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How is the European Geoparks Network integrated in the overall policy of UNESCO?

Taking into account common goals for geological heritage activities, educating the public on the environment, and promoting regional sustainable development, namely though Geoparks, UNESCO has established close ties of co-operation with the European Geoparks Network. This co-operation has developed very successfully through numerous common meetings and expert missions and is of considerable value in raising public awareness on environmental matters and stimulating geotourism world-wide on a high standard of excellency. Being a permanent member of the steering and expert bodies of the Network, UNESCO participates at any stage in the evaluation of and decision on European geopark applications.

In this respect, two agreements were signed by both parties. In April 2001 the European Geoparks Network signed with UNESCO (Division of Earth Sciences) an Agreement for Cooperation placing the Network under the auspices of the organization.

A second agreement the “Madonie Declaration” was signed 2004, in Madonie, Italy.  A European region wishing to become member of UNESCO’s Global Network of National Geoparks, is invited to submit a full application dossier to the coordination office of the European Geoparks Network. The applicant is requested to use for this purpose the application forms provided by the Secretariat of the EGN, based at Reserve Geologique de Haute Provence.

The Global Network of National Geoparks of UNESCO and the European Geoparks Network (EGN) were prepared in parallel and were conceived after many years of common discussion and planning. Basing on this common conceptual basis regarding philosophy and management, and in order to apply the European model of high quality standards in a wider context, UNESCO has decided to integrate national geopark applications in Europe through the European Geoparks Network into UNESCO’s Global Network of National Geoparks.

UNESCO’s actual role

The Global Network of National Geoparks
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Since a considerable time, UNESCO’s Division of Earth Sciences has elaborated partnerships and registered great interest from numerous geological institutions and geoscientists in Member States, and by non-governmental organizations in geological heritage matters. Despite the fact that high importance was attached to geological heritage matters, the delegates of UNESCO’s Executive Board – driven by the actual budgetary constraints and needs for concentration – decided in Spring 2001 not to pursue the development of a new UNESCO Programme and unfortunately, the proposal in launching a UNESCO Geopark Programme was not accepted.

In spite of this decision, UNESCO’s role was considered as crucial in enhancing public awareness of geological heritage issues, achieving fullest international recognition, and securing political impact. Therefore, the Director-General of UNESCO has been requested to pursue the general objective ‘Education in Earth Sciences’, through the promotion of geological heritage activities, providing UNESCO’s support to and co-operation with national initiatives on an ad hoc basis when requested by Member States. This support is provided by the Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences (former Division of Earth Sciences) through its Global Network of National Geoparks.

The “Global Network of National Geoparks” provides a platform of cooperation and exchange between experts and practitioners in geological heritage matters on a worldwide scale. Under the umbrella of UNESCO and through cooperation with the global network partners, important local, national geological sites gain worldwide recognition and profit through the exchange of knowledge and expertise with other geoparks.

National geoparks seeking UNESCO’s assistance are invited to contact the Earth Observation Section, Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences at UNESCO. Applications will be assessed by an independent experts group, which pronounces its recommendation regarding the membership of the proposed geopark. Membership to the Global Network of National Geoparks may be attributed upon a positive assessment.

Margarete PATZAK
Division Ecological and Earth Sciences, UNESCO

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