A little history
At the start of the creation of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves the first sites were essentially aimed at conservation and research projects. From 1985 or 1986, with the evolution of practical needs on the ground, it is the three functions of the biosphere reserves which must be applied. In spite of the reaffirmation of the concept of biosphere reserves as sites to demonstrate the relationship between mankind and nature, a gap persists between the concept and reality. Thus, a significant number of sites are made up simply of a natural park with a transition zone added, without any planning to enable the application of the concept of sustainable development. This persistent concept-reality gap was at the origin of the creation, in 1992, of a consultative committee and, in 1995, of two fundamental documents for the World Network: the Seville Strategy, emphasizing the importance of the Biosphere Reserves as regards work in the areas of conservation, sustainable development and research; and the Statutory Framework, Article 9 of which foresees a periodic review based on a report.
At the time of the negotiation and adoption of the Statutory Framework (1995) it was recognized that it would be desirable to have a mechanism to examine and improve, as necessary, the degree to which the biosphere reserves respected the criteria of the Statutory Framework. The idea of a review, every ten years, was born. Thus, the primary goal of this step, foreseen in Article 9 of the Statutory Framework, was to ‘bring up to speed’ the biosphere reserves designated before Seville – especially the oldest ones - where zoning, the three functions and local participation had not yet been defined as conditions for the existence of biosphere reserves. From now on, especially for the sites which have reached the stage of a second periodic review, it is a matter of measuring evolution and change. It is also an opportunity to have a broad consultation with the actors and to collectively negotiate the zoning of the relevant territory and review the functioning of the biosphere reserves.
The dossier is transmitted to UNESCO for analysis by the MAB International Coordinating Council, which makes recommendations on the basis of the technical evaluation done by the consultative committee for biosphere reserves. The execution of the recommendations by the relevant country, is, in turn, reviewed.