Global Network of National Geoparks

What is a UNESCO Global Geopark?

Published:May 4, 2012

Volcanic Rock in Wudalianchi Global Geopark, P.R.China         (photo by Zhao Hongshan)


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.

A UNESCO Global Geopark uses its geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society in the context of the dynamic planet we all live on, mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing the impact of natural disasters. By raising awareness of the importance of the area’s geological heritage in history and society today, UNESCO Global Geoparks give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen their identification with the area. The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs and high quality training courses is stimulated as new sources of revenue are generated through sustainable geotourism, while the geological resources of the area are protected. 

This bottom-up approach is becoming increasingly popular through the positive and effective running of the Global Geoparks Network(GGN) under UNESCO’s ad hoc support with individual Member States as appropriate.

UNESCO’s work with Geoparks began in 2001. Then in 2004, 17 European and 8 Chinese geoparks came together at UNESCO headquarters in Paris to form the GGN where national geological heritage initiatives contribute to and benefit from their membership of a global network of exchange and cooperation. Ever Since, Geoparks through the GGN have grown to include 169 sites in 44 counties. 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 in 2015, the 195 Member States of UNESCO ratified the creation of a new label, the UNESCO Global Geoparks. This expresses governmental recognition of the importance of managing outstanding geological sites and landscapes in a holistic manner, and also provides a new international status to a former network of sites of geological significance, preferably allowing the Organization to more closely reflect the societal challenges of Earth Science today. 

Now the UNESCO supports Member States’ efforts to establish UNESCO Global Geoparks all around the world especially in the developing territories without a Geopark, in close collaboration with the Global Geoparks Network.