We are writing you on behalf of the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science, Culture, Communication and Information (UNESCO) and the Global Geoparks Network (GGN), to inform you about our joint strategy to promote the Geopark concept in Africa and the Arab States. In the frame of that strategy, we also offer personalized assistance to up to three aspiring Geoparks on the continent per year. This initiative, called the “GGN Grant”, aims to assist a selected number of Geopark initiatives with tailormade support, free of charge, all the way to the submission of an application file. Interested applicants can submit a proposal to GGN and UNESCO, providing a preliminary plan for development of a Geopark. Each year, UNESCO and GGN will launch a new call and a selection committee with experts from UNESCO and the GGN working group on African Geoparks, will select three Geopark initiatives that will receive tailormade guidance. With the current letter, we wish to launch a first call for candidates.
For those less familiar with the UNESCO Global Geopark (UGGp) concept, these are territories where landscapes and geological sites of “international geological significance” are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. While protection of these geological sites is an important aspect of UGGp, their real strength is in the fact that local communities use this heritage to create economic benefit, very often through geo-tourism, small scale enterprises and the promotion of local products, that schools are engaged in the protection of the territory and that local students learn about sustainable development through the specific features of the UGGp where they are based, that the UGGp is run by a management body with full representation of local and indigenous peoples (where relevant), that research is conducted in and with the UGGp, that the UGGp engage themselves in networking activities and the exchange of good practices, that they educate visitors and locals alike on the value of their geological heritage and how this relates to the biological and cultural diversity in the territory, and that they engage in proper water management, climate change action, energy efficiency and environmental care.
The concept has been very successful in many places of the world, and the network currently counts 161 sites in 44 countries. Africa and the Arab States however only have 1 UNESCO Global Geopark each (Ngorongoro-Lengai in Tanzania and M’Goun in Morocco), despite the potential of the region, and the many emerging local initiatives. With this in mind, UNESCO and GGN engaged in a strategy based on workshops, intensive courses, mentorship and exchange programmes, and offers for the first time this year, the GGN Grant.
The GGN Grant is a tailor made consultancy service including a detailed assessment of the potential of the site, a needs assessment, an on-site mission by two GGN experts for 10 days and further on-line assistance with the preparation of the application to become a UNESCO Global Geopark. The cost of these visits will be borne by UNESCO. The support will also include participation of the site managers in intensive training courses (e.g. Lesvos Island, Beijing) and inclusion in the mentorship and knowledge exchange programme.
We target emerging Geopark initiatives in Africa and the Arab States, but also existing nature parks and national parks with geological features of international value, intermunicipalities involved in rural development and other management bodies that would like to start developing a viable Geopark.
The assessment criteria will in the first place be based on:
- the presence of an existing management body and interested people with interest in the UNESCO Global Geoparks concept and able to engage in this endeavour and support the initiative;
- the presence of geological heritage of international value;
- the basic understanding and affinity of candidates with the UGGp concept.
Secondary criteria will relate to government support, funding perspective, tourism potential, security and community involvement.
Interested candidates should complete the attached form and send it before 30 April 2021 to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com The three best proposals will be notified by 15 May 2021.
We thank you very much for your consideration and remain at your disposal for any information you may require. Hoping that this initiative can contribute to valorise the rich geological heritage of Africa and the Arab States, we remain.