Now that we know where we are, how do we move ahead?

22 July 2010 | News story

In the beginning of its second year of implementation the joint IUCN, WWF and SNV Environment for People in the Dinaric Arc project took a step forward in convening stakeholders from the region of the Western Balkans to agree on concrete joint actions that will advance cross-border cooperation in the region. The project is funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and runs for three years.

The event took place in Capljina, BiH, in the vicinity of one of the project sites – Hutovo blato Nature Park part of the Neretva Delta. Results from the assessments, analysis and stakeholder meetings completed in the target project areas revealed not only opportunities, but also the weaknesses and challenges for cross-border cooperation and protected areas. The conference provided food for thought on the way forward for improved cross-border environmental governance.

The assessments once again showcased the high natural and cultural values of the region- the main assets of the Dinaric Arc. Well preserved natural features and a diverse cultural heritage along, with minor language barriers offer excellent potential for the development of cross-border cooperation. In terms of relations currently established between protected area managers, local authorities and communities,  the picture differs significantly from site to site. Thus for example Plitvice Lakes and Una national parks in Croatia and BiH respectively are not spatially connected and what is even more crucial - dialogue to lead to effective cooperation and joint activities between the two parks is still missing. Similarly, close to the border but without adjacent edges are Durmitor and Sutjeska national parks in MNE and BiH but unlike Plitvice and Una, they have signed an MoU and extensions of the two national parks towards the border are included in the spatial plans of both countries.

Aligning priorities for joint actions now, based on the results of the assessments and the stakeholder processes will lead to considerable achievements on the ground thus ensuring a long-lasting conservation of biodiversity and effective support to local livelihoods”, said Boris Erg, Director of IUCN’s Programme Office for South-Eastern Europe.

In terms of existing capacity some sites have well established operational protected area authorities while others are only starting to develop management capacity and know-how. For sites like Dinara Mountain and Drina River on the Bosnian side, designation of PAs is still in the pipeline and it will take longer before genuine cooperation is in place. Environmental problems throughout the region are also not an exception. Sometimes inconsistent state policies, not only between different states but also among different sectors within one country, are questioning sustainable use and fair sharing of resources.

Providing a concise overview of major transboundary concepts in nature conservation, Maja Vasilijevic, Chair of the Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group of WCPA stressed that “A transboundary park is not only about straddling borders to protect biodiversity but also about cooperative management”. Excellent examples of management including common research, monitoring and databases as well as conservation actions and promotion of common resources was given by Europe’s wild Heart – Sumava and Bavarian Forests national parks - for which it holds EUROPARC’s certificate for transboundary cooperation. The latter is a result of a comprehensive analysis on the progress of trans-boundary cooperation conducted by EUROPARC Federation and proved to be an effective tool encouraging best practices and facilitating cooperation.

In the region of the Mediterranean, nature and culture are intimately interlinked and their coexistence dates back over two thousand years. Apart from having large cultural and historical sites, the region hosts small cultural segments in the landscape related to local traditions and practices. Such a combination of nature and culture expresses higher tourism potential and is one reason why generating income from tourism is seen as one of the best perspectives for economic development of the region. It should be kept in mind though that developing this sector is a long and expensive process that requires careful interventions to steer it in order to secure true improvement of people’s livelihoods.

Two years after the Big Win statement already 50% of the commitments made by the signatory states are achieved by designation and extension of protected areas such as National Park Una in Bosnia and Herzegovina, National Park Prokletije in Montenegro and National Park Shebenik in Albania.This once again shows the great potential and opportunities for the sustainable management of cross-border areas in the Dinaric Arc.

For further information please contact
Veronika Ferdinandova, IUCN SEE veronika.ferdinandova@iucn.org