UNESCO – the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture – has announced a new programme, which creates “UNESCO Global Geoparks.” This is the first new UNESCO designation of its kind to be established in over 40 years and puts Global Geoparks alongside UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Previously operating with the informal support of UNESCO, the status of Global Geoparks will now be formally recognised under the new programme.
There are two UNESCO Global Geoparks in Scotland – Geopark Shetland and the North West Highlands Geopark, belonging to a network of seven sites in the UK and a growing international network – areas of outstanding geological interest which use their unique geology to drive community development.
All of the UK’s UNESCO Global Geoparks have internationally significant geology. But what sets UNESCO Global Geoparks apart is that they are locally-led partnerships that work to support sustainable economic development of the area, primarily through geological and eco-tourism, with activities such as developing geotrails and projects to bring geology to life for people and holding festivals and events. They also organise education projects in schools and communities.