April 15, 2024


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UNESCO strengthens its support to Guinea-Bissau for the protection of the Bijagós Islands

Paris, 19 January 2023 – Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on Wednesday visited the Bijagós Islands (Guinea-Bissau), which is protected under UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve Programme. During a meeting with the President of the Republic, she announced immediate technical support to help Guinea-Bissau propose the site for inscription on the World Heritage List in the very near future.
“The Bijagós archipelago is an exceptional ecosystem, due to the diversity of its flora and fauna, and the balance that local populations have been able to strike with nature thanks to their traditions,” said the Director-General, said on Tuesday.
At the end of a meeting with the President of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, the Director-General also announced that “UNESCO will support the country in its project to inscribe the Bijagós Islands on the World Heritage List, by mobilizing dedicated funding as of 2023, in line with the priority that our Organization wishes to give to Africa.” 

These funds will result in a series of actions by UNESCO on the ground: the training of a new generation of local experts, the provision of international experts, as well as support to the national authorities in the elaboration of a management plan for the Bijagós archipelago, which will guarantee its lasting protection on the basis of the criteria of the World Heritage Convention, in order to be able to submit a nomination file to the World Heritage Committee in early 2024. 

This reinforced support is an integral part of a regional project, launched in June 2021 by UNESCO in partnership with Japan to support African States in submitting nominations for World Heritage listing.

 The Bijagós, established as a biosphere reserve since 1996 The 88 islands of the Bijagós archipelago are home to exceptional biodiversity, with landscapes of mangroves, savannahs, palm groves and tropical forests. They are a sanctuary for hundreds of animal species, including mammals such as dolphins, manatees and hippos. The archipelago is the most important site in West Africa for green turtle nesting, and the second most important for migratory birds, with one million birds visiting each year. Only a quarter of the islands are inhabited.

Their population has developed an indissoluble relationship between natural and cultural heritage, and a way of life based on respect for and protection of the environment. UNESCO recognised this exemplary approach in 1996 when it listed the archipelago as a biosphere reserve. This has had a catalytic effect on the protection of natural heritage in Guinea-Bissau. It triggered the creation of national frameworks, bodies and tools dedicated to the safeguarding and promotion of biodiversity.

This is particularly the case for the Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas (IBAP), which coordinates the management of the country’s protected areas, public awareness and applied conservation research, in conjunction with local communities, all of Guinea-Bissau’s civil society and the ministries concerned. On the strength of this positive result, two other UNESCO biosphere reserves are currently being planned in the country.
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