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Convention on tourism ethics is major step

GENEVA / NEW YORK (19 November 2019) – UN experts on human rights* have urged all States to sign up to a framework convention on the ethics of tourism, which they hailed as an important step forward in combating the exploitation of children in travel and tourism, and in promoting their rights.

“There is an urgent need to tackle the violence and exploitation experienced by children in the context of travel and tourism,” the experts said.

“No country is immune from this grave problem, which has expanded across the globe and has out-paced efforts to respond at the international and national levels.

“The Framework Convention is an important tool for shining a light on the violence and exploitation suffered by children in the context of travel and tourism, and for spurring action to end it. It aims to ensure that tourism develops in line with human rights law. We urge all States to become party to it.”

The Framework Convention, adopted by the UN World Tourism Organization in September 2019, endorses the principle that tourism activities should respect gender equality and promote human rights, especially the individual rights of children, older persons, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and members of other vulnerable groups.

It notes that the exploitation of human beings in any form, particularly sexual, especially when applied to children, conflicts with the fundamental aims of tourism.

“The Framework Convention was preceded by a Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, which was very valuable in promoting responsible and ethical tourism and tackling the exploitation of children. However, moving from a voluntary set of guidelines to a binding international instrument sends a strong signal that Member States are ready to accelerate their action and to enhance accountability in this field,” the experts said.

States that ratify the Framework Convention will be required to combat and penalise the exploitation of children, especially sexual exploitation. It adds to the existing body of international law devoted to protecting children and prohibiting child labour, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

It will also help deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has targets on promoting sustainable tourism and ending violence against children.

“These targets are linked to each other and help reinforce each other,” the experts said. “Safeguarding children from discrimination, exclusion, violence and exploitation is indispensable to ensuring that all forms of tourism are truly responsible and sustainable.

“We look forward to working with the UN World Tourism Organization, States, civil society partners, the business sector and others to promote the swift ratification and effective implementation of the Framework Convention.”

The UN experts also hope that by implementing it, Member States will ensure that workers’ rights will be fully respected in line with international standards, and that businesses in the tourism sector will be held accountable for rights violations including trafficking for labour exploitation in their supply chains.

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