8 May 2013

Never Forget, Says Deputy Secretary-General, That Damage to Environment Threatens Viability, Survival of Sustainable Urban Development

8 May 2013
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Never Forget, Says Deputy Secretary-General, That Damage to Environment


Threatens Viability, Survival of Sustainable Urban Development


Following are Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks at the Working Luncheon on Sustainable Urban Development and Tourism, in New York, 8 May:

I am delighted to join you for this luncheon.  Thank you for coming together to address the important challenge of urbanization and tourism to sustainable development.  I commend the Chinese Mission for hosting this event.

The growth of urbanization and tourism is a natural consequence of a globalizing, interdependent world.  Much of the growth in recent decades has been spearheaded by China and other Asian countries.

Last September, the Beijing municipal government took the initiative to establish the World Tourism Cities Federation, headquartered in Beijing.  In less than a year, membership has grown to 67 cities and organizations.  I congratulate Mayor Wang Anshun on this initiative and welcome you warmly to New York and the United Nations.

Cities are a driving force for tourism.  International tourist arrivals grew from 25 million in 1950 to over 1 billion in 2012.  International tourism revenues have also risen significantly, surpassing the $1 trillion milestone in 2011.

Behind the statistics lies an even greater story — the growth of cities and tourism in Asia and the Pacific.  International tourist arrivals in Asia and the Pacific have grown from just 23 million in 1980 to a total of 233 million last year.  The emergence of Asia and the Pacific in world tourism is testimony not only to the rise of Asia and the Pacific in the global economy, but also to the speed and scope of urbanization and globalization.

While we celebrate this momentum for growth, we should also pause and ask:  can this remarkable increase in urbanization and tourism be sustained economically, socially and environmentally?  What are the implications for sustainable development worldwide?  More specifically:  how will urbanization and tourism affect our ecosystems; how do we manage the increased amounts of CO2 emissions and liquid and solid waste resulting from the expansion of cities and tourism; what about demands for energy, water and other finite resources; [and] how do we ensure that tourism contributes to national and local economies, build infrastructure and create opportunities for jobs.

I know these fundamental questions are uppermost in the minds of the members of the World Tourism Cities Federation.  I know they also underlie your sustainable urban development and tourism initiative.

As we look ahead, how will Governments, the tourism industry and local communities work together to advance sustainable tourism?  Let me offer three observations.

First, on the economic front, we need to work together to ensure that sustainable urban development and tourism becomes a driving force for economic growth through job creation, investments and through the impact of sustainable urbanization and tourism on other sectors of the economy.  In short, we must ensure that the fruits of sustainable urban development and sustainable tourism are shared broadly and equitably.

Second, we must work to promote the social and cultural dimension of sustainable urban development and tourism.  City governments, the tourism industry and local communities must also work together to protect cultural diversity and to respect local traditions and customs.  A rich and unique cultural heritage underpins much of the growth in sustainable tourism to cities.

Third and finally, the environment.  City government, the tourism industry and local communities must work together to protect the ecosystems that provide the foundation for urban growth and tourism.  They must also take measures to address the negative impact of increased urbanization and tourism on the environment, not least air pollution, congestion, shortages in water supply and lack of sanitation.

Let us never forget that damage to the environment threatens the very viability of sustainable urban development and tourism.

Beijing is not only the capital of China.  It is also uniquely rich in cultural heritage.  I visited the city just a few months ago.  I came away deeply impressed by the energy, confidence, and hope reverberating throughout the city.  Of course, like any growing metropolis, it has its share of growing pains.  But I am confident that the municipal government under the leadership of Mayor Wang Anshun and the residents of Beijing will address and meet these challenges with energy and vigour.

Once again, thank you for your invitation.  The World Tourism Cities Federation is a concrete example of the Chinese Government’s commitment to sustainable urban development and tourism.  I once again commend this initiative.

* *** *


*     Reissued to reflect text of remarks as delivered.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.