Tourism ministers and top United Nations (UN) officials have stressed the importance of tourism in reaching the social and economic development targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and contributing to a more sustainable future at the UNWTO General Assembly being held in Gyeongju, Korea.
“How can the phenomenal growth of tourism be harnessed in support of the MDGs?” asked UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro at the opening of the Ministerial Roundtable on Fostering Growth and the Achievement of the MDGs through Tourism, Culture, and Sport, held ahead of the UNWTO General Assembly.
Through improving basic infrastructure and services, tourism can contribute to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, the first of the eight MDGs, she continued. Ms. Migiro also talked of how “community-oriented tourism can promote women’s social and economic mobility” reflected in MDG-3.
The Roundtable was moderated by Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, special advisor to the UN Secretary-General and one of the architects of the MDGs. Convening around 70 ministers from all regions of the world, the gathering was held to define the role and contribution of tourism in addressing global development challenges, particularly poverty alleviation and economic, social, and environmental sustainability.
Tourism is “an industry that can power economic development in a sustainable manner,” said Mr. Sachs, as ministers discussed their experiences in fostering pro-MDG tourism policies in their own countries and how they were using tourism to meet the 2015 deadline for the internationally-agreed goals. The Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Choe Kwang-shik, spoke of how fresh thinking and new partnerships between all were needed to reach the MDGs and affirmed Korea’s commitment to the process.
In parallel to the MDGs, the Roundtable was also an opportunity to assess tourism’s sustainability credentials ahead of the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). “Tourism needs to be on the table of the ‘two twenties’: the G20 and Rio+20,” said Mr. Sachs. Ministers agreed to work closely together to advance this objective and take tourism to Rio+20, establishing the sector firmly within the development agenda.
“As the international community prepares to meet in Rio in June 2012, we have a unique opportunity to place tourism as part of the debate,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. He highlighted how tourism, identified by the UN as one of ten key sectors for a green economy, could deliver on the summit objective of building a safer, more equitable, greener and more prosperous world for all.