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UNWTO and International Business Leaders Forum launch New Human Rights Initiative for the Tourism Industry

Search ASIA Travel Tips .com 17 March 2006

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations specialised agency, and the Tourism Partnership of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) are launching a joint initiative on human rights - the Tourism and Human Rights Initiative.

The initiative will create a framework to assist the tourism industry address human rights within their own business operations.

The Tourism and Human Rights Initiative will recognise the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism as the overarching standard to guide the global activities of the project, to be reinforced through the development and adoption of a specific set of human rights principles for the industry, with appendices for individual sectors.

"In a business context advancing human rights is both about managing risk and realizing new opportunities," said Lyndall De Marco, Executive Director of the IBLF Tourism Partnership. "By respecting, protecting and promoting human rights, companies can help contribute both to a stable operating environment and the well-being of those within their spheres of influence and responsibility. The case for corporate engagement is increasingly clear."

The human rights issues that impact tourism firms are manifold and whilst there are issues - such as diversity and health and safety - that will be applicable to all, a sector by sector approach is also needed to reflect the differing human rights challenges facing, for example, the airline industry compared to those confronting hoteliers.

According to Dawid de Villiers, Special Advisor to UNWTO on ethical matters, "to be truly effective, the tourism industry needs to take a comprehensive approach to human rights, encompassing a wide spectrum of human rights issues, including, but not limited to, concerns around child and bonded labour, workplace health and safety, commercial exploitation of children, the exploitation of migrant workers, discrimination and the displacement of indigenous people and other vulnerable groups."

These human rights principles will equip participating companies with a tool to respond to the full spectrum of human rights challenges confronting the industry, and specific sector dilemmas. It will enable individual companies to benchmark their human rights performance, and where necessary take steps to update or expand the scope of existing human rights strategies.

Adopting a sector by sector approach and with the support and advice of the highly respected IBLF's human rights team, the members of the Tourism Partnership will spearhead the process of creating a set of human rights principles for the industry, in partnership with the UNWTO. The process will be inclusive, and will involve broad consultation to ensure accuracy and transparency, engaging with expert representatives from organisations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Global Compact, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), UNDP, UNICEF, bilateral development agencies and civil society groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Save the Children.

As hotels are the larger and more complex group within the tourism sector they will be the first to be addressed. This sector focussed approach reflects views expressed in the interim report of the special representative of the UN Secretary General on human rights and business.

In the report the special representative Professor John Ruggie stated "significant differences exist among various industry sectors in terms of the types and magnitude of human rights . such differences should be reflected in public and private sector policy responses with business and human rights (Promotion and Protection of Human Rights)".

Further stakeholder consultation will follow in the form of sector specific roundtable meetings to be held under the Chatham House Rule to advance the initiative and develop the set of human rights principles for the tourism industry, and appendices for individual sectors. The template can be used to assist each business independently to integrate broader human rights practices within their mainstream operations, and in the long-term serve to raise industry-wide human rights performance and respond to stakeholder expectations.

Looking to the future, a process of continuing discussion will be developed involving members of IBLF's Tourism Partnership and the UNWTO, and in consultation with external stakeholders, to share learning around the implementation of the human rights principles and emerging good practice.

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