The UNESCO Global Geoparks are considered as “the territories of education, science and culture of the 21st Century”. In this sense, they are permanently associated with the protection, promotion and awareness of geological heritage, in a territorial development strategy which integrates the remaining natural and cultural heritage of the regions in a holistic and bottom-up approach, essentially focused on its inhabitants.
Taking into account this background, these UNESCO territories becomes highly strategic for the implementation of North-South, South-South and North-South-South cooperation projects, in order to contribute for the achievement of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and its 17 Objectives. Also assuming that we are dealing with territories that follow the one of the UNESCO goals which is the well-being of people and reducing inequalities between countries, the UNESCO Global Geoparks meet the necessary conditions for the implementation of an effective sustainable development for its inhabitants.
In this framework it is also pertinent to take into account the benefits that people can get directly from the ecosystems of these territories, which include provision, cultural and support services to multiple activities. On the other hand, considering the definition of health proposed by the World Health Organization, according to which “is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”, healthy lifestyles include a wide range of behaviors that incorporate all aspects of well-being in order to improve the life of the local communities and for those who visit these territories.
In addition, but no less important and strategic, the UNESCO Global Geoparks are territories of excellence for the implementation of two of UNESCO’s global priorities: gender equality and the development of cooperation projects and partnerships with Africa and Latin America countries. While the first of these priorities is currently a vibrant reality inside the majority of UNESCO Global Geoparks, with multiple examples of women’s associations and cooperatives, the second one reveals the existence of only five UNESCO Global Geoparks in these continental areas. This reality clearly demonstrates the hard work that needs to be done, particularly regarding the advanced capacity building necessary for territorial management and to create or improve the technical skills of teams involved in these processes.
In this context, the UNESCO Chair on “Geoparks, Sustainable Regional Development and Healthy Lifestyles” has proposed in its fields of competence one key condition: to develop a set of transferring knowledge initiatives and promoting cooperation, in order to integrate the multiple approaches related to the territorial development, engaging local communities and visitors in better socio-economic and healthier lifestyles. With these efforts it is expected to stimulate learning and promotion of core competencies such as critical and systematic thinking, collaborative decision-making, and taking responsibility for present and future generations.