UNESCO Biosphere Reserve management evaluation: Where do we stand and what's next?

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Matar, Diane A.
Anthony, Brandon P.
This article provides the first comprehensive review of the discourse evolution of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve evaluation, relative to the general discourse of Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME) evaluation. Using literature review and content analysis, it addresses two main research questions: (1) In light of recent literature, is it still relevant and important to evaluate protected areas and biosphere reserves? (2) To what extent has the Periodic Review (PR), which is the only performance evaluation required by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme, effectively addressed the need for “standard indicators to evaluate the economic, social, and ecological progress made by biosphere reserves” (IUCN 1995)? Using synthetic argumentation, we find first that management effectiveness evaluation is still highly relevant and essential for the effective management and global expansion of protected areas and biosphere reserves networks. Second, the PR report has been a soft evaluation tool that led to improved implementation of the biosphere reserve concept, by tackling mainly the design and planning aspects. However it lacks results-based indicators that specifically measure delivery of objectives linked to the three functions of biosphere reserves (conservation, sustainable development, and logistic support). Third, the PR tool is not designed to systematically integrate into an adaptive management cycle recommended for biosphere reserves. Drawing from lessons and advancements made in PAME evaluation, we conclude with targeted recommendations for the improvement of biosphere reserve management evaluation, in the perspective of enhancing their contribution to the global sustainable development goals.
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