UNESCO Global Geoparks

Monday - 30/07/2018 11:54

     The Geopark concept arose in the mid-1990s as a response to the need to conserve and enhance the value of areas of geological significance in Earth history. Landscapes and geological formations are key witnesses to the evolution of our planet and determinants for our future sustainable development. From the outset, Geoparks adopted a “bottom-up” or community-led approach to ensure that an area’s geological significance could be conserved and promoted for science, education and culture, in addition to being used as a sustainable economic asset such as through the development of responsible tourism. In 2004, with the support of UNESCO, 17 members of the European Geoparks Network and eight Chinese Geoparks came together to create the Global Geoparks Network (GGN) which, with then more than 100 Global Geoparks as members, acquired legal status in 2014.

     A UNESCO Global Geopark must contain geology of international significance. It is independently evaluated by scientific professionals in the relevant discipline of Earth Science. UNESCO Global Geoparks are living, working landscapes where science and local communities engage in a mutually beneficial way.

     Education at all levels is at the core of the UNESCO Global Geopark concept. From university researchers to local community groups, UNESCO Global Geoparks encourage awareness of the story of the planet as read in the rocks, landscape and ongoing geological processes. UNESCO Global Geoparks also promote the links between geological heritage and all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, clearly demonstrating that geodiversity is the foundation of all ecosystems and the basis of human interaction with the landscape.

     UNESCO Global Geoparks contribute to achieving UNESCO’s objectives by promoting geology and science in general through a wider contribution to UNESCO’s mandate while cutting across education, culture and communication.


     2.1 UNESCO Global Geoparks within UNESCO’s International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme

     UNESCO Global Geoparks, within UNESCO’s International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP), encourage international cooperation between areas with geological heritage of international value, through a bottom-up approach to conservation, local community support, promotion of heritage and sustainable development of the area. Through the IGGP, these areas apply to UNESCO as the only United Nations organization with a remit in the Earth Sciences to designate as a “UNESCO Global Geopark”, which draws upon the broader mandate of the Organization.

     2.2 UNESCO Global Geoparks

     UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. The international geological significance of a UNESCO Global Geopark is determined by scientific professionals, as part of a “UNESCO Global Geopark Evaluation Team”, who make a globally comparative assessment based on the peer-reviewed, published research conducted on geological sites within the area. UNESCO Global Geoparks use geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of that area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society in the context of the dynamic planet we all live on.

     2.3 Use of logos

     UNESCO Global Geoparks will be entitled to use a “linked logo” to be developed for UNESCO Global Geoparks. This use will be governed under the 2007 “Directives concerning the use of the name, acronym, logo and Internet domain names of UNESCO” or by any subsequent directive.

     2.4 Geographical representation

     As part of UNESCO, the IGGP is committed to promote balanced global geographical representation for UNESCO Global Geoparks.


     (i) UNESCO Global Geoparks must be single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education, research and sustainable development. A UNESCO Global Geopark must have a clearly defined border, be of adequate size to fulfil its functions and contain geological heritage of international significance as independently verified by scientific professionals.

     (ii) UNESCO Global Geoparks should use that heritage, in connection with all other aspects of that area’s natural and cultural heritage, to promote awareness of key issues facing society in the context of the dynamic planet we all live on, including but not limited to increasing knowledge and understanding of: geoprocesses; geohazards; climate change; the need for the sustainable use of Earth’s natural resources; the evolution of life and the empowerment of indigenous peoples.

     (iii) UNESCO Global Geoparks should be areas with a management body having legal existence recognized under national legislation. The management bodies should be appropriately equipped to adequately address the area of the UNESCO Global Geopark in its entirety.

     (iv) In the case where an applying area overlaps with another UNESCO designated site, such as a World Heritage Site or Biosphere Reserve, the request must be clearly justified and evidence must be provided for how UNESCO Global Geopark status will add value by being both independently branded and in synergy with the other designations.

     (v) UNESCO Global Geoparks should actively involve local communities and indigenous peoples as key stakeholders in the Geopark. In partnership with local communities, a co-management plan needs to be drafted and implemented that provides for the social and economic needs of local populations, protects the landscape in which they live and conserves their cultural identity. It is recommended that all relevant local and regional actors and authorities be represented in the management of a UNESCO Global Geopark. Local and indigenous knowledge, practice and management systems should be included, alongside science, in the planning and management of the area.

     (vi) UNESCO Global Geoparks are encouraged to share their experience and advice and to undertake joint projects within the GGN. Membership of GGN is obligatory.

     (vii) A UNESCO Global Geopark must respect local and national laws relating to the protection of geological heritage. The defining geological heritage sites within a UNESCO Global Geopark must be legally protected in advance of any application. At the same time, a UNESCO Global Geopark should be used as leverage for promoting the protection of geological heritage locally and nationally. The management body must not participate directly in the sale of geological objects such as fossils, minerals, polished rocks and ornamental rocks of the type normally found in so-called “rock- shops” within the UNESCO Global Geopark (regardless of their origin) and should actively discourage unsustainable trade in geological materials as a whole. Where clearly justified as a responsible activity and as part of delivering the most effective and sustainable means of site management, it may permit sustainable collecting of geological materials for scientific and educational purposes from naturally renewable sites within the UNESCO Global Geopark. Trade of geological materials based on such a system may be tolerated in exceptional circumstances, provided it is clearly and publicly explained, justified and monitored as the best option for the Global Geopark in relation to local circumstances. Such circumstances will be subject to approval by the UNESCO Global Geoparks Council on a case by case basis.

     (viii) These criteria are verified through checklists for evaluation and revalidation.

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