» UNESCO Global Geoparks reaffirm their commitment to sustainable development during international conference
24.10.2016 - Natural Sciences Sector

UNESCO Global Geoparks reaffirm their commitment to sustainable development during international conference

© Jayne West 7th International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks

Health and Wellbeing through Creative and Active Engagement was the focus of the 7th International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks. The conference was the first opportunity to bring representatives of these unique sites together since they officially became UNESCO designated sites in 2015; it was attended by over 700 delegates from 63 countries. Through presentations and panel discussions with artists, psychologists and geologists, they discussed the links between stress, mental health and outdoor activities, among other topics. The representatives also reaffirmed the UNESCO Global Geoparks’ commitment to sustainable development through integrated education, outreach, research, culture, community engagement and capacity building in a declaration at the close of the conference.

This first International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks since they became UNESCO designated sites was an important moment to confirm their position within UNESCO. The Global Geoparks Network was founded in 2004 to foster collaboration among territories with common values, linking the celebration of geological heritage with the promotion of sustainable local development. These values are aligned with UNESCO’s mandate, and finally the UNESCO Global Geoparks have found their natural home, as stated in the English Riviera Declaration that was adopted during the conference. The Declaration encourages the members of the network to continue working together to share and promote best practices, to fully realize the UNESCO Global Geoparks' potential to contribute to disaster risk reduction and preparedness, and to help aspiring Geoparks in their efforts to join the network.

Conference guests were welcomed by a ‘GeoOpera’ that celebrates UNESCO Global Geoparks’ ability to bring people together from all continents and backgrounds. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and talented young/local people worked together to create this opera, telling the 4.5 billion-year story of planet Earth.  

Over the first two days, sessions covered topics closely linked to the conservation of Earth’s heritage, sustainable development, science education and community engagement. Learning from each other and sharing best practices is one of the essential componnents of the programme. This was further encouraged by the ‘GeoFair’, an exhibition including UNESCO Global Geoparks from around the world and other companies and organizations showcasing their initiatives. On the third day it was time to go out, to the field and explore Torbay’s geology. Situated within the stunning hills of South Devon and a beautiful coastline, the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark offers some unique geological features.

Considering the complex challenges that Humankind is facing, the conference recognized the unique role of UNESCO Global Geoparks tackling these challenges. Not only does providing opportunities to enjoy natural environments create environmental awareness, it also promotes better health, more sustainable and healthy consumption patterns, and a higher wellbeing.  

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