Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Revisiting the geoparks initiative: general notes!

by Mamoon Allan
Mamoon Allan

Faculty of Archeology and tourism, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan
IAPG-Jordan coordinator

email: Mamoon1073@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: the views expressed in this paper solemnly engage the author

Picture above:
Langkawi UNESCO Geopark (Malaysia)

In 1999 UNESCO established the basics of the "geoparks initiative". The concept of geopark was developed directly after the foundation of both the European Geoparks Networks (EGN) and the Chinese National Geoparks Network in 2000. 

One of the most important benefits of the "geoparks initiative" is that it has linked into a worldwide network all existing geoparks and combined them under one global program patronized by UNESCO.
Interestingly, the list of the UNESCO global geoparks shows that a large proportion of those geoparks is concentrated in Europe and Eastern Asia. Only few geoparks have been established in Africa, the Middle East and South America. Thus, it is fundamental to support the efforts to promote the importance of establishing geoparks in the different parts of the world and assist the developing countries which have potential of great geoparks to join the global geoparks initiative.

Geoparks can play a significant role in enhancing the socio-economic development of an area also by promoting geotourism activities. A geopark can also reinforce the relationship between the local communities and their land.
UNESCO has contributed in developing geotourism activities through its geoparks, mostly without the participation of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
In any case, the UNWTO database still lacks any valuable information about the scope of geotourism and its outcomes.

Madonie UNESCO Geopark (Italy)
Notwithstanding the significance of the UNESCO geopark list, some confusion has aroused in relation to the World Heritage List, which incorporates "properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value".
In the same vein, Gray (2004) asserts that it is inappropriate to consider the UNESCO geopark list as a "mainstream UNESCO project", rather than a rational expansion of the World Heritage List.
However, Marinos (2001) indicates that the extent of the World Heritage List is too narrow for some exceptional geological sites. As a result, the different aspects of the geological heritage exceed the capacity for the World Heritage List. It is also proper to found "a World Network of Geosites/Geoparks".
Overall, the contribution of UNESCO in the geopark initiative is essential to increase the "public awareness for geological heritage issues" as indicated by Dowling and Newsome (2006). Thereby UNESCO also supports global recognition of geotourism and is having an efficient political effect.

Peppoloni and Di Capua (2012) state that "geological culture and geoethics can strengthen the links between people and their land, between the places of their origins and their own memories". 
So, it seems reasonable to claim that it is vital to promote the concept of geoethics in the different practices related to geoparks. Therefore, it would be appropriate to consider geoethical implications among the geopark nomination criteria. Employing the notions of geoethics in the geoparks could promote the best practices in geotourism development within the geoparks and enhance the sustainability and conservation efforts.


Dowling R. & Newsome D. (2006). Geotourism. Oxford, Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.

Gray, J. (2004). Geodiversity: valuing and conserving abiotic nature. West Sussex, England, John Wiley and Sons.

Marinos P. (2001). Engineering geology and the environment. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Engineering Geology and the Environment (Vol. 5). Athen Balkema.

Peppoloni and Di Capua. (2012). Geoethics and Geological culture: awareness, responsibility and challenges. Annals of Geophysics. 5, 335-341.

IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics