For the Establishment and Functioning of Transboundary Biosphere Reserves

As borders between states are political and not ecological, ecosystems often occur across national boundaries, and may be subject to different, or even conflicting, management and land use practices. Transboundary Biosphere Reserves (TBR) provide a tool for common management. A TBR is an official recognition at an international level and by a UN institution of a political will to co-operate in the conservation and sustainable use through common management of a shared ecosystem. It also represents a commitment of two or more countries to apply together the Seville Strategy for biosphere reserves and its objectives. It corresponds to the increasing recognition of the appropriateness of the ecosystem approach, for conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

The recommendations presented below deal with the establishment of TBR, the measures which can be taken to respond to the MAB principles and in particular the goals of the Seville Strategy and the way of ensuring that a TBR is truly operational. However, it should be kept in mind that, although the biosphere reserve provides a general framework for action in a transboundary location, the real-world situations will vary very much from a place to another, and flexibility is needed even more than in a national context.

The process leading towards the official designation of a TBR can include many forms of cooperation and co-ordination among the existing areas on either side of a border. These serve as a basis for formalising the TBR proposal and should be encouraged.

Procedure for the establishment of a TBR

Up until now, all existing TBR were established as separate biosphere reserves in individual countries before being designated as TBR. However, it could be envisaged in the future that a TBR be established jointly by the countries concerned in one step. In both cases, the ultimate aim should be to have one functional biosphere reserve.

In these two different scenarios, the following respective procedures are recommended :

  •  Establishment of a biosphere reserve on each side of the border;
  •  or, when the TBR is established in one step, definition of the zoning of the area according to the general criteria for designation of biosphere reserves.
  • Identification of local and national partners and establishment of a working group to define the basis and identify key issues for co-operation.
  • Signing of an official agreement between governmental authorities regarding the TBR.
  •  Nomination of the various parts by the respective State authorities;
  •  or, when the TBR is established in one step, joint nomination for the whole area by the concerned State authorities.
  •  In both scenarios, indication of the main components of a plan for co-operation in the future.
  •  Official designation by ICC MAB of UNESCO.

Functioning of the TBR

Among the measures recommended to make the TBR function effectively, priority should be given to:

  • Preparation and adoption of a zonation plan for the whole area and implementation of the zonation by strict protection of core areas, delimitation of the buffer zones and coordinated objectives for the transition areas; this implies that the countries concerned have a common understanding of the characteristics of each of the zones, and that similar management measures are in place for each zone.
  • When the zonation plan is defined, publication on a joint map of the zonation.
  •  Definition of common objectives and measures, work plan, time table, and required budget; this should be a demand driven process, based on perceived needs or management requirements. This work plan should take into account the elements listed under the goals of the Seville Strategy as suggested below.
  •  Identification of potential funding sources for the work plan and joint or simultaneous application for these funds.
  •  Establishment of a means of communication between the co-ordinators/managers of the different parts of the TBR, including electronic mail when feasible.
  •  Efforts towards harmonised management structures on each side.

Institutional Mechanisms

The TBR will not function without a joint structure devoted to its co-ordination. Although this structure can vary greatly from one TBR to another, the following points can be recommended:

  •  The co-ordinating structure is representative of various administrations and the scientific boards, as well as the authorities in charge of the protected areas, the representatives of local communities, interested and affected groups, including youth, and of the private sector.
  •  The NGO sector in the area is also represented in the structure.
  •  This structure has a permanent secretariat, and a budget is devoted to its functioning.
  •  A person is designated on each side to act as a focal point for co-operation.
  •  General and regular meetings of the co-ordinating structure are complemented by thematic groups, on an ad hoc basis, in order to create a platform for discussion among stakeholders from the countries concerned, with a view to promote all opportunities for exchanging views and knowledge.
  •  Joint staff teams are operational for specific tasks.
  •  An association is set up with the specific aim of promoting the TBR.
  • Responding To The Goal Of The Serville Strategy