Sitia and Psiloritis in UNESCO’s Global Geoparks

The 195 Member States of UNESCO have ratified the creation of a new label, the UNESCO Global Geoparks, on 17 November 2015. This expresses governmental recognition of the importance of managing outstanding geological sites and landscapes in a holistic manner.

The decision was taken by Member States at UNESCO’s General Conference, the governing body of the Organization, which met in Paris from 3 to 18 November.

UNESCO Global Geoparks tell the 4,600 million year story of Planet Earth and of the geological events that shaped it as well as the evolution of humanity itself. Not only do they show evidence of past climate changes, they also inform local communities of present day challenges and help them prepare for hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

UNESCO Global Geoparks strive to raise awareness of geodiversity and promote protection, education and tourism best practices. Together with World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves, UNESCO Global Geoparks form a complete range of sustainable development tools and make an invaluable contribution to the realisation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals by combining global and local perspectives.

This new branding formalizes a relationship with Geoparks first established in 2001. Since then, Geoparks through the Global Geoparks Network have grown to include 120 sites all over the world. They have become an increasingly important tool for UNESCO to engage Member States and their communities in the Earth Sciences and geological heritage.

During the 38th session of UNESCO’s General Conference, Member States also decided to endorse the statutes of a new international programme: the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP). This allows the Organisation to more closely reflect the societal challenges of Earth Science today and provides an international status to a former network of sites of geological significance.

Aegean University professor and director of Sigri(Lesvos)Petrified Forest museum Nikos Zouros, who represented Greece in the Sciences Committee, told ANA-MPA that Unesco unanimously approved the creation of the new program of the International Organisation for Geoscience and Geoparks.”

All regions which are already included in the World Geoparks Network, 120 Geoparks spread across 33 countries, will participate in the program.

As Mr Zouros explains “this decision brings Greece to an advantageous position because it has already five areas that are designated “World Geoparks of Unesco” namely the island of Lesvos, the area of Psiloritis (Crete), the national forest of Vikos-Aoos (Epirus region), the national park of Chelmos-Vouraikos(northern Peloponnese) and the area of Sitia(Crete). The new program establishes the recognition of regions that have areas with special geological heritage and international recognition,”.

Professor Zouros said that “Geoparks are areas with significant geological heritage and rich natural and cultural environment which through the protection of nature and the education contribute to the development of the responsible tourism by enhancing the local economy and the sustainable growth,”.

Concluding Zouros said “The recognition by UNESCO of all these areas indicates the wealth of the Greek geological heritage as well as the special value of the geological, natural and cultural heritage of the Greek Geoparks at international level. In parallel it highlights the unique opportunity and potential via the promotion and their rational management in order to promote them as tourist destinations of excellency for the attraction of quality tourism and sustainable local development.”

UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Their bottom-up approach of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities is becoming increasingly popular. At present, there are 120 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 33 countries. Information sheets on the UNESCO Global Geoparks by country are available, with detailed information on each site.

UNESCO’s work with geoparks began in 2001. In 2004, 17 European and 8 Chinese geoparks came together at UNESCO headquarters in Paris to form the Global Geoparks Network (GGN) where national geological heritage initiatives contribute to and benefit from their membership of a global network of exchange and cooperation.

On 17 November 2015, the 195 Member States of UNESCO ratified the creation of a new label, the UNESCO Global Geoparks, during the 38th General Conference of the Organisation. This expresses governmental recognition of the importance of managing outstanding geological sites and landscapes in a holistic manner.

The Organization supports Member States’ efforts to establish UNESCO Global Geoparks all around the world, in close collaboration with the Global Geoparks Network.

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