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 any legal economic activity.
The top 10 focus areas in which Geoparks are involved are:
- Natural resources. Geoparks inform people about the sustainable use and need for natural resources, while at the same time promoting respect for the environment and the integrity of the landscape.
- Geological hazards. Geoparks promote awareness of geological hazards and help prepare disaster mitigation strategies among local communities
- Climate change. Geoparks hold records of past climate change and are educators on current climate change by raising awareness to visitors of mitigation and how to adapt to current climate change.
- Education. Geoparks develop and operate educational activities for all ages to spread awareness of our geological heritage and its links to other aspects of our natural, cultural and intangible heritages.
- Science. Geoparks promote active scientific research in Earth Sciences and other disciplines. Geoparks take care to bring science closer to society.
- Culture. Geoparks are fundamentally about people and about exploring and celebrating the links between our communities and the Earth.
- Women. Geoparks ensure the full and effective empowerment and participation of women and girls in society.
- Sustainable development. Geoparks must ensure the sustainable development of the territory that it benefits the local population, by engaging and empowering local people.
- Local and Indigenous knowledge. It is necessary to preserve the local culture that gives identity to the territory.
- Geoconservation. Appropriate conservation and protection measures for geological, ecological and cultural sites are set out in the Geopark.
Moreover, Geoparks are committed and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.
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”.