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World Network of Biosphere Reserves

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 2001

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves, structured and coordinated under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program, includes 391 reserves of this type in 94 countries in all to date (with 19 natural areas in Spain), where the aim is to maximise the harmony and concord between conserving unique natural environments and human population.

Biosphere reserves are 'areas of inland, coastal or marine eco-systems, or a combination thereof, recognised internationally as such within the framework of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program Work in the reserves', as stated in the dossier of the nomination, 'combines the conservation of eco-systems and their bio-diversity with sustainable use of natural resources to the benefit of local communities'. There are strict rules regarding the designation of these reserves; criteria for action within them were established in the 1995 Conference of Seville and always include conserving biological diversity, maintaining the well-being of eco-systems, learning from natural systems and their changes, furthering knowledge on the management of the sustainability of natural resources and cooperating in solving the concomitant problems.

The Urulu Mountains in Australia, Mount Olympus in Greece, Yellowstone Forest in the U.S.A., the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and the upper reaches of the Orinoco in Venezuela figure amongst the many emblematic areas. This vast network is coordinated regionally through seven smaller networks (Central and Southern Africa, the Arab World, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, the East and South Atlantic and Central Asia) each of which is coordinated by the International Coordinating Council made up of 34 countries; at present it has a president (Mohamed Abdel Gaward Ayyad, from Egypt) and five vice-presidents (Ecuador, Angola, Germany, Slovakia and Thailand).

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