What is Geopark?
By admin | 1-7-2019 09:26

What is a UNESCO Global Geopark?

Hateg Global Geopark, Romania

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.

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.


Is a UNESCO Global Geopark only about geology?

Khe Lia Valley, Dong Van Karst (Viet Nam)

No! While a UNESCO Global Geopark must demonstrate geological heritage of international significance, the purpose of a UNESCO Global Geopark is to explore, develop and celebrate the links between that geological heritage and all other aspects of the area's natural, cultural and intangible heritages.

It is about reconnecting human society at all levels to the planet we all call home and to celebrate how our planet and its 4,600 million year long history has shaped every aspect of our lives and our societies.


Is there any legal status attached to the label UNESCO Global Geopark?

On-site protection of Jurassic ammonites, Haute Provence UNESCO Global Geopark, France

No, “UNESCO Global Geopark” is not a legislative designation – though the defining geological heritage sites within a UNESCO Global Geopark must be protected under indigenous, local, regional or national legislation as appropriate. UNESCO Global Geopark status does not imply restrictions on any economic activity inside a UNESCO Global Geopark where that activity complies with indigenous, local, regional and/or national legislation.

Once a UNESCO Global Geopark, always a UNESCO Global Geopark?

© Liu Jiaqing
Cliffside carving of Danxia at Danxiashan UNESCO Global Geopark, China

No, a UNESCO Global Geopark is given this designation for a period of four years after which the functioning and quality of each UNESCO Global Geopark is thoroughly re-examined during a revalidation process. As part of the revalidation process, the UNESCO Global Geopark under review has to prepare a progress report and a field mission will be undertaken by two evaluators to revalidate the quality of the UNESCO Global Geopark. If, on the basis of the field evaluation report, the UNESCO Global Geopark continues to fulfil the criteria the area will continue as a UNESCO Global Geopark for a further four-year period (so-called “green card”). If the area no longer fulfils the criteria, the management body will be informed to take appropriate steps within a two-year period (so-called “yellow card”). Should the UNESCO Global Geopark not fulfil the criteria within two years after receiving a “yellow card”, the area will lose its status as a UNESCO Global Geopark (so-called “red card”).

Related information : http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/earth-sciences/unesco-global-geoparks/revalidation-process/

Where are the UNESCO Global Geoparks?

North Pennines AONB Geopark (UK)

As of April 2019, there are 147 UNESCO Global Geoparks spread across 41 countries.

While the Global Geoparks have until recently been concentrated in Europe and in China, the last few years have seen the geoparks initiative spread worldwide so that there are existing UNESCO Global Geoparks, or active applications to become UNESCO Global Geoparks, on all continents.

The UNESCO Global Geopark information sheets provide detailed information on the UNESCO Global Geoparks in the different countries around the world.


What is the Global Geoparks Network?

© Sierra Norte de Sevilla Geopark

The Global Geoparks Network (GGN), of which membership is obligatory for UNESCO Global Geoparks, is a legally constituted not-for-profit organisation with an annual membership fee. The GGN was founded in 2004 and is a dynamic network where members are committed to work together and exchange ideas of best practise and join in common projects to raise the quality standards of all products and practises of a UNESCO Global Geopark. While the GGN as a whole comes together every two years, it functions through the operation of regional networks, such as the European Geoparks Network that meets twice a year to develop and promote joint activities.

Related information: 

http://globalgeoparksnetwork.org/http://www.europeangeoparks.org/http://asiapacificgeoparks.org/                            http://www.europeangeoparks.org/http://asiapacificgeoparks.org/                                                                                              

UNESCO Global Geoparks, Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites: a complete picture

© Mount Taishan UNESCO Global Geopark
Mount Tai is the oldest example of the palaeo-metamorphic system representative of the Cambrian period in eastern China, and also symbolizes ancient chinese civilizations and beliefs

UNESCO Global Geoparks, together with the other two UNESCO site designations Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites, give a complete picture of celebrating our heritage while at the same time conserving the world’s cultural, biological and geological diversity, and promoting sustainable economic development. While Biosphere Reserves focus on the harmonised management of biological and cultural diversity and World Heritage Sites promote the conservation of natural and cultural sites of outstanding universal value, UNESCO Global Geoparks give international recognition for sites that promote the importance and significance of protecting the Earth’s geodiversity through actively engaging with the local communities. In case an aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark includes a World Heritage Site or Biosphere Reserve, a clear justification and evidence has to be provided on how UNESCO Global Geopark status will add value by being both independently branded and in synergy with the other designations.

Fundamental Features of a UNESCO Global Geopark

© North Pennines UNESCO Global Geopark/Elizabeth Pickett
North Pennines UNESCO Global Geopark UK - Visitors can explore old lead mines, part of the area's rich mining heritage

There are four fundamental features to a UNESCO Global Geopark. These features are an absolute prerequisite for an area to become a UNESCO Global Geopark. The exact criteria for an area to become a UNESCO Global Geopark are set out in the Operational Guidelines for UNESCO Global Geoparks (pdf).

The four features that are fundamental to a UNESCO Global Geopark are:

    Geological heritage of international value

    In order to become a UNESCO Global Geopark, the area must have geological heritage of international value. This is assessed by scientific professionals, as part of
    the “UNESCO Global Geopark Evaluation Team”. Based on the international peer-reviewed, published research conducted on the geological sites within the area, the
    scientific professionals make a globally comparative assessment to determine whether the geological sites constitute international value.


  • Management

    UNESCO Global Geoparks are managed by a body having legal existence recognized under national legislation. This management body should be appropriately equipped to address the entire area and should include all relevant local and regional actors and authorities. UNESCO Global Geoparks require a management plan, agreed upon by all the partners, that provides for the social and economic needs of the local populations, protects the landscape in which they live and conserves their cultural identity. This plan must be comprehensive, incorporating the governance, development, communication, protection, infrastructure, finances, and partnerships of the UNESCO Global Geopark.
  • Visibility

    UNESCO Global Geoparks promote sustainable local economic development mainly through geotourism. In order to stimulate the geotourism in the area, it is crucial that a UNESCO Global Geopark has visibility. Visitors as well as local people need to be able to find relevant information on the UNESCO Global Geopark. As such, UNESCO Global Geoparks need to provide information via a dedicated website, leaflets, and detailed map of the area that connects the area’s geological and other sites. A UNESCO Global Geopark should also have a corporate identity.
  • Networking

    A UNESCO Global Geopark is not only about cooperation with the local people living in the UNESCO Global Geopark area, but also about cooperating with other UNESCO Global Geoparks through the Global Geoparks Network (GGN), and regional networks for UNESCO Global Geoparks, in order to learn from each other and, as a network, improve the quality of the label UNESCO Global Geopark. Working together with international partners is the main reason for UNESCO Global Geoparks to be a member of an international network such as the GGN. Membership of the GGN is obligatory for UNESCO Global Geoparks. By working together across borders, UNESCO Global Geoparks contribute to increasing understanding among different communities and as such help peace-building processes.
  • Credit Informationshttp://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/earth-sciences/unesco-global-geoparks/frequently-asked-questions/what-is-a-unesco-global-geopark/