Wester Ross becomes a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Wester Ross, a remote Scottish landscape of wild, rugged mountains, lochs and glens, and beautiful headlands and islands, has been officially welcomed into the world network of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

The Wester Ross community joins five UK UNESCO Biospheres and over 669 in 120 countries worldwide working together to strengthen local economies and connect people with nature and cultural heritage.

The inauguration ceremony, attended by stakeholders, the local community and the Coordinator of the European Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme at UNESCO, was held in Kinlochewe, Scotland, in September 2017.

Over 60 members and supporters of the UNESCO Biosphere were present to witness the presentation of the certificate by the UNESCO MAB Programme Specialist and the Coordinator of the European MAB Programme, Meriem Bouamrane.

In her speech, Ms Bouamrane explained the philosophy behind the UNESCO MAB Programme and that, of all the UNESCO programmes, it puts people at its centre. Being a Biosphere is a collective commitment to create and live in a better world.

She said as part of her speech, “The designation of Wester Ross as a biosphere is a tool for people, for your community to manage its future, by inspiring today a positive future to next generations and to the world.”

“It is thus a long-term commitment and an international engagement. It is a historical moment today because you can prove something deep, to yourselves and to the world: that people are not the problem, people are the solution. People have the power to shape their own destiny, to enact their own visions of their future.”

Wester Ross Biosphere (WRB) is now part of a global network of over 600 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves spread across 120 countries worldwide. Being a member of this global network provides unique opportunities for exchanges of experience, collaborative research and other partnerships. The programme is the world’s only globally-recognised designation for demonstrating excellence in sustainable development.

Audrey Sinclair, WRB Chairperson, accepted the certificate on behalf of WRB and in her response, recognised that the event was a milestone in the journey of WRB. She added, “I am proud that we have become only the second area in Scotland to be awarded this accolade. It is also good to realise that we have joined a family and to know that there is help and support available from other members of the network of UNESCO biospheres as we work to achieve our aim of helping our communities work together and to remain alive and vibrant.”

Amongst those present was Maree Todd MSP, who said, “I was born and brought up in the Biosphere – in fact, I am named after the loch which is at its centre. Being aware of how fragile the area is, I am pleased that people are prominent in the MAB Programme. I am delighted to celebrate this achievement and wish WRB all the best.”

Sue Walker, Vice Chair of Scottish Natural Heritage, was also present and commented, “Today is a great opportunity to celebrate the success of the communities of Wester Ross in achieving the UNESCO Biosphere designation.  This shows the value of the environment in supporting economic and social development. SNH looks forward to continuing to work with the communities of Wester Ross in delivering their aspirations for the Biosphere.”

Read more on the Wester Ross Biosphere website.