Sustainable mountain development in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. From Rio 1992 to Rio 2012 and beyond
The mountains of Europe have played a key social, economic and environmental role in the development of the nations of peoples that have resided there since time immemorial. Being both natural barriers and safe havens not only for people, but also for flora and fauna, the mountains have been instrumental in shaping the Europe of today. This report aims to provide an overview of sustainable mountain development (SMD) in the mountains of Eastern and South-eastern Europe over the past 20 years since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, particularly in terms of the work that been undertaken by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), various international and national agencies, research institutions and civil society.
SMD as a concept is rather difficult to define and as noted by Price and Kim (1999), “Given the very different characteristics of the world’s diverse mountain regions, even on one continent, it is probably best not to propose a precise definition of sustainable mountain development, but to recognize that it is a regionally-specific process of sustainable development that concerns both mountain regions and populations living downstream or otherwise dependent on these regions in various ways.” This statement is by no means insignificant and by extension would imply that the sustainable development of mountain systems in Europe is largely unique to Europe, in spite of the sectoral commonalities with other continents/regions, such as forestry, tourism, water, infrastructure, energy and so on. This synthesis aims to shed some light on these typically European SMD peculiarities, with an eye to looking beyond Rio+20, focusing on enhancing the best practices and learning from the challenges and failures encountered over the past two decades. Unfortunately, in spite of having a key chapter of Agenda 21 being written and agreed upon exclusively for mountain systems (Chapter 13), they generally remain by and large neglected at best, especially when framed within the wider national/regional development agenda, and further deteriorated at worst.
This study focuses primarily on the Eastern and South-Eastern European countries that make up the Balkan and Dinaric Arc (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo[a], the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey), Carpathian (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine) and Caucasus (Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran) mountain ranges.
These mountain groups are located in some of the most dynamic geopolitical regions of the Euro-Asian divide, and face particularly heavy pressure from territorial disputes, land use change, environmental degradation, the impacts of climate change and water scarcity, energy needs, mining pressure, and so on. As a result, both the challenges and opportunities for substantial improvement in all aspects of transboundary and national SMD are enormous, with success stories leading to increased regional collaboration and stability; however, much depends on the political will of the states involved and the motivation of the populace to support SMD-related policy and on-the-ground improvements.