Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks to the World Tourism Organization in Madrid

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Madrid (Spain), 05 June 2007

I am delighted to start my first visit to Spain as Secretary-General with a visit to the United Nations World Tourism Organization [UNWTO].

This may be the youngest and the smallest of the specialized agencies of the United Nations, but it is very relevant to the broader work of our Organization.

Tourism is the people's building block for global peace and cultural understanding.  By bringing ordinary men and women from around the world into contact with one another, it helps dispel the myths, stereotypes and caricatures that often hold sway from a distance.

When approached in a sustainable manner, travel for recreation can also help drive economic growth and alleviate poverty.  In fact, tourism has proved one of the leading ways for the least developed countries to increase their participation in the global economy.

At the national level, it boosts foreign exchange earnings, while on the ground it lifts individual incomes and reduces unemployment.  And by supporting traditional economic sectors like crafts and textiles, it plays a significant role in cultural preservation.

The UNWTO's own “Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty” initiative illustrates the role of tourism in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  At the same time, your Global Code of Ethics for Tourism provides a much-needed framework for responsible and sustainable world tourism.

I hope that both these programmes continue to gain strength.  As they do, you can count on my full support.  Initiatives like the Global Code of Ethics are especially relevant to the issue of climate change.  This is a problem of growing concern not only for the UNWTO, but for the entire international community.

Some 840 million people travel across borders each year.  An even greater number move within their own countries.  This mass travel contributes massively to green house gas emissions.  As you know, I am on my way to the G-8 Summit in Germany, where climate change will be a major item of discussion.  I welcome the fact that you will consider this issue at your own summit later this year.  I look forward to the presentation of your conclusions at the United Nations' Conference on Climate Change in Bali this December.

In this regard, as we mark World Environment Day today, I would like to make a public commitment, as the Organization's direct contribution to global efforts to safeguard our planet and climate.

We are already moving towards making our Headquarters in New York climate-neutral and environmentally sustainable.  The United Nations' Capital Master Plan to renovate the 55-year-old landmark is a good starting point, and we have already identified ways to reduce our energy use significantly.

I would like to see our renovated Headquarters complex eventually become a globally acclaimed model of efficient use of energy and resources.  Beyond New York, the initiative should include the other United Nations headquarters and offices around the globe.

We need to work on our operations, too, by using energy more efficiently and eliminating wasteful practices.  That is why, today, I am asking the heads of all United Nations agencies, funds and programmes to join me in this effort.  And I am asking all staff members throughout the United Nations family to make common cause with me.

This undertaking will require dedication, perseverance and considerable financial resources, and the strong support of our Member States.

Of course, today I am happy to bask in the warmth of your welcome.  I wish I had more time to spend with you, but I know that there will be many other opportunities for that.

For now, I will leave here heartened by the commitment of all of you to the work of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and to the overall mission of the United Nations.