Tourism Concern puts human rights and tourism centre stage
Representatives from the tourism industry, campaigning groups and academia gathered in central London recently for a special meeting organised by Tourism Concern and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB).
The meeting aimed to explore the major human rights challenges facing the tourism sector and emerging opportunities to more effectively address these.
Speakers included representatives from the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Water Aid, International Business Leaders Forum, Minority Rights Group, IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations), the ILO (International Labour Organisation), as well as Tribes Travel, ABTA, GSTC and Kuoni.
Through a series of panel discussions addressing the right to water, land rights and indigenous peoples, and labour conditions, meeting participants took a hard look at the tourism-related issues and impacts, and how adopting a rights-based approach is integral to business sustainability, as well as wider sustainable, equitable tourism development.
The meeting sought to sensitise tourism industry stakeholders to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Endorsed unanimously by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011, the Guiding Principles clearly reinforce the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights as a global baseline standard.
A final panel focused on existing tourism sector initiatives, including the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, and how these could be expanded and built upon to more explicitly embody and encourage implementation of the business responsibility to respect human rights. This session also sought to encourage industry action to take the human rights agenda forward, in recognition that industry ownership of any such initiatives and processes are vital to their success.
"Tourism Concern is greatly encouraged by the scope and number of organisations attending this meeting, which indicates a growing recognition within the tourism sector that a human rights approach is integral to true sustainability", says Mark Watson, Executive Director of Tourism Concern. "Tourism Concern will continue pushing for this to become a reality, so that the rights of marginalised destination communities all over the world are respected and protected, and their voices are heard in tourism decision-making."
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