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Human and Nature. UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme

Since China joined UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, especially the foundation of Chinese National Committee for MAB Programm (MAB China), MAB’s implementation has played a positive role in the biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of natural resources, the building of ecological civilization and a beautiful China, and the development of ecological research in China, Wang Ding, secretary general of MAB China, lately states in an article published on Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In his article “To Harmonize Relationship Between Human and Nature and Achieve Sustainable Development: UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme in China,” Wang reviews the progress of the implementation of MAB in China, analyzes the problems and challenges, and makes proposals in regard of the rising needs of global environmental governance and building a community of shared future for all life on Earth by cooperation within international community.

During the 1950s and 1960s, environmental pollution and protection gradually attracted people’s attention. In 1971, René Maheu, former director general of UNESCO, first launched MAB Programme to the world at UNESCO’s General Assembly. China joined this program in 1973, and the Chinese National Committee for UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB China) was founded in 1978, with the support of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in collaboration with other ministries engaged in the administration of environmental conservation, forestry, agriculture, education, ocean and atmosphere, and so on. Since then, MAB China has carried out diverse explorations combining the value of UNESCO-MAB and the needs of the natural reserves in China.

According to the article, China now has built, the only one in the world, its own national biosphere reserves network, and carried out rich natural protection and sustainable development practices based on the network. A total of 34 protected natural areas, such as Changbaishan Nature Reserve in Jilin, Dinghushan Nature Reserve in Guangdong and Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan have been designated as the world biosphere reserves by UNESCO, with the total number ranking the first in Asia. “These reserves feature active biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, sustainable use of natural resources, and frontier exploration and international cooperation in co-development of protected areas and surrounding communities,” Wang says.

To make full use of the international exchange platform of MAB and further expand the influence of MAB in China, Chinese Biosphere Reserves Network (CBRN) was established in 1993. By the end of 2020, 185 protected natural areas had been included in this network, 80 percent of which were national nature reserves, accounting for 31 percent of the total nature reserves in China. This network covers almost all the major ecosystem types and biodiversity protected areas in the country. “The network holds training seminars and other exchange activities every year, becoming one of the key trans-departmental and inter-disciplinary exchange platforms for protected natural areas,” Wang writes.

“It is noteworthy that CBRN is the first national network corresponding to the world biosphere reserves network (WBRN), and this pioneering work has been highly appraised by UNESCO. The initiative promoted UNESCO to build the regional network and thematic network of world biosphere reserves, which, to some extent, disseminated the Chinese wisdom to the world. In 1996, MAB China was granted the Fred M. Packard Award (one of the most important international awards in natural conservation) by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the primary reason for the award was the founding of CBRN to promote the wider practice of MAB,” he continues.

Wang discloses that rich sustainable development practices have been carried out in biosphere reserves. For instance, relationship between biosphere reserves and surrounding communities has been improved to promote sustainable development, and standardized ecotourism has been advocated to promote sustainable development. As a global intergovernmental science programme, MAB has supported a large number of research projects, and organized and implemented a number of research and monitoring projects in collaboration with some authoritative organizations at home and abroad since the 1980s. The idea of harmony between human and nature has been transmitted by traditional and new media, and there are also a series of training activities to improve the capacity building of reserves.

In spite of the great achievements, Wang mentions, there are still some challenges in implementing the programme in China. “In particular, it will be a major task for China to give full play to the advantages and make up for deficiencies in the post-pandemic era and the construction of protected natural area system dominated by national parks,” he indicates. “MAB China will make efforts to promote the better development of UNESCO-MAB in China from three aspects.”

The first is to strengthen the leading role of sciences. “It is necessary to further play the leading and supporting role of science and technology as well as the advantages of organizational talent team of CAS.” He also suggests to strengthen the international cooperation to promote the exchanges between China and the world. “On one hand, we will continue to transmit the international advanced idea on ecological management to China; on the other hand, we will disseminate China’s experience in recent ecological civilization construction and Chinese wisdom to the world,” he says. His third suggestion is to give more play to experts of related fields and gather wisdom to build a community of shared future for all life on the earth.

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Dmytro Makarov

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