UNESCO-designated sites comprise diverse environmental, social, and economic treasures identified and proposed by Member States under UNESCO Convention and Programmes. These sites include World Heritage sites, Biosphere Reserves, and UNESCO Global Geoparks, all dedicated to fostering sustainable development. Their primary focus is the preservation of natural heritage, conservation, and sustainable utilization of biodiversity and geological resources.
World Heritage sites are distinguished landmarks or areas acknowledged for their cultural, historical, scientific, or other significant attributes, safeguarded by international agreements. These sites hold immense importance for the collective interests of humanity. In order to be included in the World Heritage list, sites must demonstrate ‘outstanding universal value’ and meet at least one of the 10 selection criteria. As of October 2023, there are a total of 15 World Heritage sites located in Southeast Asia.
Biosphere reserves cover a range of ecosystems, including terrestrial, marine, and coastal environments. Their primary focus is on advocating for solutions that strike a balance between conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable usage. These reserves act as designated ‘Science for Sustainability support sites,’ providing unique spaces to experiment with interdisciplinary methods for understanding and overseeing the dynamics and interrelationships between social and ecological systems. Their scope includes conflict prevention strategies and the management of biodiversity. As of October 2023, Southeast Asia is home to 43 Biosphere reserves.
UNESCO Global Geoparks designate integrated geographical areas where globally significant geological sites and landscapes are managed through a comprehensive approach that includes protection, education, and sustainable development. Their strategy involves integrating conservation with sustainable development practices, actively involving local communities. As of October 2023, Southeast Asia hosts 18 UNESCO Global Geoparks within its region.