On Saturday, 5 April 2014, during her visit to the Kingdom of Spain, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova met the Minister of the Interior, Mr Jorge Fernández Díaz, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Mr Federico Ramos, the President of the Abertis Group, Mr Salvador Alemany, the Director of the Abertis Foundation, Mr Sergi Loughney, and the Ambassador of Spain to UNESCO, Mr Juan Manuel de Barandica y Luxán, in order to sign in Castellet i Gornal, Barcelona, an agreement that establishes the first category 2 Centre of the MAB Programme under the auspices of UNESCO on Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves, Two Coastlines United by their Culture and Nature.
The Director-General was pleased to note that this Centre is collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment and its Autonomous Organism for National Parks (OAPN), and is located at the Castellet Castle of the Abertis Foundation, which ensures its entire funding. She stressed the fact that this Centre is serving as a model for the establishment of future Category II Centre to be entirely funded by a private company with the full support of the Government and under the auspices of UNESCO.
This first Category II Centre of the MAB Programme will as well serve as a model for co-operation between the two shores of the Mediterranean and, thus, provide an excellent platform for cooperation on all issues related to biosphere reserves for all countries concerned. The Centre will serve as a platform for training and transferring advanced knowledge on environmental and societal issues between developed and developing countries and facilitate partnerships between these sites.
The Director-General, furthermore, noted that the primary objectives of the Centre shall be to collect, structure, synthesize and disseminate the experience acquired by biosphere reserves in the Mediterranean area, especially the Spanish ones, but also from other reserves in coastal countries and in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Thus, the Centre will help to stimulate exchanges between Mediterranean biosphere reserves and facilitate their relationship with other networks. It will also create tools for exchanging previously acquired knowledge through dissemination, informative and training activities and demonstrations, following in the footsteps of the work of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
In her speech, Irina Bokova underlined the progress made by the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which currently counts 621 biosphere reserves in 117 countries all over the world, 45 of them located in Spain.
“I am convinced that the creation of this Centre that we are inaugurating today, is a major step forward to improve the living conditions of the society by utilizing the biosphere reserve approach as a tool”, she said.
The President of Abertis, Mr Alemany, replied that “it is in fact a great honour that our Foundation is hosting this Centre for the Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves, and, at the same time, it is an opportunity to deepen the studies and the protection of the environment, as well the rich surroundings in which is embedded the Castel of Castellet”.
Mr Fernandez Diaz, Minister of the Interior of Spain, highlighted the role of the Spanish Biosphere Reserves representing 7,2% of the total biosphere reserves of the world being sites of excellence for the protection of biodiversity in the Mediterranean realm and for the study of global climate change. He said that all these showcase the strong commitment of the Government of Spain to UNESCO.