IUCN's new Belgrade office hosts seminar on transboundary cooperation


For nature conservation, borders in the Balkans seem less constraining

A basic question debated in an international meeting held 13-17 June 2004 in Belgrade and the Tara National Park of Serbia was the need for transborder cooperation and the benefits it might entail. One of the key reasons was the joint management of water resources, and in particular wetlands, in shared hydrological basins. The meeting, organised in an efficient and hospitable manner by the new IUCN Regional Office for Europe (ROfE), in close collaboration with the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science in Europe (ROSTE), the Serbian Institute for Nature Conservation, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), had as its theme ‘MAB Biosphere Reserves and transboundary cooperation in the SEE Region’.

The approximately 100 participants represented the public and academic sectors and the NGOs from all of the countries of the region, as well as many international organisations. Interesting case studies were presented and discussed, including Shkadar Lake, the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, and the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. The participatory work was organised in four work groups that covered the following themes:

- institutional framework;
- participatory processes and co-management;
- transboundary cooperation;
- how research can support innovation.

Their conclusions provide useful guidelines for further developing the 27 transboundary initiatives that were noted in the region, in various states of progress. Of these a considerable number concern or include wetlands. The most advanced seems to be the case of the Prespa Park, inaugurated on World Wetland Day 2000 by the Prime Ministers of Albania, Greece and the FYR of Macedonia, in which Ramsar / MedWet continues to play a significant role. In addition, MedWet is involved in the cooperation between Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina on the Lower Neretva River (with the support of the Principality of Monaco), while it is cautiously promoting the eventual collaboration of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey on the sustainable management of Evros / Maritsa / Meriç River.

Thymio Papayannis, the MedWet Senior Advisor, and Martin Jacoby-Schneider of Euronatur, were the facilitators of the work group on transboundary cooperation.

On the occasion of the Seminar, the Belgrade office of IUCN was inaugurated within the new headquarters of the Serbian Institute for Nature Conservation, which will certainly contribute to collaboration in the region and may serve as a clearing house for such cooperation efforts.

-- reported by Thymio Papayannis

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