If your community is interested in pursuing UNESCO Global Geopark designation please contact Sarah Gamble, Chair of the Canadian Geoparks Network (CGN). Reaching out will provide you an opportunity to review the process and have a good understanding of the deliverables. To officially become an Aspiring Geopark in Canada a letter of intent must be submitted to the CGN for approval and this process will be explained when you contact us.
Please note, the word UNESCO cannot be used in any materials until your area has been designated a UNESCO Global Geopark. During the development stage, your area should be referred to as an “Aspiring Geopark”.
HOW TO BECOME A UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK
THE EVALUATION PROCESS
There is a two-step process for first-time evaluations. The two steps are the same but executed by two different entities: the CGN and UNESCO
Firstly, the CGN will audit all applications and provide an onsite evaluation. Based on feedback and readiness, the application will then be submitted to UNESCO Headquarters for the same process. Minimally, this process takes three years and average is five years. All aspiring Canadian Geoparks must submit their application to the CGN before submitting to UNESCO.
Applications may be submitted at any time, but the ideal time is during fall or winter (no later than 31 March) if the objective is to have an onsite evaluation in the following summer. This facilitates the planning of onsite evaluations of successful applications for the following year. The application must be concise and comprehensive, not exceeding 50 pages (including photos and maps) in either English or French.
THE APPLICATION TO CGN IS TO INCLUDE
Please note the complete application should not exceed 5 MB for ease of emailing to the committee members. If required a web link can be provided for members to obtain files that are larger than 5 MB.
Applications will be checked to ensure all information required is included and that the guidelines have been adhered to. Notification will be sent within one month if further materials are required for the review of the application.
Desktop evaluations of the application will take place within two months of receiving the application and appropriate feedback will be sent within this time frame.
If the applicant is deemed ready by the CGN an evaluation onsite visit will be scheduled. Onsite visits will occur between May 1 - August 31 each year. It is the responsibility of the applicant to pay for the travel, accommodation and expenses of two experts. The experts will complete an evaluation report for review by the CGN by September. Feedback from the onsite evaluation will be sent to the applicant by September 30.
If the applicant is deemed ready, the applicant will receive a letter of endorsement from the CGN to include with their submission to the Global Geopark Network. The process of UNESCO is relatively the same as above; however, it is outlined below in detail.
The UNESCO Global Geoparks Secretariat at UNESCO Headquarters coordinates the proposal submissions and is ready to provide advice. If existing in your country, National Geopark Committees may also be able to assist.
Successful UNESCO Global Geopark applications will have demonstrated that already in the planning phase, they discussed and exchanged with other UNESCO Global Geoparks as well as the Global Geoparks Network (this usually starts several years before the actual submission of a dossier). It is important to seek advice in the preparation phase, participate in international or regional Geopark meetings, conferences, or short courses.
Before any formal application, any aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark must submit an expression of interest via the official channel as set out in the Operational Guidelines for UNESCO Global Geoparks. A comprehensive and carefully formatted application dossier (including supporting material to demonstrate that the area has already been functioning as a de facto Global Geopark for at least one year) must be submitted in the same way.
The aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark must have a geological heritage of international value and be managed by a body having legal existence recognized under national legislation that has a comprehensive management plan, covering governance, development, communication, protection, infrastructure, finance, and partnership issues.
The aspiring UNESCO Global Geoparks must be visible to both visitors and local people through a dedicated website, leaflets, and detailed map of the area that connects the area’s geological and other sites. An aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark must also have a corporate identity.
THE TIMELINES FOR UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK PROPOSALS AND EVALUATION ARE:
Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark sends a letter of intent, ideally by 1 July (year 1)
Submission of applications between 1 October and 30 November
Verification check on completeness of documents after 1 December
Desktop evaluations until 30 April (year 2)
Field evaluation missions starting 1 May
Recommendations on applications by the UNESCO Global Geoparks Council in September
Decision by the Executive Board of UNESCO during its spring session (year 3)
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS
Becoming a member of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network is not a simple task. Obtaining the designation is only the first step in an ongoing process of development, improvement and revalidation.
The journey to becoming a UNESCO Global Geopark starts with a letter of intent to the Canadian Geoparks Network (CGN). Your aspiring geopark will be evaluated by the CGN prior to your application being submitted to UNESCO Headquarters. CGN is here to help you prepare the best application possible, and provide advice in preparing your application.
Once your application is ready to go to UNESCO you will be required to meet the dates outlined above in the application process. The UNESCO application is reviewed during a two-year process from the time it is received. First, the application undergoes a desktop evaluation. The geological description is examined by reviewers appointed by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS). They will determine if the geology is understood and does it really has global significance.
UNESCO Headquarters will also evaluate the application to ensure all the components of the application are in place. New applicants will be expected to essentially be operating as a geopark for a period of one year prior to submitting their application. Is the geology reasonably well understood? Does geological interpretation already exist? Are there places that people already go to explore geology in your area? Is your community aware of its geological heritage?
THEY WILL BE LOOKING FOR SOME ‘MUST HAVE’ COMPONENTS:
EVIDENCE OF EXISTING ACTIVITY
PEOPLE TO DEVELOP AND
OPERATE THE GEOPARK
If the aspiring geopark passes the desktop evaluation, UNESCO will assign evaluators to conduct a site visit. They will be looking to see if the contents of the application can be verified on the ground. They will be looking for real leadership, partnership and community engagement. The geopark must have interesting geology large enough to influence sustainable development but not unmanageable. The aspiring geopark must demonstrate strong management, shared vision, community champions, terms of reference, and clear roles and responsibilities.
The aspiring geopark must have tourism infrastructure with quality geologically themed programs in place for visitors as well as educational programming in schools and communities and conservation measures. It must work with its partners and show benefits for the community and businesses and it should have the means to assess its quality and impact.
There are financial expectations both pre and post-designation. The aspiring geopark is responsible for the costs of the CGN evaluation, including a site visit, and then for the UNESCO evaluation. UNESCO evaluators will visit for several days, and will most likely come from geoparks in other parts of the world.
Attending one of the international, or regional meetings during your application process is a good idea to understand the network, its goals and community.
ONCE YOU BECOME A UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK
Once you become a UNESCO Global Geopark the work continues. Networking is an expectation of your geopark and part of the revalidation process. Attending and participating in international meetings every two years and networking with other geoparks is a requirement. Meetings are only one form of networking, you will also be expected to partner and work collaboratively with other geoparks.
REVALIDATION (EVERY FOUR YEARS)
Geopark designation is not forever. UNESCO Global Geoparks are reviewed and revalidated every four years. Revalidations are as rigorous as the initial evaluation process. Revalidations are executed by UNESCO and you are responsible for the costs of the evaluators who will visit for several days and come from geoparks in other parts of the world. Revalidation visits can result in being awarded a ‘Green Card’ (everything is okay for the most part), a ‘Yellow Card’ (there are some serious deficiencies to be addressed), or a ‘Red Card’ (you no longer meet the obligations of a UNESCO Global Geopark) and are removed from the Network.
RELATED DOCUMENTS FOR ASPIRING GEOPARKS
Statutes and Operational Guidelines of the UNESCO Global Geoparks
Self-Evaluation Checklist for Aspiring UNESCO Global Geoparks (aUGGp)
Guidelines for UNESCO Global Geopark Field Inspection Missions Evaluations & Revalidations (.pdf)
Operational Guidelines for transnational UNESCO Global Geoparks
Self-Evaluation Checklist Explanatory Notes for Aspiring UNESCO Global Geoparks (aUGGp)