Director-General inaugurates in Spain the first UNESCO Centre for Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves
On Saturday, 5 April 2014, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, together with H.E. Mr Juan Manuel de Barandica y Luxán, Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of the Kingdom of Spain to UNESCO signed an agreement establishing the UNESCO Centre on Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves in Castellet i Gornal, Barcelona, Spain.
“This first Centre of the MAB Programme under UNESCO auspices will serve as a model for scientific cooperation between the two shores of the Mediterranean and provide an excellent platform of information exchange and sharing on all issues related to biosphere reserves and their sustainable development” declared Irina Bokova.
The tripartite agreement was signed in the presence of H.E. Mr Jorge Fernández Díaz, Minister of the Interior of the Government of Spain; Mr Federico Ramos, Secretary of State for the Environment, Mr Sergi Loughney, Director of the Abertis Foundation, and numerous personalities from the Spanish Government and representatives from the local authorities, as well as the media.
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 and underscored that these sites represent sites of excellence in the protection of the world’s biodiversity and for the study of global climate change.
“Today marks the renewed commitment of the Government of Spain in UNESCO’s leadership role to advance sustainable development worldwide.”
The Centre, which falls under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), and which is closely collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment and its Autonomous Organism for National Parks (OAPN), is the first of its kind, combining public engagement and private financial support under UNESCO’s auspices.
It also provides a unique setting of two coastlines united by their culture and nature. Located in the medieval castle of Castellet, restored by the Abertis Foundation, the Centre documents scientific research and knowledge on all biosphere reserves in the Mediterranean basin.
The Director-General praised the Government of Spain for their strong commitment in this endeavor, and underscored the importance of the social responsibility demonstrated by the Abertis Foundation in ensuring the full financial sustainability of the Centre. She further emphasized that the Centre will serve as a model for the establishment of future centres under UNESCO auspices through solid public/private partnerships. The Centre will act as a platform for training and transferring advanced knowledge on environmental and societal issues between developed and developing countries in the Mediterranean basin and it will facilitate joint programmes between biospheres reserves.
Mr. Salvador Alemany, President of the Abertis Foundation, expressed great satisfaction with the inauguration of the Centre, stressing that “it is a great honour for the Abertis Foundation to host the UNESCO Centre, while providing at the same time the opportunity to deepen studies for the protection of the environment, in a unique historical and cultural setting, such as the medieval Castle of Castellet.” He indicated that the primary objectives of the Centre would be to collect, structure, synthesize and disseminate the experience acquired in all the biosphere reserves in the Mediterranean area, starting from the 45 biosphere reserves in Spain, in order to contribute to advancing scientific knowledge within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The Centre will also act as a laboratory to devise tools for improving the dissemination of scientific data, informative and training activities within the Network.
Irina Bokova underlined the importance of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which currently counts 621 biosphere reserves in 117 countries all over the world. “I am deeply convinced that the creation of this Centre today is a major step forward to improve the living conditions of livelihoods across the world and in addressing key challenges for the sustainable development of the biosphere reserves, such as climate change and increased urbanization.”
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