Geoparks Network of the Slovak Republic

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On 17 November 2015, 195 member states of UNESCO ratified the establishment of the new category of the programmes UNESCO – Global geoparks of UNESCO. Thereby they confirmed the importance of the management of exceptional geological localities as the heritage of lifeless nature and landscape in the complex scale. Thus this category has reached the same importance as the programme World Heritage (WH) that monitors the cultural and history heritage or the programme Man and Biosphere (MaB) presenting the heritage of live nature.

The global geoparks of UNESCO aim at increasing awareness about geo diversity, support its protection, present examples worth following in educating or tourism. Together with the localities of the World Heritage and the Biospheric nature reserves, the global geoparks of UNESCO create a complete offer of measures of the sustainable development, thus certainly contributing to the implementation of targets of the sustainable development of the Agenda 2030 by combining global and local perspectives.

The Slovak Republic has been dealing systematically with geoparks since 2008: it has expressed its support for geoparks by approving and implementing  Report of the Concept of geoparks of the SR in 2008, subsequently by his Update in January 2015, as well as by adopting the Action Plan for implementing measures for ensuring the implementation of the updated Concept of geoparks of the SR. In accordance with the Update of the concept of geoparks of the SR (concept) and also in accordance with the guidance of UNESCO the Interdepartmental Commission of the Geoparks Network of the SR (Commission) was constituted in 2015 that has the statute of the advisory body of the Minister of Environment of the SR and is composed of representatives of all ministries involved, both professional and academic spheres. In accordance with the terminology of UNESCO, the Commission fulfils tasks of the National Commission for Geoparks and in accordance with the concept it represents the Managing Committee of the Geoparks Network of the SR. The guidance of UNESCO regulates relations and recommends models for functioning of the National Commissions of UNESCO (NatCom) and the National Commissions for Geoparks. NatCom UNESCO should either be directly a coordinator or founder of the National Commission for Geoparks or this is any other relevant institution (in the case of the SR it is the Ministry of Environment of the SR) and NatCom (SK UNESCO) officially recognizes the given Commission, supports it and it is its regular member. The National Commissions for Geoparks (in addition to activities defined in their own statutes) organize conferences of national geoparks, information and educational events for the public, the government as well as the Parliament, workshops, training, school competitions, they can issue journals and inform via articles, newspapers, social media, etc.

At present, the following three geoparks are operated in Slovakia: the Banská Štiavnica Geopark, Banská Bystrica Geopark and cross-border Slovak-Hungarian Novohrad-Nograd Geopark that as the first geopark in Slovakia and Hungary has gone through a demanding nomination process in 2010 and become one of 120 territories in the world that can boast the title Global Geopark UNESCO. In addition to these three geoparks that should form the current Geoparks Network of the SR, such activities are performed in Slovakia in more potential territories that could lead in the future to establishing some other national or cross-border geoparks.

The official declaration of the Geoparks Network of the SR (GN) with its logo and awarding the title ”Geopark of the SR“ for three active geoparks result from procedural rules of the concept for awarding membership in the Geoparks Network as a new support for the UNESCO initiative in the territory of the SR. The awarding of the given title was decided by voting at the 4th meeting of the Commission on 8 November 2016, based on the results and reports of activities of the individual geoparks for the last two years, while the GN official declaration and giving the title Geopark of the SR were carried out in the premises of the Ministry of Environment of the SR on 9 December 2016. With this step meeting the targets of Agenda 2030 will be facilitated on one side, and on the other side awareness of the society about geoparks will increase, whereby local initiatives in any other potential territories in Slovakia will be encouraged for the purpose of constituting geoparks or providing geotouristic services. The establishment of a geopark in these territories (mainly in economically less developed territories) will stimulate the complex approach to the management, protection and presentation of the heritage of the Earth in combination with the sustainable and economic development that is based on the ecologically considerate tourism.