Celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Man and the Biosphere Programme “It’s about life”


Launched in 1971, the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021. From its inception, the MAB Programme has been a pioneering intergovernmental platform for science-based management and research on combined nature conservation and responsible use of natural resources.

The concept of biosphere reserve emerged from this framework, designed to function as open‑air laboratories for experimenting with environmental policy, monitoring best practices and sharing information. The dual objective of nature conservation and sustainable development is achieved by the designation of three geographic areas interrelated with mutually reinforcing roles, namely the core area, the buffer zone and the transition zone. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) is currently formed by 727 sites in 131 Member States all over the world, including 22 transboundary sites.

Today, biosphere reserves are representative of the full diversity of landscapes worldwide and constitute a privileged network of case studies in implementing sustainability. As such, they have become ideal innovation hubs for ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation, education for sustainable development, green as well as circular economies and investment in nature-based solutions. Accordingly, as model regions, biosphere reserves have put further emphasis on a participative and multi-stakeholder approach to management by involving civil society, Indigenous and local communities, young people and the private sector, as well as by expanding into Open Science.

Opening of the event: 50 years of the MAB Programme

  1. Opening speech by Director-General
  2. Welcoming remark by the Chair of MAB International Coordinating Council

Award Ceremony and Celebration of 30th Anniversary of the Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Conservation

Since 1991, the UNESCO Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Conservation has rewarded ‘outstanding contributions by individuals, groups of individuals, institutes or organizations in the management or preservation of the environment.

This year, the laureate is under consideration by the Jury and will be communicated shortly.

In conjunction with its 50th Anniversary, the MAB Programme is honoured to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Sultan Qaboos Prize and the continued efforts to protect the environment for generations to come.

Monitoring for the future and Delivery of drones to beneficiary countries

Prof. Sabrina Krief is a French veterinarian and primatologist specialising in behavioural ecology and zoopharmacognosy in chimpanzees. A professor at the National Museum of Natural History, Sabrina is Director of the Sebitoli Chimpanzee Project in Kibale National Park in Uganda, where her research work focuses on chimpanzees, their health and the plants they eat.

Sabrina is working in partnership with UNESCO on monitoring of Great Apes habitats using UVAs and shall present the preliminary results. This will be followed by the presentation of UAVs to the concerned Permanent Delegations by Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO,and in particular to the Permanent Delegate of Uganda as the training session is taking place in Uganda.

Passing the baton: Intergenerational dialogue between MAB official spokespeople

To mark the legacy of 50 years at the service of nature and the rise of a new generation of environmentalists, the International Coordinating Council of the MAB Programme has invited conservationist Dr Jane Goodall to share her experience with this year’s MAB Youth Ambassadors during a panel discussion.

Dr Jane Goodall, DBE is a world-renowned scientist, famous for her historic and ground-breaking work with chimpanzees. Much of her research was conducted in the region that is now the Gombe Masito Ugalla Biosphere Reserve in Tanzania. The Jane Goodall Institute's humanitarian and environmental programme called Roots & Shoots, active in more that 50 countries, empowers young people of all ages to become involved in hands-on projects to benefit the community, animals and the environments. 

Ms Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is representative of the Indigenous Peoples of Lake Chad, SDG Advocate of the UNSG, Chad has been collaborating with UNESCO for many years with issues related to Indigenous knowledge, Climate Change and Girls Education. 

Mr Anthony Blair Dreaver Johnston is a member of, and is a Special Projects worker for Mistawasis Nêhiyawak. Mistawasis is a Cree community north of Saskatoon and the Nation recently became signatory to the nation-to-nation Buffalo Treaty. Anthony worked with partners to bring Buffalo Treaty ceremony and signing events to Saskatchewan Treaty No. 6 territories.

Mr Michel Baudouin is the director of ERAIFT a category 2 centre under the auspices of UNESCO in Kinshasa, RDC. ERAIFT has been funded under the MAB programme 20 years ago and just established the first ever MAB Master in Africa in collaboration with UNESCO.

