Biosphere Reserves

Our contribution

The German Commission for UNESCO does not have a formal responsibility for the biosphere reserves in Germany. However, in close cooperation with the MAB National Committee and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, the German Commission for UNESCO is supporting biosphere reserves domestically and internationally through a number of initiatives.

1. Strengthening the World Network of Biosphere Reserves

In several major projects, the German Commission for UNESCO has worked to improve the implementation of the concept of "Biosphere Reserve" in Africa.

The Management Manual for Biosphere Reserves in Africa was prepared and published by the German Commission for UNESCO between 2012 and 2015 in cooperation with the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. The project was funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment. The manual was written by three African authors: Prof Dr Wafaa Amer from Egypt, Ms Sheila Ashong from Ghana and Dr Djafarou Tiomoko from Benin. Closely involved in the formulation were the networks AfriMAB and ArabMAB, UNESCO's MAB Secretariat and almost all biosphere reserve managers in Africa.

There are more than 90 biosphere reserves in Africa, they often face challenges in involving stakeholders and the community as a whole in a goal-oriented manner in management. Only individual biosphere reserves, including in Ethiopia and South Africa, have strong participatory structures for planning and management. The aim of the manual is therefore to improve management effectiveness and participation. The manual focuses on practical aspects, such as how to resolve conflicts between individual stakeholders in a biosphere reserve, how economic returns from a protected area can be shared with the villages, how to develop a participatory management plan or how to organize consultations and hearings can be. The publication also provides arguments for potential funding agencies and ministry decision makers. The manual is available in English and French. It is under a "Creative Commons license" and can therefore be largely freely translated into other languages ​​and adapted to other contexts. It is considered the most comprehensive work of its kind worldwide.


Amer, Wafa; Ashong, Sheila; Tiomoko, Djafarou: Management Manual for UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Africa. A practical guide for managers.
German Commission for UNESCO, 2015

Since December 2017, the German Commission for UNESCO has been accompanying eight countries in southern Africa in establishing and strengthening biosphere reserves. Only two of these eight countries already have biosphere reserves - all aiming for their establishment, but so far this has often failed. Together with the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, the South African Government and the UNESCO Field Office and financed by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, these hurdles are to be overcome.

The German Commission for UNESCO also supports German biosphere reserves in establishing contacts and deepening contacts with biosphere reserves from other regions of the world. Therefore, in 2015/2016, it supported the formulation of a corresponding position paper of the MAB National Committee.

Together with the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and other partners, it organized two events in 2012 and 2017 in order to make German science and German development cooperation more active in using biosphere reserves as an instrument.

Since 2012 the German Commission for UNESCO has also published the world map of biosphere reserves, on behalf of and in cooperation with UNESCO.

2. Political support for biosphere reserves in Germany and at UNESCO

The German Commission for UNESCO presents the work of the German Biosphere Reserves together with the Federal Government at UNESCO and at all other relevant points. Germany was the key initiator of resolutions of the UNESCO General Conference for the strengthening of biosphere reserves in 2009, 2011 and 2015, respectively.

In 2011, the German Commission for UNESCO organized together with UNESCO, BMU and BfN and DUK in Dresden the global high-level conference on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the MAB program. As a result, the participants adopted the Dresden Declaration, which emphasizes the performance of biosphere reserves for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The German Commission for UNESCO produced three publications and one film on this occasion: Good examples Biosphere Reserves in Climate Change, Good Examples Biosphere Reserves and Water Protection, Dresden Declaration.

3. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

The German Commission for UNESCO has been working to strengthen ESD throughout the German education system since 2002. Therefore, ESD in biosphere reserves is also a priority for them. In 2014, the MAB National Committee adopted a position paper on GNI in biosphere reserves. In 2017, the German UNESCO Commission organized a workshop on this topic together with Europarc Deutschland. Several educational networks from biosphere reserves have already been recognized by the German Commission for UNESCO and the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research in the UNESCO Global Action Programme for their work on ESD, for example from the Rhön or the Berchtesgadener Land.

4. Use of the UNESCO MAB logo

Both the name, the acronym and the logo of UNESCO and the logo of the UNESCO program "Man and the Biosphere" are internationally protected signs. In Germany, DUK is protecting its rights, including through patent and trademark law.

5. Public-Private-Partnerships

Since 2008, the company Danone Waters Germany, in cooperation with the German Commission for UNESCO, has been supporting projects to improve water and water quality in German biosphere reserves.

With this commitment, Danone Waters Germany demonstrated the  commitment shown at its own water sources for the protection of ecosystems.

To date, 18 projects have been supported and completed. In 2018/19, three more projects will be implemented. For this purpose, seven competitions were held in which all German biosphere reserves were able to submit project proposals. The best project ideas are selected by an independent jury of up to ten project proposals  per year.


Weltnetz der Biosphärenreservate 2019-2020.
UNESCO-Kommissionen Österreichs, Deutschlands, der Schweiz und Luxemburgs, 2020


For life, for the future. Biosphere reserves and climate change. Conference Proceedings.
Deutsche UNESCO-Kommission, 2011