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.
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. Thematic Working Bodies 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.
Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein have been awarding the international prize for sustainable renovation and construction in the Alps «Constructive Alps» since 2011. Together with an international jury, the Federal office for spatial development ARE regularly looks for outstanding buildings in the Alpine arc that are both climate-friendly and socially sustainable. With each edition, we set new content-related focuses and themes. We are supported in this project by our partners - the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps CIPRA, the Alpine Museum, the architecture magazine «Hochparterre» and the University of Liechtenstein. Travelling exhibitions, publications and events tell the stories of successful projects. «Constructive Alps» contributes to the implementation of the Climate Action Plan of the Alpine Convention.
Newsletter International Affairs
The Newsletter International Affairs (available in German and French) provides information about the Swiss Presidency’s activities. If you would like to receive information in English, write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE
Section International Affairs