A number of agreements exist which list (or inscribe) protected areas and are of international importance. Protected areas are not officially designated through these means, but through national legislation on protected areas, which varies from country to country. However, these international agreements aid in recognising and establishing those protected areas that are highly important, vulnerable, biodiverse or otherwise valuable.
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was adopted in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. The Convention came into force in 1975, and produces the List of Wetlands of International Importance. Its Contracting Parties (countries) designate suitable wetlands for the List, with each Contracting Party designating at least one site for inclusion upon joining. The mission of the Ramsar Convention is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention, first adopted in 1972, encourages State Parties (countries) to nominate sites for the World Heritage List to ensure identification and protection of their natural and cultural heritage. Nominated cultural, natural or mixed sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of ten criteria.
The Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB), established in 1977, proposes an interdisciplinary research and capacity building agenda aiming to improve the relationship of people with their environment globally. Its World Network of Biosphere Reserves lists sites that demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development, displaying a close but balanced interaction between man and the environment. Nominations for the Network are provided by national governments.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), formed in 1967, is formed by Member States in the region. Its Declaration on Heritage Parks compiles a list of the region’s protected areas that display uniqueness, diversity and outstanding values, in order to achieve recognition of their importance as conservation areas, both regionally and internationally. This list was first produced in 1984, and subsequently re-launched in 2004.
The 1976 Barcelona Convention for Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution contains a number of protocols relevant to the Mediterranean region. Article 8(2) of the 1995 Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean aims to revive the creation of marine protected areas and extend this network, through inventorying areas it thinks should be Specially Protected Areas (SPAs). Additionally it provides for the establishment of a list of Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs), that lists sites, including those in the high seas, that are: “of importance for conserving the components of biological diversity in the Mediterranean; contain ecosystems specific to the Mediterranean area or the habitats of endangered species; are of special interest at the scientific, aesthetic, cultural or educational levels".
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