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ECOSOC adopts WTO-UN agreement

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on Thursday, 10 July, in Geneva adopted the draft international agreement…

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on Thursday, 10 July, in Geneva adopted the draft international agreement between the United Nations (UN) and the World Tourism Organization (WTO), bringing the WTO one step closer to becoming a UN specialized agency.

ECOSOC`s endorsement was the last remaining step before the agreement will be presented for final approval to the General Assemblies of the UN and WTO respectively, which will hold their sessions in September and October 2003.

In his speech to the ECOSOC members, WTO Secretary-General Mr. Francesco Frangialli recalled that in the nearly 30 years of the Organization`s existence as the WTO, tourism had spread to all regions of the world, with 715 million arrivals and 480 billion dollars of expenditure in 2002.

Overcoming difficulties, war, terrorism, natural disasters, and epidemics, it (tourism) has become an inescapable part of our time. This is precisely what we intend to recognize in adopting a new instrument that is more closely in line with the realities of the present day. Over the years, the WTO has reflected and moved with these developments. Carried by this powerful current, it has modernized itself and has seen its membership increase from 84 at the time of the Organization`s creation to 140 today, said Mr. Frangialli.

One of tourism`s main characteristics is its multidimensional nature. It is not simply a highly significant economic sector, one of the top categories of international trade, or a major social phenomenon; it is all of these things at once, while also contributing to the protection of the environment, to the preservation of biodiversity, to the conservation of cultural heritage, to mutual understanding among peoples, and to peace among nations. The richness and complexity of tourism are what make it unique, but at the same time, these characteristics call for consistency in the efforts of all the institutions that have an interest in tourism at the international level.

Mr. Frangialli stressed that the essential significance of the WTO`s transformation into a UN specialized agency lay in the increased visibility it gives the WTO, and the recognition that will be accorded to us. By virtue of this agreement, tourism will be considered on an equal footing with other major activities of human society: industry, agriculture, transport, education, culture, health, labour.

The draft agreement was drawn up by the ECOSOC Legal Counsel and by the UN and WTO committees on negotiations presided respectively by Peru and Jordan. The new agreement is meant to govern the relations between the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization, taking the place of the agreement that in 1977 gave the WTO the status of a related agency within the United Nations system. With today`s ECOSOC agreement, within a few months, the United Nations system will have a new specialized agency for the first time since 1985.

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