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. A UNESCO Global Geopark uses its geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society, such as using our earth’s resources sustainably, mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing natural disasters-related risks. By raising awareness of the importance of the area’s geological heritage in history and society today, UNESCO Global Geoparks give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen their identification with the area. The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs and high quality training courses is stimulated as new sources of revenue are generated through geotourism, while the geological resources of the area are protected.
It is not a legal protection status nor restricts economic (sustainable) activities.
Actions and activities carried out in Geoparks:
- Assessment and preservation of geological, palaeontological and mining heritage as an integrated part of the values that represent the organization of the territory.
- Encouragement of the appropiation of these values by residents.
- Promotion of scientific continued research.
- Developmenet of educational programs (Earth Science, environmental education) and dissemination.
- Diversification of the supply to a quality and sustainable tourism (geotourism, ecotourism and cultural tourism).
- Encouragement of entrepreneurs and clustering of economic initiatives together, under a single umbrella brand.
A bottom-up approach
UNESCO Global Geoparks empower local communities and give them the opportunity to develop cohesive partnerships with the common goal of promoting the area’s significant geological processes, features, periods of time, historical themes linked to geology, or outstanding geological beauty. UNESCO Global Geoparks are established through a bottom-up process involving all relevant local and regional stakeholders and authorities in the area (e.g. land owners, community groups, tourism providers, indigenous people, and local organizations). This process requires firm commitment by the local communities, a strong local multiple partnership with long-term public and political support, and the development of a comprehensive strategy that will meet all of the communities’ goals while showcasing and protecting the area’s geological heritage
Geoparks and UNESCO have established close cooperative relations since 2001. This cooperation has been developed with great success through numerous expert meetings and missions.
Since November 2015, Global UNESCO Geoparks of belong to the “International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme” (IGGP) of UNESCO. This Programme facilitates international cooperation between regions in the field of sustainable development related to the Earth Sciences heritage.
Through IGGP, candidate geographical areas present their candidacy to UNESCO, as the only United Nations Organization with a mandate in Earth Sciences, to be designated as “UNESCO Global Geoparks”.