United Nations announces Global partnership to make tourism worldwide sustainable

A global initiative to make tourism worldwide environmentally, socially and economically sustainable was presented in New York today.

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism will be led initially by the French Government, and will be hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“The partnership is aiming high. The goal is to transform the way tourism operates around the world by seeking out and replicating successful, sustainable policies, projects, and investments,” said Achim Steiner, Under-Secretary General for the UN and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “The impacts of poorly managed tourism can be profound, damaging perhaps even destroying the natural and cultural attractions that tourists come to experience in the first place while contributing to global and regional challenges such as climate change and water scarcity.

“However, there are many potential, positive impacts. Well-managed ventures can play a key role in assisting countries towards the low-carbon, resource-efficient, Green Economy urgently needed in the 21st century. In doing so they can deliver not only environmental, but significant social and economic benefits,” added Mr. Steiner.

The tourism sector is a massive job creator and one of the world’s biggest industries representing some 5% of the global GDP as well as accounting for over 10% of current annual investment worldwide, and as much as 50% in some developing countries. Due to its strong economic multiplier effect tourism can play a key role in the shift to a green economy.

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism, presented at the Commission for Sustainable Development meeting in New York, is designed to identify and disseminate successful initiatives from anywhere in the world and make them applicable elsewhere. The partnership will support implementation of policy recommendations and lessons learned in integrating sustainability in tourism, and develop new tools and projects where no existing solution has been found.

It is expected to have worldwide reach, as its members are governments, industry associations, and environmental and social organizations, as well as UN agencies. The future partnership initially will be led by France, until a vote is held at the inaugural annual meeting in Costa Rica later this year. The partnership will be housed at UNEP’s Paris-based Division of Technology, Industry and Economics. Other partners include 35 other countries, organizations, UN programmes and agencies and professionals, among them the United Kingdom and the UN World Tourism Organization.

The partnership’s mission and efforts will be based on the work of the International Task Force on Sustainable Tourism Development, a three-year United Nations initiative led by France, and whose members are the founders of this new partnership. The task force developed a series of policy recommendations to guide governments, destination managers, financial institutions, and tourism businesses towards good business models while conserving nature, culture, and society. The members also developed the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, as global guidelines for tourism businesses derived from more than 4,500 industry best practices from around the world. The policy recommendations, the successful task force projects, and the criteria form part of the framework for guiding the work of the partnership.

The new entity will focus on policy, projects, tools, and networks for all tourism stakeholders, at all levels, by addressing and working on:

  • policy frameworks,
  • climate change,
  • environment and biodiversity,
  • poverty alleviation,
  • cultural and natural heritage,
  • private sector sustainable practices, and
  • finance and investment.

The partnership will build on regional and global networks, including the Tourism Sustainability Council and the Sustainable Investment and Finance in Tourism network. Both of these networks were developed by and involve members of the Partnership, and are based on the criteria.

Sustainable tourism project examples are available at: www.unep.fr/scp/tourism/activities/taskforce/

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