UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGp) are the third category of sites to have been designated by UNESCO, alongside UNESCO World Heritage Sites and UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, and they are part of the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP) (unesco.org).
As of 2023, the global network includes 177 sites in 46 countries.
UNESCO Global Geoparks have been in existence since 2015, but the beginning of the collaboration between geopark regions and UNESCO dates back to 2001. In 2004, the activities of European and Chinese geoparks resulted in the establishment of a Global Geopark Network (GGN).
The Holistic Approach
By raising awareness of the importance of geological heritage in both historical and contemporary society, UNESCO Global Geoparks give local inhabitants a sense of pride in their region and strengthen their identification with the area. They differ from World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves in that they utilize a bottom-up process that involves all the relevant local and regional stakeholders and authorities (e.g., municipalities, landowners, tourism providers, educational institutions, indigenous peoples, local organizations, etc.). This process requires the strong engagement of local communities, a strong local partnership with long-term public and political support, and the development of a comprehensive strategy that meets all the objectives of the communities, while showcasing and protecting the geological heritage of the area.
A Growing Network
Every year, new UNESCO Global Geoparks are established around the world, undergoing an elaborate certification process.
There are two Geoparks with this international title in Poland, and there are eight in Germany.