Chef Mauro Colagreco, 3 *** Guide Michelin is committed to a process of enhancing the cultural and natural wealth of the region of Alpes Maritimes. Lovers of the land and nature, he  has developed a vegetable garden respectful of nature inspired by the foundations of permaculture and biodynamics, and also cultivates several lands in the town of Menton in the south of France.

Vik Muniz, is an artist born in São Paulo, Brazil, but he currently works both in Rio de Janeiro and New York City. With works of art displayed in the most influential museums of the world, he was designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 2011, due to his activism for sustainable development, as well as use of art education for social inclusion and sustainability. In 2010, a documentary on Muniz’s work in one of the world’s largest garbage dumps, Waste Land, was nominated to the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 83rd Academy Awards. On Earthworks, he sought to show the direct human impact on nature.

The MAB Youth spokespersons are young people from biosphere reserves around the world, who have been invited to actively participate in the 50th Anniversary activities by submitting proposals to improve biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. These actions aim to encourage their participation in decision-making in the biosphere reserves where they live, study or work.

Alicia Donnellan Barraclough (EuroMAB) is a British-Spanish dual citizen, currently living and working in Nordhordland Biosphere Reserve in Norway. She is a researcher at the UNESCO Chair University of Bergen and a grassroots organizer. She is passionate about connecting people and nature through knowledge and practice.  Alicia is committed to working across divided to generate knowledge and inform practice in a way that is inclusive and fair to people and the planet.

Rebecca Laibich (AfriMAB) is a 25-year-old Kenyan citizen, born and raised in Mount Elgon Biosphere Reserve. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from from Moi University. She currently works with a youth led group that focuses on biodiversity conservation in Mount Elgon Biosphere Reserve. Rabecca is committed to embrace the celebration of MAB’s 50th Anniversary as she seeks to raise the voices of youth locally, regionally and globally and see humans learning to live in harmony with nature.

Amel Mechmech (ArabMAB) is a 33-year-old Tunisisan sociologist and ecologist. She dedicates her professional career to the preservation and valorization of natural and cultural heritage. She strongly believes in the values and missions of the UNESCO’s MAB Programme and she is committed to mainstreaming the work of youth around biosphere reserves.

Obed Palagot Echavarria (IberoMAB) was born and raised in Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and dedicates his career to biodiversity conservation and environmental education. He has engaged in several volunteer initiatives and is eager to work alongside IberoMAB Youth. He currently lives and work in Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve.

Xiaoge Ping (ASPACMAB) is a researcher at the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She has been studying wildlife and biodiversity conservation for the past 15 years and has conducted much of her work within Chinese Biosphere Reserves. She has a strong dedication for biodiversity conservation and throughout the years she has familiarized with the international conventions on biodiversity.

Emanuel Anthony Kilugala (Roots & Shoots Programme from Jane Goodall Institute) comes from the Gombe Masito Ugalla Biosphere Reserve in Tanzania and represents the Roots & Shoots Programme of the Jane Goodall Institute. He holds a Bachelor of Science in forestry and dedicated to biodiversity and natural resources conservation. As a spokesperson he wishes to share his experiences as much as he wishes to learn from fellow youth and expand his perspectives and knowledge on conservation and sustainable living.

Presentation of the 50th anniversary artwork by Vik Muniz

For its 50th anniversary, the MAB Programme partnered with renowned    Brazilian contemporary artist Vik Muniz, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador whose works are exhibited in the world's most prominent museums.

During this year, Mr Muniz has created artwork with canvases and photos of materials collected voluntarily in different biosphere reserves around the world that represent their cultural and biological uniqueness, and their inhabitants’ relationship with the living. The artwork will be presented during this event.

Side event BIOPALT

Launch of the Lake Chad Basin Water Quality Monitoring Portal. This portal has been developed upon the request of the Lake Chad basin commission (LCBC) and with the technical contribution of its experts as well as other partners. It is an innovative scientific tool that will enable the Member States of this transboundary basin of more than 45 million people to monitor water quality and natural resources status, develop policies to reduce pollution, and contribute to their sustainable management. It is also about contributing to human health, economic development and peace in the region. At this occasion, the results of the BIOPALT project will also be presented.