Background and Objectives

At its Millennium Summit in 2000, the United Nations identified poverty as one of the biggest global challenges and set forth as one of its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has responded to this challenge and opportunity by launching the ST-EP Initiative, which was announced at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.

Despite the special position of tourism in poverty alleviation, often poor segments of the population in developing countries and least developed countries do not benefit from the economic impact of tourism. The UNWTO Sustainable Tourism - Eliminating Poverty  Initiative (ST-EP) promotes poverty alleviation through the provision of assistance to sustainable development projects. The initiative focuses on enhancing the Organization’s longstanding work to encourage sustainable tourism – social, economic and ecological – with activities that specifically alleviate poverty, deliver development and create jobs for people living on less than a dollar a day. UNWTO views the ST-EP Initiative as an effective tool to make a tangible contribution to the MDGs. Tourism can play a significant role particularly for goals 1, 3, 7 and 8, addressing extreme poverty and hunger, gender equality, environmental sustainability and global partnership respectively.

At the 2005 UN World Summit in New York, UNWTO convened meetings with governments, industry, UN agencies and civil society leaders on how to harness tourism most effectively for the MDGs. These discussions culminated in the adoption of the Declaration on “Harnessing Tourism for the Millennium Development Goals” , an important declaration that put on record the recognition of tourism as a major force for socio-economic development and an effective contributor to the MDGs. The declaration calls on governments, international and bilateral development agencies, corporations and civil society, to further their efforts in support of the tourism sector through mobilizing additional resources, afford tourism greater priority in development assistance programmes and poverty alleviation strategies, promote public-private partnerships and good governance.

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