Child Safe Tourism

January 11, 2013

UNWTO's global efforts towards child safe tourism

Guest post – Marina Diotallevi, Programme Manager for Ethics & Social Dimensions of Tourism, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

With one billion tourists having just crossed international borders on 13 December 2012, tourism is undeniably among the foremost sectors of the global economy, driving growth and bolstering cultural understanding the world over. However, its infrastructure has all too often been misappropriated for nefarious ends, such as the abuse of children. It is imperative to remember that tourism has the potential to reclaim this same infrastructure and use it to combat child exploitation in every form. So too is it essential to recognize that exploitation can only be addressed by a multi-stakeholder approach.

UNWTO, a specialised agency of the United Nations, is committed to stimulating collaborative action in the field of child protection. We support partnerships between the public and the private sectors, promote cooperation between tourist-generating and destination countries, and champion productive relationships between the industry and civil society. UNWTO’s international awareness campaign, ‘Don’t Let Child Abuse Travel’, was launched in 2008 in collaboration with a range of multi-sector partners. In this same spirit, for over a decade, UNWTO has coordinated its World Tourism Network on Child Protection to stimulate cooperation between tourism stakeholders to be aware of and help prevent and report child abuse in the tourism environment. For example, through setting child protection standards, building capacity and raising awareness about the risks of child exploitation throughout the tourism industry. The Network operates under the framework of UNWTO’s core policy document, the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, a roadmap for sustainable and responsible tourism development. It proclaims unequivocally that the “exploitation of human beings in any form, especially when applied to children, conflicts with the fundamental aims of tourism and is the negation of tourism” (Article 2.3).

Guided by this maxim, the Network has collaborated fruitfully with governments, NGOs, international organisations, the media and the tourism industry to work towards the elimination of youth exploitation in tourism. National legislation and Plans of Action to protect children owe much of their effectiveness to the contributions of advocacy groups, tourism businesses and the media. The knowledge and experience of various countries and NGOs has contributed immeasurably to capacity-building programmes, the training of tourism industry personnel, awareness-raising campaigns, manuals for the reporting of child abuse incidents and the formulation of child protection codes. The Code of Conduct formulated by ECPAT, and supported by UNWTO, is one example of an initiative joining the private sector and civil society to fight child exploitation.

UNWTO’s long-standing experience as a facilitator of multi-stakeholder collaboration illustrates how crucial effective partnerships between the public and private sectors are to the success of child protection measures. Only by working together can the intolerable phenomenon of child exploitation truly be eradicated throughout the tourism sector.