Hungary’s ratification of UN-backed treaty triggers new protections for Europe’s forests

The Carpathian mountain region

4 January 2006 – A United Nations-backed treaty meant to conserve a vast area of forests, streams and mountains in the heart of Europe sprang to life today as Hungary became the fourth nation – along with the Slovak Republic, Ukraine and the Czech Republic – to ratify it.

Millions of people benefited as the Carpathian Convention came into force, providing new protection for Europe’s greatest reserve of pristine forest that harbors exotic wildlife like bison, wolves and eagles as well as 200 unique plant species.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has played a key role in developing the Convention, which also covers Poland, Romania and Serbia and Montenegro. The pact was adopted and signed in May 2003 at the fifth Environment for Europe Conference and needed the ratification of four countries to enter into force.

“This legally living treaty is aimed at balancing the economic needs of the people with the need to conserve the environment,” said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP. “In doing so, it can play a critical part in delivering sustainable development and offers a blueprint for other mountain regions in the world.”

UNEP is sharing its experience in developing the Carpathian treaty with other mountain regions, including the Andes, Central Asia, the Balkans and the Caucasus.

Up to 18 million people live in the area covered by the Convention, which provides some of the Continent’s cleanest streams and drinking water supplies. It contains vast tracts of forest that function as a bridge between Europe’s northern forests and those in the south and west, allowing bears and other species migrate and remain healthy through genetic exchange. One-third of all European plant species grow there.

The Convention lays down a wide range of principles, such as conserving biological and landscape diversity, promoting sustainable agriculture and forestry, and developing appropriate transportation and infrastructure.

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