for the protection of a mountain region worldwide that is binding under international law, defining the transnational mountain area as a common territory facing common challenges. The Convention’s overarching aim is to further develop the Alpine region on a sustainable level while ensuring that all economic interests must be aligned with the requirements for the protection of the natural ecosystem. All parties to the Convention have therefore agreed to implement holistic policies designed to fulfill these objectives while at the same time respecting the interests of all Alpine states and Alpine regions. Where possible, all contracting partners commit to support only projects friendly towards the environment and landscape, and furthermore, to give preference to initiatives promoting innovation and diversification in tourism, and supporting infrastructural improvement in the public transportation sector. Together, they cooperate in the areas of regional planning, the conservation of nature and the countryside, mountain farming, mountain forest management, soil conservation, tourism and recreation, energy, transport, prevention of air pollution, water management, population and culture, and waste management.
Since 2003, the Alpine Convention has its permanent secretariat in the city of Innsbruck in the Tyrol. Its current Secretary General is Markus Reiterer whom you might know as the author of our popular series “Austrian Places” in Austrian Information. Given the mountainous structure of the Tyrol, the Alpine Convention is of significant importance to the state. Austria’s commitment to the protection of the Alps is also evident in the fact that there is a national committee for the Alpine Convention in the country (the only such example), characterized by a continuous exchange between ministries, states, social partners (system of co-operation between the major economic interest groups and the government), and NGOs.
Every other year, all ministers of the Alpine states come together for the Alpine Conference, the political decision-making body of the Alpine Convention, to refocus and redefine the issues and common interests of all parties involved. Based on mutual consent, they make decisions and recommendations for future developments. The United Nations, its specialized agencies, the Council of Europe, and all European countries may attend the meetings as observers. Looking into the future and at the speed at which things are developing and changing, the Alpine Convention is now more important than ever to protect and preserve the natural habitats and wild fauna and flora by promoting sustainability, renewable energy, and smart innovation.
For more information on the Alpine Convention visit: www.alpconv.org
By Anja Mayer