The philosophy behind the Geoparks concept was first introduced at the Digne Convention in 1991 as a means to protect and promote geological heritage and sustainable local development through a global network of territories containing geology of outstanding value. In 1997, in direct response to the ‘Declaration of the Rights of the Memory of the Earth', the Division of Earth Sciences of UNESCO introduced the concept of a UNESCO Geoparks Programme to support national and international endeavours in Earth heritage conservation. In 2000, representatives from four European territories met together to address regional economic development through the protection of geological heritage and the promotion of geotourism. The result of this meeting was the signing of a convention declaring the creation of the European Geoparks Network (EGN). The next significant step for the EGN was the signing of an official agreement of collaboration with UNESCO in 2001, placing the Network under the auspices of the organzsation. In 2004 the 17 existing European Geoparks joined with eight new Chinese national Geoparks to form a Global Network of National Geoparks under the auspices of UNESCO. This Global Network of National Geoparks has encouraged other countries such as Iran and Brazil to develop Geoparks programmes. By 2007, European Geoparks were distributed across 15 European countries. There are 31 members of the European Geoparks Network, bringing the total number of Global Geoparks to 52. Progress has not always been easy, however, and finding funding to develop the initiative and secure the future of individual Geoparks remains a significant challenge.