UNWTO boosts members, acts on climate change

The 17th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly ratified the inclusion of new members, underscoring the ever increasing support of the Organization’s leadership in tourism. Furthermore the Davos Declaration on Climate Change and Tourism found wide support to constitute the global tourism roadmap to face the challenge of climate change.

Around 700 Participants from 120 countries, 56 Affiliate Members and 20 international organizations, and close to 200 registered members of the press, gathered from November 22-29 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia on the occasion of the 17th session of the UNWTO General Assembly.

After the conclusion of the Assembly, Luis Guillermo Plata, Colombian Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, said that “having hosted the General Assembly proves how Colombia is capable of holding large events at a global scale. We offer quality, professionalism and, above all, security.”

UNWTO Secretary- General Francesco Frangialli said that “This General Assembly has excelled over previous ones, combining the efficiency of the organization and the hospitality of Colombia”. On the proceedings during the one-week top event of global tourism, he pointed out how “all political decisions and resolutions have been taken by consensus, including the one on climate change and tourism, were negotiations were held until the end”.

New structure, more Members and increased support

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The Assembly has innovated its traditional structure and was now divided into two segments:

The Technical Segment dealt with issues around the administrative structure, such as the budget and the programme of work, financial matters or the cooperation with the UN system.

The Ministerial Segment dealt with the main issues that the Organization is currently working on, ranging form climate change and tourism to international tourism trends, as well as the prospects for the sector over the next years.

Brunei, Montenegro and Tajikistan joined the Organization as new Member States, next to the ratification of 65 new Affiliate Members over the past two years, a prove of both public and private support of UNWTO’s global leadership in tourism. Furthermore, New Zeeland has made public its interest in joining UNWTO.

Facing the climate challenge

UNWTO gained wide support of the official delegates to continue its work around climate change as laid out in the Davos Declaration, which was submitted to the Assembly and was previously endorsed during the Tourism Ministerial Summit on London on 13 November.

The Davos Declaration “urges action by the entire tourism sector to face climate change as one of the greatest challenges to sustainable development, and to the Millennium Development Goals in the 21st Century.”

Action is required for the tourism sector to:

mitigate its Greenhouse Gas emissions, derived especially from transport and accommodation activities;
adapt tourism businesses and destinations to changing climate conditions;
apply existing and new technology to improve energy efficiency; and
secure financial resources to help poor regions and countries.

The Assembly emphasized that the recommendations emanating from these meetings should not discriminate against developing countries by creating obstacles to their economic development and in particular of those developing countries located at long distance from tourists generating markets;

The importance for the tourism sector to support concrete consensus measures to address climate change was recognized, but without losing sight of all other priorities, especially poverty alleviation and tourism contribution to Millennium Development Goals;

With a strong support from the tourism sector, the Secretary-General received the clear mandate to take UNWTO’s position to the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December.

Contributing to MDGs

The Assembly also endorsed UNWTO’s appointment of its first Special Advisor on Women and Tourism, Pakistani senator Mrs. Nilofar Bakhatiar, on the occasion of World Tourism Day 2007 which celebrated women’s achievements in the tourism sector.

This year’s theme coincided with UN’s 3rd Millennium Development Goal: Promoting Gender Equality and Women Empowerment through to 2015 and beyond.

World Tourism Day is commemorated on 27 September each year and coincides with the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on 27 September 1970 and designated as World Tourism Day by the UN General Assembly.

The Assembly also voted for Peru as host of World Tourism Day 2008 with a theme to be defined around how the tourism sector will respond to the challenges of climate change and the broader development agenda, in line with UNWTO’s active support of the MDGs.

In the context of the fight against poverty, the ST-EP initiative (Sustainable Tourism - Elimination of Poverty) was consolidated after the signing of an agreement between the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands Development Organization SNV and UNWTO ensuring the continuation of the projects carried out by this foundation.

The 18th session of the UNWTO General Assembly will be held in the second half of 2009 in the Republic of Kazakhstan.
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