Towards the implementation of the Framework Convention: thematic protocols, strategic action plans (SAP), and national action plans (NAP)

Similarly to the Alpine Convention the Carpathian Convention has a “framework” nature – it expresses the political will to cooperate, establishes the framework for cooperation, determines the thematic scope for cooperation as well as common objectives and principles. As the convention is expected to remain unchanged in a long term (as any change would require another round of ratifications by Parties) – it contains very general and universal provisions.

Therefore, a “framework” convention itself does not contain any detailed and specific substantive obligations – such should later be agreed upon by the Parties to the Convention, and inscribed into additional international agreements - “thematic protocols” to the Convention, focused on particular sectoral policies being subject to cooperation.

Further, the coordinated implementation of particular thematic protocols to the framework convention usually requires the Parties to the Protocol to agree upon the common international Strategic Action Plans (SAPs) or Strategies, which serve for the development of the National Action Plans (NAPs) for the implementation of the Protocol and SAP in particular countries.

Thematic protocols

Thematic protocols result from, and supplement the provisions of the framework convention. Each thematic protocol is an act of international law, an individual international agreement subject to ratification procedure. Upon entry into force, thematic protocols become part of the convention, however solely for these Parties to the Convention which are also Parties to the Protocol.

The Republic of Poland has ratified three out of four thematic protocols to the Framework Carpathian Convention so far: - the Protocol on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological and Landscape Diversity (Bucharest, 2008),

- the Protocol on Sustainable Tourism (Bratislava, 2011)

- and the Protocol on Sustainable Transport (Mikulov, 2014).

Protocols on biodiversity and tourism are already in force, have been published in the Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland (the Protocol on biodiversity in Dz.U. 2010 vol. 90 item 591, and the Protocol on tourism in Dz.U. 2013 item 682), and are therefore part of the Polish national legal system.

The Protocol on Sustainable Forest Management (Bratislava, 2011), which entered into force on 21 October 2013, is currently in the process of ratification by Poland

The Protocol on Sustainable Transport (Mikulov, 2014) was ratified by Poland on 6 November 2015, but has not yet entered into force with respect to any of the Parties to the Convention.

More information on the Protocols at the website of the Carpathian Convention.

Strategic Action Plans / Strategies

Thematic protocols to the framework convention, as international agreements subject to ratification, contain only simple and universal provisions (e.g. with no reference to exact timing of activities) so as to keep them in force forever. The advantage of adopting such general clauses is that they would never require amendment of modification, regardless of the progress in their implementation, as making any change in a ratified agreement would then automatically result in the requirement for expressing the official approval for such amendment by all Parties, and re-opening the lengthy and often quite complicated ratification procedure in all countries.

This is why all more detailed provisions, e.g. more specific measures planned for the achievement of the Protocol’s objectives or specific substantive obligations, are retained for incorporation to the international ‘Strategic Action Plan’ (SAP) or strategy for the implementation of a particular protocol, commonly adopted for the determined period.

Contrary to the Convention and its thematic protocols, such strategic action plans (SAPs) or strategies are not legal acts binding the Parties, therefore do not require the signature and ratification - such documents are adopted by a decision of the Conference of the Parties. Implementation of international strategic action plans or strategies depends mainly on the current priorities of the Parties to the Protocol, and the availability of financial resources for carrying out activities determined in these documents. Upon the expiry of the validity period, based on implementation progress evaluation and current common priorities of the Parties, a subsequent SAP or strategy can be adopted for the next planning period.

So far, in the framework of the Carpathian Convention process, two strategic action plans (SAPs) have been adopted:

- by COP3 in 2011, for the implementation of the provisions of the Protocol on conservation and sustainable use of biological and landscape diversity (Decision COP3/1, paragraph 1)

- by COP4 in 2014, for the implementation of the provisions of the Protocol on sustainable forest management (Decision COP4/4, paragraph 2).

Both above SAPs have the validity period of 12 years from the date of adoption, thus until 2023 and 2026 respectively.

Moreover, COP4 in 2014 adopted the Strategy for the development of sustainable tourism in the Carpathians (Decision COP4/6 paragraph 3) valid for a period of 10 years (i.e. until 2024), in order to facilitate the implementation of several selected provisions of the Protocol on Sustainable Tourism.

National Action Plans

An international strategic action plan, common to all Parties, cannot, for obvious reasons, take into account the realities and priorities of, or progress made by any individual country. Therefore, each country in its own interest, and for its internal planning needs, should elaborate its own National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the Protocol. Such national action plans should be approved by the competent authority of the central government.

The first ever National Action Plan in the history of the Carpathian Convention process has been drafted for the implementation of the “Biodiversity Protocol” in the Polish part of the Carpathians, under the “Carpathians Unite” project, and submitted in December 2016 to the Minister of Environment.

More information on the draft National Action Plan.