The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today announced that it has opened a new office in Vienna that will focus on protecting the Carpathian mountain range, one of Europe's largest, while promoting environmental cooperation in Central and southeastern Europe.
Among its tasks, the new UNEP office will serve as the interim Secretariat of the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians. The treaty was adopted and signed in May 2003 after Ukraine spearheaded a movement to reach agreement with its neighbours on the mountain range.
The Carpathians have a unique ecosystem and an exceptionally high biological diversity, UNEP said, noting that the region provides a livelihood and natural resources for up to 18 million people.
The mountain range - which spans the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia and Ukraine - also serves as a haven for a considerable number of endangered species such as the brown bear, wolf and lynx. With close to 4,000 partly endangered plant species, the Carpathians account for 30 per cent of the European flora.
"UNEP Vienna will help us to better collaborate with our sister agencies and partners in the region, and at the same time, assist in bringing the Carpathian and other important regional environmental agreements towards a successful implementation," UNEP Deputy Executive Director Shafqat Kakakhel said.