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The Alpine Convention is the world's first treaty under international law designed to protect a mountain region. It is unique in defining a mountain region independently of national borders as a functional geographical unit, and as an important heritage and economic area that faces a common set of challenges. Switzerland has assumed the rotating presidency of the Alpine Convention for 2011 and 2012.
Geographical scope of the Alpine Convention
The Convention encompasses all of the states through which the Alps run: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland. The Alpine Convention itself covers an area comprising 43 regions, 5,800 local authorities, and a population of around 13 million.
Conservation and sustainable development in the Alps
The purpose of the treaty is to ensure the conservation and sustainable development of the Alpine space.
Specific measures to realise the objectives of the Alpine Convention are laid down in the associated Protocols that will enable the Alpine Convention to be implemented. They address specific areas:
- Spatial planning and sustainable development
- Mountain forests
- Mountain farming
- Soil conservation
- Conservation of nature and countryside
- Tourism and transport
The «Protocol on the Solution of Litigations» governs the procedure to be followed in resolving conflicts between the states parties.
The member states' national delegations consult with organisations active in the Alps, such as CIPRA (The International Commission for the Protection of the Alps), ICAS (Interacademic Commission for Alpine Studies) and SAB (Swiss Centre for Mountain Regions) about shared challenges to the Alps as a whole, such as climate change, energy generation and transit traffic. The Alpine Convention sets specific areas of focus in its Multiannual Programme. Working Groups draft implementation measures and recommendations for action on these areas of focus and on other issues. Examples include how to deal with natural hazards, and the operation of small-scale power stations.
The Framework Convention to the Alpine Convention was ratified by all states parties between 1994 and 1999. By 2002, the majority of states parties had ratified and enacted all of the attendant Protocols. Two states parties had ratified a number of those Protocols.
The political process in Switzerland
Switzerland has ratified the Framework Convention but not the Protocols. The Federal Council submitted its «Dispatch on the Ratification of the Protocols to the Alpine Convention» to the Swiss parliament on 19 December 2001. After several years of consultations, the National Council finally decided against ratification on 29 September 2010. Switzerland already implements the Protocols in practice, however. The issues covered by the Protocols to the Alpine Convention are all in Switzerland's interests, and the Protocols' requirements have already been incorporated into Swiss law.
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