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Promotion of National Geoparks within the International Arena

Source:Source: Proceeding Of The Second International Symposium On Developmnet Within Geoparks Published:Oct 31,2007

F. Wolfgang Eder

Past UNESCO Director "Earth Sciences"
UNESCO “Global Network of National Geoparks”: Member of the Honorary Committee
c/o Department of Earth Sciences and Environment, University Munich; e-mail: w.eder-geo@hotmail.de

Introduction and Background: During the last decade a remarkable shift concerning the perception and promotion of Earth Sciences happened on a global scale. Apart from “Groundwater”, “Global Warming or Climate Change”, “Natural Disaster Risk Reduction” and “Energy and Resources”, the interest of international Geo-Conferences (and subsequently also the media) focused on new items like “Geoparks”, “Geoconservation”, “Geoheritage” and “Geotourism”. Seemingly “old-fashioned” traditionalactivities of Palaeontologists, Stratigraphers, Geologists, Geomorphologists or Mineralogists have been reinvented, newly detected and redesigned.

In the follow-up of tragic Natural Disasters, like the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004, numerous people, politicians, geo-scientists, teachers, and tourist managers are increasingly interested and involved in the process to improve the general understanding of the “System Earth”. In addition, the United Nations have appealed within the frame of the so-called Millennium-Goals for a “Respect for Nature” through highlighting the “Value of Nature”. UN Decades for “Education for Sustainable Development” and for “Education for All” have been established (both of which should include geo-scientific components) and, last but not least, the year 2008 has been proclaimed as the International Year of Planet Earth” (IYPE) by the UN.

“Geosites”, “Geotopes”, “Geotopos”, “Geodiversity”, “Geoconservation”, “Geoparks” and “Geotourism” are no longer unusual terms. The “Geoheritage”-family, a rich bunch of numerous individuals, local, regional, national and international entities have influenced and changed dramatic the perception of modern Earth sciences.World Heritage Sites (honoured throughlists of Natural and Cultural Sites by UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre), Biosphere Reserves, and National Geoparks (cooperating in international networks, like the “European Geoparks Network” or the “Global Geoparks Network” assisted by UNESCO) have been understood as an attractive tool for research, holistic education of nature, recreation, tourism and economic development of significant regions. Recent contributions of UNESCO (R. Missotten and Margarete Patzak), and the European Geoparks Network (Patrick McKeever and Nikos Zouros) are summarizing the specificities of Geoparks, their criteria and guidelines to be followed when a region wants to become a “Geopark”.

Strong national groups on “Geoheritage” exist all over the world, like in the UK (English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish Nature, the “Joint Nature Conservation Committee” (JNCC)), China (Ministry of Land and Resources, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences), Germany (GeoUnion-AWS, Ministry of Research and Education, Section “GeoTop” of the “German Geoscientific Society” (DGG)), Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, Malaysia, Australia, Namibia, Canada or Brazil. Furthermore, many national “Geological Surveys” have established sections on “Geoparks” or nominated liaison partners for this issue. Many of these stakeholders helped to design the activities around “Geoheritage” in consultation with IUGS and UNESCO.

On an international scale one has to mention the “Global Network of National Geoparks” assisted by UNESCO (Secretariat in Paris, Office in Beijing), the European Geoparks Network (EGN, Office, Digne, France), the “European Association for the Conservation of the Geological Heritage” (ProGEO), the World Heritage- and Biosphere Programmes of UNESCO (Paris), as well as the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Special interest to Geological Conservation questions is also provided by the European Council,the “International Union ofGeological Sciences” (IUGS), the “International Geographical Union” (IGU) and the “International Association of Geomorphologists” (IAG).

Potential national activities and recommendations: In line with the strategies and engagement of the above-mentioned national or international entities, the goals and main line of actions are formulated within UNESCO’s Major Programme (2006-2007) as follows:

  • To improve …. research in earth sciences through the IGCP and translate geo-environmental … knowledge .. for the planning of socio-economic development…;
  • To strengthen earth science networks in developing countries; and
  • To promote geological heritage through“sustainable geo-tourism” and “geoparks” (Main line of action 4),

Pursuant to this all nations are invited to contribute to the growing activity related to “Geoparks” by reflecting on and considering the following recommendations:

      1.     Implement Geoparks as a Tool for Transformation of Public Relationship to Earth by

  • Strengthening identification of the population with their area and triggering cultural renaissance
  • Improving human living conditions and the rural environment
  • Respecting the environment
  • Stimulation or creation of innovative local enterprisesand new sources of revenue (geotourism, geo-products)
  • Providing supplementary income for the local population and attracting private capital

  1. Establish Geoparks as Laboratories for Research and Development

by monitoring the input and output related to

  •  Investments & Budget generated
  •  Management Board
  •  Sponsors
  •  Science Teams
  •  Outreach activities
  •  Promotional activities
  •  Local, regional and national supporting groups
  •  Infrastructure provided (Roads, Buildings, Museum,Training, Rangers, Trails, Staff etc.)

  1. Consider Geoparks as Part of an International Framework for Action and Cooperation, by
  • designing a Geopark as a sort of ‚pact‘ between the local community and the society as a whole, that serves as a ‚working model‘ for testing out and further refining the guidelines for tourism development.
  • The UNESCO Global Network of Geoparks should help countries to share information and experience within a neutral, culturally, educationally and scientifically adapted setting.

  1. Understand a Geopark as a Tool for Public Recreation and Education on the Planet Earth, taking into account that
  • a Geopark is a unique „Centre of Excellence“ that providesinformation on the 4th
  • dimension: the history of the Earth‘s dynamics and the history of Life on Earth,
  • a Geoparks shall help to improve the international recognition of national palaeontological-geological-geomorphological „monuments“,
  •  a Geopark shall help to understand the intimate integration of natural (‚a-biotic‘ as well as biotic‘), cultural and industrial features

  1. Use Geoparks as tools for Outreach and Research of the IYPE
  2. Use the IYPE as excellent opportunity in promoting Geoparks & Earth Sciences

Last but not least, all national “Geoconservation” and “Geoparks”-Communities are invited to contribute to a planned new Springer Journal, entitled “Geoheritage” (proposed by J. Brilha, ProGeo, Portugal, and W. Wimbledon, ProGeo, UK) that shall address all Earth scientists, geologists and geographers, biologists, landscape architects, museum workers, science historians, environmental geologists, town and country (spatial) planners and officials dealing with nature conservation and development, environmental impacts, geotourism, and secondary teaching, as well as academic staff, graduate and post-graduate students.

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