Alpine Convention
  • Date submitted: 28 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: United Nations & Other IGOs
  • Name: Alpine Convention
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Earth (1 hits),

Full Submission

From Rio 1992 to 2012 and beyond:

20 years of Sustainable Mountain Development What have we learnt and where should we go?

The Alps

Submission by the Alpine Convention for UNCSD 2012


On the basis of their experience in the field of Sustainable Development, their role in wider contexts and their specific economic, environmental and social contexts, the Contracting parties of the Alpine Convention, through the Permanent Secretariat, recommend the United Nations, in the discussion at UNCSD to be held in Rio in 2012:

 to take into consideration the specific role of mountains and corresponding need for policies, in particular by strengthening transboundary institutional frameworks,

 to promote, where relevant, the establishment of regional mechanisms for coordinated and integrated transboundary cooperation for sustainable mountain development; strengthen existing mechanisms, such as the Alpine Convention and the Carpathian Convention, and promote the exchange of experiences and lessons learned,

 to recognise the role of mountain ecosystems to sustain and enhance the Earth?s sustainability by developing a reliable valuation framework including concepts of payment and compensation for ecosystem services as well as considering the economic value of services provided in the general interest (green accounting),

 to integrate challenges and assets of mountain regions on the way to a Green Economy framework in the conviction that a geographical differentiation is needed,

 to adopt a multi-sectoral, multi-level and multi-stakeholder approach enabling the UN to direct its Sustainable Development policy towards concrete areas of interest and to identify entities for cooperation and implementation of such policies at a regional level,

 to promote networks and partnerships of mountain stakeholders at all levels (governmental, civil society, and especially the private sector) and support the consideration on mountain related concerns within the relevant national and international organisations,

 to support mountain specific observation, knowledge and awareness on mountain specific environmental, economic and social aspects,

 to use the availability of the Alpine Convention to share its manifold experience in a specific regional Sustainable Mountain Development process for the purpose of knowledge exchange.


1. Vision

Mountains and their economies are particularly exposed to Global Change. This means that greening economy is important for mountain economies to reduce their vulnerability and to increase local added value and employment as well as reconcile economic growth with environmental protection and social progress. Mountain regions worldwide are rich in natural and environmental assets and have been recognized as particularly suitable for Green Economy with their natural and cultural diversity and importance for downstream regions in terms of resources and ecosystem services. Mountain areas are important innovation engines for sustainable development: be it in the field of sustainable mobility and transport, renewable energy supply, sustainable tourism or in other domains. Therefore the vision is to make the Alps becoming a model region for greening the economy in order to serve as a blueprint for other mountain areas in the world.

2. Toolbox

By acknowledging ?the need for economic interests to be reconciled with ecological requirements?, the Alpine Convention gives a clear statement for Sustainable Development in the Alps. The multi-sectoral approach proposed by the Alpine Convention and put into practice in the protocols and other instruments fully meets the requirements as defined in the UNEP Green Economy Report. This approach aims, inter alia, at recognizing and adequately compensating the services provided by mountain areas in the general interest, where necessary by correcting market failures related to the specificities of mountain territories. The Alpine Convention proposes the selection of key sectors for mountain regions, reflecting its activities as by the Multiannual Programme 2011-2016:

Water and Energy: The Alps are a water tower for Europe and large areas including metropolises are dependent on this resource; in many mountain areas responses to the challenge of bringing into accordance highland necessities with downstream needs already exist. Due to topography, altitude and large forest surfaces, the renewable energy potential in mountain regions is higher than that of many lowland areas. The development of this potential at the same time represents a challenge for landscape and biodiversity. The rough mountain climate has always made it necessary to rely on decentralised solutions and on energy efficiency, even more under the effect of climate change. The Alps are thus a laboratory of innovation and good practices. The Action Plan on climate change and the guidelines for small hydropower are examples of actions by the Alpine Convention aimed at building on innovation and spreading good practices

Biodiversity, landscape, agriculture and forestry: The Alps constitute within Europe the second largest reservoir of biodiversity after the Mediterranean Sea. Mountain agriculture and forestry have a special duty to conserve biodiversity and ensure connectivity for habitats and species. By a high share of products and services of high quality, including organic farming and extensive rangelands, mountain agriculture may serve as an example for conserving biodiversity in balance with human use of resources and interest.

Tourism and transport infrastructures: By their landscape diversity, their remoteness and quietness, the mountain-specific offers and the high quality of natural resources, mountain regions such as the Alps attract an increasing number of tourists, leading to a pressure on the environment and a multiplication of secondary residences. Transport infrastructures and traffic flows cause noise, GHG emissions, air pollution and landscape fragmentation, as reflected also by the Alpine Convention study on external costs of transport. Green economy solutions include the shift of current freight transport systems to more eco-friendly systems, such as the railway and the improvement of public transport of passengers.


1. Vision

The Alps have a long experience of Sustainable Development through various key actors at all levels (European, national, regional and local), including a lively participation from alpine-wide regional networks. The birth of the Alpine Convention itself, the first international legally binding instrument for a mountainous area, has been very much influenced by the alpine-wide NGO network CIPRA in the early 1950s. The Alpine Convention?s Contracting Parties and Observers have been working to spread the Convention?s spirit through local communities and regions and this experience has been considered with great interest also by other mountains regions worldwide. The functional connectivity of mountain regions with the neighbouring areas is on the rise and requires due consideration in the relevant institutional frameworks. The Alpine Convention, in its 20 years of activity, developed a rich governance toolbox based on transboundary cooperation, partnerships and networks. This allows a stronger vertical and horizontal involvement of stakeholders ranging from political decision-makers to NGOs and civil society actors from different areas, so that emerging issues may be better tackled at their specific functional level.

2. Toolbox

In light of the experience of the Alpine Convention, the UN might progress in institutional framework reforms by supporting a multi-stakeholder multi-level approach suitable for mountain regions:

Multi-stakeholder approach: In the Alpine arc, cooperation between the various actors takes place through a political process involving regular exchanges (international Working Groups and Platforms under the umbrella of the Alpine Convention, conferences, meetings, joint studies and projects). The numerous networking entities, be it at the governmental, NGO or research level, demonstrate a strong common intention in the search for sustainable development solutions in the Alps. The UN can build on the Alpine expertise, but also on emerging institutions in mountain research (e.g. ICIMOD in the Himalaya) and policy developments (e.g. Carpathian Convention). The Memorandum of Cooperation between the Alpine Convention and the Carpathian Convention reflects the capacity of institutional knowledge-transfer of the Alps.

Multi-level approach: Alpine networks and organisations, in several cases a direct effect of the presence and of the activities of the Alpine Convention, have successfully supported the Alpine Convention contribution to actions taken at the local and regional level. Questions of a multilevel governance are discussed and a more global perspective is currently being developed, whereby the Alpine Convention aims at intensifying cooperation with and between local stakeholders while also strengthening the implementation of Sustainable Development on a supra-national level. The Alpine Convention is convinced that the focus on functional areas such as mountain ranges can help UN Sustainable Development policies to approach environmental and Green Economy challenges on a regionalised level, according to the Local

Agenda 21 concept (thinking globally, acting locally).
Copyright (c) United Nations 2011 | Terms of Use | Privacy Notice | Contact | Site Map | New