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40 years of the UNESCO MAB Programme

In 1971, the International Co-ordinating Council (ICC) of the UNESCO „Man and the Biosphere“-Programme convened for the first time. To celebrate the 40th anniversary, UNESCO, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and the German Commission for UNESCO organized a high-level international conference, titled “For life, for the future. Biosphere reserves and climate change”. The conference took place in Dresden, Germany in June 2011.

Around 300 representatives from politics and the sciences as well as practitioners from biosphere reserves attended the conference. Among the participants were UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Prime Minister of the Free State of Saxony Stanislaw Tillich, several ministers, ambassadors and representatives of altogether 74 states. As the final document of the conference, the participants adopted the “Dresden Declaration”, which emphasizes the potential biosphere reserves have in identifying effective measures against climate change. The German Commission for UNESCO has published the Dresden Declaration together with the conference proceedings in a brochure.

Subsequent to the international conference, the MAB ICC convened in Dresden for its 23rd session. It was the first time that an ICC session took place in Germany. During the session, an excursion was organized for all delegates to the German biosphere reserve Heath and Pond Landscape of Upper Lusatia.

During its session in Dresden, the MAB ICC decided to earmark 3 November as the “MAB and Biosphere Reserve Day”. On 3 November 2011, this day was first celebrated with worldwide events.

In the context of the conference, the BfN, UNESCO-MAB, DUK and AfriMAB organized a workshop for managers of African biosphere reserves. The workshop ended with an excursion to the German biosphere reserve Rhön and the adoption of a communiqué by the participants.

As part of the 40th anniversary of the MAB Programme, the German Commission for UNESCO has produced a short film which portrays the work of German biosphere reserves. An exhibition and two further brochures introduce practitioners as well as the general public to specific aspects of the MAB Programme: The exhibition presents, in four languages, a selection of 28 case studies from around the world which show what biosphere reserves contribute to climate protection and adaptation to climate change. The exhibition has been shown in Dresden as well as at the Bonn Office of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. Currently, it can be viewed at the Liason Office of the Free State of Saxony in Brussels. All case studies are moreover summarized in a brochure. Another brochure presents the cooperation between UNESCO, the German Commission for UNESCO and Danone Waters Germany as an example of a successful cooperation with the private sector in biosphere reserves.

The entire event was organized in a carbon-neutral fashion. However, flights are unavoidable for a conference with participants from all parts of the world. Therefore, the organizers invested 4,600 Euros to offset emissions of 200,000 kg CO2 in Gold Standard-certified carbon offset projects by the organization “atmosfair”. For example, parts of the sum were invested in a project in India supported by the UNFCCC. The project generates electricity from crop residues.

More Information:

Conference Proceedings including the Dresden Declaration (brochure, English)

Biosphere Reserves and Climate Change. A Collection of Good Practice Case Studies (brochure, English)

Water – A Key Element in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. Experiences from a Collaboration of Danone Waters Germany and UNESCO (brochure, English)

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