Designation and Review Process
Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is internationally recognized. Biosphere Reserves are designated under the intergovernmental MAB Programme by the Director-General of UNESCO following the decisions of the MAB International Coordinating Council (MAB ICC).
UNESCO’s General Conference approved the Seville Strategy for Biosphere Reserves and the Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1995; the latter functions as the “soft legal framework” for the development and formal recognition of Biosphere Reserves. Sites can be proposed by all 195 Member States and nine Associate Members of UNESCO.
Article 5 of the 1995 Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, states the designation procedure for biosphere reserves. It reads as follows:
Article 5- Designation procedure
1. Biosphere reserves are designated for inclusion in the Network by the International Co-ordinating Council (ICC) of the MAB programme in accordance with the following procedure:
a) States, through National MAB Committees where appropriate, forward nominations with supporting documentation to the secretariat after having reviewed potential sites, taking into account the criteria as defined in Article 4;
b) the secretariat verifies the content and supporting documentation: in the case of incomplete nomination, the secretariat requests the missing information from the nominating State;
c) nominations will be considered by the Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves for recommendation to ICC;
d) ICC of the MAB programme takes a decision on nominations for designation.
The Director-General of UNESCO notifies the State concerned of the decision of ICC .
2. States are encouraged to examine and improve the adequacy of any existing biosphere reserve, and to propose extension as appropriate, to enable it to function fully within the Network. Proposals for extension follow the same procedure as described above for new designations.
3. Biosphere reserves which have been designated before the adoption of the present Statutory Framework are considered to be already part of the Network. The provisions of the Statutory Framework therefore apply to them.
Periodic Review Process
The periodic review is an important event in the life of a biosphere reserve. It enables a review, every ten years, of the functioning, zoning, scale of the biosphere reserve as well as the involvement of the populations living in the site. The periodic review represents an opportunity to carry out a qualitative survey of the actions implemented, their results. It’s a time to take stock of progress made by the biosphere reserve, especially as concerns the updating of knowledge, skills and expertise in resource and ecosystem management. It also provides an opportunity to discuss the updating of the zonation system and assess its relevance, question the objectives and means of management policies and examine the issues and problems tied to implementation. It is also a time to discuss weak points. Its objective is to improve the quality of the biosphere reserves and their functioning as sites for testing and demonstrating approaches to sustainable development.
Withdrawal of Biosphere Reserves
Should a State wish to remove a Biosphere Reserve under its jurisdiction from the network, it notifies the International MAB Secretariat. This notification shall be transmitted to the MAB-ICC. The area will then no longer be referred to as a Biosphere Reserve within the World Network. Some countries have withdrawn Biosphere Reserves which were designated in the 1970s and 1980s as it was not possible for these sites to comply with the new requirements of the Seville Strategy for Biosphere Reserves which, for example, stipulates the occurrence of resident communities in the Biosphere Reserve’s transition area. As a number of Biosphere Reserves (especially those that were designated in the earlier days of the MAB Programme) cannot, for various reasons, comply with the criteria of the Seville Strategy, the MAB Council at its 26th session (Sweden, 2014) adopted a so-called “exit strategy”. According to this exit strategy, the MAB Council can decide to withdraw sites from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves if such sites do not, or no longer, function as a Biosphere Reserve.
45 sites withdrawn from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves by 9 countries
Last update: July 2018
|Country||Year of designation||Year of withdrawal|
|Hattah-Kulkyne & Murray-Kulkyne||1981||2018|
|Uluru Ayers Rock-Mount Olga||1977||2020|
|Riverland (formerly Bookmark)||1977||2020|
|Democratic Republic of Congo|
|Islas del Golfo de California||1995||2020|
|Lake Torne Area||1986||2010|
|Isle of Rhum||1976||2002|
|Moor House Upper Teesdale||1976||2012|
|North Norfolk Coast||1976||2014|
|United States of America|
|California Coast Ranges||1983||2017|
|Carolinian South Atlantic||1986||2017|
|Land Between the Lakes||1991||2017|