Biosphere reserves are designed to deal with one of the most important questions the World faces today: How can we reconcile conservation of biodiversity and biological resources with their sustainable use? An effective biosphere reserve involves natural and social scientists; conservation and development groups; management authorities and local communities - all working together on this complex issue.
Biosphere reserves are sites where this objective is tested, refined, demonstrated and implemented
In the decade since the Minsk Congress, thinking about protected areas as a whole and about the biosphere reserves has been developing along parallel lines. Most importantly, the link between conservation of biodiversity and the development needs of local communities - a central component of the biosphere reserve approach - is now recognized as a key feature of the successful management of most national parks, nature reserves and other protected areas. At the Fourth World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas, held in Caracas, Venezuela, in February 1992, the world's protected-area planners and managers adopted many of the ideas (community involvement, the links between conservation and development, the importance of international collaboration) that are essential aspects of biosphere reserves.
The Congress also approved a resolution in support of biosphere reserves. There have also been important innovations in the management of biosphere reserves themselves. New methodologies for involving stakeholders in decision-making processes and resolving conflicts have been developed, and increased attention has been given to the need to use regional approaches. New kinds of biosphere reserves, such as cluster and transboundary reserves, have been devised, and many biosphere reserves have evolved considerably, from a primary focus on conservation to a greater integration of conservation and development through increasing co-operation among stakeholders. New international networks, fuelled by technological advances, including more powerful computers and the Internet, have greatly facilitated communication and cooperation between biosphere reserves in different countries.
The initial Documentation drawn up to guideline the purpose and functioning of Biosphere Reserves, is known as the Seville Strategy – drawn up in 1995 at the 2nd World Conference on Biosphere Reserves in Seville, Spain.