6th Global Geoparks Network (GGN) conference

The spectacular autumn colours of Atlantic Canada, formed the backdrop to the biennial GGN conference, hosted this year by the Stonehammer Geopark of Saint John and the Bay of Fundy in the province of New Brunswick, Canada. Touch TD again presented results from its on-going work around the world of Geoparks. This time we joined forces with colleagues from Katla geopark, Iceland in drawing attention as to how intangible cultural heritage (ICH) and the physical heritage are woven together in a geopark setting. In particular we explored the importance of how ICH can retain its relevance in contemporary societies, and continue to bring livelihood opportunities for its practitioners. Jonathan, then moved aside from the presenters podium to co-host the remainder of the panel session on ICH and Geoparks with GGN bureau member, Dr Guy Martini.

The conference, staged for the first time in North America, continues to grow and bring attention to the expanding geoparks model. The keynote speech from UNESCO’s Dr Patrick McKeever, pointed to a crucial phase coming up in the next 12 months, as the network evolves to become a more formal legal structure in itself and consolidate its relationship with UNESCO.

Part of those processes, will see geopark projects being encouraged to emerge beyond the European and Asian strongholds of the present network of 111 Geoparks. A perfect example was provided during the conference, as the first geopark in Africa and the Arab world was confirmed, with the recognition of M’Goun Geopark in the High Atlas of Morocco. Touch TD is active and eager to bring its skills and support for aspiring geoparks – we are currently busy working alongside colleagues at spectacular geological locations in Ecuador and Ethiopia, but keen to move beyond the countries beginning with E!!

We departed Canada with the exciting news that the 7th GGN conference in 2016, will be coming home to British shores, as the English Riviera Geopark in Devon succeeded in its bid to host this increasingly prestigious event – Well done Melanie, Nick and team we look forward to seeing you all there in September 2016.