The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has launched a new, four-year project which continues on the project "Dinaric Arc Parks" and covers all of Croatia's eight national parks and 11 nature parks, as well as the Grabovaca cave park, and which is designed to promote the sustainable development of protected areas in the Dinaric Arc region.

The WWF implemented the "Dinaric Arc Parks" project from 2012 to 2014, when the association Parks Dinarides, a network of protected Dinaric Arc areas, was established. The network now covers 46 Dinaric Arc parks, including 20 protected areas in Croatia, and is based in Podgorica, Montenegro.

The latest project is financed by the Swedish international development agency SIDA with EUR 4.2 million.

Project manager Leon Kebe said the project had two main goals - connecting parks' management structures with the local community and involving the local community in decision-making regarding protected areas.

We want to see parks develop sustainable tourist services, he said, explaining that people living and working in parks should together define tourist services that would attract tourists who usually vacationed in coastal destinations.

The project is also aimed at helping local residents brand their farm products in order to increase their sale.

Kebe said the project would help parks improve their infrastructure by introducing themed walks and organising educational programmes.

The WWF will work to influence regional decision-makers in the areas of nature protection and park management.

In Croatia, the WWF will assess how park management boards cooperate with local residents and how much local residents are involved in their work, and based on its assessment, it will offer parks training programmes.

Kebe said that Croatian parks, as the leading ones in the region, would be used as an example of good practice and that their experience would be shared with other parks in the region.

WWF regional communications officer Petra Boic Petrac said the new project would continue the certification process for sustainable tourism.

The "Dinaric Acr Parks" project has resulted in six parks obtaining the European certificate for sustainable development of the Europarc federation, including three in Croatia - the Medvednica and Lonjsko Polje nature parks and the Kornati national park. The same certificate was also awarded to the Una national park in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the special nature reserve Gornje Podunavlje, and the Fruska Gora national park in Serbia.

The WWF has identified in the region 10 more parks that could also be awarded this certificate and the certification process will continue as part of the latest project, Boic Petrac said.

The "Dinaric Arc Parks" project was launched by the WWF in early 2012. Its purpose was to establish an association of nature and national parks in the Dinaric Arc region covering Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia. The project lasted three years and was financed by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and the MAVA Foundation.

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