Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

La lettre diplometque
Entretien exclusif
Diplomatie & Défense
La lettre diplometque
La lettre diplomatique Haut
  M. / Mr Francesco Frangialli

Strengthening the World Tourism Organization's role in the United Nations

By Mr Francesco Frangialli, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization

By 2004, and for the first time since the conversion of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) into a specialized agency in 1985, the United Nations system will have a new member at the highest level: the World Tourism Organization (WTO).
It will have taken just two years to arrive at this new stage in the life of the WTO. Indeed, it was at its fourteenth session in Seoul (Republic of Korea), and Osaka (Japan) that the General Assembly of our Organization expressed its wish for an examination of the possibility of transforming the WTO into a specialized agency of the United Nations. Consequently, the WTO immediately approached the Secretary-General of the United Nations regarding the matter, and it received favourable responses, first from the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July 2002, and then from the United Nations General Assembly itself.
The conversion process thus initiated was to be carried out by means of an agreement aimed at establishing organic relations between the Organization and the United Nations. Such an agreement was to replace the one that had linked the two institutions since 1977.
During the first half of this year, the draft of the new agreement prepared by the Office of the Legal Counsel of the United Nations was examined by the respective committees on negotiations constituted by both organizations. After being approved by the WTO Executive Council in June 2003, it was adopted by the ECOSOC on 10 July 2003 in Geneva, which recommended it for approval by the United Nations General Assembly.
This transformation will thus become a reality once the new agreement between the WTO and the UN comes into force, that is to say, upon final approval by the General Assemblies of both institutions in the latter part of 2003.
It has been quite a journey to get to this point. It will have taken nearly half a century for the WTO to be created and then be transformed into a specialized agency of the United Nations. In this particular case, we can talk about a double metamorphosis.
The WTO officially came into existence in January 1975 as a result of the transformation of the International Union of Official Travel Organizations (IUOTO) — an international organization of a non-governmental nature — which had been constituted in 1947, and which was itself the successor of the International Union of Official Tourist Propaganda Organizations (IUOTPO), created in The Hague in 1934.
What reasons prompted the IUOTO's transformation into an intergovernmental organization at that time?
During the 1950s and the 1960s, tourism grew in magnitude with the democratization of access to leisure and holidays thanks to the rise in purchasing power in the developed countries, increased leisure time and the reduction in the relative cost of transport.
This was the same period when the last remaining countries under colonial rule gained independence. Seeing how much tourism could contribute, they created specialized national administrations and joined the IUOTO. Thus, tourism exchanges truly became an integral part of international relations and of the economic development process on a base that was becoming globalized.
From that time on, it appeared more and more necessary for tourism to have an appropriate instrument at the intergovernmental level to tackle matters related to its internal development as well as its internationalization. In particular, there was a need to assist developing countries in this field, as was the case in other sectors such as health, agriculture, science and education, civil aviation, maritime transport, etc.
It did not take long for the United Nations to realize the significance of this development. But most importantly, in resolution 2529(XXIV) adopted on 5 December 1969 the General Assembly recognized “the vital contribution that international tourism is making to the economic, social, cultural and educational progress of mankind and in safeguarding world peace”. It called on the IUOTO to take on an intergovernmental nature in order to play “a decisive and central role in the field of world tourism".
The IUOTO answered this call. On 27 September 1970, it decided at its Extraordinary General Assembly in Mexico City to transform itself into an intergovernmental institution, adopting the Statutes of the future WTO. This change was carried out between 1970 and 1975, and the Secretariat of our Organization moved from Geneva to Madrid. In 1976 and 1977, two agreements were signed: the first making the new WTO an executing agency of the United Nations Developpment Programme (UNDP), and the second giving it the status of a related agency within the United Nations system. The latter agreement, as already mentioned, will be replaced by a new one in the context of the WTO's transformation.
Even as an intergovernmental organization, where decisions are made exclusively by representatives of States, the new WTO, like its predecessor the IUOTO, remained open to partnership with other actors in the world of tourism, especially the private sector, through its “Affiliate Members”, thus positioning itself as “a bridge between civil society, business and governments”, to borrow the phrase used by the United Nations’ Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, to describe what he wanted his own Institution to become.
Over the years, the WTO has modernized itself and has seen its membership increase from 84 at the time of its creation to its current level of 140.
At the same time, cooperation with the United Nations has become ever closer with the UN's successive endorsements of our Organization's work in the field of statistics and the "tourism satellite account", with the UN General Assembly's support of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, with the declaration of 2002 as the "International Year of Ecotourism", and finally with the inclusion of tourism in the agenda and "plan of action" of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. In the same spirit, the WTO has adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration insofar as it applies to its field of action, and has launched a programme of action aimed at contributing, through tourism, to poverty reduction and job creation, especially for the least developed countries. It is the WTO's conviction that wherever tourism advances, poverty retreats.
Over the three decades of the WTO's existence, tourism has continued its rise.  It continues to transform itself under the influence of information and communication technologies and with the emergence of new categories of operators such as “virtual travel agencies” or "low-cost" airlines. Tourism has spread to all regions of the world, with 715 million arrivals and 480 billion dollars in receipts in 2002.
Despite 11 September, growth was stopped only temporarily, and with the Iraq conflict and the SARS epidemic seemingly behind us, signs of a substantial rebound are already emerging. Overcoming difficulties, war, terrorism, natural disasters, and epidemics, tourism has become an inescapable part of our time. This is precisely what we intend to recognize in transforming the WTO into a specialized agency of the United Nations, and thus making it possible for tourism to be considered on an equal footing with other major activities of human society.
Retour en haut de page

La lettre diplomatique Bas
  Présentation - Derniers Numéros - Archives - Nos Liens - Contacts - Mentions Légales