In spite of the ongoing pandemic, threats to nature continue, and the monitoring mandate of the Bern Convention, which includes “on-the-spot appraisal” (OSA) visits within the case-file and European Diploma for Protected Areas (EDPA) systems, remains a key priority.
In that regard, it was decided, following postponements throughout 2020, to move forward with online OSAs, in order not to lose any more time and risk continuing threats to the concerned sites and species. Following successful pilot online OSAs of EDPA sites, the first ever online OSA in the framework of a case-file took place on 25 and 28 May.
The independent experts in charge of this mission in the framework of the open file concerning Mavrovo National Park (North Macedonia) held online meetings with stakeholders comprising of national and local governmental authorities of North Macedonia, local NGOs, communities, and other stakeholders, as well as international observers, of whom the Energy Community Treaty, EuroNatur, IUCN, Ramsar Convention, UNDP, UNEP and UNESCO took part.
Coming shortly after registration of the 200th case-file, the OSA is still considered an invaluable tool to tackle the complexities of nature conservation issues, in a spirit of cooperation and compromise. Furthermore, as highlighted above, it brings together many of the core international institutions for environmental protection, proving that collective efforts and collaboration are key for finding solutions.
Although most participants agreed that online meetings could not fully replace a physical site visit, the meetings progressed quite smoothly, and the experts were able to collect valuable information from a variety of stakeholders across society.
The report of this virtual OSA will be translated into draft recommendations for the national authorities of North Macedonia, which will be discussed at the 41st Standing Committee meeting from 30th November to 3rd December.