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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Deputy Secretary-General: Statements

Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, 9 October 2011 - Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at opening of 19th Session of UN World Tourism Organization General Assembly

Your Excellency, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, Mr. KIM Hwang-sik

Your Excellency, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, Mr. Taleb Rifai

Your Excellency, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Choe Kwang Shik,

Honourable Ministers of Tourism and high officials,

Representatives of the Diplomatic Corps,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I bring you warm greetings from Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon, a son of the soil that is host to this important conference.

I come from a small village on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania.

Not far away are the world renowned Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti.

Over the years I have seen how tourism has helped to change the face of this majestic landscape.

Luxury lodges, paved roads and, yes, jobs.

People from around the world have seen the wonders of my country, indeed the larger African continent, as well as its rich and diverse array of traditions and cultures.

We have built bridges of understanding and appreciation. This is the great power of tourism.

Indeed, as we travel miles away, from the local village to the global village that our world has become, we get closer to one another. We get to understand that what unites us is greater than what, so often, sadly divides us.

At the same time, we must recognize that we live in world of immense disparities, and that poverty is still endemic and deep-rooted in many regions, even those that have enjoyed affluent tourism.

It is legitimate to ask if the benefits of tourism could have spread further and sunk deeper.

That is why I am honoured to be here today to address the 19th session of the UNWTO General Assembly and participate in your debates.

I thank the Government of the Republic of Korea for hosting this meeting.

The World Tourism Organisation has long been part of the UN family even before formally becoming a specialized agency in 2003.

The values of the UN -- international peace, human rights, social progress and better living standards for all -- are at the core of UNWTO's mandate of promoting sustainable, responsible and accessible tourism.

The principles embedded in the UNWTO's Global Code of Ethics for Tourism confirm that fundamental values -- such as freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility, but also respect for human dignity -- are essential to prosperous and sustainable development of tourism.

Ladies and Gentlemen

We live in challenging times.

The global economic recession, the growing impacts of climate change and geopolitical turbulence compel us to work together to build a more peaceful and prosperous world for all.

This Assembly comes at a pivotal moment.

Tourism is one of the world's most important economic sectors and social activities.

It has shown an immense capacity to generate growth, particularly in the developing world, and it has proven resilient in the face of external shocks.

In nearly half of the Least Developed Countries, tourism is among the top three sources of foreign exchange earnings.

The potential of tourism for development was acknowledged in the Roadmap for the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries.

It is the principal export sector in one third of the developing countries, and has been identified by more than half the LDCs as an effective way of taking a more active part in the global economy.

There is little doubt that responsible tourism has tremendous capacity to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Lifting people out of poverty, improving the quality of their lives, stabilizing societies, protecting the well-being of vulnerable groups, bolstering employment, cementing peace and encouraging tolerance -- all these are integral parts of a responsible and sustainable tourism sector.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While tourism is increasingly recognized within the UN as an important social and economic activity, it is regrettably not yet a priority area for engagement and funding from the broader international donor community or international development finance institutions.

Nor is it high on the agenda of our sustainability policies.

Let us work to change this so we can unlock the potential of tourism.

All of you here, as UNWTO Members and as part of the UN family, can contribute.

I urge you to advocate on behalf of tourism's potential to create jobs, attract foreign exchange, investment and know-how, and stimulate local economies.

Successful, sustainable tourism can have a significant multiplier effect on many other sectors – fighting poverty and fostering development.

I am confident that the beauty of Gyeongju, together with the warmth of its people, will offer an ideal source of inspiration.

I look forward to learning from your debates about how we can work together to make tourism a driving force in the attainment of our common goals of growth and development.

Thank you.