29 November 2005

Tourism Can Help Poorest, but Careful Management Needed to Prevent Harmful Effects, Says Secretary-General, in Message to Dakar Meeting

NEW YORK, 28 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to the 16th session of the World Tourism Organization, delivered by Alberic Kacou, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Senegal, in Dakar, 28 November:

It gives me great pleasure to convey my best wishes to your first General Assembly as a specialized agency of the United Nations.  I am especially delighted that this is also your first meeting in Africa.  I trust it shall not be the last.

Recreational travel has long served as a bridge between different peoples.  Today, it is also 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 least developed countries, and notably the small island developing States, it is the primary source of foreign exchange.

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.  These include 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.

I strongly support the work of the World Tourism Organization as a specialized agency of the United Nations.  Already, its programme for tourism development in sub-Saharan Africa and the Sustainable Tourism for Eliminating Poverty programme are benefiting some of the poorest in the least developed countries.  Such initiatives can make an important contribution to the Millennium Development Goals, especially towards halving extreme poverty by 2015.  The World Tourism Organization's Global Code of Ethics for Tourism is also an important milestone for the responsible development of world tourism.  I applaud your efforts to ensure broad adherence to its principles.

This General Assembly is an opportunity to forge further partnerships to promote truly responsible and sustainable tourism.  All of us at the United Nations look forward to working with you to advance that agenda, and to continue our work for freedom from fear, freedom from want, and for protection of our planet's resources.  I wish you all success in your deliberations.

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