1 December 2003


NEW YORK, 27 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the World Tourism Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development, delivered by Carlos Lopes, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Brazil, today, 27 November:

Today, more people than ever travel for recreation.  Tourism has become the world’s largest economic sector and a central factor in the life of many people.  As tourism spans an increasingly wide range of issues and activities, it cannot be looked at in isolation from the global United Nations agenda.

It is now widely understood that tourism can play a significant role in helping people lift themselves out of poverty.  Indeed, international tourism is one of the few ways in which the least developed countries have managed to increase their participation in the global economy.  In all but a few of the LDCs, and notably the small island developing States, it is, in fact, the primary source of foreign exchange.

Tourism has a unique potential to promote economic growth and investment at the local level.  As a highly labour-intensive sector, it creates job opportunities for unskilled as well as highly qualified labour.  It can benefit other economic sectors and small businesses, such as traditional agriculture and food production, handicrafts and textiles.  Through ecotourism -- one of the fastest growing parts of the industry -- it can contribute significantly to rural development, while promoting the environmentally sensitive development of basic infrastructure in remote locations. And by promoting greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations, tourism can contribute to better understanding among peoples, and help foster a culture of peace that is essential to development.

At the same time, tourism must be managed carefully to prevent a wide range of harmful effects that are becoming all too visible in many popular destinations, including destruction of natural heritage through overbuilding; ever-higher demands on scarce water and energy resources; damage to ecologically fragile areas caused by irresponsible development; threats to indigenous cultures; exploitation of workers; organized sex tourism, and -- most tragic of all -- child sex tourism, which affects millions of children each year.

An excellent step in the right direction is the World Tourism Organization’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, which creates a much-needed frame of reference for the responsible and sustainable development of world tourism. The plan of action adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg also calls for the promotion of sustainable tourism development.  We must also build on the success of the 2002 International Year of Ecotourism and implement the Quebec Declaration, adopted at the World Ecotourism Summit last May.

Your Forum is an opportunity to draw attention to these issues and to forge partnerships to promote truly responsible and sustainable tourism.  You have a chance to make a significant contribution to global efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, agreed by all the world’s governments as a blueprint for building a better world in the twenty-first century.  The United Nations looks forward to working with you, as we pursue that agenda, and work for freedom from fear, freedom from want and the protection of our planet’s resources.  I wish you all success in your important deliberations.

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