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2 Sep, 2013

UNWTO helps unlock millions in aid funds for developing countries, island states

Livingstone, Zambia – The UN World Tourism Organization is stepping up efforts to help its numerous developing-country members unlock millions of dollars worth of aid funds being disbursed annually by governments, international finance institutions and other donors via the UN system and other multilateral trade and economic groups.

The move will deliver a valuable membership benefit for the UNWTO’s smaller members and help mainstream travel & tourism into the post-2015 agenda of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil was the only Asia-based travel journalist invited to cover the UNWTO’s 20th General Assembly.

According to a study by the UNWTO, tourism is allocated only 0.13% of total ODA and 0.5% of total Aid for Trade funding. Says UNWTO Secretary-General Dr Taleb Rifai, “International cooperation and assistance is critical to improve the effective delivery of the Organization in serving its Members’ needs. An integral part of fundraising is raising awareness of the importance of tourism as well as the role played by UNWTO.”

In one of the most important sessions held during the 20th General Assembly on Aug 28, the UNWTO joined forces with the UN Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD) to brief UNWTO members and other interested partners on ways to access these aid funds.

Created by the UNWTO in 2010, the UN-SCTD groups the International Labor Organization (ILO), International Trade Centre (ITC), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Industrial Organization (UNIDO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Editor’s Note: A short summary of each of these agencies’ raison d’etre follows below.

UN-SCTD is striving to mobilise funds through distinct financing mechanisms, while also exploring the possibility of creating a Multi-Donors Trust Fund for sustainable tourism. Moreover, all UN-SCTD activities and activities of its member agencies in qualified countries can be recognized as being eligible for OECD-DAC Official Development Assistance (ODA).

Special attention is being paid to the needs of the least-developed countries and the small island states.

Countries can also benefit from the expertise and guidance of UN agencies that are not directly present in the country without requiring the establishment and maintenance of costly offices. The UN-SCTD has no physical secretariat. All the coordination work is done within the UNWTO.

In brief, this is how the doors are being opened:

The UNWTO is itself a specialized agency of the UN system responsible for tourism, an economic sector that perhaps is more effective than any other in meeting all the UN millennium development goals: poverty alleviation, job creation (especially for women and young people), conservation of culture and the environment, etc.  All these development goals are key priorities of the entire UN system and its many agencies.

Dr. Rifai notes that tourism into a key driver for socio-economic progress in many countries. Tourism is estimated to be responsible for 9% (direct, indirect and induced) of global GDP, to account for 30% of the world’s trade in services and to employ one out of every eleven people worldwide. “Today, the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles. Tourism has become one of the major sectors in international trade.

“Tourism can be an engine of employment creation, poverty eradication, ensuring gender equality, and protection and promotion of the natural and cultural heritage, while playing a significant role in achieving the UN MDGs.”

Dr Rifai, who was formerly assistant-director general of the International Labour Organisation before moving to the UNWTO, is developing a line of UNWTO activities that are compliant with the principles of the MDGs. Some of the key initiatives and partnerships forged by the UNWTO so far include:

Strategic Partnerships

• The Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD)

• The Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism (GPST)

Mobilizing Aid for Trade for tourism

• The Enhanced Integrated Framework as an Aid for Trade instrument for LDCs

Mainstreaming tourism for development Aid

• Joint study on “Sustainable Tourism for Development” with European Commission – DG Cooperation and Development – EuropeAid (DG DEVCO)

• UNDAFs (United Nations Development Assistance Framework) and Delivering as One

Mobilizing ODA with the EU

• Joint UNEP and UNWTO Programme

• Joint UNWOMEN and UNWTO Programme

Two UN agencies represented at the Aug 28 briefing were the ILO and UNESCO.

The ILO representative said the two major interests for ILO are creation of jobs and poverty reduction. He said the ILO recognised the role of tourism as an industry that paves the way for low skilled workers to enter the labour force, especially women and vulnerable groups.

However, he expressed concern about the issue of working conditions in travel & tourism, especially in relation to the long hours required, the social welfare systems. He noted that it is partly due to these poor conditions that tourism has a high rate of employee turnover.  He also urged NTO representatives to take advantage of the ILO’s toolkit on poverty reduction.

The UNESCO representative noted the interdependency of travel & tourism with a country’s cultural and natural heritage. He said his agency’s brief was to apply the World Heritage Conventions, especially at the World Heritage sites, and how to mitigate the impact of growing tourism numbers on local cultures.

He said UNESCO is well placed to raise awareness of the need for more effective ways to safeguard heritage as well as the values of the heritage itself, by building the pride and the engagement of local communities.

Click here for more information: http://icr.unwto.org/en/content/un-steering-committee-tourism-development-sctd

UN-SCTD MEMBERS (in addition to the World Tourism Organization)

(+) International Labor Organization (ILO) is the tripartite UN specialized agency devoted to advancing opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and human dignity. Decent work reflects the concerns of governments, workers and employers comprising of four strategic objectives relevant to all workers: rights at work and international labour standards; employment and income opportunities; social protection and social security; social dialogue and tripartism.

(+) International Trade Centre (ITC) is the technical cooperation agency of UNCTAD and WTO which supports developing countries to diversify and increase exports. ITC works towards sustainable inclusive tourism, which aims to improve lives by promoting local competitiveness and creating mutually beneficial business linkages between local producers of goods and services and the tourism industry. ITC services include, among others; enhancing supply-side quality; strengthening the roles of women in tourism and building successful SMEs.

(+) United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) assists developing countries in their efforts to achieve a more effective integration into the world economy on an equitable basis. With the view to maximizing the trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries, UNCTAD provides a forum for intergovernmental deliberations, conducts economic research and provides technical assistance and advisory services to member states. Increasing attention is being given to the contribution of tourism to poverty reduction and structural transformation.

(+) United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN’s global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP advocates for nationally-owned solutions to reduce poverty and promote human development. UNDP has been implementing pro-poor interventions in support of the tourism sector under its poverty reduction, private sector and environment programmes.

(+) United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is the specialized agency that contributes to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information. The organization focuses on, inter alia, attaining quality education for all and lifelong learning, fostering cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue, etc., including the promotion of heritage’s vital contribution, in all of its forms and expressions, to the sustainable development of tourism.

(+) United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) the specialized UN programme for Environment, providing leadership and encouraging partnership in caring for the environment. Within its Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) branch, which promotes resource efficiency, cleaner and safer production practices and sustainable consumption patterns, UNEP implements a programme to mainstream sustainability into tourism policies, practices and development.

(+) United Nations Industrial Organization (UNIDO) is a specialized agency of the UN with a mandate to promote and accelerate sustainable industrial development in developing countries and economies in transition. UNIDO’s three main priorities actions are poverty reduction through productive activities, strengthening of trade capacity, environment & energy. UNIDO focuses on the promotion of creative industries, enhancing sustainable tourism and its supply chain through cleaner production and resource efficiency, investment and promotion, institutional strengthening and public private partnerships.

(+) World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only international organization dealing with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main objective is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible. Tourism and related services are covered under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), where WTO Member governments have individually made legally binding commitments to guarantee specified levels of trade access.