UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Office Jakarta in collaboration with Japanese Geoparks Network and as local host, Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark Promotion Committee organized the “Regional training course on UNESCO Global Geoparks- perspectives for National Commission for UNESCO in the Asia and the Pacific region-”, 27-30 May 2018 in Oki Island, Japan. The four-days training course was attended by 23 international participants from National Commissions and National focal points for UNESCO Global Geoparks from 13 countries (list), 25 Japanese participants from all nine Japanese UNESCO Global Geoparks, Japanese Geoparks Network, Japanese Geopark Committee and Japanese National Commission from UNESCO and four Science Officers from UNESCO Apia, Bangkok, Jakarta and Hanoi offices. Among the 59 participants, 34% were female.
After the development of the open online introduction course on UNESCO Global Geopark (http://connect-asia.org/connect-asia-e-learning-platform/), this training course was the second activity under the project “Geoparks for Enhanced Multidimensional Sustainability in the Asia and Pacific Region (GEMS)” supported by the Japanese Funds-in-Trust (JFIT). GEMS aims to raise the capacity of Asia and the Pacific region to establish new UNESCO Global Geoparks and to improve existing ones. Indeed, in 2018, only seven countries out of the 49 in the region have a UNESCO Global Geopark however the potential of the region is very high especially as UNESCO Global Geoparks are model for local sustainable development allying the celebration of Earth Heritage and the sustainment of local communities.
The training course was opened by the Director of UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Prof. Shahbaz Khan, the Secretary General of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO, Mr. Kazuaki Kawabata and the Vice-President of the Japanese Geoparks Network, Mr. Ryuzaburo Furukawa. The training course was the occasions for international and Japanese participants to be introduced or deepen their understanding on the UNESCO Global Geopark’s concept with lectures from Prof. Zouros, President of Global Geopark Network, Prof. McKeever, from UNESCO HQ and Prof. Nakada, President of Japanese Geoparks Committee. Through workshop sessions, participants identified local challenges and discussed solutions to local challenges in establishing or improving UNESCO Global Geoparks such as funding issues, awareness raising, technical and geological aspects, community engagements and livelihoods or education challenges. Participants also discussed and exchanged on the roles of the different partners and stakeholders to be engaged and Dr. Mahito Watanabe and Dr. Anton Setyo Nugroho explained the journey in Japan and in Indonesia for UNESCO Global Geoparks to receive national government support. Finally, all participating countries presented initial roadmap for their local content on how to advance the establishment or improvement of UNESCO Global Geoparks.
On 29 May 2018, the participants visited the amazing features of Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geoparks in Ninoshima Island and could understand better what a UNESCO Global Geopark should offer and how local communities need to be involved.
The main conclusion of the training course was that UNESCO Global Geoparks need a strong local champion and strategic planning and advocacy in order to mobilise institutions and establish supporting institutional framework. This conclusion is similar to Sustainability Science approach application for UNESCO designated sites management as also aiming for participatory and inclusive local sustainable development.