UNESCO Biosphere Reserves
UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) coordinates a world network of over 500 Biosphere Reserves in 105 countries. These are sites recognized under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme, which innovate and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development. They include such famous sites as Ayer’s Rock in Australia, the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil, the Niagara escarpment, the Sundarbans of India, and the Amboseli National Park of Kenya.
Biosphere Reserves have three key functions: conservation, learning and research, and sustainable development. They are vehicles for knowledge-sharing, research and monitoring, education and training, and participatory decision-making. Biosphere Reserves are under national sovereign jurisdiction, yet share their experience and ideas regionally and internationally within the world network of Biosphere reserves.
Biosphere reserves are “living laboratories” for testing and demonstrating sustainable development. They are therefore about the future, and how local people can conserve the things they value – local knowledge, culture and the environment – whilst ensuring sustainable development. In other words, the designation is about encouraging and facilitating people to work together, to live in and manage the whole area for a sustainable future.
What could a BR do for us?
Experience from existing Biosphere Reserves elsewhere in the world show that this designation can bring diverse benefits to an area:
- A sense of pride for local communities (social and cultural development)
- Improving the area as a great place to bring up children and creating more opportunities for them to stay there
- A more self-reliant local economy; less dependent on fossil fuel, with growth driven by local knowledge and resources
- A more sustainable area; with residents and visitors choosing locally-produced goods more often and reducing their impact on the world
- A differentiator – this will be the only Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives
- An opportunity for marketing and product accreditation using the UNESCO brand for products (“Biosphere approved fishery, handicrafts, resorts.....”)
- A focus for innovation (and national / international funding)
- An opportunity to learn from, and share experiences with, other Biosphere Reserves (perhaps enhanced through twinning arrangements)
What could we do for our Biosphere Reserve?
Living in a Biosphere Reserve is about ensuring that the area is in a better condition for your children than it was when you started living in it. This means improving the environmental, social and economic assets of the area – sustainable development. Practical examples might include:
- Transferring to renewable energy sources
- Establishment of an accredited reef fishery to ensure sustainable fishing,
- Adoption of codes of practice for diving, safari boats etc..
- A Biosphere cultural festival
- Establishing picnic islands for local communities
- Dealing with the waste management problem
- Establishing a visitor payback scheme to finance environmental conservation
- Regular monitoring of the state of the atoll environment