UNESCO Biosphere Reserves – Looking Ahead


UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) launched the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) in 1971. It is an intergovernmental scientific programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.

As per the definition of the MAB, Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems, or a combination thereof, which are established to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere. While individual Biosphere Reserves remain under the jurisdiction of the State where they are situated, all Biosphere Reserves collectively form a World Network in which participation by the States are voluntary. There are Biosphere Reserves in 120 countries across the globe including 16 transboundary sites.

This year, the Man and the Biosphere Programme International Co-ordinating Council (MAB-ICC) held its 29th session at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 12 to 15 June. During this session, the Council added 23 new sites to the World Network of Biosphere. A complete list of the Biosphere Reserves that were added this year can be found here.

The Council also renamed a reserve and approved extensions to 11 reserves. At this session, US and Bulgaria withdrew 17 and 3 Biosphere Sites respectively. But as per the guidelines, the withdrawn sites can join the Network at any time.

In this era of ecological uncertainty where we are facing challenges in mitigating climate change, preventing the loss of biodiversity and habitats and at the same time ensuring that there is sound economic development, Biosphere Reserves act as critical sites to understand how we can move forward sustainably. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves can have a significant impact in shaping local, national and international responses to these issues.

In 2015, Rainforest Partnership applied for the designation of the Colibri Cloudforest Biosphere Reserve in the central Peru cloudforest region, where we are working with the communities of San Antonio and Calabaza. The proposed Biosphere Reserve is a great example of the strength of collaborations and partnerships between multiple stakeholders from governmental agencies and private institutions to local communities and non-profit organizations. We received positive feedback for this application and continue to work with the different stakeholders to conserve the cloudforest region.

It is important to remember that all of us (citizens, governments, countries) need to collectively work together as a global community to reach our common critical goals of sustainable development and conservation of all the world’s ecosystems.