From: Georgian Bay Mnidoo Gamii Biosphere (GBMGB)
RE: Multiple UNESCO Designations within eastern Georgian Bay
Date: October 20, 2023
This communiqué is intended to provide some clarity about the “aspiring Geopark”.
Given the potential confusion about multiple UNESCO designations within the region, the Georgian Bay Mnidoo Gamii Biosphere Board of Directors wants to publicly clarify its role and thoughts at this time.
To be clear, the Georgian Bay Mnidoo Gamii Biosphere non-profit, charitable organization, with an office in Parry Sound, is not the proponent of the aspiring Geopark. Eastern Georgian Bay region was successfully designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2004, and joins a network of 19 biosphere sites in Canada.
As provided by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the following is a description of the general purpose of each of these two international designations:
(1) Biosphere Reserves stand for harmonised management and conservation of biological and cultural diversity, and economic and social development based on local community efforts and sound science.
(2) Global Geoparks foster international cooperation between areas with geological heritage of international value, through a bottom-up approach to conservation, local community support, promotion of heritage and sustainable development of the area.
At this time, GBMGB has not formally endorsed the aspiring Geopark. Staff have attended a public presentation in Midland, and the organization received a presentation.
The GBMGB Board’s letter of response to the aspiring Geopark’s request for endorsement that was sent on March 30, 2023 can be summarized as follows:
(1) That the UNESCO Biosphere designation exists by the will and support of regional stakeholders and governments, and therefore our own endorsement of the aspiring Geopark would be contingent on regional stakeholder support, including municipal governments and First Nations, as well as other not-for-profits.
(2) That application for UNESCO designation requires endorsement by affected First Nations, and as such, the aspiring Geopark should approach consultation and engagement with Indigenous groups and First Nations in a way that is consistent with the United Nations Declaration of Rights Indigenous Peoples.
(3) That, as per the UNESCO guidelines for the coordination of Multi-International Designated Areas, GBMGB wants to ensure that there is strategic coordination between itself and the aspiring Geopark, including clearly defined governance terms, a clear purpose and scope, public communications and distinct brands, and that a collaboration plan be established jointly in order to avoid public confusion, duplication of effort, inefficient use of time and limited resources, and reduced competition for funds, among all the similar groups working in the area, and not just with GBMGB.
To help people interested in understanding the role and process for an aspiring Geopark, we have provided several resources linked below.
If stakeholders wish contact GBMGB about their thoughts or questions, while also letting the leadership group for the aspiring Geopark know, we welcome correspondence with:
Greg Mason, Director of Operations
Georgian Bay Mnidoo Gamii Biosphere
Sincerely, from the Board and staff of the UNESCO Georgian Bay Mnidoo Gamii Biosphere,
Greg Mason, Director of Operations
Rebecca Pollock, Executive Director
Peter Ashmore, President
Statutes and Operational Guidelines for UNESCO Global Geoparks
Application process for UNESCO Geoparks FAQ
How to become a UNESCO Geopark
Checklist for aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark
Checklist Explanatory Notes
Guidelines for UNESCO Global Geopark Field Inspection Missions