North West Highlands declared a UNESCO Global Geopark

UNESCO – the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture –announced a new programme on the 17th November, which creates UNESCO Global Geoparks. This is the first new UNESCO programme to be established in over 40 years and puts the Global Geoparks alongside UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Previously operating with the informal support of UNESCO, the status of Global Geoparks will be formally recognised under the new programme.

The award of the UNESCO brand is expected to further enhance the work of the North West Highlands Geopark, helping to create new international funding and partnership opportunities, attract national and international visitors, and raise awareness of the North West Highland’s unique geological heritage. The North Coast 500 Route runs through the Geopark, giving access to some of the most outstanding scenery in the world.

What sets UNESCO Global Geoparks apart is that they encourage locally-led partnerships that work to support sustainable economic development of the area. They do this primarily through geological and eco-tourism. Activities such as developing geo-trails and other projects bring geodiversity to life for people and, holding festivals and events, including education projects in schools and communities, inspire engagement in the earth sciences.

The North West Highlands Geopark works in close collaboration with the Highland Council Countryside Rangers. This year the Geopark has run events such as the Lochinver Climbing Festival, Earth Science workshops and Geo-what? - an event organised to introduce the Geopark concept to local businesses.

Cllr George Farlow, Chair of North West Highlands Geopark said: “All 120 Global Geoparks have shown tremendous resilience working together for 15 years to achieve our deserved legal recognition by all 194 members of the United Nations. The Education, Science and Culture themes of UNESCO have fitted with Highland Council programmes over those years. This was a Highland Council project in 2003 and the Communities of North West Sutherland and Coigach in the North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark have supported this ambition through thick and thin, so congratulations to the ‘Cradle of Geology’!”

Cllr Farlow added: “I am very grateful for the staff in UNESCO Headquarters in Paris for working under extreme circumstances to complete this great project.”

A European Geopark:

· is a territory, which includes a particular geological heritage and a sustainable territorial development strategy supported by a European program to promote development. It must have clearly defined boundaries and sufficient surface area for true territorial economic development.

· must comprise a certain number of geological sites of particular importance in terms of their scientific quality, rarity, aesthetic appeal or educational value. The majority of sites present on the territory of a European Geopark must be part of the geological heritage, but their interest may also be archaeological, ecological, historical or cultural.

· has an active role in the economic development of its territory through enhancement of a general image linked to the geological heritage and the development of Geotourism

· has direct impact on the territory by influencing its inhabitants’ living conditions and environment. The objective is to enable the inhabitants to reappropriate the values of the territory’s heritage and actively participate in the territory’s cultural revitalization as a whole.

· develops, experiments with and enhances methods for preserving the geological heritage

· must work within the European Geopark Network to further the network’s development and cohesion. It must work with local enterprises to promote and support the creation of new by-products linked with the geological heritage in a complimentary spirit with the other European Geoparks Network members

Chair of The Highland Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Audrey Sinclair welcomed the announcement saying: “UNESCO recognition is excellent news for the Highlands and North West Sutherland. This underlines the worldwide importance of our geological and cultural heritage in the Highlands. Well done to everyone involved for making this happen!”

24 Nov 2015
Tell us something about this topic How is this webpage?