The International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA) has been working for over 50 years to harmonise the efforts of Alpine countries to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of their mountain regions.
CIPRA has over 100 member organisations, which are active in numerous fields, from conserving the genetic diversity of cultivated plants to promoting green electricity.
As one of the initiators of the Alpine Convention it is keen to ensure that the ideas of the convention trickle down to the grass roots, and that local communities become actively involved in applying them.
One of its priorities is promoting the exchange of experience and ideas. For example, it has established a voluntary network of communities which are given help and advice on the adoption and implementation of a sustainable environment policy. Among other things, the hope is that participating villages can learn from each other's experiences, and will have access to expert advice when they run into problems. At the same time, the scheme stresses the importance of reinforcing regional identity.
Setting the Alps ablaze
Another activity organised each year by CIPRA members is the lighting of beacons in August. The tradition of lighting fires on mountain tops to warn of dangers dates back to at least the Middle Ages; it was revived in 1988 as a symbol of resistance to the many dangers threatening the mountain environment, and taken up by CIPRA in 2001. Hundreds of beacons stretching from Vienna in the east to Nice in the west also symbolise the enduring solidarity of the Alpine peoples which transcends national boundaries and cultural differences.
Respecting regional identity
CIPRA recognises that there are many different types of mountain zones - some are densely populated, some are rural; some are tourist attractions, others are remote and scarcely inhabited. This means that sustainable development has to be adapted to the natural and cultural conditions of each place.