“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 UN body UNESCO have three different distinctions that areas around the world may be granted: World Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves, and Global Geoparks. The concept of geopark was established in the year 2000 and became a part of UNESCO in 2015. There is a total of 140 geoparks in 38 countries today – and the network is growing fast. There are established geoparks in all our neighbouring Nordic countries, but so far none in Sweden. We aim to become the first geopark in Sweden when we send in our application in the autumn of 2019.
There is a global network of geoparks (Global Geoparks Network), which is a coalition of all the Global Geoparks, and there is a regional geopark network as well. In Europe, we have the European Geoparks Network.
A geopark actively works to show and spread knowledge about geology and geological sites, for example by developing tourism in the area and through activities aimed at children and teenagers. One important part is to always point out and explain the connections between geology and biology, and between geology, people, and cultural history. All in all, a geopark provides a better understanding for how we should manage our natural resources and our planet, and it gives opportunities for a positive development of rural areas.
Applying for an approval as a UNESCO Global Geopark is an extensive process which guarantees that only stable applicants of high quality are approved.
Some important points in the application process include:
- An applicant must have geological sites and landscapes of international value. The basis for this assessment must be scientific.
- The application form, a document of some 50 pages plus a number of appendices, must be submitted between October 1 and November 30. The application is sent via the Swedish UNESCO office in Stockholm to UNESCO’s head office in Paris.
- An applicant must be an “established and active” geopark before the application is submitted – this means that everything from an organisational structure and a long-term financial plan to activities like guided tours and school programmes must be in place. It is important that the geopark is a public project that benefits a wide public.
- In the summer after the application has been submitted, the geopark receives a visit from two UNESCO representatives who will evaluate the geopark’s work on-site (a prerequisite for this is that the applicant has passed a scientific assessment of the geology as being of international value). The two representatives will then submit a report including a recommendation whether or not to approve the application.
- There are three possible outcomes of the application process. The applicant may either receive a green card, meaning the application is approved, or a red card, meaning it has been denied – or a yellow card. The yellow card means that the application will be put on hold for two years and that the applicant is given a list with recommendations for improvements.
- If an applicant is approved, the decision will be recognized at UNESCO’s General Conference which takes place in the spring each year.
- An approval only lasts four years at a time – after that, a report must be submitted and two inspectors from UNESCO will visit the geopark and assess its work on-site. This inspection also has three possible outcomes: a green, yellow, or red card.
You can find additional information at UNESCO.