Roddy Heyliger: Create the Sint Maarten/St. Martin Biosphere Reserve


The International Coordinating Council of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) recently added 20 new sites to its global list of biosphere reserves, bringing the total to 599 in 117 countries.


Biosphere reserves are places recognized by MAB where local communities are actively involved in governance and management, research, education, training and monitoring at the service of both socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation. These are sites for experimenting with and learning about sustainable development.
At a MAB meeting in Paris, France, sites added to the listing were in Haiti, Kazakhstan, Sao Tome, and Principe, for the first time to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. The sites are internationally recognized, but nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the country where they are located.
The origin of Biosphere Reserves goes back to 1968 and 1970 when UNESCO organized the Biosphere Conference in the late sixties and launched the MAB in the early 70s.
A joint effort should be made by the Governments of Sint Maarten and St. Martin to collectively establish the "Sint Maarten/St. Martin Biosphere Reserve."
A biosphere reserve is intended to fulfil three basic functions, which are complementary and mutually reinforcing. The conservation function entails contributing to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation. The development function entails fostering economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable. The third function of logistics entails to provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development.
The biosphere reserve has a number of benefits: to guide and reinforce projects to enhance people’s livelihoods and ensure environmental sustainability; UNESCO’s recognition; it raises awareness and can help attract funding from different sources; can serve as a pilot site or learning place(s) to explore and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development, providing lessons which can be applied elsewhere.
This would be great for the school community who have shown time and time again via science projects that they have potential solutions to today’s environmental challenges.
Besides the aforementioned, the reserve is a concrete means for countries to implement Agenda 21, the Convention on Biological Diversity (example eco system approach), and many Millennium Development Goals (environmental sustainability).
Serious consideration should be given by the Governments of both sides of the island with respect to the creation of the "Sint Maarten/St. Martin Biosphere Reserve." We have more to gain than lose.
Roddy Heyliger


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