An area of spectacular landscape of Idrija in West Slovenia has been recognised by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. By enlisting Idrija Geopark in Slovenia among the UNESCO Global Geoparks, UNESCO has acknowledged the global significance of Idrija’s heritage, this time geological, for the second time.
Idrija Geopark is a stunning landscape with exceptional natural and cultural values. At its 38th session in November 2015 held in Paris UNESCO General Conference approved the statute and the directives of the new International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP) and the establishment of the UNESCO Global Geoparks within the programme. This decision brought all the existing Global Geoparks Network (GGN) members, Idrija Geopark being one of them, straight into the new UNESCO programme, whereas Idrija Geopark became a UNESCO Global Geopark. After 2012 when the ‘Heritage of Mercury.
“Almadén and Idrija” was enlisted on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the recent decision of UNESCO acknowledged the heritage of Idrija, this time geological, global significance for the second time in a row. Due to its value the heritage of Idrija managed to gain direct protection of UNESCO in two different ways in less than three years. For the municipality Idrija this is an extraordinary honour, an opportunity to develop sustainable geo-tourism and at the same time a grand responsibility to preserve the heritage for our ancestors.
As a global organisation in the fields of culture, education and science, UNESCO enforces a coordinated approach to preserving cultural heritage and natural values on the global level. The most important instrument is the 1972 World Heritage Convention that deals with elements of cultural and natural heritage in reciprocal connection and dependence and the influence of man on their existence and use. In striving to preserve the common heritage of the entire humankind UNESCO encourages countries to sign the World Heritage Convention and to suggest local sights to be enlisted on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are now 830 entries on the list, 644 of them are cultural heritage sights, among them also the heritage of mercury in Idrija and Almadén.
Due to the peculiarities of separate heritage branches UNESCO has also introduced other programmes and activities to promote and manage their recognition, protection and development. The Global Geoparks Network, members of which are also the two Slovene geoparks – Idrija and Karavanke/Karawanken geoparks, has worked under the patronage and with the support of UNESCO since its establishment in 2004. By approving the statute and the directives for the GGN in 2014, the network fulfilled all the conditions to enforce a new IGGP programme within UNESCO, which was approved of by the UNESCO General Conference at their last session. Thus the geoparks have, after many years of endeavours, been equalled with protected areas programmes such as MAB (Man and Biosphere) and Ramsar. The new IGGP binds 120 geoparks in 33 countries around the world to follow the UNESCO directives of natural and cultural heritage protection. First and foremost, global geoparks together with their partners are great promotors of exceptional geological phenomena all over the world and are becoming more and more important in the development of geo-tourism.
By being enlisted in the UNESCO IGGP programme, Idrija Geopark will gain more recognition and is given the responsibility to retain the UNESCO Global Geopark title. Idrija and its vicinity represent great potential for a sustainable geo-tourism development with its exceptional geological and overall natural and cultural heritage. As an institution Idrija Geopark in cooperation with its partners will have to use the opportunity granted by UNESCO to the fullest extent possible. The main tasks in the future will include strengthening the brand of UNESCO Global Geopark Idrija, providing new tourist products and offer, binding closer connections with other members of the global network and strengthening the recognition of the UNESCO Global Geopark Idrija among the local, national and international professional and tourist public.